Home and (dis)continuity: Foster care for children with migrant backgrounds (HoMi)

HoMi’s primary objective is to enhance the participation and wellbeing of children with migrant backgrounds living in foster care, through providing policy makers and practitioners with the knowledge they need to implement culturally sensitive services. To achieve this objective, we will a) analyse policy documents in six European countries, b) explore professional practice in Norway and Sweden, and c) follow a group of children and their foster carers in Norway and Sweden for three years.

Due to globalisation and increased migration across European countries, a growing number of children with migrant backgrounds are placed in foster care. However, we lack knowledge about how current arrangements meet the specific needs of these children. In media debates, critics claim that child welfare services lack cultural sensitivity; that children’s cultural rights and needs are not sufficiently taken into account. Others point to the pitfall of over-focusing on ‘cultural’ aspects, thus overlooking children’s right to participation and protection. HoMi explores how current arrangements impact on migrant children’s opportunities to participate and live well, while growing up in foster care and later in life. We ask: How do European state policies frame and give direction to foster care practice? How can continuity be considered in best interest assessments for children with migrant background entering foster care? What are child welfare workers and former foster children’s perspectives on the role of cultural background, when children are matched with foster carers? How do children and their carers understand what it means to establish and maintain a place called ‘home’?

Based on the knowledge gained through this extensive data collection, HoMi aims to better understand the complex dilemmas at play and produce useful knowledge and recommendations for policy and practice.