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Abstract

Although foster care involves many different relationships that have been examined for many years, few researchers have paid attention to the relationship that must inevitably develop between the foster parents and the child's birth parents. Foster parents have, nonetheless, been noted to express negative feelings about the behaviour of the foster child's natural family. This may have negative effects on the development of the child's self esteem and on the outcome of the entire placement. The current paper illustrates how the foster parents of 127 placements in Cork city described the birth parents of their foster children. Although 38% of placements were with parents who expressed some degree of sympathy for the birth parents, the attitude was generally more negative. This was true even of foster parents who never met the child. Parents also reported that they experienced various problems with the natural parents. These included concerns over the care that was taken of the child, that the natural parents were untrustworthy, and that the child would not be released for adoption . Examples of the statements that were made are offered, and some cases are described to help illustrate the frustration that some foster parents felt. It was found that one of the most emotive issues was that of adoption, Many foster parents felt upset when the birth parents refused to release the foster child for adoption. The implications of these poor relationships are discussed in relation to the need for more resources for health boards, and more support for foster parents and natural parents.

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