A DISORGANIZED TODDLER IN FOSTER CARE: Healing and Change From an Attachment Theory Perspective

This article focuses on the remarkable story of a deeply disorganized child, Rachel, and her experience in foster care with Janet and Paul Mann, founders of the Children’s Ark. Rachel and her mother were referred to the Ark, an innovative intervention center for at-risk families, when Rachel was 10 months old. After 11 months at the Ark, Rachel was placed into foster care with the
Manns. On the basis of Janet Mann’s professional immersion in attachment theory, object relations theory, and especially the Circle of Security protocol (Cooper, Hoffman, Powell, & Marvin, 2005), Janet extracted 6 “principles” that guided her caregiving behavior with Rachel. These principles included: (a) Communicating the message, “I am here and you are worth it”; (b) viewing negative behavior as needed; (c) reading cues and reinterpreting miscues; (d) “being with,” especially during periods of intense emotion; (e) working consciously toward relationship repair when disruption occurs; and (f) developing awareness of one’s own state of mind. This article explains and illustrates these principles through Janet’s experiences with Rachel and provides candid insight into what hurt children need for healing and positive change.

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