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News & Press: Did You Know? CoSR Article Series

Children in the Foster Care System & Trauma

Wednesday, June 17, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Karen Hardin
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This article is part of the "Did You Know" article series presented by OPA's Committee on Social Responsibility.

Written by: Alaina Miller, BA, psychology trainee at Wright State School of Professional Psychology 

Did you know over 437,000 children and youth are currently in foster care? About 20,500 youth are emancipated from foster care without ever being reunified with their families or ever being adopted. 
Did you know neglect is the #1 cause for removal of care and entrance into the foster care system? Other common reasons include abuse, domestic violence, exploitation, and adverse childhood experiences. 
Did you know the placement of the foster care system often creates an inconsistent atmosphere that may lead to various social-emotional, behavioral, and academic challenges for the child? 
Did you know ¼ of youth in foster care are incarcerated within 2 years of emancipation and only ½ graduate high school?

Foster care is a temporary placement service for children who can not be cared for by their biological parents and families. Children often come to the attention of the child welfare system because their parents cannot provide adequate care, in which these children have often experienced maltreatment such as neglect and trauma. The agency serves to provide a living space and stable upbringing for the child(ren) and seeks to find permanent homes for them, although 40% of children spend one to three years in foster care. Children are often placed with relatives, designated foster parents, group homes, or residential treatment centers. One of the biggest challenge’s children experience in foster care is constant instability of placement as well as limited opportunities to develop long-term skills and relationships necessary for success. This environment, in addition to experienced trauma, can have a long-lasting negative impact on the child and their development. 

Tips for professionals & caregivers when working with or caring for children in the foster care system that experienced maltreatment 

  • Routine- establish a routine to enforce consistency and stability 
  • Limit “triggers”- find out what their personal triggers are; or events that lead to dysregulation, hypervigilance, and avoidance. Try to limit them
  • Give choices to enhance control and independence- throughout the day let the child pick between two activities/items to foster control 
  • Time - The healing process is different for everyone. Each child will recover on their own timeline. Do not push them to overcome their trauma but allow them the time they need

Resources for Professionals
http://www.nctsn.org: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) offers extensive resources for professionals, parents, and caregivers that include education, videos, and handouts. These target all types of trauma and victimization. In addition, resources are offered in multiple languages.

https://www.nctsn.org/resources/young-children-foster-care: NCTSN’s specific page for children in foster care

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/healthy-foster-care-america/Pages/default.aspx: Resources such as listservs, conference videos, resource library, and tools for professionals. A good resource for professionals in the pediatric or primary care settings. 


American Society for the Positive Care of Children. (2018). Get the facts-Foster care & adoption. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from https://americanspcc.org/get-the-facts-foster-care/

Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2020). What is foster care. Retreived May 4th, 2020, from https://www.aecf.org/blog/what-is-foster-care/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw-r71BRDuARIsAB7i_QPXQdK8xupcG72idboyBtTngXUE5jznpl60pDhD4n58EbFNRICx9TYaApVhEALw_wcB