Supporting The Mental Health Of Your Foster Child

Supporting The Mental Health Of Your Foster Child

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Children who grew up in a foster care facility experience trauma throughout their lives. Even though they’re happy with your family, there are still instances where they’ll fall into the pit of sadness. That’s how unpredictable their lives are.

The instability of their emotions stems from the constant move from family to family. On top of this is the loneliness they feel without the comforts of their biological family. 

Because of this, the risk of developing mental health problems for foster kids is high. The American Academy of Pediatrics associates this with the fact that most of their physical, emotional, and mental needs are not met. Some of the statistics that they revealed regarding the mental issues of a foster child are the following: 

– More than half of the children in foster care have clinical mental health problems

– Upon growing up, 34% of these individuals experience more than two mental health disorders

– 11.6% of the foster care population experiences Panic Disorder at least once in their lives

With this in mind, what is your role as a parent in ensuring that the child’s mental health stays healthy throughout? Here are ways on how you can support them in this journey. 

Establish Effective Communication

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One of the traumas that foster children experience is being unheard of. Given that they do not have someone look after them most of the time, they long for someone they can talk to. Therefore, it is your primary responsibility to listen to them. 

Make sure that you don’t treat them as if they are an outsider. Let them know that you’ll always be there for them despite not being blood-related. Make them feel comfortable by offering help whenever they have any problems or whenever they encounter difficulty adjusting. Allow them to vent out their concern before giving your advice.

Take Care Of Your Mental Health First

To be able to take care of your foster child’s mental health, you have to take care of yourself first. You will only be able to fulfill your responsibility fully if you’re as stable as you need to be. The best way to go about this is to find a support network. 

Believe it or not, foster parenting isolates you from the world most of the time. The majority of the people do not understand how it works, and they are likely to judge you for what you’re doing. They’ll question your desire to house someone who is practically a stranger to you. Having to deal with these can cause you to feel stressed and sad. 

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However, you are lucky to have co-foster parents who can fully understand where you are. Make sure to maintain constant connection and communication with them. It is vital to have people who can understand you and the challenges you’re facing.

Should you have questions on the technicalities of foster parenting, ask them for advice. If you feel the need to take a break, call them. This support group will be healthy for you and your child’s mental health in the long run.

Implement Positive Discipline In Conflict Resolutions

Foster children experience extreme things throughout their lives. Therefore, there will always be instances where they’ll do something terrible and unacceptable. Their capacity to differentiate right from wrong might be a little rusty because of how they grew up. 

Always keep in mind that these kids are doing their best. What they’re doing may not be aligned with your values, but you can always address them. Sufficient conflict resolution requires love and support, not punishment, and stern discipline. Understand that corporal punishment may not be the best way to go because of the trauma they have faced in the past. 

Here’s how you should attack conflict resolution

1. Understand Your Children’s Behavior 

Deep dive into what makes them who they are and focus on that. If you don’t know the reason behind every move, it will be hard for you to solve it. 

2. Build A Solid Bond With Your Child

Be as open as possible, and do not keep secrets from them, especially if something is related to their identity. Once they trust you, it will be easier to talk to them and improve their behavior. 

3. Always Remain Calm 

There will always be instances where your foster child will push you to your limits. However, losing your cool will only push them away. Always be gentle to them and never hurt them physically to discipline them. 

4. Reward Them 

Whenever they do something good no matter how simple it is, make sure to reward them. This technique is what we call positive reinforcement. If you show your appreciation to them, they’ll tend to do better. 

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A Challenging Role

It is not a surprise to others that being a foster parent is challenging to do. It demands a lot of sacrifice from youtime, money, commitment, and effort. Add to this the difficulty in ensuring that your child is healthy physically and mentally. But along with difficulty is a complement of a fulfilling emotion.

The fact that you’re providing an impact on a child’s life should be enough to make you happy. It may be chaotic, messy, and unpredictable, but it is also gratifying, redemptive, and remarkable. These are feelings that most people won’t feel in a typical setup. As a foster parent, you’ll be lucky enough to experience these fantastic emotions. 

 

Things You Should Never Say To A Foster Family

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Fostering can be a sensitive topic. It’s understandable if you’re unsure if it’s appropriate to ask questions or discuss something related to the situation. However, curiosity can lead to awkward, uncomfortable, and inappropriate queries. For everyone’s reference, here are things you shouldn’t say or do around foster families.

Don’t Bad-Mouth The Biological Families

When someone meets foster kids, they tend to make assumptions about their biological families. Every child comes from different circumstances and is in a different situation. The system may have taken some children out of their homes due to abusive families.

However, some may be unable to take care of their families due to mental illness, financial struggles, and other reasons. Some biological parents will even be able to get their kids back later on. It is incredibly insensitive to judge the foster child’s biological family. It can also be hurtful to badmouth the parents in front of the kids.

Further, their backstory is confidential. Foster parents will be unable to share that much information in the first place. Please don’t assume what their life was like before being in the system.

Don’t Ask Us About Money Matters

Okay, it isn’t always inappropriate to discuss finances. However, some people hold the assumption that foster parents make money by taking care of the kids. First of all, they’re not babysitters, and fostering isn’t for profit. There is no monetary gain to it.

While the state may provide some funds for the child’s needs, it isn’t always enough. Some parents will have to shoulder some expenses personally. Foster care isn’t or shouldn’t be something people get into to make money.

Don’t Tell The Kids They’re Lucky To Have Foster Parents

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Children in the system, even with caring foster families, are far from “lucky.” It can be quite tone-deaf to say that they are such.

Imagine strange adults coming into your home one day and taking you from your parents. You have no warning, and you have no idea what’s going on. These strangers then bring you to other people you don’t know. They then tell you that these unfamiliar adults will be taking care of you from now on. That doesn’t sound like such a lucky situation anymore.

You can be happy that they’ve found a compassionate family to live with temporarily. However, this toxic positivity can be harmful, pressuring people to be cheerful or find a silver lining.

“Just like something that is done in excess, when positivity is used to mask or silence the human experience, it becomes lethal. By not allowing the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions,” explains Jamie Long, PsyD.

Don’t Tell Us We Should Adopt The Kids

Unfortunately, not everyone understands that there’s a difference between fostering and adopting. A kid in foster care does not automatically go through the process of adoption. Being a foster child can be a temporary arrangement. Their legal guardian also maintains full parental rights over their kids. These children can then later go back to their biological families.

You shouldn’t tell foster parents to adopt the kids because this decision isn’t up to them. They don’t get to decide whether they can do so, or even if they’ll be up for adoption first place. It may also give the children a false sense of hope. It can even cause distress for them, thinking that they’ll never see their biological family again. 

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Don’t Ask Us If We Can Bring Them Back

Keep in mind that you’re talking about a human being, not an object you can return to a store. These kids may have issues and troubles, but those challenges should never be a reason to get rid of them.

Foster children need someone to stand by them, even when they act up. It’s also the same for someone’s biological kids. You wouldn’t put them up for adoption because you have difficulty dealing with them, would you? Why should kids in foster care be any different?

Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice

Unless someone asks for advice, it isn’t always polite or appropriate to offer it up. Such is true even in situations when someone is dealing with their biological kids. Everyone has their parenting style, and kids will react and receive it differently. What may work for your family may not be the best for another.

Don’t Tell Us How Difficult It Must Be

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Trust us; foster parents already know how challenging their situation can be. There are several rules they have to follow. There’s also the attachment they might feel and the hurt when their foster kids go back. Raising children is a trial in general. They don’t need a reminder.

Instead of talking about how it might be difficult for them, discuss something helpful instead. Ask about how you can help around. Let your friends vent about their problems and struggles as a foster family.

Conclusion: Discussing Foster Families

It’s best when people make an effort to learn more about fostering. It’s also helpful to read up on things that may be inappropriate to say to these families. Things like talking negatively about biological parents, calling the kids lucky, and talking about making money are colossal no-no’s. If you’re ever unsure what may be insensitive, you can always ask if it’s okay to know.

 

 

Helping Without Conditions During The Pandemic Lockdown

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I knew the risks, and I was fully aware of what I was doing, but the mother in me just could not leave two kids out in the rain. And there is this thing with COVID-19. In my mind, at that time, almost three months ago, on the streets of New York City, I was battling with leaving them alone or taking them with me. You know the answer to it now, I am assuming. Yes, I brought with me two teenage boys who could either hurt me or care for me. I just asked guidance from the Almighty since I told him that I wanted to help the boys. I was so sure that they needed me.

Continue reading “Helping Without Conditions During The Pandemic Lockdown”

How Coronavirus Affects Foster Care Worldwide

I am a mother of five kids. Two of them are biological, while the other three are adopted. My husband and I decided to adopt for the first time when I did not think that I could bear a child. We had been married for seven years at the time, but no fertility method was working. So, we decided to ask orphanages about the possibility of adopting a baby.

That’s when we found Michael, our first son. I fell in love with his curly hair and big eyes as soon as I saw him, and the adoption process started right away. Miraculously, a year after that, I got pregnant with twins, so my husband and I felt very blessed.

A couple of years later, though, the head of the same orphanage where we got Michael contacted us. She commended us first for raising the boy fantastically and then talked about twin babies who were left outside their gate. She said, “It would be incredible if we could find a home for the two of them.” After a long conversation with my husband, we decided to drive down to the orphanage. Given the number of kids that I mentioned above, well, you know that we took those babies in and cared for them like our own.

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Now, the story of Michael and the young twins is not rare. There are plenty of abandoned, abused, or orphaned children across the globe who need to love and feel loved. Thus, as someone who has adopted three kids, I worry about the foster care system worldwide, especially now that there is a coronavirus outbreak.

Here are some things I have learned.

Fewer Kids May Get Adopted Legally

Adoption sounds like an easy task for outsiders, but that’s not true at all. Besides your lack of interest in hurting the child in any way, the judges determine if you can handle another kid financially.

Because of the lockdown, though, a high number of individuals cannot go to work. Even if someone has savings, it may not suffice to pay the bills, get groceries, and hire a lawyer to process the adoption papers. The result is that the legal adoption comes to a halt and may only resume when everything goes back to normal again.

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More Parents Have Been Reported For Child Abuse

The lockdown that prevails in many countries has put adults in an awful place, mentally speaking. Being cooped up in the same house for days can make you cranky or snappy. If a person has some form of addiction, anger management problem, or other issues, it is not surprising for them to become violent towards the children under their care. It explains the rise of child abuse cases everywhere and pushes the court to deny such people’s requests to adopt kids.

The Silver Lining: Deserving Parents In Canada Don’t Need To Wait For The End Of Lockdown Before Getting The Adoption Papers Approved By The Court

I read a touching article the other day about a Canadian couple who were trying to adopt a baby girl. Their court appearance got postponed due to the lockdown, but the kind judge allowed them to do everything through a video conference. Before the call ended, therefore, the baby girl became their daughter legally.

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My research is admittedly not extensive enough to know if the other countries intend to follow suit. However, this new process ensures that deserving parents need not wait any longer before their adoption papers get signed by a judge. The more it happens, the more kids can grow up in a nurturing home.

Final Thoughts

It breaks my heart as a parent to know that there are children in the world who need to wait longer before getting adopted due to COVID-19. It pains me more, though, that some foster parents turn violent because of the situation. The latter leaves the child hurt and homeless.

My only prayer at this point is that the foster care system in every part of the globe will be as good as the one in Canada. This way, the kids and their adoptive parents can all live blissfully.

Being A Mother To Another’s Child

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My sister-in-law brought me to the 2018 Child Fostering Summit that she helped organize as a social worker involved in child fostering. I had nothing else to do that day, and to be honest, I just came out of a bad relationship. Well, it was a non-existent relationship since we were supposed to be boyfriend-girlfriend and yet, I haven’t seen my supposed boyfriend for the past two months. But he was around, oh boy, was he “around.”

Continue reading “Being A Mother To Another’s Child”

Reaching Out

 

 

What Am I Allowed To Ask?

 

Any cancer sufferer will tell you that it is not uncommon for relationships with friends and family to change after being diagnosed. The most important thing to remember is that your diagnosis affects those around you as well. It is also not uncommon for people close to you to go through the same emotions you will during this time and this often affects the dynamics of relationships.

Source: myvmc.com

A wise teacher in graduate school was fond of telling us burgeoning therapists,  “It’s not what you say to patients that’s important, it’s what you say next.” — Mindy Greenstein Ph.D.

Friends and family may experience a wave of different emotions, including sadness, fear, anxiety and more. These emotions play an intricate part in the dynamics of relationships and often result in family and friends masking these emotions which often results in strained the relationship. Not to mention that most often conversations are strained or even fleeting as people are not sure what topics to avoid or address.

 

The fear of adding more strain on already fragile relationships, the cancer sufferer tend to withdraw their own emotions from the equation in order to try to alleviate the stress on those around them. This means that they often overlook their own mental health and pretend that everything is fine in order to spare friends and family any further stress and pain.

 

Have You Spoken To A Stanger?

 The impact of hearing the possibility of cancer was crippling, even at first. But once it was confirmed, in a matter of days my body began to fall apart as I lost the mental capacity to will myself to keep moving. — Maia Delmoor, MS, LPC, CAADC

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“Before my diagnosis, I didn’t know anything about cancer. Now, I have met so many people with so many different kinds of cancer experiences—and I really go back to the idea that no one should ever have to go through cancer alone.” – Lloyd K., Cancer Experience Registry Participant

Holding back your emotions, whether you are the sufferer or a loved one will only be more detrimental to your mental health. There are a number of online communities and forums moderated by medical professionals and patients where one can address your fears, ask questions, and seek advice.

 

‘Stranger Chat’ will allow you to freely and without prejudice to ask questions, voice your fears and seek advice and guidance on how to deal with the conundrum of emotions you are experiencing.

 

Cancer Is Cancer

 

There are so many different types of cancers, some you might recognize by name, and others you might not. The point is that cancer is cancer. Your diagnosis is no less scary or important as the next cancer patient. Your emotions and how you feel are no less important. You fears are no less real and you are allowed to feel these emotions.

 

 According to the American Psychological Association, researchers have estimated that anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of cancer patients have symptoms of depression. Drastic changes in lifestyle and the fear and anxiety that accompany a chronic, sometimes fatal, disease can impact the emotional well being of the sturdiest of patients. — Jane Framingham, Ph.D.

Reach Out

 

There is a number of ways you can reach out and include family and friends in your diagnosis without these relationships being strained or stressful. Here are a few suggestions that might help in relieving some of the strain.

 

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  • It can be stressful to have to repeat medical information or answer questions about treatment or progress. It helps to have one member of the family that you can trust to communicate this information with other friends and family. It helps to alleviate the emotions that these conversations can bring.
  • Reach out to family and friends. Take the lead and give them guidance during conversations. If you feel comfortable discussing your diagnosis, bring up the subject.
  • Do not pretend. If you are feeling down, say so, if you need help, ask for it. You are allowed to feel emotional and by asking and accepting help when offered, you are giving people a chance to deal with the emotions they could be feeling with regard to your diagnosis. Also do not be afraid to speak out, if someone is being overbearing or if you need space, say so.
  • Try maintaining social relationships, if you are feeling up to, participate in family gatherings. Do not close yourself off and it will also allow you to maintain some sense of normality. Share with people what you can and cannot deal with, do not be afraid to be honest.

Say It Out Loud

 

Dealing with the Emotions

 The mental fatigue and the loss of bodily control that comes along with a cancer diagnosis can cause great stress. The components of the diagnosis and treatment regime can easily overwhelm a person. — Maia Delmoor, MS, LPC, CAADC

Source: fierceinc.com

 

Experiencing shock or disbelief is not uncommon after being diagnosed with cancer. Although emotions like sadness, anxiety or depression may be considered unhealthy it is also normal to feel these emotions when facing the reality of being diagnosed with cancer.

 

Excerpt from curetoday.com

 

“Psycho-oncologists, who address the emotional needs of cancer patients, have determined that a healthy emotional response to a cancer diagnosis includes three phases—initial reaction, distress, and adjustment—that will take patients through a typical grieving process.”

 

It Starts With Support

 

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Being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful for anyone. Seeking advice, support or guidance to deal with these emotions is not only good for your mental health but also your physical health. Stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on your sleeping pattern, contribute to insomnia and affect your appetite, all of which will have an impact on your physical health.

 

You can seek out support from a number of sources including therapy near you, social workers or even family or friends. Some hospitals also offer support groups. No matter the resources you choose, dealing with your emotions and being emotionally prepared can decrease stress and anxiety. It is important to remember that your emotional needs are different from the next person, what works for one person, may not work for you. Therapy is not a one size fits all case so it is important you remember to find what works for you.

The transition from a “normal” life to one with cancer can overwhelm a patient with many fears, the biggest being fear of the unknown. Cancer patients experiencing treatments for the first time can be filled with so much anxiety that they develop anticipatory nausea and vomiting. — Jane Framingham, Ph.D.

Maintaining Your Mental Health

 

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Being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful for anyone. Seeking advice, support or guidance to deal with these emotions is not only good for your mental health but also aids in reducing the negative impact on your physical being.

 

Excerpt From: Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs.

 

In response to a request from the National Institutes of Health, this report puts forth a plan delineating actions that cancer care providers, health policy makers, educators, health insurers, health plans, researchers and research sponsors, and consumer advocates should take to better respond to the psychological and social stresses faced by people with cancer, and thereby maximize their health and health care.

 

More than ten and a half million people in the United States live with a past or current diagnosis of some type of cancer (Ries et al., 2007); 1.4 million Americans are projected to receive a new diagnosis of cancer in 2007 alone (Jemal et al., 2007). Reflecting cancer’s reach, 1 in 10 American households now includes a family member who has been diagnosed or treated for cancer within the past 5 years (USA Today et al., 2006), and 41 percent of Americans can expect to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life (Ries et al., 2007).

 

Cancer and the Effect on Your Mental Health

 

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Seeking out the support of a therapist is an important part of your treatment plan.  With support, you will be in a better position to deal with emotions and feel less anxious while allowing you the time to focus on your physical health. It also helps to speak with those closest to you. It allows both yourself and your loved ones to face the reality of physical health.

Whether you’re diagnosed with cancer or just having a discouraging day, communicating with a loved one feels like the right move. And in fact, a great deal of science suggests that it is. — Kory Floyd Ph.D.

Find what works for you. Look at the various types of therapy available and find the resources that best suit your needs. It is important that you are comfortable and able to interact in your therapy. Start your journey to recovery with a healthy mind. Do not be afraid to feel emotions or to seek out support. It all starts with saying it out loud.

 

There was no medal at the finish of this challenge, but the prize was the gift of life.“ BROWN RIBBON: A Personal Journey Through Anal Cancer And The Adventure It Entailed by Robbi Woolard

 

 

Telling Your Children That They’re Adopted

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For families with foster children, conversations about adoption may be difficult to navigate. Some parents dread the day that their children will ask about the nature of their entry into the family. People often give conflicting advice on how to handle this issue. Hence, parents end up with this question: how do you tell your children that they’re adopted?

This conversation needs to happen, sooner or later. Parents need to know how to steer the conversation in a way that minimizes the stress imposed on their children. The focus here is to let them know that their families love them regardless of the circumstance.

While they are young and inquisitive, and have their trust in you for helping them to shape many of their world views, you are in the best position to address sensitive information about their birthparents. This is a position that will only last for a brief number of years. — Jennifer Bliss Psy.D., LCSW

Timing

What’s the best time to inform your children of their adopted status? Experts generally agree that earlier is better. Interestingly though, parents throughout history tend to do the opposite. Many families delay this crucial conversation up until the child is already an adult themselves. In some cases, the children never get to know that they’re adopted.

These people argue that very young children cannot fully comprehend the implications of adoption. By waiting until the children are old enough, they believe that they’ll be able to take the news with grace.

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However, precisely the opposite happens. By delaying the news, loved ones give the impression that they’re lying to their children all these years. This revelation also challenges core beliefs and can shake the self-identities of adopted children. Revealing the news at older ages tends to cause more strife and increases the mental stress that the children feel.

By discussing the topic of adoption at a very early stage, parents can normalize the issue and remove any stigma that the children might feel. Their children will believe that adoption is just as usual as being born and raised by the same set of parents. Hence, there is minimal stress and the risk of an identity crisis.

Many foster families or adoptive families struggle with the unknown; that is, the lack of information they have on the child’s upbringing, trauma experiences, and attachment to their birth parents. —

The key here is to discuss the topic using age-appropriate methods. When disclosing information to anyone at a tender age, it’s okay to simplify the subject to avoid confusion. Just make sure to be truthful and clarify any misconceptions that might develop.

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Normalization

Another technique for holding the conversation on adoption is to assure the child that adoption is a normal process that happens regularly. Children might think that they’re somehow inferior to others just because they underwent adoption. Expect these thoughts to occur to them and reassure them that adoption is not a source of shame.

Psychologists and adoption researchers have not yet come to agreement as to whether or not adoptees, when compared to non-adoptees are at higher risk for a host of psychological and interpersonal difficulties. However, after devoting many years to this very question, Dr. David Brodzinsky, a preeminent scholar in the field, came to believe that while being adopted sets the adoptee on a lifetime search for identity, meaning and connection, he is no more or less at risk psychologically because of being adopted. — Lawrence Rubin Ph.D, ABPP, LMHC, RPT-S

Also, answer any queries to the best of your ability. If they express the desire to know more about their birth parents, encourage that curiosity. Never demonize the birth parents. This way, you’re setting up an open and non-threatening environment for your children to talk about adoption. This openness reinforces the belief that adoption is typical. 

Finally, emphasize your unconditional love. Your children need to know that they don’t have to fulfill any requirements to obtain your love and care.

Many adopted children believe that they need to prove their worth to their parents. Reassure them that they always have your love, and they’ll better accept their adoption as a positive part of their identity.

3 Hidden Fears of Adoptees

When my wife and I adopted our first child, we were aware, at least intellectually, that adoption was as much about loss as it was about being found. — Lawrence Rubin Ph.D, ABPP, LMHC, RPT-S

children anxiety

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Living inside the foster care system is a lonely and complicated life. So, when a child gets adopted by an altruistic family, everyone expects a happy ending for the adoptee.

 

What everyone doesn’t realize is that adoption doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘happy ending’ for the adoptee. They may still carry the same fears that were developed during their stay in the foster care system.

 

Fear of Separation

anxiety on children

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The moment a foster child has been removed from their biological parent’s company, the fear of separation has started their spur and grows. Studies have shown that separating a newborn from their mothers can have traumatic effects on both the mother and the child.

 

For example, placing the newborn in the nursery for nine months before returning the child to the mother can result in a lack of confidence and anxiety in the child. So, what more if the child is separated from the mother indefinitely?

 

Fear of separation is a rational fear that has started to develop from the moment the child has been placed in the foster care. It may also have developed through pregnancy with the influence of the mother’s feelings of unhappiness and not wanting the child.

Many of my clients often end up being adopted or placed in a therapeutic foster home with caregivers who have experience with psychiatric conditions. But some of these same families end up reporting that they are unable to further care for the child with severe mental or behavioral health challenges and “re-home” or place the child back into the foster care system. —

Fear of Abandonment

anxiety for children

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Along with the fear of separation, the fear of abandonment is developed in the early years of the child’s stay in the foster care system.

 

Leslie Johnson shared her feelings of being adopted in an article at the Huffington Post. She stated that her younger self has always believed that she might be abandoned, which caused her to develop separation anxiety.

 

The fear of abandonment is a fear rooted from the fear of separation and the traumatic experience of being left by their biological parents in the foster care system. Adoptees, especially children, will question why they were left alone by their biological parents and if it can happen again.

 

Sadly, this question is answered by adoptees through searching for faults in themselves and believing that they can be abandoned again.

Fear of Rejection

anxieties of children

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At some point in an adoptee’s life, they will begin to question what their biological parents look like, where they are, or how their life is. This curiosity will motivate adoptees to look for their biological parents, which then creates another fear: rejection.

 

The search for their biological parents may scare the adoptee as they believe it might hurt their foster parents. They are afraid that their parents will think that the reason why their child is searching for their biological parents is that they are unsatisfied of the love and care of their foster parents.

You can help your children to understand where they came from and be available to help them to frame and process the information in the most positive manner. — Jennifer Bliss Psy.D., LCSW

Adoptees may also feel scared of meeting their biological parents. If they feel like their biological parents may show an ounce of dislike for them, they might cancel the search immediately.

 

Finding the biological parents is a milestone of achievement for the adoptee as it would help them to search and to develop their true identity. Regardless, it is a journey that is filled with anxiety and a lot of uncertainty.