The project All4Children aims to inform state of the art on the impact of early experiences on child development, strengthen practices and inform public policies on the promotion and protection in a critical period for de-institutionalization in Portugal.
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In response to the European call for de-institutionalization, Portuguese law has recently privileged Family Foster Care as the primary alternative care response for children up to 6 years of age. This shift to a Family Foster Care system is demanding. It requires highly specialized services to meet the needs of both foster families and foster children and thus ensure the sustainability of this social response.
Developing practice models in the foster care system may be one solution, as they improve the quality of intervention with children and families. Given the lack of this model for Family Foster Care in Portugal, the Integrated Model for Family Foster Care has been developed by ProChild CoLab and Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa in close collaboration with researchers from Iscte-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Universidade do Minho and Universidade Católica Portuguesa. The research project "All4Children - The Integrated Model of Family Foster Care (MIAF) to promote high-quality child welfare practices in Portugal", recently funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (2022.03592.PTDC), aims to evaluate the initial implementation of the Integrated Model of Family Foster Care in Portugal.
As explained by Joana Baptista, a researcher at CIS-Iscte, and leader of the All4Children project,
"The Integrated Model of Family Foster Care is based on a child-centered approach and the family's strengths and informed by trauma, covering the entire continuum of Family Foster Care, from the intake, selection, assessment, and training of foster families, to the exercise of Family Foster Care and the child's transition to a permanent life project (such as reintegration into the family of origin)."
Using a longitudinal design and a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, the All4Children project will: (1) examine whether the Integrated Family Foster Care Model is being implemented with fidelity by different Foster Care institutions in the north and south of the country, as well as identify barriers and facilitators to its implementation; and (2) analyze the impact of the Integrated Family Foster Care Model on child safety, stability, and well-being throughout the first months of foster care and after leaving for a permanent care setting, and on family well-being.
According to Joana Baptista, "the adverse effects of institutionalization on child functioning, especially in infants and young children, are well documented, as well as the ability to recover after integrating the child in a quality family context, such as foster care. However, in Portugal, in 2021, only 3.5% of children with a promotion and protection measure of placement outside the family of origin were in Family Foster Care.