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Mental Health in Foster Care Children

Mental health is a serious topic, one that is still stigmatized in our world today. Mental health issues and disorders can be caused by a variety of factors and can seriously disturb one’s everyday life. Some of the factors that can deteriorate mental health are trauma and abuse. So what happens to the mental health of some of the most vulnerable members of society, those who could have experienced these factors? That being, how is the mental health of our foster care children?

Children placed in foster care could have difficult and complex lives. Some experience serious emotional wounds that can harm a child’s young mind drastically and affect their healthy growth. Before being placed in foster care, young children could have endured serious trauma, abuse or neglect due to the previous guardians and living situations. In fact, according to the California Association of Local Behavioral Health Boards and Commissions (CALBHBC), “Up to 80% of children in foster care have significant mental health issues, compared to approximately 18-22% of the general population.”

Some of the mental health issues commonly associated with foster care children include PTSD, depression, separation anxiety, panic disorders, and more. PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder stems from experiencing a traumatic event, some of those being those who have experienced sexual assualt, veterans from the military, and more. According to WebMD, “People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event, and tend to be emotionally numb.” Especially children, more vulnerable to the trauma, who have suffered traumatic and horrifying events are likely to be affected by it unless they receive proper support and therapy. Depression is a mood disorder that can alter the course of one’s life and their mental state. The condition arises from various factors, one of them being trauma. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “When people experience trauma at an early age, it can cause long-term changes in how their brains respond to fear and stress. These changes may lead to depression.” Anxiety and panic disorders can manifest as extreme stress, rapid heartbeat, and nervousness. Separation anxiety is when one fears being abandoned or left behind from their family or friends. Foster children could have trust issues, fear of abandonment or separation because they could have been physically or emotionally hurt by previous guardians before being placed into foster care. These disorders and stress responses are detrimental to one’s health, and can result from abuse, trauma or neglect. Unfortunately, they are not the only disorders. Trauma, abuse, neglect. These stressors can alter your brain chemistry, change your mental state and change life’s trajectory.

Mental health issues are a serious issue that continue to plague the lives of foster care children. In order for the child to live a fulfilling and healthy life, it is crucial they be placed with loving and supporting guardians. To thrive, foster care kids need to receive access to well-trained therapists, in order for them to receive proper treatment and medication, if necessary. Going without treatment can worsen the mental health issue and prolong it, making it very likely these struggles could follow them into adulthood.

“Mental Health: Types of Mental Illness.” WebMD, WebMD,

“Depression.” NAMI,

“Mental and Behavioral Health Needs of Children in Foster Care.” Home,

“Foster Children & Youth.” California Association of Local Behavioral Health Boards & Commissions,

Howard, Alex. “Mental Health among Children in Foster Care.” SAFY, 30 Oct. 2018,

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