Compassion fatigue in foster carers
- Funder: Fostering Attachments Ltd
- Lead applicant: Heather Ottaway
- Co-researchers: Julie Selwyn and Tabetha Newman
- Research Centre: Children and Families Research Centre and The Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies
- For more information please contact Heather Ottaway
Compassion fatigue is a physical and emotional response to the stresses of working with traumatised people. It has long been recognised as a condition affecting the performance of police and fire officers, hospital staff, mental health professionals and social workers, but it has received little attention in respect of foster carers.
Compassion fatigue involves a decrease in empathy and feelings of pleasure and an increase in stress, anxiety, fear, sleeplessness and negativity. It can affect our ability to work sensitively and effectively with those who are traumatised. Compassion fatigue can occur in foster carers because of the demands of being a therapeutic parent to children who have experienced trauma, and it prevents the foster carer staying close and connected to the child. A foster carer’s home is also their place of work, so having some ‘time out’ from caring, which is seen as essential to decrease symptoms of compassion fatigue in other stressful helping professions, is difficult to achieve.
The main aim of this project was to understand more about foster carers’ experience of compassion fatigue in their care of traumatised children, and what support they found most helpful. The overall vision is to improve awareness of the presence of compassion fatigue in foster carers, and highlight the support strategies which carers find helpful to reduce compassion fatigue and increase compassion satisfaction.