The Reflective Fostering Programme: background and development of a new approach

Sheila Redfern*, Sally Wood, Dana Lassri, Antonella Cirasola, Grace West, Chloe Austerberry, Patrick Luyten, Peter Fonagy, Nick Midgley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Looked after children represent a vulnerable group in society, many of whom are exposed to maltreatment, particularly in the form of relational trauma, prior to placement with a foster family. Challenging behaviours can place foster placements at risk and looked after children often confront the possibility of placement breakdown. A carer’s capacity to retain a robust understanding of the children in their care as autonomous individuals with needs, feelings and thoughts can be important in enabling them to respond more effectively to the worrying or disruptive behaviour they may encounter. The Reflective Fostering Programme (RFP) is a new group-based programme aiming to support foster carers of children aged 4–11. This innovative development follows calls by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and other organisations to help improve outcomes for children in care by improving resources for their carers. The RFP is rooted in evidence drawn from the field of contemporary attachment and mentalizing research, which indicates that children who have a carer high in reflective functioning tend to have more favourable outcomes in terms of social-emotional well-being. It also draws on the evidence that looking after a child who has impaired capacity to mentalize as a result of early relational trauma affects the carer’s capacity to mentalize and respond sensitively to the child (Ensink, et al., 2015). This article sets out the rationale for the RFP, outlines its key elements and concludes by indicating future service implementation and a planned feasibility study examining this approach.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)234-248
Number of pages15
JournalAdoption & Fostering
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • Mentalization
  • foster carers
  • interventions
  • looked after children
  • reflective fostering


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