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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, Vol.19, 1, 2005.


Aristotle argued that happiness for humans is not possible in the absence of reciprocal, affective relationships or friendships (Sherman 1991). Such relationships for children are only possible in the context of satisfactory attachments which provide for them a secure base from which to explore their environment (Bowlby 1988). Young people placed in the child welfare system, particularly those in residential care, often experience a system that is problem focused, intent on physical protection and control, where warm reciprocal relationships are not prioritised. This paper states that young people in residential care, whose primary attachments, whatever their quality, have been disrupted; require care that prioritises reciprocal, affective relationships. Those children who have experienced satisfactory attachments, these need to be maintained. Those who have not had satisfactory attachments in their primary relationships, and consequently did not experience a secure base, require a “second chance secure base” that yields a sense of wellbeing and happiness in order to reduce for them the risk of developing pathology in the future. A secure base is a relationship within which a child or youth feels safe, nourished both physically and emotionally, where s/he is comforted when distressed, reassured when frightened. Where children who are placed in the child welfare system have not experienced a secure base with their primary carers it is essential that social care practitioners aim to form this quality of relationship with them which is what is meant by the provision of a ‘second chance secure base’. Such practice requires, inter alia, that the social care practitioners have a sound understanding of attachment theory, in particular attachment strategies, combined with highly developed observation and communication skills (Fulcher 2002). This paper presents attachment theory and strategies in a user friendly format for social care practitioners and uses practice examples to illustrate the use of this perspective in residential care with children across the various attachment strategies.



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