A secure base is at the heart of any successful caregiving environment - whether within the birth family, in foster care, residential care or adoption. A secure base is provided through a relationship with one or more caregivers who offer a reliable base from which to explore and a safe haven for reassurance when there are difficulties. Thus a secure base promotes security, confidence, competence and resilience.

The Secure Base model has been developed through a range of research and practice dissemination projects led by Gillian Schofield and Mary Beek in the Centre for Research on Children and Families at the University of East Anglia.

The model was recommended in the Government White Paper, Care Matters (2007) as a basis for training foster carers and was subsequently incorporated in the Skills to Foster preparation programme, produced by the Fostering Network (2009, 2014). It has been implemented in a range of local authorities and independent agencies in England. It has also been the focus of practice development training in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Spain, Scotland, Sweden, France, Italy, New Zealand, Ukraine and Iraq. In countries as diverse as Norway, China, Thailand and Australia, the model has been implemented by agencies as a framework for foster care training and practice.

The Secure Base model is drawn from attachment theory, and adapted to include an additional element, that of family membership, for children who are separated from their birth families. The model proposes five dimensions of caregiving, each of which is associated with a corresponding developmental benefit for the child. The dimensions overlap and combine with each other to create a secure base for the child, as represented below:

 Mother, father and child

The model provides a framework which can be of help with:

  • The assessment of prospective foster carers and adopters.
  • Assessing the capacities of caregivers (birth parents, residential workers, foster, carers and adopters) to provide a secure base for children in their care.
  • Supporting caregivers to provide a secure base.