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Providing a secure base for children in foster - University of East

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					 Providing a secure base for
 children in foster care

         Professor Gillian Schofield
 Co-Director of the Centre for Research on
the Child and Family, School of Social Work
         and Psychosocial Sciences
        University of East Anglia, UK
    Balance of concern and hope for
    foster children
   Children are significantly harmed by abuse,
    neglect, separation and loss.
   Many children will suffer all their lives as a
   But many children will benefit from
    therapeutic caregiving experiences in foster
    care and go on to lead successful stable lives
    as adults, partners and parents
   Goal is to promote security and resilience
     Attachment theory for practice-
     projects with BAAF

   Schofield G and Beek M (2006) Attachment
    Handbook for Foster Care and Adoption
    London: BAAF
   Beek M and Schofield G (2006) Attachment
    for Foster Care and Adoption training
    programme and video/DVD London: BAAF
   Beek M and Schofield G (2006) Achieving
    Permanence in Foster Care- A good practice
    guide London: BAAF
    What does attachment theory help
    us to understand about children in
   Abuse, neglect or rejection have implications
    for the child’s internal working model
    (beliefs and expectations of self and others).

   Separation and loss raise anxiety and
    intensify defensive strategies.

   Risk that children will recreate their previous
    experiences of caregiving in their new
      Distrust of good care- is it a trick?
      (Patricia Crittenden 1995)
   The child may so lack trust in caregivers that a
    new experience of good parenting by foster carers
    may not trigger the child’s mind to change their
    mental representations of ‘parents’.
   Instead the child’s mind may decide that this
    parenting is just trickery or deception.
   Or that the risk of mistakenly responding as
    though the carers were really kind, loving and to
    be trusted is too great to be tolerated.
   So children will take a long time to learn to trust.
        Use of attachment theory and
        research in developing a
        foster parenting model

   Key to promoting security and resilience is mind-
    mindedness - in carers and children
   Attachment focuses attention on the quality of the
    child’s experience in the relationship with the new
    caregiver as a potential and active source of
    therapeutic care.
 The cycle of caregiving
              Child’s needs/

   Child        Effect on        Carer
 thinking        child’s        thinking
and feeling   development      and feeling

     Parenting dimensions from
     attachment and foster care research
     that promote security (and resilience)
   Being available – helping children to trust

   Responding sensitively – helping children to
    manage feelings and behaviour

   Accepting the child - building self esteem

   Co-operative caregiving – helping children to
    feel effective (and be co-operative)

   Promoting family membership – helping children
    to belong
 Dimensions of parenting interact:
 secure base star

Promoting                              Responding
family                 SECURE
membership             BASE

      Co-operative               Accepting the
      caregiving                 child
       What is a secure base ?

   If the attachment figure is reliably available and
    responsive, the child will trust that help is there if
    needed, not feel anxious and be able to explore,
    play, think, learn and become confident and
   A secure base for exploration is needed
    throughout life – relevant for children, young
    people, adults, parents, carers, social workers.
                          Being available
                                needs/            Carer
Child                                             thinking/feeling
thinking/feeling               behaviour
  I matter, I am                                What does this
  safe                    Helping children      child expect
                                                from adults?
  I can explore               to trust
  and return for                                How can I
  help                                          show this child
                           Alert to child’s     that I will not
  Other people             needs/signals        let him down?
  can be trusted
                           Verbal and non-
                           verbal messages of
Being available –
helping children to trust : examples

   Time the relationship dance at the pace of
    the child
   Provide predictable routines
   Make sure child feels special/cared for when
    unwell or troubled
   Help the child know that you are thinking of
    him or her when apart
      When tiny babies have switched
   When Jennie came to me at 12 weeks old, she
    was completely unresponsive, not waking for
    feeds, not responding to me, not showing any
    emotion. She had just switched off. I had to
    stay close to her and respond to even the
    slightest sound or facial movement and keep
    talking to her and touching her. It took time to
    replace those first weeks, but gradually she
    started to show different feelings and become
    more responsive.
     Having the patience to let the
     child approach
   Sam (5) found it impossible to trust me and
    watched my face warily all the time. I found that
    if I sat with a drink for him on the settee with
    children’s television on, he would circle the house
    for a long time dragging his favourite blanket and
    eventually end up sitting on my lap wrapped in
    the blanket, drinking his drink. I needed just to
    be there and he needed to have the confidence
    that I would wait for him to come to me.
     When children are anxious and
     away from their secure base

   When Aiden (4) had contact with his father he
    was always very anxious about what might
    happen and whether he would come back to me
    and I would be here for him. On one occasion I
    gave him a small cushion to take with him so that
    he had something to hold onto, but also so that
    he would know he would be coming home.
        Responding sensitively
      Child thinking
                             Child needs/             Carer
      /feeling                behaviour               thinking/feeling
My feelings
                                                 What might this
make sense -                Helping              child be thinking
and can be                 children to
managed                                          and feeling?
Other people              feelings and           How does this
have feelings                                    child make me
and thoughts                                     feel?
                       Tuning in to the child.
                       Helping child to
        Parenting      understand /express
        behaviour      feelings appropriately
        Helping children manage
        thoughts and feelings : examples
   Tuning in – reading signals, anticipating distress,
    containing anxiety
   Naming thoughts and feelings– providing a
   Scaffolding experience- giving a predictable shape
    to events e.g. feeds, nappy change, school
   Modelling expression and management of carers’
    own thoughts and feelings
   Promoting empathy – how do you/how might other
    people think and feel?
        Promoting mind-mindedness,
        perspective taking and empathy
   I think Jenna (9) spent so long in self defence and
    looking after herself that she never learned to look
    at things from any one else’s point of view. She
    missed that out when she was little. And even
    things like stories.. When you say, what do you
    think is going to happen next? or why is that person
    thinking that? she hasn’t got a clue, she doesn’t
    follow the motives of what people are doing, or how
    they are feeling. So we do a lot of story reading
    together and I talk it through.
      Using an experiences book : making
      it safe to think and remember
   Paula (8) couldn’t remember or didn’t want to
    remember what happened this morning or
    yesterday or last week and couldn’t anticipate
    ‘next week’. So we started to do an Experiences
    Book together - each day writing down what had
    happened and her feelings about it. This helped
    her to reflect on the shape of each day and the
    immediate past and build her capacity to
                   Accepting the child
                           Child needs/
                            behaviour                Carer
Child                                                thinking/feeling
                                               I need to value
I am accepted            Building              and accept
and valued for           self-esteem           myself.
who I am                                       I can value and
                                               accept this child.

                     Helping child to fulfil
                     potential, feel good
                      about himself- and
       behaviour       accept setbacks
Accepting the child-
building self-esteem: examples
   Promote the idea in the foster family-
    ‘Nobody’s good at everything but everybody’s
    good at something.’
   Find activities to do and to share-orchestrate
    achievements, but allow failures and setbacks
    to happen and be managed.
   Model and teach the child to accept and
    celebrate difference – ethnicity, personality,
     Accepting for better or worse

Just look at her. She’s got such a twinkle. She’s
an absolute rogue. And you would never want
that squashed. It’s lovely. It’s just got to be
channelled the right way.
    Children often blame themselves
   Salina (4), had repeatedly been disappointed
    by her mother failing to come to visit her at
    her foster home. Shortly after such a
    disappointment, her foster mother overheard
    Salina saying to herself, ‘If I good girl,
    Mummy come’. She believed she was not
    good enough to be loved. (Social worker)
     Promoting positives -
     showing pride

   Rob (11) loves his fish pond. Now he’s in
    charge of his own and he’s totally reliable in
    that department. We encourage him all we
    can. We say ‘Rob’s the top pond man’. He
    gave his talk at school on goldfish and got top
       Helping children to be accepted by
       others - disabled children
   For Ben (10) to be accepted some of his behaviour
    had to be modified and he will get the benefits of
    that. We go to a nice hotel and he’ll walk into the
    dining room on his walker and everyone thinks he’s
    so wonderful and it’s so great for him. They say
    ‘Ben, you’re so clever, you’re marvellous, you’re
    such a beautiful boy’. I think, that’s part of what’s
    building him up, not me, but the response of all
    these other people. And he’d never have got that,
    not how he was before.
     Co-operative caregiving
                        Child needs/
    Child thinking       behaviour          Carer
    /feeling                                thinking/feeling

                                          The child
I can make            Helping             needs to feel
things happen
within safe           children to         effective and
limits                feel effective      competent

I can                                     How can we
compromise and       Promoting            work together?
co-operate           autonomy and
                     negotiating within
         Parenting   firm boundaries
      Co-operative caregiving-
      helping children to feel effective:
   Offer choices
   Help children follow through/achieve results-both
    on their own and with help e.g. plan a trip, take
    photos and see them developed and framed.
   Involve child in family tasks that all can see the
    benefit of.
   Model co-operative behaviour with other family
    members as well as engaging with the child.
          The therapeutic effect of supporting
         a child to take the lead
     George (3) would only relax in the garden, so
    although it was winter we wrapped up warm and
    everyday we spent time outside. He would potter
    about, looking at stuff and I would follow him
    sometimes and talk occasionally and he would stop
    and he’d look at an insect, or whatever it was he’d
    found. I pretty much let George lead, but sometimes
    I’d draw his attention to things. Yes, he pulled out all
    the plants and I just decided that I wasn’t going to
    have a garden that year and I just thought – yeah, I
    can have a garden next year.
      Promoting co-operation-
      avoiding a battle
    We try, actually, never to tell Salim (7) to do
    anything. It’s a matter of phrasing it differently,
    so that you are not triggering his feelings of
    threat. So, instead of saying, ‘Please wash your
    hands before you have a sandwich’ we might just
    say ‘Would you like to come and have a
    sandwich after you’ve washed your hands?’ or
    ‘We’ll have a nice long story time if you brush
    your teeth quickly’.
        Promoting family membership
                            Child            Carer
                           needs/            thinking/feeling

   I can belong                           This child is part
   comfortably           Helping          of my family as
   to both of                             well as part of
                         children to
   my families                            his/her birth
                         belong           family
                     Verbal and non-
                     verbal messages of
         Parenting   inclusion in both
      Promoting family membership-
      helping children to belong: examples
   Ensure the child understands how this family does
    things; include the child in foster family
   Have special places for the child in the family
    home - for their clothes, at table, in the garden
   Enable the child to talk about and value their birth
    family identity
   Manage contact in ways that promote the child’s
    well-being and comfortable sense of belonging in
    both families.
         Belonging to a real family:
         Can you describe your relationship
         with your foster mother?

     Mother and son. She looked at me as her son
    and I looked at her as my mum sort of thing.
    Even though when you’re 18 you officially leave
    care but we kept in touch. We go round there for
    dinner, she comes round here. She classes my
    children as her grandchildren. (Christopher age 29
    placed at 5)
    Part and parcel of our family

     We always say – from the moment you walk
    through the door, you are part of us. No
    matter how long you’re staying or how many
    other families you relate to, you are part and
    parcel of our family, the same as everyone
    else who lives here. We say it and we show
    it to them as well.
         Promoting security and resilience
         in foster care
   Foster families can provide a secure base that
    promotes security and resilience.
   Foster families can offer family membership AND
    enable children to manage being a member of more
    than one family.
   All family members need support e.g. the child, the
    carers, the carers’ birth children, the birth family.
   All agencies (especially including health and
    education) need to work together.
   Social workers need a secure base for this work.
    Final thoughts from George’s
    foster mother

   I think if you can just catch children in time,
    they really can start to heal and recover well
    enough to go on and just enjoy their
    childhoods and become reasonably adjusted
    adults - and that’s a great result, really.
    Final thoughts from a foster child

    I like being in foster care. You know where
    you are. (Laura, aged 14)

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