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Foster Parent Recruitment and Sustainability

I saw this morning, a posting about the need for foster parents and the numbers of children needing foster care outnumbering available placements. I couldn’t help but think about not only recruitment but retention of foster parents. Having worked within the system many years ago in Child Protective Services, I do know that many times because of a caseworker’s own fears, removal seems to be the possibility that leaps to mind first. And I will address this issue in a subsequent blog posting. For now, I’d like to address the why’s of placements failing. We often blame the behaviors of the children in placement. Mental health practitioners are quick to put labels on children (and they have to because agency protocol, and more particularly, insurance protocols put that burden on the therapist early on in treatment). Once a child has a label, much of the work that is done is to provide interventions that will change the child’s behaviors. Unfortunately, most of the behaviors need to be addressed within relationships, the positive, loving, empathetic, understanding relationships with the adults who are in the life of a child. Extensive training to become foster parents includes of course the need to understand where children come from and the challenges that they experience in the homes of the bio family. What is often NOT underscored is how these experiences affect a child…their very brains and bodies. And effects on the brain are effects on emotions, learning, decision making etc. And traditional parenting techniques do NOT serve as any kind of road map to successfully parent a child who comes from the hard places of trauma. And the other piece that traditional parenting techniques do not address is the effect of one’s own histories so often, unwittingly effect our ability to parent children who come from trauma because we unknowingly react when we are triggered from our own histories.

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