Hi everyone. In a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I thought I would provide a complementary infographic that acknowledges that in tough times children benefit from a little extra CARE also. This seems most apt in this most troubling of times. I intend to post regularly through this period and provide further practical resources and guidance for parents and caregivers of children. I am happy to receive feedback and suggestions about what readers of this blog might like me to address. For now, please find an updated resource below, a PDF of which can be downloaded here.
Children recovering from early adversity, including trauma and other adverse events, need a little extra CARE from adults who interact with them in a care and management role. I have provided, below, a little infographic to highlight where to focus our endeavours. Do let me know what you think. Please also consider registering for one or more of our upcoming online training events. Details here.
If you would like to download a PDF of this infographic, click here.
Kinship CARE is a comprehensive training package for trauma-informed care and practice among kinship carers and professionals who support them. Kinship CARE is tailored to the experience and training needs of kinship carers. Kinship CARE recognises that, for kinship carers, relational connection is important. Kinship CARE supports enriched relational connections. Kinship CARE also recognises that children and young people who cannot safely be cared for at home or are recovering from a tough start to life have additional care needs. Kinship CARE supports having an understanding of what those additional care needs are and how they may be addressed therapeutically. Kinship CARE acknowledges that kinship carers have much to contend with, and that advice and guidance needs to be practical and realistic. Kinship CARE supports the development of Therapeutic Care Plans that are tailored to the characteristics and capabilities of individual kinship households. Kinship CARE acknowledges the persistence of kinship carers in challenging circumstances. Kinship CARE offers a practical approach to thinking about and implementing self-care.
Kinship CARE supports caregiver engagement with training. Kinship CARE focuses on the assets kinship carers bring to the role. Empowerment of kinship carers is a central aspect and intended outcome. Kinship CARE acknowledges strengths. Through complementary training for kinship carers and the professionals who support them in the role, Kinship CARE supports a common knowledge, language, and approach. In doing so, Kinship CARE supports equality, effective communication, and alignment in the care team.
Kinship CARE is delivered in a manner that makes it accessible to kinship carers ( and professionals who support them). Delivery utilises verbal content, practical demonstrations, videos, and individual and group reflective activities. Kinship CARE follows adult-learning principles. Embeddedness is supported through trained professionals modelling the Model in their own interactions with kinship carers.
Kinship CARE encourages the implementation of a therapeutic care environment around the kinship child, in the pursuits of an optimal psychological environment and developmental outcomes within the kinship child. Kinship CARE incorporates the CARE1 (Consistency, Accessibility, Responsiveness, Emotional Connectedness) and Triple-A Models2. Drawn from psychological science, the CARE and Triple-A Models represent evidence-informed frameworks for understanding what good caregiving and psychological functioning looks like, and the impact of early adversity on the developing child. Kinship CARE applies thinking and caregiving strategies that support optimal developmental outcomes for children.
Kinship CARE is derived from the Kinship CARE Project. Initially a two-year joint-initiative of Secure Start® and the Department for Child Protection (DCP), the Kinship CARE Project was delivered to 250 kinship carers across 7 regional and 17 metropolitan locations. Twelve percent (12%) of participants identified as being of indigenous descent. Session by session evaluations from the first eighteen groups show that more than 98% of participant kinship carers indicate that the training was informative, practical and useful, that they were satisfied with the training, and that they would recommend it to other kinship carers. Eighty-four percent (84%) of participant kinship carers who completed the training and a three-month follow up survey report that they are experiencing improved relationships with the children in their care, eighty-nine percent (89%) report that they feel more confident in the role, ninety-eight percent (98%) report that they have learnt strategies that have helped them in the kinship role, and one-hundred percent (100%) report that they have received helpful information. Analysis of pre-post questionnaires for the first twelve implementation groups identified that kinship carers were more than twice as likely to refer to behaviour being an expression of needs after four training sessions.
Kinship CARE recognises the prevalence of family trauma and loss among kinship and indigenous families. Kinship CARE incorporates language and content that is respectful, inclusive and non-shaming.
For more information about Kinship CARE, visit our Kinship CARE Project Page here and our Kinship CARE Curriculum page here.
To access training in Kinship CARE, see our upcoming training here.
Pearce, C.M. (2016) A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition). London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Pearce, C.M. (2010). An Integration of Theory, Science and Reflective Clinical Practice in the Care and Management of Attachment-Disordered Children – A Triple A Approach. Educational and Child Psychology (Special Issue on Attachment), 27 (3): 73-86
A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp
With the uptake of strengths-based approaches to child welfare practice in Australia and related child protection jurisdictions in Europe and North America, it is timely to consider what is ‘good’ parenting and caregiving.
In this article I briefly introduce a model for considering what is ‘good’ parenting and caregiving in terms of the benefits it affords the developing child. That is, a model for identifying assets that are central to strengths-based practice.
The model is the CARE Model, which appears in A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder – Second Edition (Pearce, 2016). The CARE Model reflects what science informs us are important aspects of caregiving and the caregiving environment that promote an optimal ‘internal’ (psychological) environment for children and young people; one that supports secure exploration, mastery, and optimal developmental outcomes. This optimal internal environment is one where children develop a secure attachment style, maintain optimal arousal levels for performance and wellbeing, and learn how to influence their world in functional ways to support accessibility to needs provision. I refer to this as the Triple-A Model (Attachment, Arousal, Accessibility to needs provision; Pearce, 2009; 2010; 2011; 2016).
Children benefit from having a small number of primary caregivers who are aligned in their approach to caregiving and present to the child in a consistent manner. Children also benefit from a caregiving environment that is ordered, and where they can predict what is gong to happen, when it is going to happen, how it is going to happen, and why it is going to happen.
Consistency is optimal for learning, including learning about the accessibility and responsiveness of adults in a caregiving role. Consistency is reassuring, and so supports more optimal arousal levels. Consistent parental accessibility and responsiveness promotes a secure attachment style, which supports a positive approach to life and relationships.
Tip: Identify the routines and rituals in the home that support a child’s experience of order and predictability.
Children benefit from experiencing their primary caregivers as being accessible to them. Caregiver accessibility promotes tolerance of separations and secure exploration which, in turn, support all aspects of a child’s journey towards achieving their developmental potential, and independence.
Tip: Identify times that the caregivers in the home attend to the child proactively.
Children benefit from the experience that their needs are understood and important and will be addressed reliably and predictably by their primary caregivers. Caregiver responsiveness promotes optimal beliefs about self, other and world (attachment working models/ representations), which support a confident approach to life and relationships, wellbeing, and trust in accessibility to needs provision.
Tip: Identify ways in which the caregivers in the home acknowledge the child’s experience and address their needs (proactively). See also my article about adults using their words.
Children benefit from the experience of their primary caregivers regulating them through loving touch and moments of shared emotional experience followed by regulation to calm (co-regulation). As a result of their primary caregivers regulating them and regulating with them, children ultimately learn to regulate themselves. Through shared emotional experience children develop an understanding and appreciation of the experience of others, which form the basis for empathy and self-regulation in consideration of the experience of others (reciprocity). Further, through shared emotional experience and (co)regulation by their primary caregivers, children are afforded a safe emotional space to explore and accept a range of emotional experience
Tip: Identify activities over which the caregivers and children have a shared emotional experience (Further tip: emotional connectedness is often a by-product of play).
Pearce, C.M. (2016) A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder (Second Edition). London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Pearce, C.M. (2011). A Short Introduction to Promoting Resilience in Children. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Pearce, C.M. (2010). An Integration of Theory, Science and Reflective Clinical Practice in the Care and Management of Attachment-Disordered Children – A Triple A Approach. Educational andChild Psychology (Special Issue on Attachment), 27 (3): 73-86
Pearce, C.M. (2009) A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The Kinship CARE Project is an initiative of Secure Start®.
At Secure Start, we believe that Kinship Carers make a highly valuable contribution to the care of children in need, and to society. Yet, kinship carers do not always get the support they need.
The Kinship CARE Project reflects our commitment to providing kinship carers with knowledge and strategies that supports them in the kinship carer role.
Kinship carers are a large and diverse group, though they share many things in common. Chief amongst these is their commitment to caring for children with whom they have a relational connection, when the children cannot be at home with mum and/or dad.
Though they perform a similar role to other out-of-home carers (including those who foster or adopt), kinship carers have their own circumstances and needs. Kinship carers must have training support that is tailored to their own circumstances and needs.
The Kinship CARE Project incorporates training and resources that are strengths-based, user-friendly, and practical. In the first phase of the project, which reached 250 kinship carers across 24 metropolitan and regional implementation groups in South Australia, more than 98% of kinship carers rated each training session as informative, practical, and useful, and indicated that they would recommend the training to other kinship carers. Among kinship carers who completed the training and a follow-up survey:
84% reported experiencing improved relationships with the children in their care;
89% reported feeling more confident in the kinship carer role; and
98% reported that they had received helpful strategies …
… as a result of their participation in the Kinship CARE Project.
Recently, an Australian Aboriginal Grandmother who participated in the Kinship CARE Project produced the artwork below to represent her experience of the Project. It blew us away. Her story of the artwork can be accessed by clicking here. Both the story of the artwork, and the artwork itself, are displayed with the consent of the artist, who hoped that it would support access to the Kinship CARE Project among Indigenous Kinship Carers. The artist also gave consent to being identified in connection with the artwork and the Kinship CARE Project.
The Kinship CARE Project incorporates complementary training for professionals who support kinship carers. Contact us to discuss your training needs or subscribe to join our mailing list. As a member of our mailing list you will receive details of upcoming training events for kinship carers and professionals who support them.
Phase one of the Kinship CARE Project, which was delivered in South Australia in the Department for Child Protection’s (DCP) Kinship Care Program, will come to an end in March 2020. This initial phase spanned more than two years and incorporated training for both kinship carers and DCP staff who support them. In addition, staff from other service providers, including Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers – SA, the State’s peak advocacy body for foster and kinship carers, were also trained in the Kinship CARE Curriculum.
In Phase Two of the Project we are delivering in Victoria through 2020 as part of the Carer KaFE. We are also in discussion with a number of organisations who support kinship carers in the UK and Ireland.
In Phase Two, we are looking to make training in the Kinship CARE Curriculum available to kinship carers, and professionals who support them, across Australia and overseas. We are available and willing to discuss face-to-face training. We will also be offering a range of online training options. Subscribe using the form below to join our mailing list and receive information about forthcoming training events.
Information for Professionals and Organisations
To access A Short Introduction to the Kinship CARE Project, which includes additional information about the content and delivery of the Project during Phase One, please click here.
In The Zahir, author Paulo Coelho tells the story of two firefighters who take a break from fighting a forest fire by a stream. The face of one of the firefighters is dirty and sooty. The face of the other is comparatively clean. One of the firefighters then washes his face in the stream. Coelho poses a question to the reader: which firefighter washes his face? The answer given is the firefighter whose face was clean. Why? Because he looked at the other firefighter and thought he was dirty.
This is an allegory that is reflective of my practice over more than two decades; in particular, the message that people see themselves as they experience others to see them. This is the so-called Looking-Glass Self, coined by Charles Horton Cooley in Human Nature and the Social Order at the turn of the 20th century (1902).
Returning to the firefighter who washes his face, I wonder if he would respond differently if he already thought of himself as dirty and ugly anyway. Would he wash his face, or would he think that it makes no difference?
Working with at-risk families, and supporting other professionals who do, has always been a particularly rewarding aspect of my practice. There is a great deal at stake as there is no doubt in my mind that the ideal solution for the children is to achieve an outcome where they can be safely cared for in their own home, keeping the family intact. These outcomes offer critical benefits to the children, in terms of their emerging beliefs about themselves, others, and their world (Attachment Representations), their emotional functioning (Arousal), and their learning about the accessibility and responsiveness of adults in a caregiving role (Accessibility, to needs provision). These three factors, which I refer to as the ‘Triple-A Model’, play an influential role in a child’s approach to life and relationships and, in turn, their growth and development.
One of the first hurdles to working effectively with at-risk families is minimisation, by the adults, of the concerns that have brought (or may bring) the family to the attention of child protection authorities. This, in turn, can result in the adults being resistant to accepting, and/or dismissive of, well-intentioned and needed support and guidance. In this article I share a little of my work with these families, and other professionals who do, about an approach which, across more than two decades of practice, is encapsulated in what I now refer to as the CARE Curriculum (previously, The CARE Therapeutic Framework).
Achieving relational connection is the primary task of the CARE Curriculum. When you achieve a good relational connection with another person, they experience themselves as having worth. As a result of the sense of worth they experience via the relational connection they have with you, they place value on the relational connection. The combination of these two factors are feelings of wellbeing for the person you are working with (which supports success in their endeavours) and an enhanced capacity for you to influence their approach to the parenting role.
Relational connection is an outcome of a process that begins with accepting and adopting the mindset that nobody does anything for no reason. If we accept that nobody does anything for no reason, we must consider that minimisation of the concerns that have or may bring the family to the attention of child protection authorities, and resistance to support and guidance, occurs for a reason.
In my work, shame is a major consideration for understanding minimisation and resistance. When working with the adults in at-risk families there are a number of sources of shame, often occurring together. These include (but are not limited to):
Shame that this has happened to their family;
Shame about being seen as having failed in the parenting role (judged);
Shame about factors that impact family functioning and capacity to fulfil the parenting role;
Shame that they are not the parent they would like to be;
Shame about having let their children (and their own families) down.
The effect of their shame is that they can fail to acknowledge the full extent of the challenges faced by them in providing the safe and nurturing care their children need and may resist well-intentioned and necessary guidance regarding their approach to the parenting role.
When working with at-risk families there is always the requirement to identify areas of concern and provide guidance regarding required changes that benefit all members of the family; particularly the children. Timing is the key. If we attempt to do this too early the parents can feel even more inadequate, and more ashamed. The result is that they become ‘defensive’ in relation to the concerns that have or may bring them to the attention of child protection authorities and continue to (and steadfastly) adhere to caregiving practices that are inadequate for the needs of their children.
In order to achieve an outcome where the adults in at-risk families are more accepting of the seriousness of concerns that exist and the benefit to their children (and themselves) of receiving practical feedback and guidance that builds their capacity to fulfil the parenting role, we need to build them up. We need to help them to feel better within and about themselves and about the parenting role they are performing. We need to regulate shame.
One way of doing this is to turn our minds to what they are doing well in the parenting role; that is, their strengths. The CARE Curriculum identifies four key aspects of parenting, supported by psychological science, that promote optimal development for children and young people and recovery from a tough start to life:
It is important to identify and acknowledge positive signs of these aspects of parenting in at-risk families, even if it is very small.
It is also important to acknowledge and validate their experience of the parenting role and the challenges they face. If the adults in at-risk families feel heard they are more likely to hear what you want to say:
First, in relation to their strengths – the things they are doing well; and then
The seriousness of the areas of concern, their impact on the children, and how best to ensure that the children can remain home with their family.
If the adults in at-risk families feel acknowledged and heard, they are more likely to accept a relational connection that regulates their shame and provides a platform for supporting and guiding them to achieve outcomes:
of the family remaining intact; and
the children experiencing care that is safe and satisfying of their needs.
What aspects of the parenting role are implemented consistently?
When does the parent attend to their child?
How does the parent acknowledge their child’s experience?
What does the parent do to cater to their child’s needs?
What activities or tasks do the parent and child enjoy doing together?
A straightforward guide to keeping things on track in the home during tough times. Includes printable worksheets – see preview below. 18pp
When children cannot be cared for at home with their biological parent or parents, other adults who have a caring concern for them, or children more generally, take on the caregiving role. In many cases this is a member of the child’s family (Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, even older siblings). It might also be a family friend or other person who has a relationship with the child and/or their family. It might be a member of the community who has a caring concern for children and a desire to ‘give back’. It might also be a person who cannot, otherwise, have a child of their own and wishes to provide a loving home to a child in need. For those children and young people who are yet to be placed in a family care arrangement, it can be a paid carer.
The intent of all of these people is to provide care and protection to children and young people who are in need.
There are many challenges in providing care in these roles. One of these arises when the child or young person asserts “you’re not my parent (mum/dad)”. Often, this occurs in the context of the child or young person resisting parental authority. In many instances, it is an expression of feelings of hurt, loss, and abandonment that can be keenly felt by children and young people who cannot live with their biological parents. It is also a form of rejecting behaviour that stems from the child’s own feelings of rejection, which can occur irrespective of the reasons the child cannot be cared for by their biological parents and the love the biological parents have for their child.
It can be distressing to hear and experience as the caregiver for the child; the person or persons who are, in fact, performing the role of parent. It is important to keep in mind that the comment is not necessarily about you; nor is it a reflection of the care you provide. Rather, too often it is a reflection of the child feeling different and inadequate in some way; as if they were not loved or lovable enough to be cared for by their biological parents. Often, it is also a reflection of the child or young person’s displaced anger and frustration at their biological parents.
It is not healthy or helpful for the child or young person to maintain such thoughts and feelings. The low sense of self-worth that arises when children and young people think of themselves as unloved and/or rejected is implicated in a range of self-destructive and self-defeating behaviours that, ultimately, have a negative effect on life trajectory. It can also result in you pulling back a little from the child due to your own feelings of hurt, notwithstanding your best intentions. This can compound the child’s low sense of self-worth.
Three steps I use to support understanding that the child or young person does, in fact, have parents follow.
First, when the child or young person is relaxed and able to talk (such as when travelling for some distance in a car), ask them what does a parent (mum/dad) do for a child. If possible, keep some form of record of their answers. I anticipate that you will get a list of caregiving behaviours. Allow the child or young person time to process their own answers to the question (this can be a longer or shorter period, depending on the child or young person. It may also be appropriate to wait a day or so before proceeding to the next step).
After the child or young person has had time to reflect on the question at step one and their own answers, ask what you do for them. Again, a record might be kept. The child should again be given time to consider the question and their own answers to it before proceeding to the next step. It is anticipated that the aspects of the parenting role you are acknowledged to perform substantially overlap the list made in response to the first question.
Finally, acknowledge that though they sometimes feel different and feel like they do not have a parent (mother/father), a parent is someone who looks after them, and you are that person. You are their parent (mum/dad). And they are cared for (wanted/loved) the same as other children and young people.
The anticipated outcome is the child’s realisation that they do, in fact, have a parent.
(Note: In many instances it might also be appropriate to reassure that their biological parents love them too)
In my therapeutic work with children and young people I incorporate play activities in order for them to experience themselves in a way that challenges existing unhelpful ideas. My intent is to support and strengthen an alternative self-concept that is reflective of attachment security and secure attachment representations (a.k.a. internal working models). That is, I utilise play to support and strengthen positive beliefs about self, other, and world, including:
that the child or young person is capable and a person of worth;
that adults understand them and can be relied upon; and
that they are safe in their world.
A particular focus of my therapeutic work is supporting experiences of mastery. Experiences of mastery help to promote beliefs that the young person is capable and able to positively influence their world. It promotes a belief that they are (inherently) safe. These beliefs are necessary for all children and young people to explore, learn, and develop, unimpaired by the restricting and debilitating effects of anxiety. It is particularly necessary to support and strengthen these beliefs when children are recovering from a tough start to life.
One of the ‘mastery activities’ I often do with children and young people is to play ‘Balloon Volleyball’. This is a favourite of the vast majority of children and young people who have consulted with me across the past two decades. They invariably win, but they have to ‘overcome adversity’ in order to do so. I temper how much ‘adversity’ each child experiences based on how capable they believe themselves to be. Adversity comes in the form of me making rallies last longer or shorter, or me winning a proportion of rallies. In fact, the majority of games over the years have been decided by a single point!
So, there is always a balloon in my consulting room.
Across the last few weeks of last year there was an aqua-coloured balloon. I have been using balloons of some quality, such that they have been lasting for weeks at a time without popping or deflating. The aqua balloon survived at-least a couple of weeks without popping or deflating. However, when I returned to work after a three-week break over Christmas and New Year the aqua balloon had lost much of its air. It was deflated. This was not through overuse. Rather, it happened during a period where it received no attention and interaction.
In contrast, children and young people commonly grow during holiday periods (in Australia, the Christmas and New Year break falls within the long summer break from school). In my therapeutic work I have a ritual where I check on the growth of children and young people when they attend for consultations. It is such a ritual that they often position themselves to be measured at the beginning of a consultation and remind me to measure them if I forget. I am not too precise with how I record their growth, such that they almost always seem to have grown between consultations! This is very important to a great many of the children and young people who consult with me. This ‘growth’ is often quite pronounced during the summer holiday, where there is a longer gap between the consultations before and after Christmas.
The first child to consult with me in 2020 found the aqua balloon in its shrunken and deflated state. This led me to comment that, though it had survived many weeks of use prior to Christmas, it seemed to have shrunk as a result of no attention and interaction.
I concluded that attention and interaction must be good for us . As the child had not shrunk (a rare event and relief to most children and young people) and, in fact, had grown, they must have received sufficient attention and interaction for their growth.
The child smiled that smile you see in moments of pure happiness and contentment. They knew they were loved.