Some frequently asked questions about using the Secure Base Model
Q: How is the model being used in practice?
A: One of the reasons for producing this website is that we are aware that local authorities and practitioners who are using the model to support their work with foster carers, adoptive parents, looked after and adopted children and young people, birth parents find it helpful to have access to practical materials as well as information and guidance. The site also gives us the opportunity to provide links to international resources, so that work with the model in other countries can be supported.
Q: Can I use just one dimension of the model? For instance, if a child has low self-esteem, can I focus simply on ‘acceptance'?
A: It may be useful to start with a particular dimension identified with the caregiver, but we think that the model is most productive if all elements of it are covered. This is because all of the dimensions are connected and it is hard to completely separate any single one. For example, building self esteem will involve accepting the child for who he is, but is also likely to involve the caregiver being available to the child, sensitive to how the child is feeling and working co-operatively with the child. Self-esteem may also be promoted through feeling ‘part of the family' and through a family culture of acceptance of strengths and limitations.
Q: Does the model apply to older children and teenagers?
A: Yes. People of all ages need to be able to rely on a secure base to support their exploration and as a safe haven to be there for them at times of stress and anxiety. In fact young people in transition to adulthood are particularly in need of an identifiable secure base as they face new challenges. The key issue is the capacity of the caregiver to communicate messages of availability, sensitivity and so on in ways that are acceptable and age appropriate for the young person.
Q: Does the model apply to black and minority ethnic children and young people?
A: Yes. The concept of a secure base is not culturally specific and all children will benefit from positive caregiving across all five of the dimensions proposed in the model. However, it may be that different cultures have different family patterns, such that members of the extended family, for example, are actively involved in the care of a child and may also become an active part of the child's secure base.
There may be additional issues related to developing a strong and positive sense of ethnic and cultural identity for caregivers of both white and BME children within each dimension. For example: dealing with various types of prejudice, including racism may require additional emotional and physical availability, particular sensitivity may be needed to tune in to the feelings of a child who has been dislocated from their cultural background or who has little information about their heritage. Careful attention will need to be paid to helping all children to gain knowledge of and feel pride in their culture and ethnicity as this is key to positive self-esteem.
Q: Can the model be used for a child who has been diagnosed with an attachment disorder?
A: Even where children have more extreme difficulties in close relationships, the principles of this model still apply. What has to be born in mind, however, is that when caring for children who have perhaps experienced traumatic abuse and/or recurrent separations and losses, the tasks of being mind-minded, remaining available, being co-operative may be constantly challenged by the child and so a high level of support is needed by a supervisor who understands the model but also understands this additional level of need. In addition, even where a child may be having regular therapy sessions, their day to day life and experience of caregiving in a family or residential setting still needs to help them to build trust in caregivers and to learn to regulate their feelings and behaviour.
The Secure Base Model can assist caregivers in defining what aspects of their caregiving may be most helpful and in seeing even small signs of progress on the dimensions. In fact the concept of ‘providing a secure base' within the family and professional network may be more useful for the children who find it most difficult to engage in close relationships, than aiming to ‘build a secure attachment' in the first instance. This is because the secure base model widens the focus from the one to one relationship with a parental caregiver to thinking about how other areas of the child's life, such as school and activities, could contribute.
Q: Do I have permission to use the Providing a Secure Base resources freely?
A: Because caregivers and childcare professionals have found these ideas and resources helpful, we want to make them readily available through this website.
There are two simple conditions for their use:
- The source of the materials should be acknowledged. That is: Providing a Secure Base, Gillian Schofield and Mary Beek, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
- The core elements of the Secure Base Model (that is, the model itself and the cycles) should not be changed.
Q: What training or preparation is necessary for me to be able to present and use the ideas and approaches suggested by the Secure Base Model?
A: We would recommend that you read the key chapters from the Attachment Handbook for Foster Care and Adoption for foundation knowledge. This will help you to understand and absorb the information on this website and to use the practice tools with confidence.
In addition, or alternatively, The Attachment for Foster Care and Adoption DVD presents the model in an audio visual format and provides many real life examples of caregiving within each dimension of the model.
When presenting the model to groups, it is helpful to use the ‘Introduction to the Secure Base Model' Power Point presentation, which can be studied in advance, using the Attachment Handbook for Foster Care and Adoption to support your understanding and explanation of concepts.
Q: Reading this material has raised personal questions and reactions about my own childhood and/or my own caregiving approach and/or issues concerning certain cases that I am working with. How should I deal with these?
A: It is common for attachment related material to raise personal questions and concerns. As when cases you are working with raise personal issues, it is important to consider discussing them with your line manager or with trusted colleagues – or contacting a professional in your local area.