Providing foster and kinship care to a child in need is a service to the child and to the broader community of immeasurable worth.
However, it is a sad reality that while a child is thriving on the accessible, emotionally connected, sensitive and responsive care afforded to them by their foster and/or kinship carers, the wellbeing of the carers too often declines.
Children in foster and kinship care can be extraordinarily challenging in terms of their behaviour and emotional displays. The stories children in foster and kinship care can tell about their life experiences is often confronting.
As is the case with the children being cared for, the experiences of caring a child in foster or kinship care shapes the carer’s own beliefs about their self, others and the world in which they live.
These experiences can facilitate greater sensitivity, understanding and responsiveness to the plight of others, including the child in their care.
It can also increase the carer’s knowledge and awareness of the worst aspects of human conduct.
It can leave the carer feeling helpless, defenceless and fearful.
It can erode the carer’s trust in others, and in themselves.
They may feel alone.
They may become increasingly anxious and susceptible to behaviours associated with the fight-flight-freeze response.
They may become controlling, restrictive, aggressive, avoidant and distant. These are innate responses to anxiety.
Over time, the changes in the foster and kinship carer’s beliefs about self, other and the world, and their own anxiety response, can undermine their efforts to promote the wellbeing of the child in their care.
The process by which the wellbeing of carers declines is referred to as vicarious trauma, secondary traumatisation or compassion fatigue. It is a process that requires sensitive acknowledgement and understanding.
Foster and Kinship carers need a plan. They need a plan regarding how best to assist the child or children their care. They also need a plan regarding how best to look after their own self while performing the role of carer.
The Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care offers practical advice and guidance to carers regarding how to improve the wellbeing of looked-after-children while safeguarding their own wellbeing.
For more information about the Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Carer contact Colby Pearce at firstname.lastname@example.org.