Spirals of Interaction
It is obvious from the last chapter that once a placement has started it has in a sense a life of its own. A modus vivendi may develop between carer and child. Alternatively there may be changes in their interaction or in the outside conditions of the placement which may lead to it either becoming increasingly successful, or increasingly difficult and which may sooner or later lead to disruption.
A full account or model of what explains foster placement success must take these benign or negative spirals into account. Ideally, the variables involved in explaining these dynamics are the same as those involved in the more 'static' accounts of success and failure we gave in the last chapter. They should also account for the range of cases we encountered.
In this chapter we first explore an example of a 'negative' spiral. We then look at a wider range of cases in much less detail. Finally we present our model of what leads to success in foster care placements.
In our fourth long example, we trace how a negative spiral developed in a placement which had hitherto been in a relatively satisfactory equilibrium, and the way in which changes in the conditions functioned to produce this. This placement was identified as 'less successful' in our study, and by the time of the interview Carole, after more than seven years in the placement, had left.
She is now 12 years old, and came into care with her brother when she was nearly four, following their severe neglect by their mother, who has mental health problems. She remained in the placement until earlier this year,