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Selected Readarounds in Child and Youth Care

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Attachment and placed children

Book review

Trauma, Attachment and Family Performance. Fear Can Stop You Loving
Caroline Archer (Ed.) and John Quicke
London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
ISBN: 1 84310 021 5

According to Price (2003, p. 47) the vast majority of children requiring preparation for permanent family placements have a high risk of developing disorganised attachment patterns. Maladaptive patterns of attachment are generally formed early in life when the child's early attachment experiences are perceived as hostile or frightening; leaving them unable to form meaningful relationships with their primary carers. This collection of narratives and fictional vignettes provides a lucid, informative and comprehensive account of the attachment of children traumatised by early neglect, separation, abuse and loss with their adoptive families.

In the Introduction, Archer states that the aim of this book is to provide a multi-faceted "team solution" to embrace the family circle. Focusing on how to integrate attachment theory and developmental psychology in practice with adopted or fostered children, she emphasises the need for understanding of early trauma and its effect on child development. Consistent with this view, the issues discussed in detail in the book are organised under three key headings: State of Play: Current Theory and Practice, State of the Art: Theory into Practice and State Community and Practice: The Way Forward.

In Chapter 1, Section 1, Briggs sets the pace when he brings a critical tenor to his analysis of the working relationship of parents, professionals and other agencies. He highlights the lack of a meaningful partnership between these groups and argues the word partnership is much over-used and rarely realised in practice. Chapter two follows in a somewhat similar vein. Chapter 3, however, "Setting up the loom: Attachment theory revisited", appears misplaced. Given the book's emphasis on attachment, this chapter may have provided a useful starting point. The second area, Theory into Practice, is considerably strengthened by the inclusion of the personal account of a fictionalised family. I feel that had the information presented in the cameos included in the chapters "Hard day's night, Jenny and Marty's story" and "The drama of adoption" been available to me in my early years as a foster and adoptive parent then I might have gained some insight into the reasons behind my own and my family's reactions to the children's behaviour.

In the final and shortest section of the book Archer explores the way ahead. She also identifies the shortcomings of the book and provides a useful web address for readers who might like to explore issues omitted in the text. Less appealing, in the book are pithy chapter titles such as "A tapestry of colours", "The drama unfolds" and "Hands on help", and the subheading "Fear can stop you loving", which suggest a lightweight read. In practice, most authors use supporting evidence from contemporary studies to contextualise their analysis of theoretical perspectives. Similarly, the review of counselling practice included provides a thought-provoking account of recent attempts to assess the attachment styles or "states of mind" of adoptive and foster parents.

In the main, the book is well organised and includes a glossary, an extensive reference section, a useful subject index and a note on each contributing author. In terms of appeal, students on a social work degree course, professionals working with adoptive parents and, in part, adoptive and foster parents may find this an informative read. The lack of detail included in several chapters may, however, make it less appealing to academics.

Gray, Colette. (2004). Book review. Child care in Practice,10, 3. pp. 304-305

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