Contemporary Strategies for Working with Individuals and Families

Creative Arts Therapies Approaches in Adoption and Foster Care: Contemporary Strategies for Working with Individuals and Families

Silverman, Christine

Creative Arts Therapies Approaches in Adoption and Foster Care: Contemporary Strategies for Working with Individuals and Families Edited by DONNA J. BETTS. Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, IL, 2003, 320 pages, $65.95 hardcover, $45.95 soft-cover.

WITH THE INCREASE in adoptions internationally and domestically and the increase in the number of children who are entering foster care, there is not much literature available on how to address the specific needs of children in these situations. This book presents a collection of works that address common themes and how various creative arts therapy methods can be used in treating children who are adopted or in foster care.

The book is divided into three parts: adoption, foster care, and transcultural/transracial issues. Common themes discussed throughout the book are identity, attachment, trust, separation, and loss.

Of particular interest in Part 1 are chapters that discuss specific approaches in detail. Chapter 5 discusses the importance of using dramatic play therapy to develop a sense of belonging or becoming part of the new family. Good examples of elements of this approach and the stages of intervention are presented. Case studies that did not go into detail were informative, but the benefit to a greater understanding of creative arts therapy approaches was not significant.

Part 2 looks at children and families who are in the foster care system and various approaches to working with these individuals to facilitate development of a trusting relationship between all parties. Also discussed in this part is the role of culture and the child who is in foster care. In Chapter 8, the story is presented of a 15-year-old girl who has had difficulty in school, been misidentified culturally, and experienced a lack of belonging, then receives art therapy treatment that focuses on reestablishing her cultural identity and sense of belonging. This part contains many chapters that are clear and useful in working with children who are in foster care. Chapter 10 presents an approach titled “Stop-Gap method” that is based on Roger’s person-centered approach. The goal of Stop-Gap method is for the individual to increase his or her ability to understand or tune into their emotions and develop strategies to deal with their emotions more effectively.

Part 3 looks at transcultural and transracial issues. This section also looks at the differences between issues children who are adopted internationally and domestically go through as they begin their search for identity. Chapter 15 discusses an identity with a focus on particular methods used in the study. Described in the chapter is the importance of the family being open with the child who has been adopted internationally about their cultural and ethnic origins. Chapter 16 discusses an art therapy support group program for families of children who have been adopted internationally. The program is a 2- to 4-day program with sessions for parents and children. Support is provided to the children to help them explore issues around loss and identity. Parent support is provided to help them develop strategies to be open with their children regarding their adoption to foster deeper, more trusting relationships.

The title of the hook leads one to believe the focus is on children who are adopted or in foster care and the families who provide care for them. Some chapters deal with adults who were adopted or were in foster care as children and the journey they embark on to reconnect with their culture and seek their identity as adults. Also discussed is the process of using art therapy to assess the psychological appropriateness of the prospective parents. A case study is presented that discusses a couple’s cultural differences, their ability to problem solve, and their perception of family life with the child they will adopt.

The hook provides valuable insights into issues affecting children who are adopted or in foster care and the families with whom they will be placed. One thing I would like to have seen more of is the use of person-first language. Many authors used a condition-first approach when discussing the children. With the issue of identity being one of the main themes, it is important to remember that they are children first and not conditions.


Occupational Therapist

Philadelphia, PA

Copyright Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions Summer 2004

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