7 lessons I’ve learnt from introverted children

Young introvert studies alone in his room

If you care for a quiet, shy or ‘less sociable’ young person, this knowledge gained working with foster parents who care for introverted children may help you support them.

Courtesy of NFA North West training manager Kath Hamblett.

 

1. Introverts aren’t aloof

Some children may exclude themselves simply because they’re frightened of forming an attachment.

If you’ve often been let down by adults, the relative sanctuary of your bedroom may feel more solid than promises made by ‘new’ people.

Carers can refer to their training — particularly the importance of sensitivity as detailed in the ‘Secure Base Model‘ to help children manage these feelings.

By tuning into what young people might be feeling, a foster parent can start to understand introvert behaviour and offer the right support.

2. Introverts aren’t boring

A young person might be reluctant to join in or try something new — that doesn’t mean they’re no fun.

They may have been punished or abused for ‘failures’ at tasks and activities in their past — so sticking to the familiar makes sense.

The empathy to see that a lack of participation doesn’t always mean a lack of ambition or ability is an important carer attribute.

And by being patient and encouraging, they can give a young person the best chance to explore how much they want to ‘join in’.

3. Introverts can reach out

Take opportunities to establish (and build on) trust whenever these are presented if possible.

If a child wants to play lego with you rather than go to bed, maybe some shared bonding over bricks would be more beneficial than a strict routine at that time.

By allowing such interaction, you can provide a safe space for a young person to play, explore and share with you.

And as the relationship develops and trust grows, it should become easier to introduce clearer defined routines.

4. Introverts aren’t robots

A perceived lack of emotion may not tell the whole story — some children simply haven’t known a nurturing environment to help them understand their feelings.

If a young person hasn’t learnt what an emotion means, they may not even know if they’re mad/sad/glad/scared — let alone how to express this.

Be there for them and leave no doubt that they’re a member of your family, to develop a sense of belonging.

As the young person becomes more comfortable with their environment, they may learn how to recognise and express emotions by seeing others do so.

5. Introverts aren’t broken

You don’t need to ‘fix’ an introverted young person by keeping them permanently occupied or frequently placing them in social situations.

Sometimes, quiet or alone time is hugely valuable — especially for children who need time to process a lot of unfamiliar information.

A new home, new family, new school — even new feelings — can be a lot to deal with — so be available but recognise the value of space.

If you can give this support, a young person can start to associate that solitude with reflection, rather than exclusion or punishment.

6. Introverts may have history

When involving an introvert in a group or family event, consider that you may need to manage expectations.

Just because a party or barbecue means a good time for most, such occasions could have different associations for a looked-after child.

Violenceneglect, abuse — be aware that something most people look forward to may be linked to a previous bad experience for a young person.

So they may appear more anxious than excited at the prospect of a get-together, particularly one with lots of people, alcohol or an unfamiliar location.

Address concerns by explaining what goes on at such occasions in your family — and maybe even dig out a photo from a previous similar event.

7. Introverts may need ‘guesswork’

An introverted child’s lack of visible confidence may go hand-in-hand with not understanding consequences.

When kids are told ‘don’t run with scissors’, ‘hold hands to cross the road’ and ‘take off coats indoors’ — they learn about cause and effect.

But without this understanding of reasons for actions, a young person may not understand why they’re being asked to do (or not do) something.

Using ‘guesses’ to prompt them to question themselves can encourage them to understand the causes and outcomes of certain behaviour.

Try phrases like: ‘I guess you wanted to stay in your room rather than eat with us because you’re feeling upset about XXXX’, to start the process.

So… one step at a time

So a child who isn’t the ‘life and soul’ doesn’t need to be forced to change, they need acceptance and availability.

Remember — ‘quiet’ is a subjective term and someone who seems withdrawn at first in your home may be dealing with much more than they’re used to.

Maybe a one-to-one game of cards will be all they can deal with initially — but give them opportunities to learn the value and fun of spending time with others.

With time and luck, the young person will become an important part of your family who can also spend time apart without being seen as rude or sullen.

 

Find out more about the Secure Base programme and other specialist training available for carers by calling 0800 044 3030 or if you prefer, contact us online.

To see when you can talk to some of our friendly staff in person about training and support, see our latest events near you.

Introduction to attachment and foster care | Joe Nee

Expert in attachment theory Joe Nee highlights some of the impact a child’s attachment experience can have on them and their foster families.

As children develop, from conception to adulthood, they need support from those responsible for protecting them during this journey.

When going through the various stages in this developmental process their experience of attachment plays a crucial role.

This continues throughout the young person’s development, from absolute dependence, to independence and autonomy as an adult.

And the different needs of children at each stage demand differing responses from those charged with their care.

Each develops at their own pace — from being unable to let their main carer out of their sight to the ‘terrible twos’, ‘sibling rivalry’ the ‘lazy teenager’ and so on.

Studying how a child attaches to their parents/carers helps us understand how this process is affected by the nature and quality of our early experiences.

This is particularly true of children who have experienced early trauma and/or neglect.

Stressed young mother sitting on her sofa whilst feeding her baby son. She has her head in her hand and is surrounded by mess.

All children need to develop a secure emotional attachment to their parents or their primary/main carer at an early stage.

Young people may seem ‘unable’ to learn, or understand consequences, behaving in ways that seem to guarantee they won’t get what they want.

They may even feel responsible for their problems and those of their parents, believing themselves to be ‘bad’ or deserving of punishment.

The quality of the attachment relationship a child develops with their key caregiver is a good indicator of their ability to cope and adapt.

And as the child grows, this relationship means they continue to view this caregiver as a potential source of comfort in any stressful situations.

Unfortunately, this can continue to be the case even if the caregiver proves to be abusive, neglectful, fails to protect them, or their life seems to be in chaos.

For foster parents, this can clearly prove a challenge, as the child seeks comfort and approval from whichever caregiver to whom they have been attached.

The effects of attachment on foster parents

Attachment relationships are a biological inevitability, designed to ensure a child’s protection and survival.

But a child or young person’s ability to attach and form a bond with a caregiver often depends on the type of care they received from others earlier in their life.

It’s important that foster parents get appropriate support to promote healthy attachments for the children and young they care for in their family.

And where young people are removed from birth parents permanently, it’s vital that the appropriate matching and training takes place.

Foster parents looking after children who have disorganised or extremely anxious attachments can experience similar emotional upheaval.

Of course, fostering can be challenging at any time — but the stress involved in caring for some children can have a serious impact on the placement success.

In such situations, support from social and/or professional networks is typically a major factor in alleviating carer stress.

Particularly important is access to timely and effective support from social workers and other professionals.

Research has shown that the absence of this can exacerbate the strain on carers and their families.

Meeting a young person’s needs

Some younger children with a history of maltreatment can respond quickly to changes in their emotional environments, forming secure attachments to carers.

But research and experience tells us that this will not always be the case with certain children.

Some appear to resist support, continue to distrust adults and seem unable to seek care or comfort when distressed.

In these cases, if foster parents wait for a ‘signal’ or sign from a child to provide care, the young person’s needs may remain completely unmet.

We know that looked after children benefit greatly if they can develop secure attachments with their caregivers.

To enable this for those with attachment or trauma issues, foster parents can aim to engage with them at their emotional age (rather than chronological).

In order to ensure that young people with attachment issues are cared for most effectively during foster placements, several measures can help:

• Capacity of prospective carers to recognise/tolerate difficult behaviour and remain sensitive/responsive to a child’s needs should be evaluated

• Regular training and support to ensure carers can reflect on a child’s behaviour with reference to their needs rather than react immediately to their behaviour

• Carer access to reflective space and non-judgmental listening to promote sensitive, responsive care and alleviate the strain on all concerned

Any professionals, including foster parents, who are asked to care for or work with looked after children should have basic but specific training.

This should concern the impact of early attachment issues and trauma on those children.

And the support available should be proactive — not crisis driven or occurring only when stress levels are unacceptable.

Attachment and teenagers

A young person may appear to be settled, happy and thriving in a foster family environment.

But one of the triggers that can disrupt the situation for all concerned can be the onset of puberty.

The stresses and confusion for a young person during this time and their teenage years, can pose problems in terms of changing behaviour.

Mother and teenage daughter having an arguument

Another potential influential factor is young people’s vulnerability to harmful external influences.

A teen’s early experiences of mistrust, inappropriate attachment and confusion about relationships can make them an obvious target.

The potential threat of controlling relationships, sexual exploitation or gang associations increase for those with an inability to manage social relationships.

Learn more about attachment

Understanding the impact of attachment and how it can affect the fostering experience for young people and carers is important.

Find out more about the available training and support available by using the bibliography below, contacting NFA, or see further resources on attachment from the Fostering Network.

About the author

Joe Nee is an independent psychology professional with extensive experience in the education and child protection sectors.

He has worked with local authorities, government departments, the police, prisons and voluntary organisations throughout the UK.

As a renowned authority on child protection, families, fostering and adoption, his expertise as a consultant is both insightful and invaluable.

 

Bibliography

  • Dozier M, Albus K and Bates B (2001) Attachment for infants in foster care: the role of caregiver state of mind, Child Development, 72, 1467-1477

  • Dozier M, Peloso E, Lewis E, Laurenceau J P and Levine S (2008) Effects of an attachment-based intervention on the cortisol production of infants and toddlers in foster care, Dev Psychopathology, 20, 845-859

  • Fonagy,P. and Target, M. (2002) Early Intervention and the Development of Self Regulation. Psychoanalytic Inquiry. V 22,Issue 3

  • Furnival, J. Practice with looked after children and young people IRISS Insights no.10. May 2010

  • Hughes, Dan (2006) Building the Bonds of Attachment

  • Holmes, J (2001) The Search for the Secure Base: Attachment Theory and Psychotherapy. Routledge

  • Hosking G and Walsh I (2005) Wave Report 2005: Violence and what to do about it, Croydon Wave Trust

  • Kochanska G, Barry RA, Stellern SA and O’Bleness JJ (2009) Early Attachment Organization Moderates the Parent Child Mutually Coercive Pathway to Children’s Antisocial Conduct, Child Development, 80, 1288-1300

  • Millward R, Kennedy E, Towlson K and Minnis H (2006) Reactive attachment disorder in looked-after children Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, 11(4)

  • Steele M (2006) The ‘added value’ of attachment theory and research for clinical work in adoption and foster care, in J Kenrick (ed) Creating New Families Therapeutic approaches to fostering adoption and kinship care, London: Karnac Books

  • WilPerry B and Hambrick E (2008) The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, Reclaiming children and youth,17(3)

  • son K (2006) Can foster carers help children resolve their emotional and behavioural difficulties? Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 11(4), 495-511

  • Zeanah C (2001) Evaluation of a preventive intervention for maltreated infants and toddlers in foster care, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(2), 214-221

Do I Need a Spare Room?

One of the most common questions asked when people are considering becoming foster carers is, ‘Do I need a spare room?’. The answer to that is, ‘Yes’!

There are clear National Minimum Standards* of children having their own room.

Most children in need of a foster home are at an age where they need their own space, to play or be creative without distraction. Their own room can provide a sense of security and allows children to have a dedicated place to be calm, where they can get rid of their frustrations and just be themselves. This is especially important for vulnerable children who may have experienced trauma and are having to adapt to life in a new home, with different people and routines.

Their own room can also be instrumental in helping foster children adjust to new routines, such as a consistent bedtime routine. Children that come into foster care have often never experienced clear boundaries or set routines, and it can take time to help them establish these.

The benefits of a spare room don’t stop at the foster child, there are also benefits for the foster carer and their family. If you have children of your own, a spare room will help foster children and your own children to adjust to the fostering lifestyle with minimising disruption.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what’s involved in becoming a foster carer, click here.

*For further information about Fostering Services, you can view the National Minimum Standards Regulations 2011. See section 10.6 in relation to spare rooms.

‘Tinder for Teens’ App, Yellow, Compromising Children Safety

The NSPCC has warned that new app for teenagers, Yellow, is putting young people at risk of predators.

Yellow is a free mobile phone app similar in function to dating app Tinder that allows children to connect with local people. Like Tinder, users can connect with strangers by swiping right on their profile picture if they see someone they want to connect with, or left if they are not interested. When both users mutually ‘like’ each other, they can chat by adding each other on picture-messaging service Snapchat.

But unlike dating app Tinder – which raised its minimum age to 18 after charities said predators could use it to groom children – Yellow does not have checks in place to verify ages. As such, users can override the age and parental control restrictions to sign up, meaning it is possible that adults can pose as children to access other users Snapchat and Instagram profiles.

The app has raised significant concern amongst parents and the NPSCC as it enables young people to connect with strangers with ease.

What can you do?

  • Make sure children only have people they know and trust as online contacts.
  • Remind children it’s never OK to meet someone they’ve met online in person.
  • Let children know their location and profile photo isn’t private in Yellow.

It is important to be aware of which apps and social networks children in your care are using and monitor their online activity. For help protecting children in your care from online abuse, visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk

Specialist Fostering

Foster care can be necessary for children and young people for a range of reasons, but there are some foster placements that are the result of abuse and neglect.

The most traumatised, damaged and distressed children need carers with specialist skills in order to help them firstly navigate the challenges of foster care itself and secondly deal with the results of abuse and neglect.

Other children who are already in the foster care system and who have had traumatic experiences might have found it hard to fit in a number of foster families.

Where foster care continues to break down and the young person is left without a family who can look after them, a specialist foster carer might be called upon to offer a place. Children who have experienced abuse or neglect or who’s families have been devastated by a bereavement can present specific challenges to the people looking after them.

This means that the carer often needs as much support as the foster placement, and at Children First Fostering Agency we provide this through skilled professionals who work with our foster carers and their families.

At CFFA, we carefully match the needs of foster placements to the skills and experiences of foster carers to avoid carers being overwhelmed. Specialist foster care is caring at its most challenging, but it is also caring at its most rewarding.

Children who have experienced abuse in their formative years or who have been abandoned by their biological parents are desperately in need of adults in their lives that they can trust.

To be able to offer a young person the type of stability, reliability and emotional security that they have lacked in their family home is a rare commodity.

However, the patience and care that you can put into a vulnerable young person will be rewarded by the knowledge that you will have made a significant difference to their life.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer and would like to work with Children First Fostering Agency, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Learning Fostering Skills

As a society, we are used to the idea that there are expert doctors, dentists, teachers or lawyers. It is less common for foster carers to be seen as experts in their field, but many have years of knowledge, experience and understanding in a vocation that presents all manner of challenges.

At Children First Fostering Agency we often see new foster carers inevitably experience a learning curve when they accept their first foster placement and the most successful caring experiences are those based on training and knowledge.

It goes without saying that most carers new to fostering bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience from their family lives and careers, but in caring there is always something new to learn.

At CFFA we provide a comprehensive training package to all new foster carers who work with us.

In a society that is constantly changing (along with the young people in it), no fostering organisation can afford for its members not to constantly add to their skills and knowledge.

If you are a new applicant with us, you will be invited on to a three day Skills to Foster course, which will equip you with the latest child protection and child safety skills.

In addition to this you will begin to learn how to deal with challenging behaviour, equality and diversity issues from highly experienced carers and the best practices they have used.

At Children First Fostering Agency we know that learning doesn’t simply take place on training courses and the most valuable learning you will do is with your foster placement, the children you care for will be your best teachers. However, to make sure you are fully supported, we offer ongoing professional development on a range of different skills and the opportunity to learn online.

Fostering is a major undertaking for anyone and the best carers have the skills and support to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable young people. If you are considering becoming a foster carer and would like to work with Children First Fostering Agency, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Fostering and the whole family

One of the pre-requisites for fostering with Children First Fostering Agency is prior experience of raising children either as a parent or guardian. This means that most carers (though not all) who work with us already have families of their own.

This can be a source of immense stability and strength for both foster carers and the children they look after, especially when they are new to fostering. Fostering can also present a family with challenges as new children enter the family unit with needs and concerns of their own.

If you are parents with children of your own, you must prepare carefully before you begin your first fostering placement. Your own children will have many expectations both positive and negative about how the foster placement in their home will affect their lives.

At CFFA we believe that it is important to fully explore these feelings with them, even if at first they seem to be unrealistic or overly anxious.

If you are fostering with a partner or spouse it is also important that you explore how each other is feeling both before and during the placement.

The young person who comes to live with you and your family might well have strong feelings of abandonment or have come from a home background without stability or routine.

By welcoming them into your home you are offering the opportunity of becoming part of the warmth and stability that has often been lacking in their lives.

A family environment can be one of the most important and nurturing experiences for a young person in foster care, but in order for the placement to be successful the family’s needs also have to be addressed.

At CFFA we often see that communicating, especially when there might be challenging behaviour or unmanageable feelings from the young person in your care, your family will be able to handle whatever issues fostering presents.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer and would like to work with Children First Fostering Agency, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

LGBT Fostering

At Children First Fostering Agency we often notice that many people wrongly assume that their sexuality will discount them from becoming an approved foster carer. In fact, it is illegal to discriminate against potential foster carers because of their sexual orientation.

It seems hard to imagine that it has only been a decade since discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples and individuals preventing them from fostering was made unlawful.

In the past decade, the contribution that LGBT carers have made to the lives of thousands of children across the UK has been immense.

In 2006 the law changed, allowing both foster or adoptive carers in an LGBT couple to appear as legal guardians on the adoption or fostering paperwork.

This change has resulted in a steady increase in LGBT foster carers; with both parents’ rights acknowledged by law, fostering has become far more viable and attractive to couples.

However, as we celebrate LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, Children First Fostering Agency wants to reach out to couples who have considered fostering and who may be able to offer a home to a vulnerable child or teenager.

Normally, couples and individuals considering foster care for the first time have a range of questions about the kinds of qualities that are required in order to foster.

The ‘fostering mindset’ is the most important attribute that any prospective carer needs; empathy, patience, the ability to nurture and to support are all vital components of this outlook.

When children and young people enter foster care, they are vulnerable and can display challenging behaviour.

A foster carer needs to be able to offer stability and security, as they will be caring for children who’s lives have become chaotic and bewildering.

LGBT foster carers who can offer stability to young people who have experienced abandonment by other adults in their lives can make great contributions to their well being.

In a recent article in the Guardian newspaper about LGBT fostering and adoption, it was revealed that in the past decade LGBT foster carers had often been more willing to care for children with behavioural problems or other special needs.

Whilst prejudice against non heterosexual carers has declined and society has become more educated and open minded, Children First Fostering Agency still find that recruiting LGBT carers is still a challenge.

Many LGBT people are unaware that they have a legal right be considered as a candidate to foster.

In 2013 Action for Children revealed that just under a third of all LGBT people in the UK believed that they were barred from fostering or adoption on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity.

The social workers interviewed tended to view them as more accepting, tolerant and able to see the positives in young people.

They also believed that they would be better able to support a child who felt ‘different’ (a feeling nearly every foster child experiences), with compassion and empathy.

Fostering presents many challenges to a family, however your sexuality isn’t one of them if you would like to work with CFFA! An organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Fostering February Roadshow 2016

Fostering February is a campaign aiming to raise awareness about what foster caring involves, alongside dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions which surrounds it.

No matter where you are in the country, there is someone near you making a difference to children and young people’s lives by offering them the love and everyday human needs they deserve- things which most of us take for granted.

So why couldn’t it be you? Fostering February is all about learning more about the facts and becoming properly informed on how to become a foster carer;

For example, did you know you don’t need to own your own home or be married to become a carer?

If you are thinking about life as a foster carer, the campaign takes time to answer your questions, and pushes to find out if you could make an amazing difference on a young person’s passage to adulthood.

If you think you could make a difference, come along to our information events throughout the month and ‘Talk To Us’
https://www.facebook.com/fosteringfebruary