‘Fostering Resilience: An exploration of the link between resilience, outcomes and foster care in Ireland’

Research output: Types of ThesisMaster's Thesis


“The world we have created is a product of our thinking. If we want to change the world, we have to change our
Albert Einstein
This research explores the link between resilience, outcomes and foster care in Ireland. The idea for the
study was born from a desire to understand why some children in foster care experience more positive outcomes
than their peers. The literature review provides a framework for understanding the key factors which promote
and prevent the resilience of children and young people in foster care. In addition, the literature pertaining to
potential outcomes was reviewed and this helped to provide an understanding of the link between resilience and
“successful” outcomes. From conducting the literature review, it became evident that there is an extensive gap
in the literature in terms of studies which have included the combined voices of both the adults and the young
people at the heart of the foster care system. This study aimed to address this gap by providing an opportunity
for foster carers, social workers, young people in foster care and foster care alumni to have a voice and share
their lived experiences of the foster care system.
To achieve this research aim, the study adopted a mixed method sequential explanatory design
(Creswell, 2003). This involved implementing the research in two separate phases. Phase one employed the use
of questionnaires which were both quantitative and qualitative in their design (distributed to adults). The
questionnaires explored the attitudes and views of foster carers and social workers across a range of issues.
These included their understanding of the concept of resilience and factors promoting resilience, their
experience of training in the area and their knowledge of the range of outcomes of the young people in their
care. The findings from this phase were then analysed and aided the formation of the topic guides for the
qualitative phase. Phase two involved conducting in-depth qualitative interviews with the young people in order
to gain an insight into the lives of children in foster care in Ireland. In particular the views of the young people
in terms of their own resilience, factors promoting and preventing resilience and factors indicating ‘successful’
outcomes were examined.
The results of this study suggest there are significant differences in opinion across the various cohorts
of participants. Analysis of both the quantitative and qualitative data found that the key factors promoting
resilience according to the study sample include; being given a voice, having a positive identity, feeling part of
the foster family, having friends, having a good social worker, feeling supported, access to after care services
and a sense of faith or religion. Interestingly, while these factors were listed as being important for resilience, all
of the young people in the study stated that at various stages throughout their life in foster care, many of these
protective factors were not present. The key factors which participants identified as most likely to indicate
‘successful’ outcomes also varied across the different groups. Social workers listed having an education as the
factor most likely to indicate success, and while this also featured high on the foster carers’ list, they recorded
‘having a solid relationship’ as their topmost factor indicating success. Perhaps the most poignant finding of the
study was the fact that the young people equated being happy with being successful. While they acknowledged
that education, employment and raising their own families were indicators of success, when asked ‘what would
make you feel successful?’ all of the young people referred to being happy as the most important factor. One
young person summed up the groups’ general hopes and wishes for the future by saying she would like “to be
happy and to be doing well in what I want to be doing well in” (‘Sarah’, 13).
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
Award date30 Oct 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 06 Oct 2012


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