For the child in residential care who, for whatever reason will not be returning to the natural family, long term foster placement is often seen as a means of providing a suitable alternative family environment. The formation of mutually satisfying emotional ties within a family setting is recognised as being an important ingredient is the healthy psychological development of a child. However, the high rate of foster placement breakdown attests to the fact that these ties are not easily formed.
In South Australia, at any one time, approximately 2,300 children are known to be living apart from their parents. Some 1,500 of these children are in foster care. A 1982 Department for Community Welfare survey of a 50% sample of children who had been in continuous foster care for more than three years revealed that, while 60%of the sample had experienced only one foster placement, 24% had experienced three or more foster placements. Figures are similar In the United States where analysis of eleven foster care studies revealed that some 23% of children had three or more placements. (Westman, 1979).