Foundations for Attachment Programme

Adoptive families are benefiting from a new programme created for parents of children who have experienced early trauma and loss. 

The Foundations for Attachment Programme is being piloted by a number of local authorities in England and aims to help parents connect with their children by modelling a playful, accepting, curious and empathic parenting style.

In one area of the country, the programme was delivered over six weeks, with each session lasting three hours. A total of nine parents completed the programme and their children's ages ranged from one to six years. 

Each parent attending the group had received an assessment and was found to be struggling with the complexities of parenting a child who had experienced early relational trauma, separation and loss. Parents described behavioural difficulties in their children as well as an inability to manage their own and their children’s emotional responses. This was leading to high levels of conflict and stress within the family home.  All described some level of difficulty in connecting with their child, either as a consequence of struggling to manage their behaviour, or because of a more significant difficulty in achieving a level of closeness. There was a strong sense of others not understanding what they were facing, or how it felt to experience rejection or aggression from your child.

The programme introduced parents to attachment-focussed parenting which has helped them give their children experiences they may have missed out on as infants. This approach enables parents to help children experience secure relationship patterns. It increased the parents' ability to understand and manage the complex and challenging behaviours of their children by enabling them to understand the origins of the behaviours and the unique difficulties that children with attachment difficulties can have as a result of their early childhood experiences. 

Evaluation measures indicate that the parents felt listened to and supported throughout the sessions. They felt better able to understand their children and had been able to identify things they would do differently. All felt more hopeful about the future. 

Parents described benefits such as improved interaction with their child and reduced stress. It seems both the theoretical content of the sessions and the opportunity to share ideas and draw on support from other group members was valued. Peer support within this group is ongoing as parents continue to arrange informal meetings.

Parents stated that they have been “more able to emotionally reflect rather than ‘tell off’”. One parent stated that they have “been able to stop getting hung up on ‘control battles’” while one felt they had a “better ability to ‘repair’ [their] relationship with [their child] when needed”. Another parent felt they had “learnt some useful strategies to apply at home which work!” which has “made family life a lot less stressful”.