In trauma-informed care, there are a couple of key principles that can help foster parents create strong, loving homes where their children can heal and grow:
It is important for the foster home to feel safe. Although physical safety must be prioritized, it is important for a child to feel mentally and emotionally safe. Foster children often arrive with trauma, mental health struggles, and brokenness that is both invisible to the eye and buried deep beneath layers of survival mechanisms. A trauma-informed approach aims to create an environment where the child feels safe enough to be themselves.
When providing trauma-informed care, it is important to build trust. Building trust looks like setting boundaries and remaining consistent. It is being open and honest and responding calmly to the variety of situations that will present themselves. Calmly responding communicates that you are in control of yourself and can be trusted with the information that they are sharing.
Building trust can also look like following through with your word, even in the little things, and avoiding absolute statements like “If you do that one more time”. When absolutes are used there is no wiggle room when a child calls your bluff. And, let’s be honest, most absolutes are bluffs.
Trauma-informed care works best when foster families allow choice in their homes. This does not mean that there is a choice in following rules designed to keep everyone safe, but age-appropriate choices are given. Age-appropriate choices help the child or youth feel less out of control and teach healthy boundaries and decision-making. At the heart of this principle is the desire to encourage children to grow and to feel empowered to make healthy choices for themselves.
The old saying goes that “it takes a village to raise a child”. This is especially true in foster care. It takes a team. This means advocating for our children and youth in the foster care system with schools, counselors, doctors, social workers, and community resources to gain access to the best of the best treatment for the kids. This means advocating for our kids with our kids – fighting for them even when they’re fighting against us.
Empowerment happens when foster parents combine the principles of safety, trust, choice, and collaboration. When a caregiver practices these principles, they can help their children find healing from the neglect, abuse, and brokenness of the past. Empowerment is about encouraging our children to see themselves as God sees them-loved and victorious.
The principles of trauma-informed care are relationship-driven. It is all about working with your child to build trust and to create emotionally and physically safe environments. It is about reinforcing your role in their life, your love for them, and your belief in their ability to overcome. Hearing someone tell you that they are committed to you and love you is one of the most edifying and encouraging things anyone can hear. Allow your children to see that you value your relationship with them.
At Connections Homes, we connect young adults with loving mentoring families that will build relationships with them using these principles. We aim to bring young adults lifelong, stable relationships where they can find healing and feel valued, loved, and empowered.