Steenbakkers, Anne, Ingunn T. Ellingsen, Steffie van der Steen, & Hans Grietens (forthcoming). Psychosocial needs of children in foster care and the impact of sexual abuse. Journal of Child and Family Studies, published online November 2017. (doi: 10.1007/s10826-017-0970-7) (Open Access link:

Abstract: Children in family foster care, especially those who have experienced sexual abuse, require a safe and nurturing environment in which their psychosocial needs are met. However, there is limited knowledge on how youth prioritize various needs and what impact previous experiences have on these needs. In this study, we asked youth (formerly) in family foster care to indicate their psychosocial needs, and analyzed if youth with a history of sexual abuse have different needs. A Q methodological study was conducted with 44 youth (age 16 –28). Fifteen of them reported sexual abuse during their childhood. Using by-person factor analyses, respondents who share similar subjective views were grouped together. Qualitative interpretations of the factors show differences and similarities between and within the two groups, related to help from others, being independent, processing the past, and working toward the future. Although the needs of youth with and without experiences of sexual abuse seem mostly similar, one group of sexually abused youth specifically indicated not wanting an emotional connection to foster parents, but instead a strictly instrumental, professional relationship. This study captured the diverse perspectives of youth themselves, revealing that children in foster care differ with regard to what they consider as (most) important safety, belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization needs.

Anne Steenbakkers <> is in the Department of Special Needs Education and Youth Care, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.

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