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Tie caring in the context of fostering


Aims. The Ce.S.T.A. Service (Centro di Sostegno e Tutela dell'Affido - Foster Care Support and Guardianship Center (Artiaco, Giordano 2010) supports the ties between children and biological parents in the context of foster care. During foster care (Cirillo S. 1986) family ties are often rarefied because of organizational, emotional or relational difficulties, and several critical situations are common (Cassibba, Elia, Terlizzi 2012). Sometimes children have very little interactions with their parents, who do not take enough care of the meetings because of their personal difficulties. In other situations the meeting itself becomes a source of pain for the children because parents reactivate angers, dissatisfactions and jealousies related to fostering. It can even happen that the meeting is too brief and disappointing because of the inadequacy of grown-up people to dedicate time to their children instead of being absent-minded or concentrated on their selves. The objectives of the Service are to maintain and reinforce the affection in a situation of «suspended» life in common through the management of the meetings, that are facilitated and protected by an attending operator, and to support parental functions through an individual social-educational follow-up of the parents (Cyrulnik, Malaguti 2005).

Method. Organisation and management of scheduled meetings between biological parents and their children in a dedicated space, articulated through playing, verbal communication, emotional closeness; supplying of social support and family mediation in the context of an integrated team.

Findings. According to family ties protection, the observations indicate that the operator:

- provided a physical and temporal place dedicated to the relationship between parents and children, not repressed by mutual revenges between families (common during intra-familial fostering), neutral as regards belongings but not emotions, in comparison with the house where someone could feel uncomfortable or unconnected;

- allowed the meeting where the parent would have evaded it, because of inadequacy or personal difficulties;

- warranted a place and a time for a dedicated meeting, despite difficulties and conflicts between families that would have broadened or cancelled the dates.

According to children protection, the observations indicate that the operator:

- provided control and containment of the situations where the parent relates him/her self to his/her child inadequately, making him/her feel guilty or attracting him/her in illusory projects, or projecting on him/her his/her troubles;

- helped the child to provide a meaning to the difficult moments of the meeting, wording the emotions;

- facilitated the child to find a meaning to parent's faults: delays, absences or inadequate behaviors during the visits;

- protected physically and psychologically the child from interferences by other persons, different from parents and fosters, who try to attend the meeting inappropriately.

Reduced conflicts between the two families, working even without the children, either listening and accepting difficulties and ambivalences, and proposing opportunities to discuss and take care of troubles, separately or together (Piccolo 2005; Lizzola 2007);

Dedicated time to parents to help them develop awareness on their children needs, encourage their commitment, support their own resources in the relationship with their children and in their own self development (Tomisich 2006).

The improvements in the relationship are greater when parents and children are involved in a broader project including a therapeutic path (Pedrocco Biancardi, Sperase, Sperase 2008). On the contrary, when there is no taking charge of the grown-up it is difficult to develop a project where they can take care of their selves as individuals and as parents, with the consequence of frustrating the engagement in improving relationship with their children (Miodini, Borelli 2005). Moreover, tie caring can represent a concrete resource to support the change, while if it remains an isolated approach its strength and meaning decrease. Principal issues came out in the following situations:

- lack of planning, integrated and shared with other interventions of evaluation and care (Giordano 2011), so that tie preservation does not represent a resource but an occasional chance that can only provide scarce meaning, or even additional pain;

- excessive gravity of family troubles (Bertotti Casartelli 2007), so that foster care does not represent the most defending intervention for the children, while other more definitive solutions should be put in place to provide stability.

Conclusions. Reflection highlights the following signs of efficacy (Giordano, Capasso 2013):

- the dedicated context (space, time, method) as an opportunity of tie feeding, e.g. the progressive «personalization» of a box that each child builds with his/her parent, that is sought and found at every meeting, the «rituality» of some moments of the meeting (sitting on the sofa, writing on the exercise book etc.);

- the facilitator role of the operator, who protects the child and the ties during the meetings with interventions of support, clarification, mediation and care, and subsequently: allowing the child to be protected in situations where the grown-up would discharge his own pain on him/her, made clear by the increased capability of wording the emotions either with the operator or with the parents (even when unpleasant); providing progressive value to parent resources, made clear by the increase in the amount of time spent together pleasantly, with rising parent proactivity during the meeting (while at the beginning the operator proposes games and introduces themes of discussion, progressively the parent takes the leadership) and by requests from the parent (starting from being mistrustful and progressively asking for clarifications and help);

- the proposal of a specific time of support, placing the meeting in the context of a wider project of parenthood recovery, made clear by the changing from reserve-escape-defence attitudes (linked to a control perspective) to establishing a trusting relationship, so that the parent brings personal questions, accepts proposals, learns how to relate in an authentic and collaborative way to another person.

It makes sense to implement the Service as a support of the residual parenthood. It is necessary to improve family selection, preferring those families where a wider multidimensional project is in place.

Key references

Artiaco, D. and Giordano, M. (2010). Offrire una stella a chi non è nato sotto una buona stella. Il lavoro con la famiglia di origine durante il progetto di affido. In Associazione Progetto famiglia (Eds.), A Babele non si parla d'affido. Milano: Franco Angeli.

Bertotti, T. and Casartelli, A. (2007). Valutare nell'area dell'infanzia e dell'adolescenza. In U. De Ambrogio, T. Bertotti and F. Merlini, L'assistente sociale e la valutazione. Roma: Carocci.

Cassibba, R., Elia, L. and Terlizzi, M. (2012). L'accompagnamento del bambino e delle famiglie (biologica ed affidataria) nel percorso dell'affidamento familiare. Minori e Giustizia, 1, 269-277.

Cirillo, S. (1986). Famiglie in crisi e affido familiare. Roma: Carocci.

Cyrulnik, B.E. Malaguti (Eds.), (2005). Costruire la resilienza. Trento: Erickson.

Giordano, M. (2011). La rete di tutela del bambino: Opportunità o groviglio? In M.T. Pedrocco Biancardi and A. Talevi (Eds.), La voce dei bambini nel percorso di tutela. Milano: Franco Angeli.

Lizzola, I. (2007). Per una fraternità tra sconosciuti. Tre luoghi sperimentali di inedite forme di convivenza. Animazione Sociale, 27, 209, 13-21.

Miodini, S. and Borelli, S. (2005). Il sostegno alla famiglia d'origine prima, durante e dopo l'affidamento familiare: Gli interventi necessari e le possibili integrazioni fra servizi. Prospettive Assistenziali, 151, 26-30.

Pedrocco Biancardi, M.T., Sperase, M. and Sperase, L. (2008). La cicogna miope. Dalla famiglia che violenta alla famiglia che ripara. Milano: Franco Angeli.

Piccolo, M. (2005). L'affidamento familiare. In P. Di Blasio (Ed.), Tra rischio e protezione La valutazione delle competenze parentali. Torino: Unicopli.

Tomisich, M. (2006). Risorsa famiglia. Roma: Carocci.


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