The Reflective Fostering Programme (RFP)
The Reflective Fostering Programme (RFP) is a new group-based programme to support foster carers of children aged 4-11. It was developed by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (AFNCCF) and implemented in collaboration with the NSPCC. The development of the RFP follows calls by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (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.
The programme consists of ten three-hour meetings offered to groups of 6-10 foster carers on a weekly or fortnightly basis. The RFP aims to provide foster carers with practical ways to help build and maintain supportive relationships with the children in their care. In line with best practice guidelines, the first stage of development has focused on piloting the programme, before moving on to a larger scale evaluation. This involved training NSPCC staff to deliver the programme to four groups of foster carers in two local authorities: Sheffield and Gillingham. As this was the first time the RFP had been delivered it was important to try and understand what worked well about the programme and what could be improved. We wanted to find out whether foster carers would be willing to attend the programme and whether we could train NSPCC staff to deliver the programme. We also wanted to get some idea of whether it helped those foster carers who attended, including any impact on their relationship with the child in their care. This evaluation was carried out by the Child Attachment and Psychological Therapies Research Unit (ChAPTRe) at UCL/AFNCCF.
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.
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.