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What is attachment informed practice?

These key messages reinforce the importance of relationship-based interventions, and approaches which are empowering and developmental
Boy hugging a woman
© David Pereiras,
Research demonstrates that attachment informed practice with looked after children and young people – some of the most vulnerable and at risk in society – can help with the development of future relationships and the ensuing of lifelong physical, emotional and social outcomes.

In the IRISS report ‘Attachment informed practice with looked after children and young people’, Judy Furnivall makes the following key points with regards to the care offered to looked after children:

1 Secure attachements

Looked after children benefit from developing secure attachments with their caregivers and interventions should support the development of these, whether children remain at home or are cared for outside their family.

2 Responding to emotional age

Successful placements are more likely when carers are able to respond to children at their emotional age rather than their chronological one.

Interventions with children should aim to address developmental brain impairment by providing care that can build fundamental brain capacities. For looked after children this will mean less use of verbal techniques and a greater concentration on physical, sensory and emotional ways of working.

3 Assessing caregivers

Caregivers should be assessed on their capacity to tolerate difficult behaviour and remain sensitive and responsive to the needs of children.

Support and training should be provided to caregivers on a frequent and regular basis to ensure that they are able to maintain their capacity to be reflective about children rather than reactive to their behaviour.

4 Policy and culture shift

Attachment-informed practice may require a policy and culture shift to ensure that children’s needs are appropriately met when they are cared for away from home.

These key messages reinforce, amongst other things, the importance of relationship-based interventions, the role of physical care and care cultures and approaches which are empowering and developmental.

© University of Strathclyde
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Caring for Vulnerable Children

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