Family care is the bedrock of healthy child development

Three years ago, representatives from the Latvian Foster Family Association went to Bergen (Norway), to become aquianted with the professional methods and organization of Linnea Kompetansesenter. Our initial meeting was brief yet very informative. Linnea Kompetansesenter is a private organization that is commited to providing support to foster families who care for “difficult and problematic” children. Taking into consideration that dealing with day to day problems can be very challenging and options for foster care can be limiting, becoming aquainted with the Norwegian expert experience was extremely valuable.

Three years have passed since our initial meeting, and we are proud that we have now come to fullfil our joint project “Family care  -safe bases for children in fostercare”, which was financially supported by Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. The aim of this project was that the Latvian Foster Family Association along with experts from Linnea Kompetansesenter trained 10 mentors from different regions in Latvia, who will in turn become supportive personnel for foster children and foster families.

Why do we feel it necessary to adopt our Norwegian collegues’ foster family care methods and “Star Model” into Latvia? Too often there have been cases that the efforts of a professional group become futile in improving the the situation of child care.  The professioanl methods adopted from Linnea Kompetansesenter ensure that a strong foundation of trust is created between the foster child and care giver. A strong foundation of trust is necessary and applies to children, youth, adults, parents and social workers. This foundation needs to be created and nurtured in the early, formative years of child development. The lack of “trust building” that often accompanies the experience of children in orphanages is detrimental to their future development.

Raising a child in a safe and loving environment gives that child a feeling of being cared for, being important, loved, and gives that child a trusting attitude toward others and a feeling of wanting to help those around them. On the other hand, raising a child in a non-safe or non-loving environment makes the child feel unwanted, and instills in the child a feeling of mistrust in other people and that the world is chaotic and dangerous.

Before foster children have begun to receive the childcare that they receive as foster children from their new foster parents, many of these these children had expereinced abandonment, abuse, harasement, fear, loss and a wide assortment of negative emotions and expereinces. After these traumatic expereinces, it is highly possible that the child has already developed a negative outlook on life. When such is the case, very few options are available for altering this child’s outlook into a positive one. Building a strong foundation of trust is the most important aspect that must be nurtured and focused upon for healthy child care development.

 To build this strong foundation of trust, the childcare experts at Linnea Kompetansesenter use their “Star Model”, which is built on five pillars that encourages strengthening and building trust within children. These five pillars are:

1. Approachability (builds trust and security).

2. Responsiveness and sensitization (helps children learn to regulate and manage both feelings and behavior).

3. Child acceptance (helps children develop positive feelings).

4. Co-operation development (helps children feel capable).

5. Inclusion into the family (helps children develop a feeling of belonging).

Foster parents and guardians need to regularity asses, whether the care they provide falls into the scope of the above mentioned 5 pillars. It is only when all 5 pillars have been adopted into the care of the foster child, that a foundation of trust and feeling of safety can be instilled, and deep seeded problems can be addressed and problem behaviours alleviated.

Mentorship training began in November of 2014, and currently mentors are learning about theory and its practical application in a support group environment, so that the learned methods can be applied and adapted. This project with its applied “Star Model” implementation for training mentors in a support group environment will continue untill April, 2016. For additional information contact: Aiga Romāne-Meiere

— January 8, 2015