Dumfries & Galloway Health & Social Care

Mental Health and Care Experienced Children

How might this affect me?

There are lots of young people that don’t live with their birth parents. For many reasons, they live with other people, whether that’s other family members, friends, a foster family, an adoptive family or they live in a children’s home/ residential placement.

Whatever the circumstances that means a young person lives with someone other than their birth parents, this can be a big adjustment to get your head around or even just cope with all the changes this brings. There are also some young people who have many changes in terms of where they live and who looks after them. As people cope and manage with situations differently, people will experience situations differently and will cope differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel or respond.

If you’re a child in care, it can be really hard to know who you can turn to or what support there is if you have questions, worries or concerns.

If you have experienced trauma or you haven’t had your needs met as a child it can lead to difficulties relating to trauma and attachment problems.  Attachment is the relationship that we form with our parents or carers based on how they respond to you and look after your physical and emotional needs. There are two main types: secure and insecure. Having an insecure attachment can influence how we feel, which in turn, can influence our behaviour.

What can I do to help myself?

Seek support from a trusted adult!

The adults that care for you are responsible for nurturing you and keeping you safe. When we have had negative experiences of carers / parents in the past it can help to:

  • Have parents/carers that are nurturing
  • Be in a safe and stable home environment
  • Connect with our parents/carers
  • Get help to understand yourself and your past. 

When might a referral be appropriate?

If you are having difficulty trusting others and often have negative feelings about yourself that stop you from doing the things you enjoy doing it might be a good time to seek support from CAMHS.

What can I expect?

As attachment is all about our relationships with our caregivers/parent they are often the best people to help repair these difficulties. 

Usually we will work with your parent/carer first before meeting with you, unless you are a bit older in your teenage years and have asked for help for yourself. In this case we may meet with you by yourself or if you prefer along with your parent/carer.

Understanding Mental Health in Care Experienced Children for Parents/Carers

How do I know if my child might have attachment difficulties?

Children and young people who have experienced trauma, emotional neglect, loss or separation in their lives can be at risk of developing attachment difficulties. 

Children and young people who are care experienced are also more likely to experience difficulties relating to and trusting other people. They can be described as having ‘insecure’ attachment styles.

How might this affect them?

Attachment difficulties can present across a child or young persons behavioural, social, developmental and emotional lives. This may look like:

  • Emotional dysregulation – difficulties with regulating emotional responses, often irritable or angry with frequent tantrums or emotional outbursts.
  • Hypervigilance- being constantly on the look out for threats by checking surroundings, being easily startled and view situations or people as hostile.
  • Controlling behaviour- ignoring instructions, overly independent, preferring to be alone, aggressive with peers or siblings.
  • Lack of focus and concentration – has difficulty focusing on one task for long or finishing tasks, poor memory and problem solving abilities.
  • Poor peer relationships –has difficulties maintaining friendships, having fun and sharing with others, can be overly competitive in games and seen as a ‘bad loser’.

Children experiencing attachment difficulties often develop a negative sense of self, which can have an impact across their lives as they develop into adulthood.

What can I do to help my child?

Learning about attachment and therapeutic based parenting approaches can help you to nurture emotional connections with your child. This will help them to feel safe, begin to develop trust and build their self esteem with the aim of helping your child develop more secure attachment behaviours.

When might a referral be appropriate?

If you are experiencing frequent challenges in parenting your child and difficulties with their behaviour that impacts your child’s wellbeing and ability to engage with school, peers and home activities then a referral to CAMHS may be appropriate.

What can I expect?

The team will offer to meet with you, usually without your child or young person initially so you can have a confidential open discussion about the difficulties you and your child are currently experiencing. 

After a first meeting your clinician will agree an appropriate plan with you and your child, if appropriate. Sometimes clinicians may wish to link in with school and social work as well and will seek consent to do this. 

Often work begins with the carers, especially for carers of younger children as children with attachment difficulties need to be parented in a different way from traditional behavioural based parenting to help overcome their difficulties.

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