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7: Work with children in transition

Jenny Kenrick Karnac Books ePub

Jenny Kenrick

When I go to collect 6-year-old Ryan from the waiting-room, I am struck by a picture of a boy in a real transition. He is sitting next to his social worker, surrounded by a pile of luggage. When he sees me, Ryan picks up a duffel bag, which he drags along the corridors to the therapy room. Having arrived in the room, he tips up the bag, and his toys spill out onto the floor—first some soft toys, and then cars and games. I feel that he is showing me his most precious possessions, all that he has at this moment. He hands me one of his soft toys—I find I am glad to hold onto its softness at this poignant moment. Ryan starts to play with his cars, telling me about the ones that are his best. Gradually I talk to him about how he seems to be carrying his luggage with him today; that I know he has come from one foster home and is moving to another after he has seen me. He tells me that he liked where he was, it was quiet there. He pauses and seems to reflect. I say that it sounds as if it was a place he liked to be, and it was perhaps quite hard to leave. He nods in agreement.

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10: Where do I belong? Dilemmas for children and adolescents who have been adopted or brought up in long-term foster care

Jenny Kenrick Karnac Books ePub

Margaret Rustin

A sense of belonging

The idea of belonging somewhere is an ordinary and fundamental building-block of a sense of personal identity. Everyday events remind us of this: a lost child wandering around a shopping centre or park gets asked “Who do you belong to?” The assumption is that the answer will be the clue to who the child is—the son, or daughter, or brother, or sister, or grandchild of particular individuals. A child’s belongings are those objects that characteristically define him as a recognizable person: his coat, shoes, school bag, and so on. The somewhere that we belong starts off as our family of origin in which we are accorded a place defined by relationships. Around this will be concentric circles in which we belong in some fashion to wider social groups: extended family, school, local community, city, region, country. Recall the addresses many primary school-aged children like to create for themselves, which record all the layers of belonging, ending up with “The World” and “The Universe”. In a religious conception we all belong in God’s family and are protected by His all-seeing eye. Humanly, the sense of belonging also resides in the recognition of oneself as part of the sentient group by others. Children who cannot be brought up in their families of origin suffer a basic disruption in this sense of membership, of knowing where they belong.

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6: Psychological assessment of looked-after children

Jenny Kenrick Karnac Books ePub

Rita Harris & Sally Hodges

When placements are being considered for children, or indeed when the functioning of a child in care is a cause for concern, the multidisciplinary team will often turn to the psychologist for a view about this. This chapter briefly outlines the range of assessments that are undertaken by psychologists and underlines the importance of drawing together information about the child from different sources and perspectives. The field of psychological assessment is wide. This chapter draws attention to the complexities involved in the process of assessment rather than providing a detailed account of the assessment tools used.

Both clinical and educational psychologists are trained to undertake psychological assessments. The main difference between them is that educational psychologists tend to focus on the child in an educational setting (although they do always take into account a child’s background or home environment), whereas clinical psychologists are trained in understanding emotional, learning, and behavioural experience across the age range, through childhood to adulthood and old age. Clinical psychologists who work with looked-after children tend to specialize in this area through further training and clinical experience, as is the case with the psychologists attached to the Tavistock Clinic Fostering and Adoption team.

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1: A systemic conceptual framework

Jenny Kenrick Karnac Books ePub

Caroline Lindsey and Sara Barratt

The systemic model has long been associated with seeing families in family therapy. Systemic practitioners have extended their practice more broadly into the wider domain of human systems, not exclusively focused on families, but applying the systemic approach also to work with individuals and couples as well as to training, consultation and liaison with professionals and agencies. A system is a name given to a set of relationships created between people characterized by a pattern of connectedness over time. Individuals in a system are seen to affect and be affected by each other in what is described as a circular way. This is in contrast to the idea that many hold, that one person affects the other unidirectionally—that is, in a linear fashion. Systemic therapists, however, also recognize that some people in a relationship may have, or be seen to have, more power to influence what happens than others—for example, parents often having more physical strength to impose their wishes on children. Systemic therapists intend to intervene to enable individuals to alter the balance of relationship between them, on the basis that the way the relationships are organized maintains or even creates the problems which are the source of their concern. Problems are not conceptualized as being located within the individual. Working systemically means that it is possible to choose to work, not simply with a family who live together, but to invite all those who are contributing to or have a role in constructing the problem that needs to be addressed: “the problem-determined system” (Anderson, Goolishian, & Windermere, 1986). The systemic approach is a crucial aspect of working with families who foster and adopt and with the professionals and agencies involved in their care. It offers a framework for understanding and intervening in the inter-relationships between the complex systems created for caring for children outside their birth families. Practitioners are seen as part of a new “co-created” system, which is formed between themselves and the families and other professional participants in the course of the conversations that they have together. The therapist actively participates in the creation of the story which emerges in the session, through questions which are asked or which remain unasked and by the interventions which are made. This contrasts with an idea that is sometimes held, that it is possible for therapists to act on the family from an outside, external position without being affected themselves.

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13: Kinship care: family stories, loyalties, and binds

Jenny Kenrick Karnac Books ePub

Sara Barratt & Julia Granville

There has been a marked change over the last few years in the number of referrals to our team for children placed with relatives and friends. These have come to represent between 12.5% and 26% of our total referrals over the three years to 2005. In most of the kinship cases we see, the major issue that has led to the children needing an alternative placement has been parental drug and/or alcohol misuse. There are often accompanying issues of adult mental health difficulties, domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect. Some kinship arrangements have come about because of forced migration due to war, conflicts, and persecution that have split families apart. The families who come to our service are drawn from a wide ethnic, racial, and class background. This picture reflects the American experience (McFadden, 1998). There is a body of research into kinship care from both the United States and the United Kingdom confirming that kinship carers overall are older, less well off, have poorer health, and are less supported than other foster carers (Broad, 2001; McFadden, 1998; Sykes, Sinclair, Gibbs, & Wilson, 2002).

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