Teens in foster care often struggle with challenges in relationships and with mental health difficulties. However their resilience can be encouraged through their foster parents’ support, empathy, and care. Indeed, while foster parents have not been traditionally viewed as ‘interventionists’ or ‘therapists’ in a primary sense, research shows that they can play an important role in providing foster teens a sense of security, stability and safety. Foster parents who receive support in understanding the impact of trauma on their child’s behaviour are better equipped to respond sensitively to challenging behavior. However, despite the central importance of attachment relationships for foster teens, there are surprisingly few evidence –based treatments, that consider the attachment needs, for this population.
To address the unique needs of foster parents, Connect has been adapted specifically for foster parents, providing foundational information about attachment, trauma, adolescent development and challenges in the provision of care. Parents are invited to consider what is in their foster teen’s “attachment suitcase”, the balance between connection and emerging autonomy and unique challenges such as a loyalty conflicts.
Connect for Foster Parents provides:
1) information on attachment and trauma particularly as it relates to children between the ages of 8-19;
2) guidance on understanding the importance of sensitivity, safe haven and secure base and;
3) support in developing skills that promote parenting sensitivity and in turn increase security within the relationship between the child and foster parent.
Children generally enter the foster care system because of a severe disruption in the quality of care they are experiencing at home. The severity and duration of children’s attachment problems while living in foster care is influenced by their prior exposure to maltreatment, the quality of caregiving they receive while in foster care and the number of placement changes that occur while in care. Every child that enters care has experienced an “attachment injury” to some extent. That is, they have lost the care of their parent at a critical moment of need, namely removal from home and significant separation from their caregiver. Such attachment problems, if misunderstood and not appropriately addressed in foster care, may exacerbate caregiver and child stress and lead to placement breakdown.
The Connect for Foster Parents program addresses issues related to attachment injuries, attachment insecurity and other attachment problems in relation to social-emotional development and mental health. Although not specifically tailored to the treatment of attachment disorders much of what is discussed is of relevance to children with these diagnoses.