Caring for a child who has been through severe trauma can be intimidating

The journey of foster care image

The journey of foster care

People often say they can’t be a foster parent because it would be too painful to grow close to a child only to say goodbye. But with more than 430,000 kids in foster care in the United States and a decline in the number of available beds in licensed foster homes, according to the Chronicle of Social Change, I wondered whether the real reason for the shortage of foster parents stems from the unspoken fear I harbored: concern about the health and behavioral challenges of kids who had experienced trauma  Not only do kids suffer trauma from the circumstances that led to foster care in the first place, but they also experience the grief of being separated from their primary attachment, says Chrissy Levine, a social worker with the Department of Community and Human Services in Alexandria, Va.

“Even when the abuse and neglect is bad, that’s what their normal looks like, so when you take them away from their primary attachment, that to them is the most traumatic thing,” she says.

The back-and-forth system of reuniting families, separating them again or moving among foster homes further traumatizes the children,

Neither the abuse nor the number of different placements is the child’s fault. But it doesn’t change the fact that caring for a child who has been through severe trauma can be intimidating

When we first talked about becoming Foster Parents 15 years ago, we honestly had the wrong idea or reason why we wanted to Foster. We wanted to have a girl in our home since we only had 6 boys. We figured that we would get called and that these would be our forever children, simple and easy, just like raising our own kids. Throughout our journey with Fostering we have seen and learned so much about how children are affected by placement and trauma.

Foster kids are six times as likely as other children to have behavioral problems, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The types of issues will “range all over the place, depending on the kid and what happened to them previously,” says Nathan Fox, director of the Child Development Laboratory at the University of Maryland. Some kids show anxiety and depression. Others might be openly uncooperative or physically aggressive. Many struggle with impulse control.

They will be continually worried not only about themselves but about their parents and siblings. And they will be exhausted from all this emotion. Our Trainer held nothing back. She told us stuff we never would have imagined.

Now we thought, “What are we Thinking?” so we went home and thought about it all. It honestly took us a few weeks to decide but we kept seeing news stories about babies being born hooked on heroin or of children who were taken from parents who abandoned or neglected them. The reports kept bringing attention to the crisis in our country. So we called the Social Worker and began this roller coaster ride.

We must be doing something right because the calls we get have always been for those children that are in need of the most help.

Yes, we have had things broken, been screamed at, cussed out, bitten, but mostly we have been loved, and trusted and been a secure place for children to work through their trauma without judgment.

So if you want to know what it’s like to be a Foster Parent, Please Let’s Talk. I’d love to tell you how much I love  it, I’m terrified by it, How many times we have  thought about how crazy we are, and How much it has changed our lives,  and those kids we  had in our home , for the better.


John Salisbury

NBFS Recruiter and Foster Parent