Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Alastair Christie
2nd European Conference For Social Work Research
Foster parents’ ‘strange encounters’ with separated children: An Irish case-study
2nd European Conference For Social Work Research
Invited Lectures (Conference)
Optional Fields
This paper is based on findings from a study of how cultural and racial difference are constituted through caring for separated children. In the last decade, over 2,900 separated children, who are children outside their country of origin without the care and protection of their parents or guardians, have arrived in Ireland and were placed in the care of social services. The Government recommends that instead of separated children being placed in specialised hostels, they should be included within mainstream social services, resulting in the majority being place in foster care (Ryan Report Implementation Plan, 2009). Although this has been a positive development, as yet, little training has been provided for the largely white Irish foster parents of separated children. This paper discusses research with 20 white Irish foster parents and how cultural and racial difference are constituted and negotiated in fostering separated children. The paper argues the difference is constituted through the encounter, rather than as something located in the body of the ‘Other’. Foster parents struggle with myriad points of ‘strangeness’ and ‘familiarity’ between themselves and the separated children. This paper explores tensions between foster parents’ understandings of ‘race’ and culture at individual and societal levels and how these are constructed though their ‘strange encounters’ (Ahmed, 2000) with separated children in the intimate space of the family. The paper offers insights into how critical race theory and theories of whiteness can used in social work research to help understand these intimate encounters across racial and cultural difference and to promote anti-racist practice. This research is part of a larger evaluation project, funded by the Children’s Rights Alliance, on social work with separated children.