The value of curiosity for foster carers

In this Science to Practice video, social worker and play therapist Katherine Mautner explains how foster carers can help children in their care, and themselves, by taking an active part in the process of understanding. Being constantly curious about the relationship between a child or young person’s experience and their behaviour can help carers respond in a way that is more sensitive and appropriate.

If a foster carer considers one of their main missions or main responsibilities is to really get to know something about the child – about the child in the present moment, but also something about what influences the child. What makes them react the way they do; what makes them more or less able to take in the care at different moments in their day or in their week. That idea about developing curiosity can really help a foster carer to stay in touch with something that’s not just about what’s going on right in front of them but really thinking about what’s going on under the surface.

What is it about that child’s experience that means they’re reacting this way? [What] about their experience earlier in the day when the foster care wasn’t there, earlier in the week? But also, before the child came into their care and right back to when they were developing, when they were a baby. What’s happened to them that means they’re responding the way they are? If a foster carer can really take that curious stance — wondering constantly, trying to make sense of things, piecing things together – that can really help them as an individual, as a foster carer, and help the family to respond in a way that is more sensitive and is more appropriate and gives the child a message that there’s a process of understanding.

This isn’t going to just be an event that happens and then it’s forgotten about. People are trying to make sense of that and create a story about experiences that really puts the pieces together – the pieces of the different parts of their lives. That can be a really healthy kind of emotional environment, social environment, to foster those relationships between foster carers and children.

Showing children or young people that you are trying to help them make sense of their experiences helps to create a healthy environment to nurture relationships between carers and children.

~ Katherine Mautner, Play Therapist

Learn more

You can find the Childhood Trauma and the Brain animation and additional resources to support your learning on our here. This includes a downloadable guidebook, explainer videos, and articles on the research. The animation is also available with Welsh subtitles.

This video was generously funded by the Economic Social Research Council.

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