4 Things to Remember in Providing Trauma-Informed Care
15th of February 2023
Almost half a million children are in the foster care system in the United States. Fostering is one way to provide safety and stability for them as they wait to be placed with a permanent family through adoption. As such, becoming a foster parent can be rewarding for you and the child as you help them develop emotionally, physically, and socially. However, the Children’s Bureau reports that children in foster care are often victims of abuse and trauma and cannot remain safely in their homes. Consequently, this can create a challenge as a child who has faced abuse needs extra attention as they recover from the trauma they experienced.
This article will help you learn the basics of fostering a child affected by abuse and offer tips on how to work through some of the situations that come with this type of care:
1. Be patient
Patience is essential for any parenting situation, but even more so when fostering a child who has experienced the trauma of abuse. A study by the Children and Youth Services Review revealed that foster children are more likely to develop problems in their social-emotional functioning. This can manifest through physical aggression, depression, or lack of impulse control.
These behaviors can be frustrating for foster parents, but it’s crucial to remain kind and understanding as they work through their experiences and emotions. You can do this by practicing positive reinforcement and actively listening to their needs without coddling.
2. Provide therapy
Therapy can be an important part of the healing process. There are plenty of options for therapy, but one of the most common is grief counseling. An article on grief counseling by Maryville University explains that it can be a way for children to understand loss. It can help them cope with the complex emotions that can arise in the aftermath of trauma, including the permanent loss of their biological family and daily routines. Counseling techniques such as play and art help children understand and work through the complicated and confusing emotions they may feel as they transition to their new lives.
It is important to note that the methods most appropriate for a particular child will depend on various factors, including the child’s developmental level. Because of this, it is important to work with a mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment. Each child is assessed for their mental health needs upon placement at Trinity Youth Services, is assigned a team, and the youth is encouraged to create goals for their progress.
3. Establish a routine
A predictable routine can give children a sense of structure and stability and help them feel more in control of their environment. Routines help them feel safe as they settle into their new environment because they know what they can expect to happen throughout their day.
Although establishing routines can be tricky with busy schedules, it’s vital to remember that things like sleep, exercise, and meals are all crucial to their adjustment period. To start a routine, you can establish rules regarding meals and snacks, create a bedtime schedule, and plan meals for the week together.
4. Take care of yourself
When you foster a child who has been affected by abuse, it’s important to remember that it’s not your job to fix them. Your job is to give them a safe space and provide them with love and understanding so they can begin healing. As you do so, you also need to remember that you have limits and needs of your own.
Fostering a trauma-affected child can be emotionally and physically demanding. A study published by the National Library of Medicine notes that foster parents experience heightened parenting stress and a lack of emotional support. To this end, consider setting boundaries, finding help from other foster parents or therapists, and taking time for self-care.
Abusive situations can be incredibly traumatic for children in foster care. With empathy, compassion, and support, these children can heal and thrive in your home.
Anna Foster is a freelance writer specializing in education and childcare. She is an advocate for fostering and adoption. In her spare time, she volunteers for her local shelter and other charitable causes.