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The essential elements of therapeutic foster care – Research brief

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As far back as 2002 in the creation of the Catalyst Program, Mitchell developed what was Australia’s first therapeutic foster care program and one of a handful of pioneering programs internationally (Mitchell, 2009; Mitchell, McPherson and Gatwiri, 2020; Porges, 2020; McPherson, Gatwiri, Tucci, Mitchell and Macnamara, 2018). Translating the emerging knowledge base about the neuroscience of trauma and attachment, Catalyst and its later incarnation – Treatment and Care for Kids Program (TRACK) – introduced a comprehensive framework for understanding and responding to the needs of children placed in foster care as a result of experiences of abuse and adversity. It also invested significant effort into collective forms of decision-making that placed children, young people and their carers as experts and central participants to practice with the network of professional who are so important to the protection and well-being of children in out of home care. It was a clear early model of the Care Team function that has become widely used in modern child protection and care approaches in Australia.

Continuing this evolutionary commitment, Mitchell and her colleagues (Mitchell, Tucci and Macnamara, 2020; Tucci, Mitchell and Tronick, 2020) have recently mapped the paradigm shift that is validating the definitional significance of Therapeutic Care as an evidence informed approach to trauma responsive in situ intervention for children and young people living in foster, kinship and adoptive care. This analysis provides the backdrop for the current initiative that aims to integrate theoretical insights about Therapeutic Care with a scoping study describing the programs that are operating in Australia and overseas. The outcome of this project, as described in this document, is a working set of essential elements that underpin what is considered effective Therapeutic Foster Care.

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