SMILE is our integrated therapeutic approach which supports, and helps enable, our foster parents to deliver therapeutic parenting.
The term therapeutic, according to the Cambridge dictionary means, “causing someone to feel happier and more relaxed or to be healthier”. Many of our children have had a difficult start in life and therefore our aim is to make them happier, more relaxed and healthier and this will help them to develop their education, hobbies, interests and social and emotional skills.
Developed over the last 10 years we have formalised our approach into an easy to understand and memorable term - hence SMILE!
For young people who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences the need to be safe, and in particular, feel safe, is very important. We have developed robust forums which are held at least every three months, to ensure that our team, working with other professionals such as teachers and health workers, are prioritising and proactively ensuring that our children feel and are safe. There are many ways in which we ensure that the safety of our foster parents, children and staff is at the centre of our work.
‘It takes a village to raise a child’, is certainly true in many societies. For Mosaic Foster Care this realisation has meant the development of many different types of team member, with different skills and qualifications, working together to help support our children and foster parents. We have social workers, child support workers and therapists from a range of disciplines, all working effectively together with professionals from health and education. Having these different disciplines offers different perspectives and helps support our foster parents to deliver therapeutic parenting and avoid compassion fatigue.
Developing a connection with a child is fundamental to facilitating change. We were early adopters of the Secure Base Model, which is based on attachment theory. We also use elements of Dan Hughes’ PACE model (Playful, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy) as a further way for our foster parents to connect with children.
Once truly connected, our foster parents can then utilise intentional parenting strategies, designed and informed by our social workers and therapists. Intentional parenting focuses on carefully crafted plans which make it easier to respond to the child and not react to behaviours.
Regular consultation with our therapists and social workers will also ensure that our foster parents are connected to their own experiences which ensures our foster parents own well-being is nurtured.
Our agency focuses only on long term therapeutic placements. The reason for this is that we know that children who have had Adverse Childhood Experiences need a secure base placement over time to recover from their experiences. Trauma affects the way a child’s brain develops, but we know that with the right care, the brain can recover and rebuild connections that were not made in earlier childhood. This requires skilled intervention by specialists not usually available to foster parents.
Our compass of support illustrates the wide range of services we provide to ensure that our carers and children receive exactly the support they need.
“We've looked at other agencies and they don’t offer even 75% of what Mosaic do.”
Amy & Fred, foster parents, Ofsted Inspection 2019
Trauma, and particularly trauma which occurs within relationships, is characterised by unpredictability and a lack of control. Children who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences often operate from a fear-based world view and therefore find it difficult to trust any caregiver. High structure through consistent boundaries, held in place by nurturing yet firm parents, is something the child can depend on. Over time, the child experiences this structure as dependable and predictable; the opposite of their previous experiences.
High structure can seem quite cold and clinical which is why the careful balance of high structure AND high nurture is so important. Often children’s experience, which is imprinted on their brain and view of the world, is that they are not lovable or liked. So often, lots of nurture is at odds with the child’s experience and they can seemingly push away. However, over time and with the right balance, the child’s experience of high nurture does begin to change their perception.
No foster parent is perfect but with the support of your social worker and therapist we find that our foster parents get the balance just right!