Meeting foster children's emotional and behavioural needs

Key findings

Practice points

What we know from research

Children who are looked after have more emotional and behavioural needs than the general population of children. Their problems have usually originated before they become looked after.(9), (26-31)

These difficulties can affect children’s behaviour in placement and cause many problems for the child, foster carer, social worker and often later society in general. The problems can continue into adulthood and can have a negative effect on the person’s education and work, personal and social life. (32-39)

There is considerable research on children who have experienced trauma, including disrupted attachments, in early life, demonstrating the neurological damage that this can cause. (40-43)

See 'Attachment' by John Simmonds

Research has shown that, in general, the features of foster care that enable young people to develop emotionally and to be able to control their anti-social behaviour can be summarised by having a carer to offer stability, security, and a good relationship. This relationship is usually with the foster carers and needs time to develop on both sides (16), (44), (45). Children who return home after long periods in care are more likely to show disruptive and offending behaviour compared to those who remained in care; the important factor here is that the relationship that they have built up with their carer is disrupted (46).

Support after the child has gone home can be patchy with a quarter of the children having no contact with a social worker following return and support generally focusing on practical issues and 'tailing off’ quite quickly.