Trauma can affect children’s brains, bodies, behavior, and ways of thinking. It can also be treated!
All children in need of an adoption placement have been exposed to some form of trauma.
But many children in need of a permanent family have experienced more than one form of trauma or repeated trauma, the lasting effects of which should be acknowledged and understood by families considering foster care and adoption.
Trauma can affect children’s brains, bodies, behavior, and ways of thinking. Ongoing trauma often disrupts children’s sense of security, safety, and sense of themselves and alters the way they see and respond to people and situations in their lives. Approximately one in four children in foster care will show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Children who have experienced trauma—especially ongoing trauma—may have developed unhealthy habits and behaviors, including increased aggression (towards others or internalized towards self) and distrusting or disobeying adults. These behaviors may have helped protect the children from neglect or abuse in the past and may be strongly rooted. It will take time, patience, and often therapeutic support to address and overcome them.
As the Child Welfare Information Gateway fact sheet, Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma (495 KB PDF), states: “Parenting a child who has experienced trauma may require a shift from seeing a ‘bad kid’ to a kid who has had bad things happen to him.”
Experienced foster and adoptive parents have shared the following tips with us about supporting a child who has experienced trauma:
This article has been used with permission form AdoptUsKids.org