Permanency in Foster Care & the importance of the Therapeutic Alliance

We know that if traumatised children are not supported to work through their trauma they can experience neurological, developmental and psychological consequences that continue even when they are placed in a nurturing environment. Creating permanency in foster care is crucial for healing.

It is evident that traditional parenting techniques do not work. Carers need to develop alternative therapeutic parenting methods to help these children build resilience (Pennington, 2012).

Without a therapeutic alliance between child and carer, the placement is very likely to collapse.

So, how do we build a therapeutic alliance?

We use a ‘mind-minded’ approach to connect with the child and help them understand our therapeutic intentions as per the process below.

  1. The foster carers use the theory of trauma-based thinking and understand that the foster child has thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires which might be different to their own, and which have possibly been shaped through trauma.
  2. The foster carer recognises that the child may have a negative, misinformed internal working model (sense of self) and expects the carer to fail them. Due to this, the carer will demonstrate through words and behaviours that this is not the case.
  3. This enables the foster carer to assist the child to rediscover their own mind and to organise their experience and feelings and eventually put them into words.
  4. This, in turn, increases the capacity for self-regulation by the young person and supports the development of a relationship with an attuned, sensitive foster parent.
  5. This helps build a safe haven and secure base through shared understanding and connection.

The results for planning for permanency in foster care placements

  1. Using this Secure Base methodology helps to create a safe space for young people who have been through adverse childhood experiences.
  2. The internal working model that presumes all adults are a threat can start to soften and be re-written.
  3. Helps these children to develop the emotional and psychological capacity to function in a family environment.
  4. This process begins the journey of recovery for many foster children and allows them to finally processor trauma and relearn the interpersonal skills essential for family life.
In conclusion
If we do not equip carers to build a therapeutic alliance many young people will feel overwhelmed in family placements and in the worst cases a placement can fail altogether.
It is clear that if we fail to plan for a therapeutic alliance we are failing to plan for permanency in foster care placements.
You can see our face-to-face course on Planning for Permanence HERE or explore our Therapeutic Foster Care training HERE.
Permanency in Foster Care - Creating a Therapeutic Alliance
Watch Scott’s video below for further explanation:


For more information on how our training can help your teams please drop us a line: [email protected]