Participation of children, birth parents and foster carers in matching decision‐making has the potential to improve the outcomes of a foster care placement. When practitioners choose which foster family is the best fit for a foster child, those affected by the foster care placement should be involved in decision‐making when possible. This research paper examines the influence of children, birth parents and foster carers on the matching decision from a practitioner's perspective. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 22 practitioners from 17 of the 28 foster care organisations in the Netherlands responsible for matching children with foster families. The analysis identified three themes that diminished the influence of children, birth parents and foster carers on the matching decision: assumptions, timing and feasibility. The findings emphasise that the influence of stakeholders on the matching decision is highly contextual. In the matching process, practitioners can be seen as key figures in facilitating the influence of stakeholders, yet they are also confronted with the difficulty of dealing with more than one stakeholder, who can have opposing interests, in an often compromised setting with limited choices.
Key Practitioner Messages
Despite policy to stimulate the involvement of children, birth parents and foster carers in decisions, their influence on the matching decision is sometimes futile.
Assumptions made by practitioners, timing in the matching process and a compromised setting diminish the stakeholders' influence on the matching decision.
Practitioners are key figures in improving participatory practice to make sure that stakeholders feel understood, valued and taken seriously.