Professional parenting in institutional foster care: Proposal to improve care of children fostered in child protection centres

  • Josefina Sala Roca Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Keywords: Parent education, professional parenting, residential foster care, foster children, child protection.


The studies conducted about children fostered in child protection centres find delays and issues in the majority of developmental areas which hamper their wellbeing and transition to independent living. These adverse effects have been partly attributed to the impoverished upbringing common in residential settings compared to family life. In this article, we propose a reconceptualisation of the role of the social educator as a professional parental figure as a way to overcome some of the limitations associated with institutional foster care. Through a literature review, the most important contributions supporting this proposal are examined. In the first part, the difficulties faced by fostered children and adolescents are analysed, along with the role played by residential foster care in these difficulties. After that, we explore the most significant functions of the professional parental figure, such as protection and stimulation of development, reparative affective bonds and guidance in resilience processes, and we compare them with the way institutional foster care has developed them. We propose replacing the concept of professional distance with that of optimal proximity, in which the social educator’s personal experiences become teaching resources in their educational undertaking.


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