GOING HOME FROM RESIDENTIAL CARE: an exploratory study of the separation and reunification experiences of young people and their families in Moldova

Sirbu, Irina (2017) GOING HOME FROM RESIDENTIAL CARE: an exploratory study of the separation and reunification experiences of young people and their families in Moldova. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abundant reunification research in Western contexts has accumulated a wealth of evidence on various groups of children in out-of-home care. Yet, such research takes a predominantly quantitative angle, looking at reunion odds rather than illuminating families’ in-depth qualitative experiences. Research on children in out-of-home care in Moldova remains an even more under-researched area. The present study aims to fill this gap. Based on retrospective accounts of 20 mothers, 20 children and 5 focus groups with child care professionals, it connects families’ separation and reunification experiences, creating a more holistic understanding of their journey. The study uses a rigorous Grounded Theory methodology to create theoretical models and frameworks deeply grounded in the data. Advanced participatory research methods were employed to engage children in the research process as co-constructors of knowledge.

The findings demonstrated how families adapted to life in separation, preserving their sense of family membership and continuity. Being predominantly migrant workers, mothers continued ‘part-time’ parenting within restricted time frames and having scarce resources. In spite of a limited physical presence in their children’s lives, mothers kept their children psychologically present. Extended family played an important role in children’s lives, helping them retain a sense of family identity and membership. Most mothers and children highly praised residential care as providing children with safety, comfort and education they could not enjoy in their families and communities.

Analysis of reunification processes revealed drastic differences between two groups of families — surviving and struggling — demonstrating how family continuity expressed by commitment to family membership, ongoing positive contact, willingness to reunite and determination to make reunion work cemented the stability of reunion. Where families lacked family continuity and coherence, they were struggling to adjust to life together.

Finally, the study scrutinised mothers’ views on post-reunion support, revealing multiple gaps and barriers in accessing social services’ support. Most importantly, it revealed a disparity in views between mothers and professionals on family support needs. While mothers were increasingly speaking about their vulnerability and the need for ongoing and consistent support, professionals focussed on the need to cultivate families’ independence from the state. Multiple gaps in the work of the social assistance system were revealed, the most significant being a lack of community-based family services and systemic organisational deficits.

The thesis concludes by discussing the study findings in the context of deinstitutionalisation reforms and previous reunification research in Moldova. Implications for practice and policy are made, highlighting the need for family involvement and family-focused work at all stages of planning and decision-making, the importance of supporting family continuity and the urgent need to reconsider the role of residential care in the child care system of Moldova.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Social Work
Depositing User: Bruce Beckett
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2018 10:49
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2023 09:54
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/67788


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