Managing Foster Care Trauma in Infants

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Grilling up some bubbles at beach during our staycation.

We met our daughter when she was eight months old (she was in foster care). We were told that she had one rather large medical problem (that could be worked through with years of physical therapy) and a few social emotional issues that caused her to scream in public and have to be carried all the time, yes even when in the house.

None of the information was accurate. Our pediatrician thinks she was manifesting her unhappiness with the family she lived with before (we are her third family).

In adoption class, a social worker told us that it would take twice as long as the trauma to be able to navigate the trauma and behave differently. Since she experienced 8 months of trauma (more if you throw on whatever may have happened during the nine to ten months while she was baking) it will take her around 16 months to be able to behave differently. My plans was give her until her second birthday before I really expected her behaviors to change.

She surprises me every day.

Right now, she’s 20 months old and she’s so different from how she was when we met her. She’s amazing! She’s never had any physical challenges (with us) and her behavior was different from the moment she got her out of that house. This week, we had a staycation and went around visiting touristy places in our city. She’s been smiling and waving to people and wandering around. Strangers in public have ever referred to her as a happy baby! Last night she slept in her own bed all night. She plays with her cousins (running around the house screaming and laughing) and is like any other little kid.

I look at her now and I can’t imagine our lives without her. I’m glad that her record didn’t scare us off. The paperwork does not tell the whole story. Both our kids had some challenges on paper. Both of our kids are perfect. They are absolutely perfect. I’m thrilled every day that I get to help raise such wonderful beings.

Most kids in foster care have experienced trauma but it happened to them, it doesn’t define them. With someone to love on them (we use attachment parenting and gentle parenting) and support them these kids will blossom. Managing foster care trauma in infants is easy: just love them.

Foster Kids, Trauma and Pushing Through

As someone that spent a few years in foster care, I’m always interested to read about how kids in care are faring. Not every kid that’s in the foster care system is messed up. We are all in care for different reasons and have different levels of stress because of it. While reading an article on Huffington Post this stood out to me, “In fact, a 2005 study conducted by Casey Family Programs found rates of PTSD in young people formerly in foster care to be more than twice that of U.S. war veterans.”

The thing that stood out the most about this article was the insistence of the author that, “Even after significant trauma, the brain can indeed rewire itself — meaning that the physiological consequences of trauma can be reversed.” Isn’t that wonderful?! I know we’ve all read about horrible things suffered by children and thought, “Wow this kid has got to be pretty messed up” but there IS hope at the end of the tunnel.

Things to remember about adopting from foster care are:

#1 All kids have different backgrounds/experiences. Just because you had a kid with a similar experience before, worked with a kid that had a “parent like that” or saw a movie about a kid with the same issue … each situation is unique and each kid is going to respond to it in their own way.

#2 You don’t know how you’ll respond to a situation until you’re in it. It’s easy to sit back and say, “Oh. If it was me, I’d just ________” but you don’t really know until it IS you. You probably remember a time when holding hands or kissing seemed icky but now .. *wink, wink*. Don’t over think every little thing. You didn’t want a toddler until you fell in love with that smile. You would never want a drug-addicted newborn until you held them and they stopped crying and looked up at you with those eyes.

#3 Love is an action. Building, and growing, ,any relationship takes work. It’s not enough to tell someone that you love them you have to show them. Every day. Even when you wanna choke ’em. *smile* Every day is not going to be sunshine and unicorns and that’s life. Regardless of if you create a child from your loins or create a family from a foster care or adoption office your family will have times when you love each other and times when you hate each other. Love through it.

Aaaaahhh … the stress beauty of family.
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Free Online Courses About Trauma

I saw these free online classes from Child Trauma Academy having to do with trauma and I thought it might be helpful to share.

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The Amazing Human Brain and Human Development
Discover the hows and whys of the human brain, and gain a better understanding of brain functioning in maltreated children.
Surviving Childhood: An Introduction to the Impact of Trauma
Learn the physiological and psychological aspects of trauma, the effects of this trauma on our society, and how you can help.
The Cost of Caring: Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Impact of Working with High-Risk Children and Families
Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children