Kinship CARE Project Update

The Kinship CARE Project has been extended to 2020.

The Kinship CARE Project is a joint initiative of the Department for Child Protection (DCP) and Secure Start®. At the time of writing, and over the previous 18 months, Kinship CARE Project training has been delivered to 18 groups of kinship carers in 13 metropolitan and 5 regional locations of South Australia. More than 220 kinship carers have attended part or all of the training, with an overall retention rate for attending 4 or 5 sessions (including call-back) of 47%.

In the Kinship CARE Project (CARE Therapeutic Framework) there is a focus on relational connection (relationships) that:

  • repairs (relational) harm experienced by children and young people who are recovering from abuse and neglect;
  • regulates emotions and behaviour;
  • supports physical and mental health; and
  • supports a positive self-concept in children and young people, which is vital to their confident approach to life and relationships, and growth.

In the Kinship CARE Project, 75% of participant kinship carers who complete the training and a post-training survey (three months follow-up) agree or strongly agree with the statement that they are experiencing improved relationships with a child or children in their care. The remaining 25% neither agree nor disagree with this statement. It is possible that they were already satisfied with relationships in the home.

The perception that relationships are improving is likely influenced by, and influences, what carers notice about the home environment. This is a key outcome of the self-care methodology of The Project.  The self-care methodology is designed to achieve an outcome where carers see their successes in performing the role, including what they are already doing that supports recovery from relational trauma, and evidence that the child(ren) are benefitting from their caregiving endeavours. This supports carer wellbeing and optimal performance in the role. Indeed, 84% of respondents on the post-training survey report that they feel more confident in their role as a kinship carer.

Importantly, an anticipated outcome of the self-care methodology is that children experience themselves differently, based on the change in perception by their kinship carers. The self-concept of children is very much influenced by their experience of how adults in a caregiving role perceive and interact with them. Children who experience adults focusing on their problems will see themselves as a problem. Children who experience adults approaching them with positivity will internalise positive messages about themselves. This relates to the concept of the “looking-glass-self”, described by Cooley in 1902 and confirmed via empirical study since. I discuss this in both of my books.

Children’s thoughts about themselves influences their feelings, behaviours, and the reaction of others. Negative attachment representations (negative thoughts about self, other and world) are reinforced where adults respond to children’s behaviour only, as opposed to the needs being expressed via the behaviour and/or reasons for the behaviour. Acknowledging and addressing the reasons for children’s behaviour is a key aspect of this Project, and a key outcome. Responding with understanding circumvents unhelpful relational dynamics that perpetuate attachment insecurity/disorder, where attachment insecurity/disorder is over-represented among children in out-of-home care. This represents a vital step in supporting progress towards attachment security for children in kinship care, where attachment security is widely accepted as optimal for children’s growth and development and successful approach to life and relationships.

In our Project, participant kinship carers complete a brief questionnaire about the behaviour of a child in their care at the beginning of the first training session and at the end of the fourth training session. Pre- and post-responding to this questionnaire is evaluated via keyword analysis. What we have found for the first 12 (completed) groups is a more than two-fold increase in carers acknowledging that the child’s behaviour relates to a (contemporary or historically unmet) need, from being mentioned in 26% of carer responses to the pre-questionnaire, to being mentioned in 58% of the post-questionnaires. There is a corresponding reduction in mentions that the behaviour is occurring because the child ‘wants’ something. This outcome appears to reflect that carers get better at looking beyond the behaviour, which is also an important outcome of the Project and necessary to support kinship children’s progress towards secure attachment, optimal arousal for wellbeing and performance in life tasks, and new learning about the accessibility and sensitive responsiveness of adults in a caregiving role.

In helping kinship carers focus more on needs that drive the behaviours of children recovering from relational trauma, the Kinship CARE Project supports the imperative to nurture secure attachment, the importance of which is enshrined in the new child protection legislation in effect in South Australia.

For more information about the Kinship CARE Project, including forthcoming implementation sessions, follow the link to the Project page on the Secure Start site.

Artist: Rose Ward, Noongar Woman

About colbypearce

I am a practising Clinical Psychologist with twenty-seven years’ experience working with children and young people recovering from abuse and neglect. I am also an author and educator in trauma-informed, therapeutic caregiving. My programs are implemented in Australia and Ireland, and I am well-known for my practical and accessible guidance for caregivers and professionals alike.
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