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Lee-Messner, H. Stevenson, E. (2014). Hello/goodbye new families: group work with five looked-after siblings in foster care together awaiting a move to separate adoptive families. J. Child Psychother., 40(3):271-286.

(2014). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 40(3):271-286

Hello/goodbye new families: group work with five looked-after siblings in foster care together awaiting a move to separate adoptive families

Heather Lee-Messner and Elizabeth Stevenson

This paper describes group work with five siblings aged between three and nine. They were taken into care following severe abuse involving neglect, physical and emotional abuse. In it, we consider the impact of the losses on the network and the children. We explore how Freud, in his paper ‘Mourning and melancholia’ (1917), and others who built on his work, helped us understand the children’s losses. The sibling group was planned in order to address the children’s need to say goodbye to their birth parents, their foster carers and to each other and to prepare them for their individual separate adoptions. The group ran for 18 months and ended when four children had been placed in their adoptive homes; the last child to be adopted was then seen individually until she was also placed. The group work is described with the use of quotes from sessional material to illuminate the processes for these children in facing their complicated and ambivalent losses, the mourning process and their progress towards becoming individuals in their own right rather than enacting fragmented functional parts/roles on behalf of their sibling group as a whole. Their mourning of the loss of each other was complicated by their earlier reliance on each other to manage the difficulties they had faced when surviving their abusive early lives together.

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