Why does it seem that foster kids have behavioral problems? It seems as if they may not come with them, but later develop them. I’m a member of a family that has opened our home to numerous foster children, and this matters to me because people need to be aware for the benefit of the children. They need to know that there are some disadvantages with behavioral problems and we need to know how to handle such things. This is important because not everybody knows what to do or how to properly treat children with behavioral problems. They may have already had them, or they may have come later on while in the foster system, but foster children with behavioral problems are very common.
‘Trauma can be caused by any number of things, some of which reach back even to the child’s time in the womb: a very difficult birth or a mother being physically abused when she is pregnant. If a mother smokes, drinks alcohol or takes drugs when pregnant this is also likely to have a deleterious effect on her unborn child and can result in anything from poor birth weight to brain injury” (Thomas and Philpot 25). “Children who are placed into foster care are often at high risk for problematic outcomes. First, they have often experienced a range of adverse conditions prior to placement, including neglect, abuse, and exposure to domestic violence” (Kohl, Edleson, English, & Barth, 2005) 768. Dozier et al stated Children who have moved from foster home to foster home, or from foster home to birth home experience an unstable foundation (768). A child’s sense of identity, development, trust in others, ability to manage behavior can be affected by trauma and can cause different types of behavioral problems. Even adults may be affected by trauma with the same severity as children, a child’s vulnerability can cause them to be affected by trauma in a much more far-reaching way because, since they are still developing physically and emotionally, their general social and individual functioning may well be seriously impaired (Thomas and Philpot 26).
“Children entering foster care have high rates of emotional, behavioral, developmental, and physical health problems and are in need of many specialized services” (Taussig et al 1). Studies have shown that children reunited with their birth parents have a higher chance at developing behavioral problems. “Results. Compared with youth who were not reunified, reunified youth showed more self-destructive behavior (0.15 vs 20.11), substance use (0.16 vs 20.11), and total risk behavior problem standardized scores (0.12 vs 20.09). Reunified youth were more likely to have received a ticket or have been arrested (49.2% vs 30.2%), to have dropped out of school (20.6% vs 9.4%), and to have received lower grades (6.5 vs 7.4). Reunified youth reported more current problems in internalizing behaviors (56.6 vs 53.0), and total behavior problems (59.5 vs 55.7), and lower total competence (41.1 vs 45.0).” “3 studies have found better outcomes for children who were not reunified including gains in intelligence scores, greater overall well-being, and less criminal recidivism than children who were reunified with their families of origin.” (Taussig et al 1).
Children who have been abused are also very likely to have a confused view of family relationships (Rose and Philpot 2005), as well as an ever-changing group of people in their lives (Thomas and Philpot 27). My little brother who we adopted at the age of nine and is now 18 still struggles with this. He feels he must switch up girlfriends to get a new love or switch up friends monthly. Even after all that he will completely isolate himself and not talk to anybody, because now he can’t trust anybody. “Events like this on top of trauma can lead children to feel that they have no control over their lives. Attempted solutions to this problem can have disastrous consequences, for example, by their becoming suicidal or, at very least, self-harming and self-abusing; by, for instance, taking drugs, or engaging in promiscuous and potentially harmful sexual relationships. The child may develop serious anti-social behavior to defend her against feelings of vulnerability, but these often only exacerbate her difficulties. A state of helplessness may also be reverted to. Children may avoid intimacy, feeling that they need to be in control, and acting in ways that deter relationships and closeness with others. They can experience flashbacks, hyperactivity, and dissociation. (This term is what Hunter (2001) calls ‘an internal psychological state which we assume is present when a usual or expected involvement of emotion is absent’ (p.98).) These, in turn, can affect their education and lead them to be diagnosed with various behavioral disorders” (Thomas and Philpot 26). Four major effects of trauma are: a persistent state of fear, disordered memory, avoiding intimacy, and dysregulation of affect. For these reasons many children are either placed on medication to “help” the child ease the pain or rid it all, or they are sent to therapy to try and open up their wounds to help heal them.
I have conducted two separate interviews one on a teen male who has been adopted, and one on an adult female who has been through the foster care system to give some insight on their experience. How long were you in foster care? I was in foster care for 5 years. What was your experience like? It was not the greatest. I moved around a lot, and I was placed in homes that were not conducive to my well-being. The last home in which I lived only wanted me for financial gain. I refused to move because I wanted to graduate from 1 high school. Do you believe children in the foster system have behavioral problems? Why or why not ? I believe some children have behavioral problems that are exacerbated once they are placed in foster care, and others develop behavioral problems while in foster care. It is exhausting, painful, and takes a toll mentally, emotionally, and physically. Do you think they develop these behavior disorder before going into the foster care system, during or after? Why? I think it all depends on the situation, the child, and the way the child was removed. It also has to do with resilience, and how the child can process such information. What are some reasons you believe children may or may not have behavioral problems? As mentioned prior, resilience has a lot to do with the start or cause of behavioral problems; also, attachment plays a major role in how the child views the foster parent as helping and not hurting. If the child sees that the foster parent is not a threat, there may be some reconciliation for appropriate emotionality and decreased behavioral issues/problems. Another factor to consider is the number of homes in where a child is placed. After moving into many homes, self-worth and identity is questioned, and thus causes problems with behavior, which incentivizes behavior problems, causing the child moving once again into a new foster home. It becomes and is a very nasty cycle. A rule of thumb is to remember that “bad” behavior is a cry for help. Do you feel therapy or medicine can make it better or worse? Can you grow out of it? I believe that children should not be medicated, however negative their behavior is displayed. Medication has side effects, and it has to be counteracted with other medication. Unless it is of a medical concern, children should not be medicated. What do you believe is the best way to deal with a child with behavioral problems? Therapy, either play or psychoanalytical, is one of the best ways to combat behavioral problems. Empathy can release anger within a child and having a real connection can be helpful. I also think physical involvement can help as well. When a child is busy-playing a sport, karate, taekwondo, I know it makes a tremendous difference. What did you struggle with and how did you handle it? Or how would you have like to be treated to help you? I was angry because of not having family. I also had issues of abandonment and rejection; being placed in so many homes made it worse. It all changed when I got a new social worker who understood my pain and wanted to genuinely help me. She saw the scared, broken, rejected girl I was behind the hard exterior and she worked hard to show me I was loved and important. She advocated to get me off medication. I knew she cared, and because of that, I wanted to be the girl she saw. She changed my life in ways word could never describe. In your opinion is there any way to help children with behavioral disorders? Have empathy, let them express their trauma, give them a safe space. See them past their angry exterior and understand that their behavior is a cry for help, however they express it. I know it gets better, but they need help seeing it. This interview was conducted with Flowers, Tanisha on October 3rd, 2018.
The second interview was conducted with Moses Lindo on October 6th, 2018, I asked the same questions to see how similar or different their answers were. Lindo was in the foster care system for three years before he became adopted. His experience was extremely scary even though being so young he was the oldest of five and he had to make sure his younger siblings were okay in their new environment before he could consider himself alright. Lindo stated he believes children in the system may have behavioral problems because they don’t want to be in the foster care system and don’t know how else to act but lash out. He also stated that he believes the children who had behavioral disorders before they entered the foster care system may have been removed for that reason, because the parents did not know how to be able to deal with their own children. Children develop behavioral disorder by they way he/she was raised or the different struggles they face in life but don’t know how to deal with them. Therapy does not help all Lindo says it depends on the person and the trauma they have went through. It definitely takes time and patience, but therapy did not work for me. The main thing I was struggling with was not knowing why I was not with my real parents, that they were not apart of my life because of the bad choices they decided to do. Another was seeing my brothers going through scary times because of all the people they kept on having to meet going through the foster system. A way I thought I could handle it was just knowing we will get better and I tried to be happy to make my brothers happy. Lindo concluded with a way we can help children with special needs is just show them love and always try to make them smile, to be there for them every day. And never forget to show them right from wrong.
Each child who enter the system will have completely different outlooks on their experience, not one will be the same. All children rather blood or not need love and affection. This essay will benefit families who are looking into fostering kids as well as the foster kids themselves. This will allow them to learn from it and help the children to adapt to it, and possibly avoid it. Foster children are amazing, and they bring an excellent eye opener to your life they allow you to look at things differently, but do not assume that it is as easy as saying hello to a stranger. There are many things you will gain from this and to be able to help the children benefit to accept what is going to take place in their life is the challenge and you must be willing to face the difficult days that may come such as behavioral disorders. It is ultimately a cry for help, look for the many different signs and find the best aid for your child. Not foster child but child because when they come into your home you must treat them as your own to make it a great experience for you and them.
Dozier, Mary et al. “Developing Evidence-Based Interventions for Foster Children: An Example of a Randomized Clinical Trial with Infants and Toddlers.” Journal of Social Issues, vol. 62, no. 4, Dec. 2006, pp. 767-785. http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=d034471c-a3e9-4ef6-a774-cebb90325e81%40sessionmgr4008&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=22853072 This article talks about the risk for problematic children who are put in the foster care system. Scholarly. I will use this source to show reasons why children may develop behavioral problems.
Flowers, Tanisha Personal Interview October 3, 2018
Lindo, Moses Personal Interview October 6, 2018
Taussig et al. “Children Who Return Home From Foster Care: A 6-Year Prospective Study of Behavioral Health Outcomes in Adolescence” July 2001, VOLUME 108 / ISSUE 1 ELECTRONIC ARTICLE pp 1-9 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/108/1/e10.full In this article they speak about the behavioral levels in children who have returned back to their birth parents opposed to those still in the foster care system. Scholarly source. I will be using this source to bring awareness to the behavioral change in the foster care home and out of the foster care home.
Taylor, Chris. “A Practical Guide to Caring for Children and Teenagers with Attachment Difficulties” London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2010 pp 54-111 http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=16&sid=9916ea12-08ed-45c4-a7fc-b5861314df32%40sdc-v-sessmgr05&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=e000xna&AN=339488 This article states the different types of trauma a child may face while in foster care or before entering foster care. It shows different ways to communicate to help break those barriers. Scholarly source. I will use this source to help identify different ways to cope with trauma in children.
Thomas, Mike. Philpot, Terry. “Fostering a Child’s Recovery: Family Placement for Traumatized Children.” London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2009, pp. 25-56 http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=6&sid=9916ea12-08ed-45c4-a7fc-b5861314df32%40sdc-v-sessmgr05&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=e000xna&AN=278616 This article goes into detail about children and their history to let us know what may be factors to cause trauma. Also, it will show us the loss that affects children. Scholarly source. I will be using this source to show more about the children background to help determine behavioral problems.