The experiences of foster parents who have been through therapeutic training

Douglas, Mica (2020) The experiences of foster parents who have been through therapeutic training. DPsych thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute. [Thesis]

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The purpose of this qualitative research study was to understand the experiences of foster parents, who had undertaken training in therapeutic fostering. All the foster parents who took part were taking care of looked after children (LAC) with highly complex needs who had been placed in foster care by the state for their own safety and protection when care in the birth family had failed. The project also aimed to contribute to the development of foster parent training, specifically by discussing what is relevant and useful to those who are classed as therapeutic or specialist foster parents. I was interested in any changes that took place in relation to themselves, their relationship with the foster children and the professional network of social workers and Independent Reviewing Officers following therapeutic training.

There are many reasons why 75,420 children are in care in England with 55,200 being in a foster placement (Department of Education (DofE), 2018). According to government statistics (DofE, 2018) 62% of those children are in care due to abuse or neglect, which can have a lasting impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing. Foster children are four times more likely to suffer mental health problems than other children in the population and there is strong evidence that child abuse and neglect is a leading cause of those problems according to Bazalgette, Rahilly & Trevelyan (2015) authors of a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) report. Currently half of all children in care meet the criteria for a possible mental health disorder, compared to one in ten children outside the care system (DofE, 2018).

Given that foster children are vulnerable because of their experiences, training for foster parents is potentially one way of helping to support the children. The aim of this study was to see how foster parents experienced therapeutic training. Key skills and qualities from psychotherapy training had been applied in a fostering setting and the research helped to evaluate the usefulness of combining the two disciplines.

Research methods used were semi-structured interviews lasting up to 90 minutes conducted with 10 foster parents individually over the course of a year and 17 foster parents divided between three focus group interviews. The individual interviews took place in the English counties of Kent, Essex, West Midlands, East Midlands, Cheshire, and West Sussex with participants from groups that had all been through one year of training in therapeutic fostering. Additionally, interviews were held with three focus groups made up of foster parents who had just completed a year of therapeutic training, two of which were in the Midlands and one in Kent. The data from the individual interviews and focus group interviews was analysed using thematic analysis.

Participants spoke of the personal challenges they had faced in fostering, including the impact on their families, what therapeutic knowledge had helped them with and some of the behaviour they had dealt with. The behaviour included examples of self- harm, soiling, trauma, attachment difficulties, dissociation, dissociative identity disorder, aggression, destruction of property, executive functioning difficulties and the dynamics of abuse being brought into their homes. Participants also talked about why they had become foster parents and their relationships with other professionals in the care system. Some reflected on their own childhood experiences and how that had influenced their motivation to foster. The study found that foster parents generally felt more professional and knowledgeable in their role, they learnt how to stand back and be more objective. This reflective skill improved relationships with children and helped foster parents to feel more competent overall. Foster parents began to reflect also on their parenting style and how repeating the style of their own parents, was not sufficient for a child who was not attached to them and who may also have suffered relational trauma and abuse. Another major finding was that a taught course that did not have sufficient time for processing how participants are relating to the material may have had very different results.

The data from the interviews and focus groups with therapeutic foster parents prompts questions about this section of the children’s workforce and whether their role needs more recognition and reward. Should fostering, for example, be a profession? Should there be more extensive training for people looking after the children in the community with some of the most severe mental health issues?

Item Type: Thesis (DPsych)
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > Metanoia Institute
Item ID: 35657
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2022 15:21
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 18:15

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