Brenda McLackland Cilinical

Brenda McLackland Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Psychological input: stigma or status symbol

I’m not immune to the stigma that still exists in coming to see a Clinical Psychologist but to me it now seems a bit last century. I wish as a society we could acknowledge that we all have a psychological or emotional life.

It is normal to go through a range of feelings throughout life and sometimes like any other part of the body – they need attention. Further in common with physical symptoms, the longer you leave psychological problems the worse potentially they can become.

I guess this is why most of my consultations with Foster Carers are conducted when they are in crisis, when seeing me cannot be put off another day!

At this point my job involves containing the intense emotions generated before I can address the problem. These intense feelings also have consequences – this is the point where placement breakdown often occurs. This is bad for the child the carers and the agency. So why do we allow it to happen?

At the other extreme our friends across the pond see a psychologist as a status symbol rather than a stigma symbol. Not that I would advocate that approach either.

Is there a middle ground where feelings are accepted as part of the human experience and no more to be avoided than breathing!

In my work with Foster Carers, I suggest early meetings, preferably during the assessment process. Even when these meetings are made routine and normal Foster Carers are still initially reluctant to meet me.

I think to do so is to admit problems, not coping or being a failure. However for me the reverse is nearer the truth. Having the confidence, maturity and honesty to identify that you might benefit from a psychological understanding of your situation is a sign that you have acknowledged the difficult task that you have taken on and shown a healthy desire to find ways to cope with it and succeed!

Brenda McLackland Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Fostering new languages

Fostering new languages

Fostering new languages

More than 300 different languages are spoken by children in schools in London, making it the most diverse city in the world. English is the most common language spoken but for more than a third of children it is not the language they will use or listen to at home. The most common are Hindi/Urdu and Punjabi.

A foster carer may be given a placement where a child or young person speaks a different language. Or maybe a child has been placed with a foster family because they share a religion and not a nationality. It can be quite challenging to look after a child who speaks a different language, and it can affect how they settle in.

One such example is not understanding what the foster child is asking for, which can be frustrating and can lead to tantrums in a younger child. It is important not to criticise when you don’t understand what they are trying to say but to support them and encourage them to be proud of their ethnic background.

As well as helping them to learn English, give them the opportunity to speak their first language. This will also give the foster carer the opportunity to learn some of their language too. Maybe start with simple words such as numbers one to 10 and hello and goodbye.

Learning a new language is much easier when you’re a child, the younger the better in fact. The older you are when you start to learn, the harder it will be.

For children who speak more than one language there are many benefits such as good reading skills, improved performance at school, better problem solving skills and greater cultural awareness. There are plenty of teaching tools available such as DVD’s, CD’s and a range of websites.

Playing games together is also a good way to help a child learn and you don’t need to speak the same language to do so.

Establishing good routines and teaching as you carry out your normal day to day activities such as shopping and cooking will all help too.


respite fostering

Respite Fostering

Respite Fostering

Pros and Cons

Respite care is a service for families and children who are struggling and who need a break.

This involves a child or children going to stay with foster carers or other care providers for a short time to help the parents rest and feel energised again.

Respite care is also available for the foster carers themselves should they feel that they need a break from the foster children that they look after.

This service is an important part of the system, and works well for children who are in short term placements and who don’t have a strong attachment to their foster family.

However, for children who have been in a long term placement and who are established within the family, is placing them into respite care the right thing to do when difficulties within the family arise?

How will these foster children learn about life and the ups and downs that come with it if they are removed at the first sign of difficulty and then returned after the event?

If a child in placement is not in any risk of danger then is it best for them to remain within the family unit to be part of the ups and downs?

For example, a bereavement will bring sadness and loss to a family but the process of coming to terms with the situation will show how grieving can help all the family to move on.

These life skills are a valuable part of growing up and children in foster care should experience these vital lessons rather than the first reaction of shielding them.

Foster carers are there to provide security and stability within a family home. Family life together with all the problems and situations it brings should also be experienced by children in placement dependent on the child’s history.

By preventing these children from encountering the day to day problems we all experience, are we denying them valuable learning experiences which will benefit them in later life?

So respite care should be used with caution, and with every effort to reduce any problems for foster children.

simply fostering trees

News Roundup

Simply Fostering News

May 2015

Call for Teachers to Foster

Teachers in the Dorset area are being asked to consider becoming foster carers. People who are currently teaching or who have taught in the past could make ideal candidates for fostering. Skills such as being adaptable and being able to listen to a young person are key factors when it comes to being a foster carer.

A manager from fostering agency FCA, Stephen Hartung said that many of their foster families have a background in teaching and that could be attributed to the fact that there are many similarities between the two roles. He also spoke about how rewarding it is to teachers and foster carers seeing the progress young people make.

Free Sports Centre Membership in Fife

Foster carers in Fife have been offered access to sports and leisure facilities as part of a pilot scheme between Fife Sports and Leisure Trust and Fife Council. The free membership for foster carers, their children and their foster children, includes access to the trust’s gym and swimming pools. This initiative will enable foster families to get active and enjoy leisure time together. Fife Sports and Leisure Trust’s chief operating officer, Wendy Watson, said that she is delighted to offer free memberships to support the work carried out by foster carers and their families and looks forward to welcoming foster families from across Fife.

More Foster Carers needed in Manchester Area

A record level of children in the Manchester area are in foster care as a result of abuse and neglect. Numbers in 2013/14 increased by 22% from figures in 2010/11. As a result, there is a shortage of fostering families in the area. The number of children who need foster placements in the Greater Manchester area is much higher than the national average.

There is also an increase in the number of foster care placements that a fostered child experiences throughout their care – recent figures show an average of 2.11 placements per child compared with 1.58 from 2009/10.

An initiative has been launched by Fostering agency Fostering Solutions called Foster15, a reference to the fact that in England a child is taken into care every 15 minutes. This initiative will run for a couple of months, and will focus on increasing the number of foster carers in the area.

New TV Ad to Recruit Foster Carers

A national TV advert has been commissioned as part of a fostering recruitment campaign by fostering agency Excel Fostering. The campaign called #Sharethelove includes the a 3D animation and will be shown from Monday in prime-time slots. The advert was created by Carlisle based Cloudscape Studios, which is run by Louise Kneath-Gilberston and Ian Gilbertson. The story highlights the positive moments following a young girl growing up in foster care. To view the ad visit

Cumbria has 670 children in foster care, which is above the national average. The #Sharethelove campaign has been put together to help find homes for children of all ages.