• Ramunė Bagdonaitė-Stelmokienė Vytautas Magnus University, Kolping University of Applied Sciences
  • Vilma Žydžiūnaitė Vytautas Magnus University.




fostering, learning through experience, parenting, qualitative content analysis


Learning through everyday experiences is understood as a complex process during which the learner undergoes various social interactions; it is an emotional, cognitive and behavioural process of learning. The aim of the study was to describe the process of learning of parents and foster parents through the everyday experiences of biological/foster parenting by revealing the similarities and differences of their experiences. The article presents the findings of the qualitative research. Applying the narrative interview, 4 parents and 8 foster parents were interviewed in the study. The data were analysed by using an inductive qualitative content analysis method. The findings revealed that the personal change of parents and foster parents and their growth in parenthood takes place in the process of learning from everyday experiences. The birth of a child into a family as well as the acceptance of a non-relative child into a foster family pose a number of challenges and cause confusion, but it is the experience of giving, joy and community too. The most striking difference between biological and foster parenting is revealed through the experience of ‘emotional triangle’ which is the only characteristic of foster parents. Communication with the foster child’s biological family is one of the most complex aspects of foster parenting. 

Author Biography

  • Ramunė Bagdonaitė-Stelmokienė, Vytautas Magnus University, Kolping University of Applied Sciences
    RAMUNĖ BAGDONAITĖ-STELMOKIENĖ is a lecturer in the Social Welfare Centre at Kolping University of Applied Sciences (Kaunas, Lithuania). In 2009, she earned the Master’s Degree of Social Work at Vytautas Magnus University. Now she is a PhD student of Education at Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania). Ramunė takes interest in the social care of the individuals affected by negative social environment, social-risk families, children, issues of social ethics. She focuses her study on the phenomenon of caring and informal learning. Ramunė is a member of the International Foster Care Research Network (member from 2009); European Research Institute for Social Work (ERIS) (member from 2013); Lithuanian Board of Social Work (member from 2015). She published more than 10 articles on peer reviewed journals, and has made more than 18 national and international research presentations, related to the field of social work, caring, and informal learning. Her e-mail: r.bagdonaite@gmail.com


Bagdonaitė-Stelmokienė, R. (2015). Globėjų biologinių vaikų vaidmuo globos procese: "Mes visi tapom jų globėjais, mokytojais, motinomis ir tėvais". STEPP: Socialinė teorija, empirija, politika ir praktika, 10, 21-34. doi: https://doi.org/10.15388/STEPP.2015.10.4857

Bagdonaitė-Stelmokienė, R., & Snieškienė, D. (2011). Biologinių vaikų patirtis šeimoje, globojančioje ne giminaičius vaikus. Socialinis darbas. Patirtis ir metodai, 7(1), 31-50.

Bornstein, M. H. (2002). Parenting Infants. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting, Volume 1, (pp. 3-42). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Cameron, G., Coady, N., & Hoy, S. (2012). Perspectives on being a father from men involved with child welfare services. Child & Family Social Work, 19, 14-23.

Canali, C., Maurizio, R., & Vecchiato, T. (2016). Foster care: motivations and challenges for foster families. Social Work and Society. International Online Journal, 14(2), 1-15.

Deave, T., & Johnson, D. (2008). The transition to parenthood: what does it means for fathers? Journal of Advanced Nursing, 63, 626-633.

Di Silvio, R. (2012). Learning to ‘Parenting’: Peer-to-Peer Educational Actions in the Italian Associations of Adoptive Families. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Human and Social Sciences, 8, 18-25.

Diaz, R. (2017). The experience of foster parents: what keeps foster parents motivated to foster long term? Doctoral dissertation, USA: Antioch University Santa Barbara.

Edwards, R. (2009). Introduction: Life as a learning context? In Edwards, R., Biesta, G., & Thorpe, M. (Eds.). Rethinking Contexts for Learning and Teaching: Communities, Activities and Networks, Abingdon, Oxon, U.K.: Rutledge, p. 1-13.

Elo, S., & Kyngäs, H. (2008). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62, 107-115.

Elo, S., Kääriäinen, M., Kanste, O., Pölkki, T., Utriainen, K., & Kyngäs, H. (2014). Qualitative Concent Analysis: A focus on trustworthiness. SAGE Open, 4(1), 1-10. doi: 10.1177/2158244014522633

Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(2), 247-273.

Fisher, P. A., Stoolmiller, M., Mannering, A. M., Takahashi, A., & Chamberlain, P. (2011). Foster placement disruptions associated with problem behavior: Mitigating a threshold effect. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(4), 481-487. doi: 10.1037/a0024313

Goodrich, S. A. (2010). Connecting Children and Families: Expectations and Experiences of Professional Foster Parents. Master Theses. USA: University of Connecticut.

Gvaldaitė, L. (2017). Priėmimas globojant vaiką: patirtis, kurianti naują kultūrą. STEPP: Socialinė teorija, empirija, politika ir praktika, 14, 48-63. doi: https://doi.org/10.15388/STEPP.2017.14.10415

Haugaard, J., & Hazan, C. (2002). Foster parenting. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting, Volume 1, (pp. 313-327). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Humphries, B. (2008). Social Work Research for Social Justice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jarvis, P. (2012). Learning from Everyday Life. HSSRP. Human & Social Studies. Research and Practice, 1(1), 1–20.

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2008). Experiential Learning Theory: A Dynamic, Holistic Approach to Management Learning, Education and Development. In S. J. Armstrong & C. Fukami (Eds.) Handbook of Management Learning, Education and Development. London: Sage Publications.

Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Interviews. Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

Maaskant, A. M., Van Rooij, F. B., Bos, H. M. W., & Hermanns, J. M. A (2016). The wellbeing of foster children and their relationship with foster parents and biological parents: a child’s perspective. Journal of Social Work Practice, 30(4), 379-395. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/02650533.2015.1092952

Orb, A., Eisenhauer, L. & Wynaden, D. (2001). Ethics in Qualitative Research. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 33(1), 93–96.

Reid, C. D. (2010). Becoming a mother without losing myself. Alberta: Athabasca University.

Rosenberg, C. (2009). Mothers negotiating their identity: a creative narrative inquiry. Enquire, 2(1), 108-132.

Stacy, L,. Blythe, S. L., Wilkes, L., & Halcomb, E. J. (2014). The foster carer’s experience: An integrative review. Collegian, 21, 21—32. doi:10.1016/j.colegn.2012.12.001

Tong, A., Sainsbury, P., & Craig, J. (2007). Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ): a 32-item checklist for interviews and focus groups. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 19(6), 349-357. doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzm042

Tryc, L. M. (2013). The Experience of Being a Foster Parent in Non-Kinship Placements: Emotional and Psychological Impacts. Master Theses. USA: Grand Valley State University.

Wehler, B. A. (2014). Until all the pieces fit: a hermeneutic phenomenology of the informal learning of selected foster parents in North-eastern Pennsylvania. Doctoral dissertation. USA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Williams, D. (2017). Grief, loss, and separation: Experiences of birth children of foster carers. Child & Family Social Work, 22, 1448–1455. doi: 10.1111/cfs.12366