Psycho-educational intervention increases reflective functioning in foster and adoptive parents.
Bammens A-S., Adkins TE., Badger JR.
It is well established that looked after children are more likely to develop complex behavioural and emotional difficulties, which can leave many foster parents struggling to help and understand the child. This can lead to multiple placements whereby the lack of placement stability leaves the child even more vulnerable. The Family Minds (FM) psycho-educational and interactive programme is a newly developed intervention for groups of foster and adoptive parents. Its nine hours comprise elements of mentalisation-based family therapy; lectures; group exercises and homework with the aim that parents will be able to better understand and support their foster child through increased reflective functioning. We evaluated whether there was a change in the parents’ reflective functioning (verbal mentalisation) pre- to post-FM training compared to a comparison group who experienced a ‘treatment as usual’ four hours of lecture information about trauma and attachment. Using five-minute speech samples pre- and post-training, we coded whether the capacity to think reflectively about oneself and one’s child altered in either training group. We found that parents in the FM group significantly increased their reflective functioning, unlike the comparison group. This outcome was independent of several factors such as the age of the parent, age of the child and time as a carer. The only factor influencing the significant change was the training group in which the parent was placed. These findings suggest that this novel mentalisation-based psycho-educational training programme can successfully increase parents’ reflective functioning, which in turn should enhance and strengthen the understanding and relationship between the foster/adoptive parent and the child and reduce negative outcomes.