BACKGROUND: Looked-after children are at risk of suboptimal attachment patterns and reactive attachment disorder (RAD). However, access to interventions varies widely, and there are no evidence-based interventions for RAD.
AIMS: To modify an existing parenting intervention for children with RAD in the UK foster care setting, and test the feasibility of conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the modified intervention.
METHOD: The intervention was modified with expert input and tested on a case series. A feasibility and pilot RCT compared the new intervention with usual care. Foster carers and children in their care aged ≤6 years were recruited across nine local authorities, with 1:1 allocation and blind post-treatment assessments. The modified intervention was delivered in-home by trained mental health professionals over 4-6 months. Children were assessed for RAD symptoms, attachment quality and emotional/behavioural difficulties, and foster carers were assessed for sensitivity and stress.
RESULTS: Minimal changes to the intervention programme were necessary, and focused on improving its suitability for the UK foster care context. Recruitment was challenging, and remained below target despite modifications to the protocol and the inclusion of additional sites. Thirty families were recruited to the RCT; 15 were allocated to each group. Most other feasibility outcomes were favourable, particularly high numbers of data and treatment completeness. The revised intervention was positively received by practitioners and foster carers.
CONCLUSIONS: A large-scale trial may be feasible, but only if recruitment barriers can be overcome. Dedicated resources to support recruitment within local authorities and wider inclusion criteria are recommended.