Foster carers: Parenting traumatised children

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Summary

Introduction

Compassion fatigue 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. It can be described as physical and emotional exhaustion, or ‘burnout’ through prolonged exposure to working with traumatised people. Compassion fatigue is characterised by a developing lack of empathy and compassion, and can therefore 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. A foster carer’s home is also their place of work, so respite from caring is difficult to achieve. 

Overall aim:

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 compassion fatigue in foster carers, and highlight support strategies which they find helpful for relevant professionals providing support to them. 

The project so far

The Hadley Centre is working with Fostering Attachments agency on this project. We have undertaken a literature review and have developed and piloted a survey asking foster carers about their experience of caring for traumatised children. Four focus groups have taken place with foster carers exploring their experiences in more depth.

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