An analysis of the mechanisms of change in an intervention for caregivers in New Zealand : the Fostering Security Training Programme : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Massey University
Effective foster parent training and support is widely recognised as a core intervention to remediate the complex behavioural and mental health problems of foster children, and to prevent foster placement breakdowns which further exacerbate these problems. While generic parent training programmes, largely informed by social learning theory, are beneficial foster parents also need information and training specific to complex foster child attachment and trauma problems. The 10-session Fostering Security group training programme for foster parents in New Zealand provides training and support that integrates theories shown to be effective in meeting the particular needs of foster parents and foster children (i.e., attachment theory, mind-mindedness, social learning theory, neurobiological theories of trauma, abuse, and neglect, attribution theory, and theories about the mechanisms of change). It is facilitated by both mental health and child protection staff to deliver a joint interagency approach and more streamlined service to foster parents and foster children. The current mixed methods study explored the mechanisms of change in the Fostering Security programme. Quantitative findings showed that the programme was associated with positive trends in caregivers’ attachment with the foster child, mind-mindedness, caregivers’ dysfunctional attributions for the child’s misbehaviour, stress and frustration in the caregiver-foster child relationship, and foster child’s challenging behaviour at home and at school. Qualitative thematic analysis of participant interviews and evaluation questionnaires indicated six main themes: 1) support, validation, and acknowledgement from facilitators and participants; 2) effectiveness and knowledgeability of group facilitators and positive ethos of the programme; 3) improved understanding of attachment and trauma related child behaviour problems; 4) learning strategies to manage the behaviours and developing confidence as foster parents; 5) increased participant empathy for and understanding of the foster child and reflection on the child’s behaviour; and 6) increased participant reflection on own triggers, behaviour, parenting approach, and self-care. Some caregivers did not progress in the expected manner through the group training programme, and further research is indicated to identify the factors that negatively affect caregiver progress in programmes like the Fostering Security programme. This study’s findings further indicated the need for follow-up interventions post-training, to sustain the positive effects of the programme. Limitations of the current study and future directions for research into the Fostering Security training programme are also discussed.
Caregivers -- Training of -- New Zealand -- Hawke's Bay, Caregivers -- Training of -- New Zealand -- Hawke's Bay, Foster parents -- Training of -- New Zealand -- Hawke's Bay, Kinship care -- New Zealand -- Hawke's Bay