© 2017

Understanding Children in Foster Care

Identifying and addressing what children learn from maltreatment


  • Introduces the Relational Learning Framework, a new assessment tool developed by the author for assessment of foster children and based on wide-ranging practice evidence

  • Provides guidance for application of the technique including a worked example and guidance on common themes and how it can be misused

  • Provides a thorough theoretical discourse on the causes and consequences of psychological and attachment difficulties for children in care


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Maltreatment and Mental Health

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 3-24
    3. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 25-44
  3. Attachment and Mind-Mindedness

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 81-81
    2. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 83-99
    3. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 101-115
  4. The Relational Learning Framework

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 117-117
    2. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 119-138
    3. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 139-153
    4. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 155-169
    5. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 171-187
    6. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 189-213
    7. Wendy Kelly
      Pages 215-219
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 221-232

About this book


This book introduces the Relational Learning Framework (RLF), an assessment tool which helps foster care practitioners, social workers and foster carers to examine what foster children have learned in their early life about relationships and particularly through maltreatment. Grounded in attachment theory and drawing on cognitive theory this will help practitioners to understand and respond to the challenging behaviour presented by these children and remove barriers to empathic response.

Early chapters provide context in a theoretical discourse on the causes and consequences of psychological and attachment difficulties for children in care, including a discussion of maltreatment and foster care. The theoretical basis of the technique will be outlined and subsequent chapters will explain how to undertake RLF including the wide-ranging practice evidence, a worked example, common themes and trouble shooting. 

This will be an invaluable source for clinical practitioners, social workers, foster care practitioners and foster parents who want to make sense of the complex information about children in foster care to improve their relationships. It will also provide insight into foster children’s mental health and behaviour for academics and postgraduate students in related disciplines. 


Clinical Psychology Mental Health Foster care Child Psychology Psychotherapy Attachment theory Cognitive theory Maltreatment Social Work Child abuse Trauma Clinical interventions

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.WellingtonNew Zealand

About the authors

Wendy Kelly is a Clinical Psychologist who has worked in the field of maltreatment and foster care for 30 years.  She has taught seminars on early relationships, maltreatment and foster care to over 2,000 practitioners in New Zealand and Australia. Having worked at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand as a Clinical Practice Advisor for 14 years she was awarded her doctorate in July 2015.

Bibliographic information