How Mental Health is Affecting Our Foster Youth.
Can you imagine the pain you would feel if your father gave you up for drugs or your mother told you that she wished she had aborted you? Have you ever been unable to sleep at night because your past was haunting you? According to the Children’s Bureau, in the United States there are approximately 500,000 children in the foster care system at any given time. Recent studies suggest that up to 80% of children in foster care have significant mental health issues. Factors contributing to the mental and behavioral health of children in foster care include; the history of complex trauma, frequently changing situations and transitions, broken family relationships, inconsistent and inadequate access to mental health services and the over-prescription of psychotropic medications. Unmet mental health needs for foster children can mean ongoing problems as youth in foster care enter adulthood. It is not surprising that a study from Casey’s Family Program shows that over 21% of foster care alumni suffer from PTSD. That’s a staggering rate – even higher than that of U.S. war veterans. The National Institute of Mental Health defines Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an anxiety disorder that may develop following an individual’s experiencing or witnessing of a traumatic event, where the natural “fight or flight” response is damaged or altered. Although no longer in danger, the individual may feel stress or intense fear following a situation in which they or another person experienced a threat to their life or incurred severe injury. Generally, the symptoms of PTSD can be divided into three categories: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms.
Our boys at GHH have a constant fear of losing housing due to the multiple placements they experienced while in the foster care system. Never feeling a sense of stability, fear of spending the holidays alone, constant reminders that they have no family support and the feeling of rejection, not understanding their purpose in life due to lack of positive affirmation or empowerment – all of these can cause a child to experience severe anxiety and distress. These kids desperately need love and support infused into their lives! It’s our duty as a nation to help them. Let’s make each youth feel that they are a cause for celebration and joy. We must demand justice and safety at every level for children, not only because it is their basic human right but because those who grow and learn in stable environments and with he protection of families ultimately create humane and thriving societies as adults. They are our future, and we have a responsibility to nurture a positive and healthy next generation. Genesis Hopeful Haven is tackling this need as we provide on-site mental health treatments twice a week through our partners at Our Kids. We also conduct thorough mental health assessments and screenings bi-yearly, and advocate on behalf of foster youth to increase accessibility and continuity of mental health. Our goal is to establish cross training for evidence-based practices among all systems involved in providing services.
We’re constantly working to expand our reach and help more kids in the foster system, but we would be nowhere without our partners! Do you have skills, services or funding that could help these kids succeed? We need your help! Join us and be a part of fostering new beginnings.