For children and young people, the relationships we have with adults in our lives can have an ongoing impact on our development all the way into adulthood. As babies, we are born with a biological drive to find and be close to a protective adult. In the most basic way, it’s our way of ensuring survival. We need to attach to someone to ensure that our basic needs are met; it makes us feel safe.
Relationships with adults are crucial to how children and young people develop their trust in other people, understand relationships, and understand their own feelings. The years from birth to 21 years old are crucial in developing emotional intelligence. Studies have shown that children and young people who experience a secure base as they grow up have higher self-esteem and improved empathy, which is why Affinity believe it is vital that our carers are fully trained in attachment and bonding.
There will always be a valid reason why a child or young person is moved to a foster caring placement. In many cases, it is because their life may have been chaotic, or the adults in their life may have been ambivalent to their needs (this doesn’t necessarily mean as a result of neglect but could also be because of family changes or illness). For our carers, it’s vital that they know how to deal with different patterns in behaviour that result from a lack of a secure base. It’s also crucial that the child or young person in our care can build a secure and trusting attachment with their carer, as this is key to improving their outcomes in the future. In short, our carers are trained to be more than just a stopgap; they are there to help the children in their care learn to trust adults and themselves.
The Secure Base model that all our carers are trained and qualified in focuses on recognising healthy and unhealthy behaviours and attachments based on a child or young person’s expected development. For example, for small children and babies, it could be whether they can communicate and play and whether they have strong attachments to particular people or toys. The emphasis moves towards emotions, feelings, and self-esteem for older children, noticing whether they can build strong bonds with their peers and whether they are hopeful for the future.
Alongside this, our carers then work on creating an attachment that enables the child living in their home to recognise that they can rely on them as a protector, provider, and guide. This means that alongside providing a safe place to live, there is also food, comfort, love, and guidance. This is known as Therapeutic Care, and we think it’s a pretty good description.
To us, Therapeutic Care means following a consistent parenting approach within a theoretical framework (The Secure Base model), which helps carers identify and meet a child’s specific needs. It means we use approaches that are supported by decades of research on child development, therapeutic interventions, and children’s outcomes.
Therapeutic Care embraces the Secure Base model’s five different caregiving approaches: availability, sensitivity, acceptance, cooperation, and family membership. These provide a sense of stability for the children in our care and help to build trust and healthy relationships (both with others and themselves). In essence, Therapeutic Care is a guide to nurturing and ensuring that a person feels cared for, valued, and accepted. Something all humans (and animals) need. Supporting children who have suffered trauma or adverse childhood experiences requires more than just ‘good enough’ parenting. It is essential to consider therapeutic models and interventions, as we do, if we are to prioritise children’s outcomes.
If you feel that you could help a child or young person learn to build trusting and healthy relationships and have a spare room that they could call their own, we’d love to hear from you. Give us a call or drop us an email to arrange a chat.