Supporting children in foster care who have experienced trauma
A common myth surrounding foster care is that children in care are ‘too challenging’ or that foster carers won’t know how to support a child that may have experienced trauma.
Children and young people in out-of-home care are likely to have faced challenges, however they are also just like other children; it is critical that people approach fostering with an open heart and a willingness to try to understand their needs.
What is trauma?
Childhood trauma can happen when a child witnesses or experiences overwhelming negative experiences in childhood, such as neglect and abuse, family violence, accidents, disasters, or the sudden loss of a family member or caregiver. Children in foster care have been separated from their families, which can be a difficult and upsetting experience.
Trauma can affect our development and how we view the world. When children experience trauma it can affect their brain, nervous system and impact the way they create secure attachments and form relationships.
The impact of trauma on a child’s development is individual and varied. Some children may experience vivid memories or flashbacks, some children may be on ‘high alert’ in their environment, while others may be withdrawn. The good news is that with the right support they can begin to repair and recover.
How are foster carers supported to care for children who have experienced trauma?
Foster carers are supported by their agency to help children and young people feel safe and secure whilst they stay in their home. All prospective foster carers are provided with free standardised training prior to becoming assessed and accredited. This includes training on different strategies and approaches to help carers support and respond to a child in care.
Foster carers play an important part in a child’s journey by helping to create a safe, stable environment for a child.
How can foster carers support children and young people who may have experienced trauma?
There are many ways for carers to provide support, including:
Listening to what the child or young person is sharing and what they say they need
Giving children repeated experiences of care, acceptance, and empathy
Establishing predictable routines and boundaries - bedtimes/mealtimes, etc
Being open to working with their agency to find ways that best support them
Being flexible and ready for creative approaches as there is no ‘one size fits all’
Continuing to learn so that they can provide the best possible care and support
A foster carer’s role to show them support, boundaries, safety, and help guide them through different stages and challenges. Persistent and consistent care is critical, and carers will always be provided with the support they need to do this.
Interested in becoming a foster carer?
Families come in all shapes and sizes and so do foster carers. Foster carers play a critical role in supporting children and young people in care to thrive. If you think you can create a safe and supportive environment for a child, then give fostering a go.