Children’s perceptions about contact and subjective well-being in residential and foster care
Contact between children in foster and residential care and their birth families have an impact on children’s development and on placement stability. Contact is also important for their social relationships and sense of belonging and well-being. The aim of this study was, from children’s point of view, to describe, analyse and compare contact in residential care and foster care in terms of its frequency, visit location, feelings during and after the visits, visit difficulties, happiness with their placement, their self-confidence, future perception about their lives, and perception of their subjective well-being. We used a sample of 145 children in residential care and all the children in foster care (39), aged between 11 and 15, from the same four Portuguese districts. Results indicated that children in residential care had more contact and visits with their parents than children in foster care, being phone calls the most used way to contact the children. The majority of the children presented joy or satisfaction during parents’ visits and more diffuse feelings after the visit. Also, most of children would like to have more visits and just a minority present some difficulties in their fulfilment. Nevertheless, children in foster care had more self-confidence, optimism in relation to their future, happiness in relation to their placement and higher subjective well-being than children in residential care. In summary, it seemed that the type of placement for children at risk is more important to their future than the existence of contact with their parents.
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