Children who grew up in a foster care facility experience trauma throughout their lives. This means their psychological wellness and behavioral health, while in foster care, are not at their best.
Even though they’re happy with their foster care family, there are still instances where they’ll fall into the pit of sadness and even develop psychological wellness disorders like post traumatic stress disorder. That’s how unpredictable their lives are.
The instability of the emotions of children in foster care 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. This can lead to psychological wellness issues and even substance abuse, which will require professional care. Some foster care kids also end up entangled with the criminal justice system.
Because of this, the risk of developing disorders for foster care youth is high. The American Academy of Pediatrics associates this with the fact that most of the physical, emotional, and psychological wellness needs of children in foster care are not met. Some of the statistics that they revealed regarding the psychological wellness issues of a foster care child are the following:
– More than half of the children in foster care have clinical mental health disorders, which require psychological wellness treatment
– Upon growing up, 34% of children in foster care experience more than two psychological disorders
– 11.6% of children in foster care experiences Panic Disorder at least once in their lives, which requires help from professionals
With this in mind, what is the role of foster parents in ensuring that the mental health of your foster care child stays healthy throughout? Here are ways on how you can support children in foster care in this psychological wellness care journey.
Establish Effective Communication With Foster Youth
One of the traumas that foster children experience is being unheard of. This is a big factor in the child welfare and mental health care needs of these kids. Given that foster care youth 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 foster youth as if they are an outsider. Let them know that you’ll always be there for them despite not being blood-related. Make foster care children feel comfortable by offering help whenever they have any problems or whenever they encounter difficulty adjusting. Allow foster care children to vent out their concern before giving your advice.
Offer mental health support because they need it. If necessary, you can also seek the help of mental health professionals or child welfare services. A mental health professional can promote child welfare for foster care kids. They can also conduct a mental health evaluation and provide mental health support where needed. These professional mental health services are necessary for kids in foster care.
Take Care Of Your Mental Health First
To be able to take care of the mental health needs of your foster care children, you have to take care of yourself and your well being first. You will only be able to fulfill your responsibility as a foster care parent 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, being a foster care parent isolates you from the general population most of the time. The majority of the people do not understand how it works, and they are likely to judge you for offering your foster home. They’ll question your desire to house foster care children who are practically strangers to you. Having to deal with these questions about foster care can cause you to feel stressed and sad. Some foster care parents even develop a mental illness because of the stress.
However, you are lucky to have other foster care 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 with foster care.
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 With Foster Care Children
Foster care children experience extreme things throughout their lives. Therefore, there will always be instances where foster care youth will do something terrible and unacceptable. Their capacity to differentiate right from wrong might be a little rusty because of how they grew up. This means their mental and behavioral health are not at their best.
Always keep in mind that these children in foster care 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. This means offering mental and behavioral health care. 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 with children in foster care:
1. Understand The Behavior Of Your Children In Foster Care
Deep dive into what makes them who children on foster care 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 Foster Care Youth
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 mental and behavioral health.
3. Always Remain Calm With Foster Care Youth
There will always be instances where your foster care child will push you to your limits. However, losing your cool will only push them away. Always be gentle to foster care youth and never hurt them physically to discipline them. Child abuse is never the answer — child welfare, mental and behavioral health care are.
4. Reward Foster Care Youth
Whenever your foster care child does something good no matter how simple it is, make sure to reward them. This technique is what we call positive reinforcement, a part of mental and behavioral health care. If you show your appreciation to your foster care child, they’ll tend to do better.
Being A Foster Care Parent – 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 you—time, money, commitment, and effort. Add to this the difficulty in ensuring that your foster care child’s physical and mental health are taken care of, not to mention behavioral health. But along with difficulty is a complement of a fulfilling emotion, especially when child welfare is met.
The fact that you’re providing an impact on a foster care 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 from foster care that most people won’t feel in a typical setup. As a foster parent, you’ll be lucky enough to experience these fantastic emotions.
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