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PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference The Ambiguous Foster Child: Attachment, Separation, Loss and Loyalty Presented By: Susan S. Cornbluth, PsyD.

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Presentation on theme: "PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference The Ambiguous Foster Child: Attachment, Separation, Loss and Loyalty Presented By: Susan S. Cornbluth, PsyD."— Presentation transcript:

1 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference The Ambiguous Foster Child: Attachment, Separation, Loss and Loyalty Presented By: Susan S. Cornbluth, PsyD

2 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 2 Agenda: Introduction: Attachment Foster Children and Attachment Trauma The Six Question Separation Model Ambiguous Loss Loyalty Conflict ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 2

3 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 3 Often we have saved foster children from abuse but we have failed to recognize that they still carry with them their feelings and memories of their biological families as they travel through the foster care system. To truly understand foster children’s lives you must get into their world! Then and only then we just may begin to understand their behaviors! Today we will take a journey together into their world through their eyes! ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 3

4 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 4 Dylan’s Story “When I was at another group home, it was hard because I was away from my family and I felt sad….. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 4

5 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 5 Introduction: Attachment What is attachment? A reciprocal, enduring, emotional and physical connection between a child and a caregiver. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 5

6 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 6 Preferred or Primary Attachment Figure Usually the mother. The person selectively sought by the child when there is need for comforting and reassurance. Mission of Primary Caregiver Protector Provider Guide ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 6

7 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 7 Attachment Formation Between a Caregiver and Child Formation of a Healthy Attachment Attunement: Critical To Healthy Development. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 7

8 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 8 Formation of a Traumatic Attachment Caused by Abuse: emotional, sexual, physical. Physical or emotional unavailability of parent. Lack of reciprocal interactions-No Dance. Trauma and neglect: undermine “secure base.” ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 8

9 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 9 Abused Foster Children’s Attachment Patterns To Their Biological Parents Manuel’s Story My mom’ a drug addict. She never had a job, … ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 9

10 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 10 Dysfunctional Attachment Disinterested in immediate world- does not explore surroundings. Interested in immediate world but gets inconsistent caregiver responses- caregiver may show loving response one minute and rejection the next. Fear-what will come next. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 10

11 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 11 Symptoms of Dysfunctional Attachment Compulsive need to control others; teachers and other children. Intense lying. Poor response to discipline: aggressive or defiant. Physical contact: wanting too much or too little. Body function disturbances (eating, sleeping, urinating). Poor communication. Lack of empathy. All or none thinking. Pervasive shame … ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 11

12 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 12 Foster Children and Attachment Trauma Nina’s Story “I loved my mother no matter how she treated me….. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 12

13 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 13 Perceive Self AS: Bad Stupid Worthless Unworthy Unwanted ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 13

14 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 14 Perceive Others AS: Violent Cruel Rejecting Unpredictable ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 14

15 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 15 Maintain Safety By: Avoidance Silence Denying Thoughts & Feelings Manipulation Rejecting others ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 15

16 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 16 Despite A Dysfunctional Attachment Pattern, Foster Children Do: Form a strong meaningful attachment pattern to their mothers and family members although it is disorganized/dysfunctional in nature. The Quality of the relationship does not always predict the Strength… ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 16

17 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 17 Many foster children still long to be with their biological parents despite the harsh treatment they may have suffered. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 17

18 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 18 Initial Separation from Biological Caregivers & Siblings Deshawn’s Story I was scared when we were first separated because I was living with someone I didn’t know and I didn’t have my mom there to protect me and stuff. I was seven….. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 18

19 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 19 The Six Question Separation Model WHAT: What just happened to me? WHY: Why did this happen to me? WHEN: When will I see my family again? WHERE: Where am I going to live? WHO: Who is going to care for me? HOW: How am I going to survive without my family? ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 19

20 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 20 Helpful Foster Parents Responses to a Foster Child’s Initial Separation Questions: 1. Take it slow and easy… 2. Welcome them into your home. 3. Give them a tour of your home. 4. Openly address the foster child’s anxiety … 5. Do not push the child to talk. 6. Show the child his or her new school. 7. Acknowledge their feelings… 8. Let your foster child know he or she is worthy! 9. Tell the child: “It’s not your fault.” 10. Tell the child, “Your parents are getting the help… 11. Let them know where you sleep at night … 12. Use a nightlight in their room to increase safety. 13. Always be honest … 14. Spend the time getting to know each other. 15. Let the foster child tell you about their family and listen. 16. Do not judge his or her biological family. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 20

21 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 21 Have you ever lost something sentimental to you? What was it? How did it make you feel when you lost it? How did it make you feel when you found it? ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 21

22 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 22 Types of Unresolved Losses Moving from one house to another Losing a job Divorce Losing a limb A teacher’s departure A therapist leaves A break-up Loss of a dream Loss of nurturance Foster child who is separated from his or her biological family members ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 22

23 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 23 Ambiguous Loss Manuel’s Story I knew that she kept thinking about getting us back and that helped me hang on. She told me she.... ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 23

24 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 24 Statistics 463,000 children in foster care, decreased from 513,000 in % male 47% female 52% of children entering care are slated for reunification with biological family 49% had a placement goal of reunification ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 24

25 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 25 Ambiguous Loss: Permanent Loss = Final Ambiguous Loss = Unresolved ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 25

26 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 26 Ambiguous Loss It is difficult for a person to resolve grief if they don’t know if the loss is temporary or final. There is a lack of a clear, symbolic ritual surrounding the loss. The griever is not socially recognized (this is often the case with birth family). ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 26

27 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 27 Symptoms of Ambiguous Loss Difficulty with changes and transitions, even seemingly minor ones. Trouble making decisions. Psychic paralysis or the feeling of being overwhelmed when asked to make a choice. Problems coping with routine childhood or adolescent losses (last day of school, death of a pet, move to a new home, etc.) A sort of learned helplessness and hopelessness due to a sense that he has no control over his life. Depression and anxiety. Feelings of guilt. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 27

28 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 28 The Foster Child and Ambiguous Loss Does not know if the separation from their biological parents will be permanent or temporary.... Hope is kept alive by minimal phone contact.... Reunification is not a fantasy.... Do not fully detach from biological parents..... While in care child fluctuates..... ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 28

29 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 29 Loyalty to Biological Caregivers: The Strength of Loyalty Nina’s Story I loved my mother even though we were not together. I wanted my mother to get better. No matter what my mother did..... ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 29

30 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 30 Fluxuation Loyalty Wave Hope Of Returning Home to Biological Family Hopelessness Of Returning Home to Biological Family ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 30

31 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 31 Loyalty Conflict Biological Family Foster Child Foster Parents ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 31

32 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 32 William’s Story My foster mother didn’t want me to speak to my mother over the phone. She didn’t even want her to be at the visits and I couldn’t deal with it…. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 32

33 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 33 Loyalty Conflict Loyalty to biological parents = disconnection between foster child and foster parent. Forming a close bond with a foster parent may symbolize an act of disloyalty to their biological parents. This scares the child because if they are disloyal there may be no chance for reunification-all is lost. ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 33

34 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 34 Strategies for Connecting with a Foster Child Disconnection Connection Outcome ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 34

35 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 35 Suggestions for Helping Children Manage Feelings of Ambiguous Loss: 1. Give voice to the ambiguity… 2. Learn to redefine what it means to be a family Foster children need to be given permission to have feelings about being separated from their family of origin without feeling guilty Help the child identify what has been lost Create a “loss box.”… 6. Include birth parents and birth family members.… 7. Sometimes certain events trigger feelings of loss such as holidays, birthdays or the anniversary of an adoption Don’t set an expectation that grief over ambiguous loss will be “cured”… ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 35

36 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 36 The best gift anyone can give a foster child is patience and acknowledgment! Love is important but it is not everything! ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 36

37 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 37 Nina’s Story “I was a child put into the system because of what she did and that is always going to affect my life. Like a girl who loses her virginity for the first time,… ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 37

38 PCCYFS 2012 Annual Spring Conference 38 Endings American Foster Care Resources, Inc. POB 271, King George, VA TEL: FAX: afcr.com ©2011, American Foster Care Resources, Inc. 38


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