Thursday, April 20, 2006

Foster Children & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Researchers from Harvard Medical School & Casey Family Program researched adults who had been in foster care between 1988-1998, and found that they exhibited symptoms of PTSD at a rate twice that of Vietnam war veterans.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition in which victims of overwhelming and uncontrollable experiences are subsequently psychologically affected by feelings of:

- Intense fear
- Loss of safety
- Loss of control
- Helplessness
- Extreme vulnerability.

After having suffered a traumatic event, children believe that if they are hyper-vigilant, they will be able to recognize the warning signs and avoid future problems.

PTSD can mitigate into a “deer in headlights” response. Older children who have been repeatedly traumatized often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and automatically “freeze” when they feel anxious.

This behavior can be misinterpreted as defiant or oppositional behavior, rather than what it is – a learned, involuntary response to physical and mental abuse. Research demonstrates chemical and electrical evidence for this type of brain response pattern.

Additional Research
"Sexually and physically abused foster children and posttraumatic stress disorder." Department of Psychology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York 11549, USA. In this study, 3 groups of foster care children were compared. The groups included 50 sexually abused, 50 physically abused, and 50 nonabused foster care children. Results indicated that sexually and physically abused children demonstrated PTSD at a high level.

According to the National Center for PTSD: There are three factors that have been shown to increase the likelihood that children will develop PTSD:

1.) The severity of the traumatic event
2.) The parental reaction to the traumatic event
3.) The physical proximity to the traumatic event

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Lisa, you always post such great research. I once suffered from PTSD, and I did not know this info about foster kids and PTSD.
Do you consider advocating for children your career? If no, do you plan on making a career out of it?
Thanks for the encouragment. If I could afford to making child advocacy my full-time career, I certainly would.

As it is, I need to repay my student loans from graduate school and take care of the house payment.

So... I end up working as a children's librarian during the day, and advocating for foster children every chance I get. I try to do more research each day.

In some ways, I can accomplish both my work and my passion at the same time:

1.) Currently, my foster focus is on how foster care impacts child development

- and -

2.) At the library, I give many workshops and conference presentations on cognitive development and early literacy.

So, my library job can create some wonderful community contacts, and I can use my research in two venues.

Also -- and this is such a strange and funny thing -- when foster children visit the library, somehow they and I seem to find one another.

Case-in-point: I was working in the downtown branch of the library recently, and in came a group of teenagers.

Something about them seemed familiar. I had never met them, but it was just a sense I got. Did they seem like they have been "institutionalized?" Perhaps a tad bit insecure? Maybe that was it...

I approached the group and asked what I could do to help them find library materials. The teens talked with me for quite a while.

Turns out, they were from an institution for teens with drug problems... and the two teens that spent the most time talking with me were in foster care.

Wow. Love your blog. What a heart for kids you have. I taught special needs children for 11 years before having children of my own and staying home with them. I saw this trend of PTSD in the children who were in foster care and even in some who were in kincare though it was not acknowledged only written off as some "behavior problems". As long as there are adults who love children enough to do something about them and care for them, I still have hope in this world. Thanks for being one of those adults.
thank you for visiting my site and suggesting I visit yours. I definitely offer a lot of information here. I look forward to seeing how this progresses
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