What is the big deal about attachment? In a nutshell, Attachment Theory describes how children learn to interact and engage with their primary caregivers from infancy. This in turn shapes how we engage with people throughout our whole lives.
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When a child enters the NSW foster care system, they go into a short-term placement till permanency can be achieved. This means that work will be done to try and return the child to their birth family, explore extended family and kin as possible carers or (as a last resort) find appropriate long-term foster care. Short-term foster carers provide children and young people with a safe and nurturing environment through this challenging time of uncertainty.
Foster care agencies like Stretch-A-Family need many more people to volunteer to provide short-term care. It is such a big need that we wrote a previous blog post about it. Sadly, many people feel like it would be too hard to provide short term care. They are worried they will get “too attached” and their hearts will be broken.
But here’s the thing: kids in foster care need attachment more than anything!
If you turn that around, rather than worrying if you will get attached (because you will) it is better to consider the crucial role you can play in helping a child learn attachment.
Why is that, and what is the big deal about attachment? In a nutshell, Attachment Theory describes how children learn to interact and engage with their primary caregivers from infancy. This in turn shapes how we engage with people throughout our whole lives.
Children and young people who come into care have often not experienced positive or secure attachments to their care givers. As a result, they could be facing developmental and emotional issues. Entering short-term care is the time where healing and repair can begin.
A short-term carer ensures the child’s needs are being met. Their physical needs, like having all their meals and a safe place to sleep every night. Their social and emotional needs, like having someone ask them how they are and then really listen to them. Their human, developmental need for safe and consistent warmth and affection.
In this way the carer helps the child to develop the skill of loving attachment, which will have a lasting impact on the way the child views themselves and the world through the rest of their life.
A child who knows how to attach can form strong emotional bonds in the future. If a child learns they are safe, loved and that they can expect their needs will be met, they will believe that they are worthy of love, and that the world can be faced. Secure attachment builds trust and resilience, and these traits support good mental health.
A mature adult (like you!) has the emotional resources and the framework to understand, process and heal from a broken heart when a child moves on to a permanent placement. A child who never learns how to become attached in a secure, loving way may never form good relationships. The child may never know they are worthy of love. Attachment really is a big deal!
So please, go ahead: get too attached.