FACTS: Adoptive and Foster Children Education Resource Guide for Educators, Support Personnel and Caregivers

Looking at Children Through a New Lens

One way to start to understand attachment trauma is to look at Russian Nesting Dolls and how all the smaller parts fit inside. We can understand that all the parts of us make up who we are today.

It may be the case that in the moment our children are experiencing a feeling or presenting a behavior that could stem from an earlier experience, or to put it another way, a younger part of us. Going further, let’s imagine the very first piece, the baby piece, with a crack in it representing the break in attachment from the birth mother and possible prenatal stress, traumatic birth, hospitalization. The next pieces also all have cracks from possible neglect, abuse, orphanage care or foster care placements. 

We can then continue through all the stages or pieces of a child’s development with additional cracks continuing to the final piece and what we as parents and others see as a whole child. But the cracks have not magically disappeared, they are just not visible to us. The damage lives inside our children and can trigger big emotions, baffling behaviors, difficulty in academics and relationships and even cause physical illness depending on environments and stress. Without accurate understanding, and attachment-based interventions, parents, caregivers, school personnel and treatment providers cannot support the child properly.

The act of adoption does not magically erase the attachment and complex trauma the child has experienced.

What are attachment-based interventions? 

Attachment based interventions aim to improve parental capacity to provide sensitive and responsive caregiving with the ultimate goal of improving child attachment patterns. Building Attachment takes a lifetime. In the critical years of adolescence, which are typically times of promoting independence, promoting attachment  becomes more complex for parents and for the caregivers and treatment professionals supporting a child. Current recommendations are for family counseling which includes the adoptive or foster parents and the child over individual counseling.

This creates a problem in middle and especially high schools when working with school social workers. Promoting a child’s attachment to a parent is counterintuitive to what is done for kids who haven’t had attachment trauma. School social workers must be able to respect a child’s growing need for autonomy while being attuned to their need to heal attachment wounds. Without a teamwork approach with  parents and shared perspective, there will be a risk of inadequate and inappropriate supports.  At school, social workers can inadvertently reinforce a child’s maladaptive coping mechanisms and roll back years of attachment work with the foster or adoptive parents. 

This is why FACTS4SafeFamilies is working to help schools understand the latest brain science and how best to help  kids who are adopted and in foster care. 

As parents of these children, we are asked to see them through a different lens. Our hope is that this guide will provide information that will help all who interact with foster and adoptive children to do the same.

Adopted and foster children have had different life experiences that often include:

  • prenatal stress
  • difficult labor or birth 
  • early hospitalization 
  • separation from birth mothers
  • orphanage care 
  • multiple placements
  • neglect 
  • abuse and other trauma

Click here to receive a copy of
FACTS:  Adoptive and Foster Children Education Resource Guide For Educators, Support Personnel and Caregivers

This resource is meant for educators, treatment professionals, and other members of the care team for foster and adoptive children. We hope you will have a new understanding of the adoptive and foster family’s experience and learn why attachment based interventions are necessary to support these children.