Foster care support begins with supporting foster parents
BY MELISSA HILL, M.D., PEDIATRICIAN
Morris Hospital Ottawa Campus
My heart broke at the thought of delivering bad news to a brand new patient of mine. This child, recently placed into foster care, surely has endured plenty of traumas in a short life. I wished to do everything in my power to reduce the pain I knew this diagnosis could inflict. I worried, especially, about my patient’s support system. Would this child’s foster parents continue to provide a loving and supportive environment despite the diagnosis?
All children placed in foster or kinship care have endured Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs) which cause trauma. The ACEs study published in 1998 suggested a link between these adverse experiences and negative health and well-being throughout the lifetime. Keeping this in mind, children deserve trauma-informed care to help reduce the consequences of these ACEs.
One way to accomplish this is to give foster parents (or relatives providing care) the tools to successfully navigate parenting traumatized children. CHAMPS (Children Need Amazing Parents) is an organization advocating for change at the national and local government to increase supports for foster parents so they can “be the best they can.” They advocate for policies to support the kind of quality parenting that brings healing into the life of a child in foster care. With 677 children in out-of-home placements in Will, Grundy, and LaSalle counties (data as of March 1, 2018), it is also important for the community at large to support these children through a trauma-informed lens. With a growing focus on ACEs in recent years, there are many resources available to increase one’s knowledge of trauma.
As I sat in the patient’s room delivering the news, tears welled in the foster mother’s eyes. In that moment, I knew my patient had found someone special. In a private moment with the foster mother, I expressed my initial apprehension that the bad news would be beyond what the foster parents would want to handle. “We’re not giving up on [this child],” the foster mother reassured me. These are the foster parents that inspire me.
As part of National Foster Care Month, which is recognized in May, I ask you to take a little time this month to learn how you can support foster parents and their foster children.
For more information on CHAMPS, check out their positions and resources at www.fosteringchamps.org. Other resources for foster parents and kinship care can be found on www.childwelfare.gov. Find more information on trauma, check out the “Parenting After Trauma” handout from Healthy Foster Care America.
Melissa Hill, MD, FAAP is a member of the Council on Foster Care, Adoption, and Kinship Care.