FOSTERING COMMUNITY BLOG
October 10 is World Mental Health Day - a day when so many people and organizations highlight mental health issues and the need for supportive efforts....
Unfortunately, we know that there is a significantly higher risk for children growing up in foster care to experience mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and thoughts of suicide.
What is the cause? Children in foster care are removed from their homes as a result of neglect or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. This can often cause complex developmental trauma, which is the experience of multiple, chronic, prolonged developmental adverse traumatic events, most often of an interpersonal nature. Early trauma and stress can have long-lasting effects on the child’s brain chemistry and health, and trigger delays in developing proper social competence, coping behaviors, and certain brain chemistry. The National Angels organization looks at trauma in relation to the 5 B’s:
We also know that children in foster care move between placements an average of 7 times in only 2 years - that is seven different homes, seven sets of parents and siblings, seven sets of schools, teachers and curriculum, seven sets of friends, and seven general environments to become acquainted with over a very short period of time. This extreme instability causes more anxiety and depression, which of course can worsen the effects of the existing trauma caused by the original abuse and neglect.
Unfortunately, a lot of instability is due to foster parents feeling unsupported or ill-equipped to handle a child's extensive health and behavioral issues. In fact, as many as 50% of foster parents close their doors to fostering altogether within their first year. It is a vicious cycle - for children in foster care, dysfunctional behaviors from their traumatic past create barriers to the development of healthy relationships in new environments. And without proper intervention, problem behaviors tend to persist and intensify over time, causing overwhelm within the foster home. When foster parents feel they cannot continue caring for the child, the child is placed with another family or in a group home, must adjust all over again, and completely restart the healing process.
It is important to build community around foster and kinship families who are caring for children that have been through trauma and struggle with mental health issues. Foster parents deserve support, and children need time to trust that their world is stable and safe again. Children and youth in foster care need to be surrounded by healthy adults that allow them to feel seen, heard, valued and protected, and be given ample space and time to fully heal from their past.
To find out more about how Houston Angels' programs support the foster care community and address mental health issues for children growing up in foster care, please visit www.houangels.org.
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