Foster Care

In Australia, approximately half of all children who are removed from their birth parents due to issues of abuse and neglect live in a foster placement. A significant number of these children remain in a foster placement for the long-term. Fostering is thus a growing mode of family formation. Some people may choose to both foster and give birth to children. Other people may only become parents through foster care. The infographic below produced by Clare Bartholomaeus and myself outlines something of the history of child protection in Australia.

Since 2006 I have been writing on the topic of foster care. All of my early work was undertaken in collaboration with Martha Augoustinos and Paul Defrabbro, and funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant. More latterly, I have undertaken research with Ryan Ogilvy on the topic of other forms of care, such as specialist and residential care. My work on this topic has been reported to senate inquiries, in the media, and has been utilised in the production of guidelines for working with foster parents.


Riggs, W. (2015). Australian foster carers’ negotiations of intimacy with agency workers, birth families and childrenFamilies, Relationships and Society.

Riggs, D.W. & Ogilvy, R. (2015). Professional Carer Experiences of Working with Young People in Specialist Care Placements in South AustraliaChildren Australia.

Ogilvy, R., & Riggs, D.W. (2014). Young people’s experiences of receiving individual packages of care in South AustraliaChildren Australia, 39, 49-54.

Riggs, D.W. & Willsmore, S. (2012). Experiences of disenfranchised grief arising from the unplanned termination of a foster placement: An exploratory South Australian studyAdoption and Fostering, 36, 57-66.

Mclean, S., Kettler, L., Delfabbro,P.H., & Riggs, D.W. (2012). Frameworks for understanding challenging behaviour in out-of-home care. Clinical Psychologist, 16, 72-81.

Riggs, D.W. (2011). Australian lesbian and gay foster carers negotiating the child protection system: Strengths and challengesSexuality Research and Social Policy, 8, 215-226

Riggs, D.W. (2010). Angels and saints: The impact of lay understandings of foster care upon carers. In J.A. Jaworski (Ed.) Advances in sociology research (pp. 217-228). New York: Nova Science.

Riggs, D.W., Delfabbro, P.H. & Augoustinos, M. (2009). Foster fathers and carework: Enacting alternate forms of parentingFathering, 8, 24-36.

Riggs, D.W., Augoustinos, M. & Delfabbro, P.H. (2009). The role of foster family belonging in recovery from child maltreatmentAustralian Psychologist, 44, 166-173

Riggs, D.W., King, D., Delfabbro, P.H. & Augoustinos, M. (2009). ‘Children out of place’: Representations of foster care in the Australian news mediaJournal of Children and Media, 3, 234-248.

Riggs, D.W. & Augoustinos, M. (2009). Institutional stressor and individual strengths: Policy and practice directions for working with Australian lesbian and gay foster carersPractice: Social Work in Action, 21, 77-90.

Riggs, D.W., Delfabbro, P.H. & Augoustinos, M. (2009). Negotiating foster families: Identification and desireBritish Journal of Social Work, 39, 789-806

Riggs, D.W. (2009). Developing a ‘responsible’ foster care praxis: Poly as a framework for examining power and propriety in family contexts. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.) Understanding non-monogamies. New York: Routledge.

Riggs, D.W. (2008). Towards a ‘non indifferent’ account of child protectionAustralian Feminist Studies, 23, 375-388

Riggs, D.W. & Delfabbro, P.H. (2008). Economies of care: Recognition and remuneration of foster carersJournal of the Association for Research on Mothering, 10, 94-104.

Riggs, D.W. (2007). Re-assessing the foster care system: Examining the impact of heterosexism on lesbian and gay applicantsHypatia, 22, 192-212.

Riggs, D.W., Augoustinos, M. & Delfabbro, P. (2007). ‘Basically it’s a recognition issue’: Validating a foster parent identityFamily Matters, 76, 64-69.

Child Protection Australia

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