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.
Traumatized foster youth face a variety of obstacles that often hinder their academic success. A California study revealed that 58% of 12th-graders in foster care in 2009-10 graduated from high school, compared with 84% of their statewide peers. Receiving love and support from a caring team of professionals can help teens thrive and overcome their greatest obstacles.
At-risk teen males in the Trinity El Monte program are proving that caring adults who go the extra mile can help bring hope, encouragement and motivation that can change lives.
After enduring the stress and heartbreak of being placed in out of home care and dealing with past trauma, 12 young men were determined to live better lives. Focusing on completing their high school requirements, the youth often studied after school, during weekends, and even during their two-week holiday break to ensure that they met their educational objectives.
Trinity’s El Monte staff, focusing on creating a positive atmosphere for youth to excel academically, stepped up to provide additional educational support. According to El Monte Campus Director, Sherman Mitchell, “We enlisted tutoring support with Future Stars Tutoring Services Center and provided Title-1 Tutoring services (through LACOE) to help improve academic performance.”
Trinity’s dedicated staff also engaged the young men by encouraging them to complete their homework assignments, which motivated them to stay focused and ultimately reach their goal. Several staff were helpful when youth asked for assistance or had questions about their school work. The Trinity team’s efforts and persistence paid off. “We had an increased number of youth campus-wide, voluntarily completing homework and studying throughout the day and evening,” said Mitchell.
After noticing the drive and determination the young men had towards receiving their high school credits, Trinity El Monte staff went a step further to celebrate the youth’s achievements. “We acknowledged youth when they brought back weekly status reports on the credits they obtained. The Campus Director and Assistant Director arranged a surprise visit after receiving positive reports regarding more than 10 of our youth who were doing exceptional at their school. We acknowledged and fellowshipped with the youth and provided lunch,” states Mitchell.
When asked what he felt helped traumatized teen males increase positive behaviors, Mitchell answered, “We are mindful that providing trauma informed care must be more than the words we use, but the core of our deeds. I have a personal motto of “it’s better to build boys then mend men.
“As such, the emphasis on supporting, encouraging and promoting positive, stable relationships serves as a direct link for increased opportunities to enforcing positive behavior from our young men in our program. This is a key indicator vital to their success. We continue to provide a sense of safety and belonging to youth who enter our program.
“We work to ensure the youth have a voice in our program. We maintain awareness of the possibilities vicarious trauma in both youth and our staff who give so much to the youth in their care. I can attest that we love the work that we do. We celebrate those who have graduated the program, the ones who have made positive changes, and also the youth who are in the process of change,” Mitchell said.
Due to their hard work and the care they have for youth, Trinity’s staff, along with the young men’s dedication, helped them defy statistics and get on the path to success. Once feeling lost and abandoned, the future is bright for these Trinity El Monte’s graduates!
For more information about Trinity Youth Services programs, call 909.825.5588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florence Edwards, Foster Care Marketing Specialist
Florence has a strong commitment to helping foster youth and their families thrive and live successful lives. A former foster youth, Florence obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Communications from California State University, San Bernardino, and is a certified Holistic Life Coach, motivational writer, self-help author and celebrity interviewer. Beyond the Trinity Youth Services blog, Florence’s articles can be found in numerous platforms including Foster Focus Magazine, Heart & Soul Magazine, BET Centric and Huffington Post. A passionate advocate for the LGBTQ community, Florence continues to educate, support and mentor foster youth throughout Southern California. Email: email@example.com | Phone: (888) 346-9645