Hutchinson, Dawn

Start date:
October 2018
Research Topic:
The role of the Fostering Self model of identity in supporting foster placement stability for Looked After children
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Alyson Rees, Dawn Mannay
Supervising school:
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

Looked After children often experience complex traumatic stress resulting from disrupted attachments, multiple caregivers, and exposure to abuse and neglect; these factors may occur prior to becoming Looked After, or result from experiences in the care system. Such events can affect the emotional wellbeing of children and young people and those caring for them; affecting carers’ ability to respond in a trauma-informed manner and causing compassion fatigue or neurological ‘blocked care’. When planning to prevent or ameliorate the impact of this, in order to support placement stability and Looked After children’s emotional wellbeing, it is necessary to begin with exploring carers’ experiences.

Through my previous research with foster carers (as part of an MSc in Psychological Trauma) I proposed the ‘Fostering Self’ model of identity. This model recognises foster carers’ dual role-identities (of personal ‘parent’ and professional ‘carer’), and promotes a restorative, reflective space to provide mitigating responses to personal and organisational vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue in settings where adults work with or care for individuals with unresolved childhood trauma. The model therefore aims to support foster placement stability through supporting foster carer wellbeing.

My thesis will explore, examine, and provide detailed analysis of the lived experiences of foster carers within a Local Authority setting, in order to understand the role of the ‘Fostering Self’ model of identity in supporting placement stability for Looked After children and young people.


  • Develop the ‘Fostering Self’ theory and model.
  • Explore Local Authority foster carers’ experiences of the ‘Fostering Self’ model of identity.
  • Explore how the model could support placement stability.
  • Consider challenges in applying the model, and potential solutions to these.