Growing from a child to an adolescent and then an adult can come with a lot of good and bad experiences. A child’s life can be stressful, fun, exciting, or scary, depending on a lot of different factors. For children who grow up in the foster care system, their childhood may carry more painful or difficult times than others.
While every foster care child will have a different experience, for many, it’s not uncommon to go through one trauma after another. While seen as a temporary arrangement for those awaiting adoption, many children in foster care end up spending half their childhood and even adolescent lives in group homes. Children in foster care are at increased risk for child abuse and other forms of trauma. As a result, their mental health can be greatly impacted for years to come.
We’ll be exploring how children growing up in the foster care system may be affected and what they can do to overcome the hardships they may have experienced. Connecting with an online therapist can be effective if you have been impacted by the foster care system.
There are many terms that fall under the foster care umbrella. For starters, what does foster care mean, exactly? The definition of foster care is a situation in which a child is adopted and cared for by someone who is not their biological parent. This could be a single individual, a married couple, or a family with other children. It could also be relatives or a complete stranger. The foster care definition can vary widely because every situation will look different.
Though foster care is the temporary placement of a child with a different person or family, sometimes that placement becomes permanent. This happens when a family or individual decides to adopt the child, provided they can’t or don’t go back to their original caregiver. This is when foster families become permanent families.
When a child isn’t adopted and they reach the age of 18, it’s referred to as “aging out” of the child welfare system.
Foster carers are the people who offer their home, resources, and support to a child in need. They are also known as foster parents, or, foster families. Not only do they need to provide basic needs for the child, but they should also extend safety, belonging, and love as well. Children in foster care may have experienced trauma, even at a young age, and foster carers need to be prepared to effectively help them.
In many states, someone interested in being a foster parent needs to obtain a license first. The process for obtaining a license to operate a foster home may involve consulting with someone from the child welfare system, such as a social services worker. This person may visit the home of the potential foster parent and interview them, to see if they are suitable for the job.
Neglect is the number one reason a kid is placed in foster care. However, kids can also enter the system for a variety of other reasons. These could include abuse, a family crisis, illness, incarceration, death, or substance use.
In rare cases, a family may voluntarily give their child up for adoption for a time, perhaps to get back on their feet. In addition, a child can choose to be placed in the foster care system if certain conditions are met.
Below are some facts to keep in mind about children in the foster care system:
While foster care may be the right choice for a child in a given situation, it doesn’t make it an easy one. Even when a child transitions to a home that’s a better environment for their well-being and health, they can still face other challenges as a result of being part of the system.
A child may not understand what’s happening when they end up in foster care, meaning it can be a very traumatic experience. Some common challenges kids in the foster care system face are:
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in any form, reach out right away to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) for immediate support, advice, and assistance.
Several disparities exist in the foster care system. Most of them have existed for decades and continue to impact families and children to this day. Because of these inequalities in the system, some people are at more of a disadvantage than others. Parents belonging to these disadvantaged groups are more likely to have their kids removed from their households.
Some of the disparities to be aware of include:
The reasons for these disparities vary. One of the most significant, however, is poverty. Children from lower-income households are more likely to end up in the foster care system. Since more Black Americans live below the poverty line, Black children disproportionately end up being fostered. Parents in poverty are more prone to substance use and are often single parents, which makes it harder to raise their kids in a stable, healthy, and safe household.
Limited access to much-needed services can make it more likely that a child will end up in foster care. If their parents cannot get the help they need, such as child welfare services, a job placement, or mental health treatment, the child will be at a further disadvantage. Children who come from families with more opportunities and advantages are less likely to be placed in foster care because their parents can get support when they need it.
Whether it’s the child welfare agencies like the Children’s Bureau or Child Protective Services (CPS), the courts, or the legal system, multiple inequalities exist that drive the disparities in the foster care system. For example, CPS professionals may be biased or even discriminatory, which affects the choices they make. Court officials might be more lenient on adolescents from certain backgrounds or of specific races, but harsh on those from minority groups.
Structural inequalities exist at every level of society and affect both children and their families in negative ways. While the removal of a child can be in their best interest, there are no doubt times when bias or discrimination is more responsible for a child’s removal than their well-being. When parents cannot trust that professionals are on their side and want to see families reunited, they cannot lean on them when they need help. Further, when parents do not have access to the resources they need, they cannot help themselves or their children.
Since children in the foster care system often experience trauma before and after placement in a new home, they are more prone to developing mental health disorders. In fact, up to 80% of foster care kids have severe mental health problems, a number considerably higher than the general population.
Anxiety, depression, and PTSD are common mental health conditions that children in foster care experience. These disorders can develop from abuse, neglect, low self-esteem, or simply the lack of permanency involved with being in the child welfare system. Often, it is a combination of factors. If a child has experienced trauma and is then placed in an unsafe or abusive foster home, it can make their mental health even worse.
Kids can experience loneliness and find it hard to relate to their peers. They may also be untrusting of other people and have problems with attachment. As they get older, many turn to illegal drugs or substances that harm their physical and mental health. They may have trouble with living on their own. For this reason, supervised independent living programs, which teach adolescents in the child welfare system how to prepare for independence when they age out, are necessary.
Foster care has been associated with many negative outcomes, but every child’s situation will vary.
Parents of kids who are removed from the home can also face mental health challenges as a result of their child being taken. And, in some cases, a child is removed because their parent has an uncontrollable or untreated mental health condition. For foster kids and their biological parents, getting help for their mental health is often more difficult because of disparities in the mental health care system. These disparities include lack of representation, limited resources, care that isn’t affordable, discrimination, stigma, and more.
To fix these disparities, society can focus on providing struggling families with better access to the resources they need. If parents were able to get the help they need when they needed it, fewer children would end up in the foster care system. It’s also vital to fight racism, discrimination, and harassment when it shows up. Eliminating each of these can help ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly in the child welfare system.
Rather than making choices out of bias or fear of differences, professionals can base their decisions on what is genuinely best for the child. Finally, more funding, research, and representation is needed in institutions related to mental health care, child welfare services, out-of-home care, supervised independent living prgrams, and the foster care system. As representation grows, new perspectives can be heard, and changes can be made based on the feedback received.
Fostering can be incredibly rewarding, but it also requires patience, compassion, and learning. It’s not something to take lightly; rather, you should learn more about the process before deciding it’s right for you.
Are you interested more information about fostering? You can visit this link to gather more information: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/resources-foster-families/how-to/
Sometimes, it is helpful to see a therapist to address concerns and problems you’re facing in your life. However, this isn’t always an option for everyone. It might not be the best choice for your needs, or it may just not be the right time. Still, it’s important to take steps to benefit your mental health here and now.
Some things you can try are:
Self-care should be a habit that you try to prioritize in your life. Not only can it help you deal with obstacles as they arise, but it can also improve your mental health on a daily basis. Sometimes you’ll need the help of a professional, but never underestimate the power of taking care of yourself at every opportunity.
There are many factors that can affect your mental health. Whether you’re coping with your past, trying to make sense of your childhood, or thinking about the future, speaking with a professional could help you get answers sooner. Sometimes there are barriers to receiving mental health care that are difficult to overcome.
BetterHelp attempts to remove these obstacles for you so that receiving care is more convenient, easier, and more affordable. Operating as an online therapy platform, BetterHelp works by connecting you with a qualified therapist with the click of a button. You’ll need an internet connection as well as a device like a smartphone. Once you’re matched, you’ll be able to talk with your therapist through a messaging feature, phone call, or video chat.
Reaching out for mental health support can be hard to do, but it’s something many people wish they had done sooner. BetterHelp has assisted millions of people and could do the same for you. Whether you turn to online therapy or some other option, getting help is what matters most. Reach out today if you’re ready to get started with BetterHelp.
Commonly Asked Questions About This Topic
Is the US foster care system broken?
What are the disadvantages of foster care?
Which country has the best foster care system?
What is the foster care system in the United States?
How long can a child stay in the foster care system?
What is wrong with the American foster care system?
Do you get paid to foster kids?
Is fostering worth the money?
What are the 2 advantages of foster family?
Which country has the best child rights?
Which country has the best child rights?
What is the main goal of foster care?