The need for mental health services is on the rise, but the understanding of why mental health services are needed remains confusing for some. This is especially true if you are new to working with foster children who have experienced trauma. Having worked with foster families for more than ten years, the most important understanding new foster parents can achieve is understanding the effect trauma has on children’s development and behaviors.
Children coming into care have typically experienced multiple traumatic experiences, and often at a young age. It’s important to drop all you think you know and truly pay attention to what they need. Observing children through a trauma lens allows you to understand that every behavior comes with a story. Take advantage of any training that’s offered, ask for a mentor, and utilize your treatment team. It’s important to surround yourself and the children placed in your home with a strong support system. Be consistent with their appointments. I’ve found that parents don’t put an emphasis on showing up for services like therapy when the going is good. When, in reality, children need the consistency of these services to truly make progress.
When children are placed, please take time to understand their goals and permanency plan. Meet with the outpatient team and connect with their providers. Be vigilant in scheduling their appointments and be sure to attend each of them. When signing your child in, stick around. Take a few minutes to talk with their provider. If your child understands you and the provider are both on the same team, they’re more likely to open up. Realize it may take time for them to open up though. Depending on their age, and the type of treatment, it could seem like they’re just playing when they’re in therapy…or just talking about surface level things. Trust the process and trust the providers. Maintaining open communication is key.
And remember, no one knows or understands what the child in your home has experienced. Allow them some grace while they navigate through their trauma and emotions. The decision to foster is one of the most important decisions you can make. Take advantage of any services you can to assist your child on their journey. In the end, building connections with the service providers and outpatient team will assist you too.
Contact us today for more information!