attachment handbook

Attachment handbook for foster care and adoption


Attachment is at the heart of family life and at the heart of foster care and adoption. Attachment theory and research provide a vital developmental framework for making sense of the behaviour and relationship strengths and difficulties that children bring from their complex backgrounds. It also offers a most valuable resource for understanding the kind of caregiving in foster care and adoptive families that can enable children to feel more trusting, confident, competent and secure.

This comprehensive and authoritative book provides an accessible account of attachment concepts. It traces the pathways of secure and insecure patterns from birth to adulthood, exploring the impact of past experiences of abuse, neglect and separation on children’s behaviour in foster and adoptive families. It then explains, from an attachment perspective, the dimensions of parenting that are associated with helping children to feel more secure and to fulfil their potential in the family, with peers, at school and in the community. Finally, it tackles the key role which “keeping attachment in mind” can play in a range of areas of family placement practice, including contact.

Vivid case examples are used to make connections with the reality, both the challenges and the rewards, of daily life in foster and adoptive families.

Published with the support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Who is this book for?

Practitioners, foster carers, adoptive parents and all those seeking to ensure that children in need of family care get the very best experience possible, and that foster carers and adoptive parents get the support they need and deserve.

What you will find in this book

Attachment theory

  • Attachment theory – core concepts
  • Secure – autonomous patterns
  • Avoidant and dismissing patterns
  • Ambivalent/resistant/preoccupied patterns
  • Disorganised, controlling, unresolved patterns

Providing a secure base

  • Being available – helping children to trust
  • Responding sensitively – helping children to manage their feelings and behaviour
  • Accepting the child – building self-esteem
  • Co-operative caregiving – helping children to feel effective
  • Promoting family membership – helping children to belong

Theory and practice

  • Attachment and common behaviour problems
  • Keeping attachment in mind – the role of the child’s social worker
  • Keeping attachment in mind – the role of the family placement social worker
  • Attachment and contact


Gillian Schofield is Head of the School of Social Work and Professor of Child and Family Social Work at the University of East Anglia (UEA). An experienced social worker, she has a special interest in attachment theory and child placement and has researched and published widely in this field.

Mary Beek has had a long and varied career in fostering and adoption practice for Norfolk County Council, and research and publication in the Centre for Research on Children and Families.


This title is now available in digital-only format for immediate access. Purchases are held in your own personalised online library and accessed via your browser or through the app on your phone or tablet.




This is an excellent book written by very experienced authors with ‘hands on’ experience of attachment difficulties. What I particularly liked about this book is how each chapter gives particular reference to its subject and the relevance to each of the age groups. I highly recommend this book to all foster carers, adopters and all those who care of or work with children.

Cath Hall, adoptive parent, foster carer and member of adoption panel for local and private agencies,

This is a well written and very readable text which presents a consistent, practical and common sense approach for carers and professionals working with children who are emotionally and developmentally vulnerable. It is highly recommended.

Chris Cook, Children Australia

This book is great, really readable. It handles a complex subject really well. I assess potential foster carers and have now lent it to several people during the assessment process and they have found it equally useful and understandable. Great book.

TooHappy, Five stars,