Children’s perceptions about contact and subjective well-being in residential and foster care

Keywords: Contact, foster care, residential care, subjective well-being, visits.


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.

Author Biographies

João M. S. Carvalho, Oporto Global University

João M. S. Carvalho is Associate Professor at Oporto Global University in Portugal.  He is a researcher at CICS.NOVA – Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences; REMIT – Research on Economics, Management, and Information Technologies; and InED – Research and Innovation Centre in Education. He has a degree in Business Management, a post-graduation in Social Gerontology, a MSc in Economics, and a PhD in Business Sciences. He worked for 15 years at pharmaceutical companies on several management positions. He was the CEO of Centre of Entrepreneurship ISMAI-Tecmaia, and he also has been working as a researcher and consultant in the areas on innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability, related to people, organizations and territories. He has published several books, book chapters and articles in international scientific journals.

Paulo Delgado, Escola Superior de Educação do Instituto Politécnico do Porto

Paulo Delgado has a degree in Law, a master’s in Education Administration, and a Ph.D. in Education Sciences by the University of Santiago de Compostela, with aggregation title in Education Sciences by UTAD – Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro. He is Associate Professor at Escola Superior de Educação do Instituto Politécnico do Porto and coordinator of the Degree in Social Education. He is a researcher at INED - Centro de Investigação e Inovação em Educação and collaborator at SEPA - Grupo de Investigación en Pedagogía Social y Educación Ambiental. He is member of the direction of SIPS since 2005. His main areas of research are Social Education, Childhood and Youth Protection System, and Foster Care. He is author of several books, book chapters and international articles in many scientific journals.


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