There is a lot of buzz in the news and recently on SBS Insight about the much needed push for kids in foster care to be provided with the security and stability of local adoption.
Over the years, I have worked long-term with many women who spent time in orphanages, children’s homes, foster-care and adoptive families. They have been Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generation and local and intercountry adoptees.
I am also the mother of 2 wonderful little beings through the long-term foster-care/permanent care/local adoption program.
Since 2004, I have researched everything I could get my hands on about foster-care and adoption, and in 2014, I attended the International Childhood Trauma Conference with Dr Dan Siegel and a Master Class with Dr Dan Hughes where the focus was on early childhood trauma, intersubjectivity and attachment relationships. Having knowledge of these topics is crucial for parenting a child who has had a rocky start to life and who has lost their biological family for whatever reason that may be. In our home, we count in 3 lots of years: chronological, developmental and attachment years!
To my surprise, the attachment process of the child with the primary caregiver is still not given the attention that it should be; there tends to be a focus – especially within the foster care system – on the child’s ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ behaviours. In my personal and professional experience – these are merely responses to disturbances in attachment; a lack of external and internal security and stability.
If the child is in short-term care (evidence suggests that this should be for no longer than 6 months), the focus of the attachment relationship between biological mother and child is paramount. If the child is in long-term foster-care/permanent care or is adopted, alongside birth-family contact, the focus should be on the attachment relationship between the foster/adoptive mother/primary caregiver.
The attachment relationship between the primary care giver and the child will be the premise for all future relationships, including those with biological family members – it is therefore crucial that this relationship becomes the primary focus. This is a child focused response.
Parenting a child who has suffered with loss so early in life means reparative parenting; building a safe and secure sense of self and the world. Here are some of my favourite books to help to build a strong and secure external and internal base for the child:
By Daniel Hughes
‘Attachment security and affect regulation have long been buzzwords in therapy circles but many of these ideas—so integral to successful therapeutic work with kids and adolescents—have yet to be effectively translated to parenting practice itself. Moreover, as neuroscience reveals how the human brain is designed to work in good relationships, and how such relationships are central to healthy human development, the practical implications for the parent-child attachment relationship become even more apparent (Google Books).’
At the heart of our relational, emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being, is our ability to form secure, healthy and balanced attachment relationships. By focusing on the attachment relationship first and foremost, it will help to deepen the parent-child bond, which in turn, helps to alleviate and manage behavioural issues in a healthier way. Attachment Focused Parenting is my number one book for foster and adoptive parents.
By Daniel Siegal, M.D and Mary HartZell, M.Ed
Parenting from the Inside Out draws on recent findings in neurobiology and attachment research – it explains how our attachment relationships directly affect the development of the brain. I love that this book focuses on the inner world and self-development of the parent – in turn – increasing the ability to raise healthy, compassionate and resilient children.
By Sue Gerhardt
‘Gerhardt, has bravely gone where most in recent years have feared to tread. She takes the hard language of neuroscience and uses it to prove the soft stuff of attachment theory (Rebecca Adams, Guardian Book Review).’
Sue Gerhardt is a psychotherapist in private practice; she is a leading specialist in mothers and babies. Why Love Matters is evidence based and provides an eye opening view of the baby’s brain, psyche and how these develop in relation to separation, bonding and attachment. Gerhardt links early childhood attachment and development with childhood and adult issues such as anxiety, depression, addictions and so forth. This book is a must for understanding the importance of attachment and is a valuable resource for making conscious choices regarding the care and well-being of our children.
Read more about Why Love Matters.
By Caroline Archer
First Steps in Parenting the Child Who Hurts is a valuable resource for foster and adoptive mothers. It offers sensitive and practical guidance through the process of separation, loss and trauma in early childhood. Caroline Archer is an adoptive parent so she speaks from experience. This book provides good, practical advice and encouragement for foster or adoptive parents. It explores issues such as bringing the child home, childhood attachment and development, what to do when things don’t appear right, the effects of trauma on the child and how to parent these difficulties.
by Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson
No Drama Discipline is my new go-to self-help book recommendation for parents.
Attachment theory as the basis for parenting has been used for many years to help build connection in families who have found each other through foster care and adoption – Dan Siegel now brings this way of parenting into the mainstream. This is vitally important as there is a plethora of research emerging to back up the fact that disturbances in our early childhood attachment relationships contribute to a multitude of other concerns, disorders and impact all future relationships with self and others.
Much like with Hughes work, Siegel suggests a framework of connection before correction. Punishment such as time out – is out (because it leaves children feeling dysregulated) and time in – is in (because it creates connection and relationship)!
This book shows us how to discipline in a calm, loving, nourishing and empathic way – which in turn deepens the relationship and provides the child with tools for building emotional intelligence.
PHOTO CREDIT: CANSTOCK
Sydney counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches.