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The Reflective Fostering Programme (RFP)

  • Summary

    The Reflective Fostering Programme (RFP) is a new group-based programme aiming to support foster carers. The RFP will be offered to foster carers of children aged 4-11 and has been designed to support carers who are experiencing some difficulties or challenges. The programme will consist of ten sessions of three hours’ duration each over a period of 4-6 months, delivered by two facilitators to a group of 8-10 foster carers simultaneously. Throughout the programme, psycho-educational discussions, games, exercises and work sheets are used to support and enhance RF of foster carers, in order to help them build more supportive relationships with the children in their care.

    This innovative development follows calls by NICE and other organisations to help improve outcomes for children in care, many of whom have experienced early maltreatment and trauma, by providing better support to their carers. RFP is based on evidence from the field of attachment, which indicates that children who have a parent high in reflective functioning (RF), i.e. with the ability to reflect and be curious about their own minds and those of the children in their care, have more favourable outcomes in terms of emotional well-being.

    The RFP has been developed between the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (AFNCCF) and the NSPCC. The pilot study will take place in partnership with NSPCC services in Gillingham and Sheffield. The Local Authorities attached to each site will make referrals to the programme. The proposal is for there to be two RFP groups per site, with each group led by two NSPCC staff trained as facilitators.

  • Key findings

    The RFP shows promise as an approach to supporting foster carers.

    The initial study suggested that:

    • it is possible to train NSPCC staff to deliver the programme;
    • foster carers were keen to attend and in most cases stayed with the programme until the end;
    • the programme can have a positive impact on the carers’ levels of stress and help support or improve the carer-child relationship.

    The study also identified some important ways in which the RFP could be improved, especially by reducing the amount of material that was covered in each meeting, giving more space for foster carers to share their own experiences, and by reducing the amount of ‘technical’ language that was used in the programme. Once those changes have been made to the programme, further research will be needed, on a larger scale, to find out whether the RFP really can be an effective way to support looked after children and their foster carers.

    Please see the following link for more information: RFP Lay Summary.

  • Project team



    Principal Investigators:

    Sheila Redfern, Sally WoodNick Midgley (research)

    Research project team: 

    Antonella CirasolaChloe Austerberry, Grace West



  • Publications

    COOPER, A. & REDFERN, S. 2016. Reflective parenting: A guide to understanding what’s going on in your child’s mind, London, UK, Routledge.

    REDFERN, S., WOOD, S., LASSRI, D., CIRASOLA, A., WEST, G., AUSTERBERRY, C., LUYTEN, P., FONAGY, P. & MIDGLEY, N. (2018). The Reflective Fostering Programme (RFP): background and development of the approach. Adoption and Fostering.

    MIDGLEY, N., AUSTERBERRY, C., CIRASOLA, A., RANZATO, E. & WEST, G. Unpublished report. Reflective Fostering Programme: Report on the pilot and feasibility study.