Dr Jane Herd shares a snapshot of the focused intervention model she has developed to work with foster carers online during Covid.
First – find out what the biggest worry or pressures are for the foster carer.
Often difficulties are described in very general ways – ‘they won’t do what they’re told’; ‘they won’t leave me alone’; ‘they won’t stop arguing.’
Work with the carer to get much clearer as to what their primary concern is by asking questions- can you tell me about the last time this happened, who was there, what happened- before, during, after etc.
You will then come to a much clearer shared understanding between the worker and the carer as to what the primary concern is e.g. ‘when I speak to my child my foster child starts interrupting, doing silly or dangerous things and I tell them to stop and they get angry and start shouting at me.’
Working from this typical behaviour you can then consider how you would understand this from a neurodevelopmental and attachment framework. In the last example the child may have an anxious attachment style and does not know that you can talk to someone else and still love, care and remember them.
Then work with the carer to explore what it is they think is being communicated, what the behaviour is saying that may need attending too, behaviour is not bad or good (it may be upsetting, frustrating etc) but communication.
In the example what might be communicated is – When you talk to someone else I worry you have forgotten about me, I don’t know you can talk to someone else and still love and care about me.
Interventions based on this understanding could be various- you might keep an arm on the child’s head or shoulder whilst you talk to someone else, you might speak to the child and say I just need to speak to x about y (be specific if possible) when I’ve done this we can do Z, or you might in addition or instead give the child a task to do for you whilst you are speaking to someone else e.g. draw me a picture, tidy the table, be sure to return and appreciate what they have done or you could ask them to look after something of yours whilst you speak to someone else.
- Be specific about the primary concern
- Ask lots of questions to clarify this
- Consider whether theory might be helpful in working out what is going on
- Consider what might be communicated by the child’s behaviour
- Create some options of how you might respond relationally to the child’s struggles, be creative and try different approaches
- Support carers in being able to go through this approach themselves when addressing children’s emotional and social struggles