The Importance of the Motivation Behind becoming Foster Parents for Infants

For all children, the first year of life is important for developing the positive relational bond between infants and their primary caregivers for protection and nurturing, known as secure attachment (Kochanska, 2001; Sroufe, 2002). Secure attachment provides the basis for optimum growth in all areas of infant development.

Because of the high prevalence of developmental and medical problems in infants entering foster care, and the multiple placements they may experience before being placed in permanent homes, they are at special risk for developing insecure attachment. Insecure attachment relationships not only affect the quality of future intimate relationships, but the cognitive and motor development of the child as well. Secure attachment relationships are especially important for the infants with multiple problems who enter foster care. They need the best environment possible to maximize their developmental potential.

In attempting to identify characteristics of good foster care providers for infants, Dando and Minty (1987), found that there are often conscious and unconscious motives for foster caregivers providing care.  The three reasons most often reported included rescuing abused or neglected children, increasing family size, and social concern. Rescuing abused or neglected children was a motivator for both kin and non-kin providers.  Miller (1993) found that caregivers motivated by their own needs, or the perceived needs of their birth children, were more likely to transfer children or have them removed from their homes.

Caregivers who have ‘non-self focused’ types of motivations seem able to translate their motivations into a positive care-giving relationship with the infants that leads to the development of secure attachment relationships. On the other hand, certain motivational factors, such as spiritual expression, adoption, and replacement of grown children, lead to the insecure attachment of infants in care. The caregivers who have those motivations seem unable to put the needs of the infants above their own concerns.

Although caregivers who start fostering to increase their family size are able to develop secure relationships with the infants in their care, those who are strongly motivated by adoption are less likely to develop secure relationships with the infants in their care. Caregivers, who agreed to foster infants with the ultimate goal of adoption, are less likely to have secure attachment relationships with the infants in their care, because this kind of relationship is fraught with a high degree of uncertainty. When caregivers accept the infants for care, they do not know if the children will remain in their care, be reunited with the birth mother, be given to an extended family member, or placed in another foster home. Caregivers who’s ultimate goal is to adopt the child, verbalized a high degree of concern about what would eventually happen to the child. The uncertainty and lack of control over the ultimate disposition of the child may prevent some caregivers from making the emotional investment necessary to develop a secure attachment with the infant. It may be more difficult to securely attach if the possibility of adoption is so uncertain.

It is easier to connect with each child in care when caregivers are motivated by the welfare of the child. Caregivers committed to fostering specific infants in their care for the good of the community are able to establish secure attachment relationships with the infants in their care. Caregivers that are committed to providing a good bridge for infants who would returned to birth families or move on to adoptive families.

Caregivers that are attempting to replace a grown child by fostering infants are less likely to establish a secure relationship with the infants in their care. These caregivers may be less able to read the cues of the infants due to their own needs. In attempting to replace the grown child, caregivers may be focusing on their own grief and loss of past relationships with their birth children. This may make it difficult for tbem to develop secure relationships with the infants in their care.

Caregivers who are fostering from motivation based purely on religious conviction or spiritual values, are less likely to develop a secure relationship with the infants in care.  Their initial motivation may have been that of feeling compelled to respond to the call to provide care, and found the fostering relationship much more difficult than anticipated. This may cause the caregiver to be less able to establish a secure relationship with the infant in care.

In conclusion the motivation (reason) people want to become involved with the foster care of infants, are of the utmost importance as it hugely influences establishing secure attachment between them and the infant placed in their care!


About Helouise Steenkamp

I'm a 45 plus, Devoted Wife and Mother. Adonai has blessed us with two Amazingly Wonderful Sons. We have had the privilege of being Place of Safety parents for 1 1/2 years and there after foster parents to a Darling Princess for 5 years. She was reconciled with her biological parents in Dec'14. Our hearts are still aching from the loss, but we know that as we trust Adonai with our salvation, so we can trust Him with her future. We welcomed our new 4 year old foster child on 05JUN'15.
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