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Guideline

Children's attachment: attachment in children and young people who are adopted from care, in care or at high risk of going into care

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Last updated:25th Nov 2015

This guideline covers the identification, assessment and treatment of attachment difficulties in children and young people up to age 18 who are adopted from care, in special guardianship, looked after by local authorities in foster homes (including kinship foster care), residential settings and other accommodation, or on the edge of care. It aims to address the many emotional and psychological needs of children and young people in these situations, including those resulting from maltreatment.

Children are born with a range of innate behaviours to maximise their survival. Among these is attachment behaviour, which allows the child to draw their primary caregivers towards them at moments of need or distress.

Children whose caregivers respond sensitively to the child's needs at times of distress and fear in infancy and early childhood develop secure attachments to their primary caregivers. These
children can also use their caregivers as a secure base from which to explore their environment. They have better outcomes than non-securely attached children in social and emotional
development, educational achievement and mental health. Early attachment relations are thought to be crucial for later social relationships and for the development of capacities for emotional and stress regulation, self-control and mentalisation. Children and young people who have experienced insecure attachments are more likely to struggle in these areas and to experience emotional and behavioural difficulties.

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