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It is estimated that approximately 90 percent of children in foster care have experienced a traumatic event. Half of these children are estimated to have been exposed to four or more types of traumatic events. Every child walking into a new foster care home is experiencing the trauma of loss and grief in addition to the trauma of abuse, neglect, violence, or substance abuse that led them to this moment. Even a newborn baby is experiencing a loss as she is separated from the mother’s voice that she knows.

What is trauma? 

To be able to understand trauma-informed care and its importance, we must first understand the definition of trauma. Trauma is the result of being exposed to a terrible event or series of events. Trauma can rewire the brain, impact its stress response, inhibit proper brain functioning, and interfere with brain development. 

What is trauma-informed care?

Trauma-informed care is understanding how trauma impacts children’s lives, how it changes their needs, and how it impacts the services that they will require. This approach requires education and understanding of how trauma impacts someone physically, mentally, behaviorally, and socially. Trauma-informed care strives to help children cope with and overcome the impact of trauma on their life.  

The goals of trauma-informed care include helping children find healing from the trauma while working to improve their social, emotional, and mental health and trying to prevent re-traumatization. The important work of keeping a child physically safe is not the only goal of foster care when a trauma-informed care approach is introduced. In addition to the physical safety of a child, healing and well-being are prioritized and decisions regarding parenting approaches, services, and care are made while bearing in mind the traumatic experiences of the past in mind and hope for healing and improvement in the future. 

A trauma-informed approach is a mindset that does not just see a child with bad behavior or mental challenges but looks to the root of the behavior. As much as a foster parent may long for their safe home to be healing enough, a trauma-informed foster parent understands that children do not simply heal the moment they walk into a loving home. They will need someone willing to understand their past, utilize necessary services, and continue education on trauma and the resources available.  

Why is trauma-informed care important? 

Being trauma-informed is important because it recognizes that although trauma has an impact, there are ways to help them cope, to help them grow, and to help them thrive despite the difficulties that have occurred and the challenges that they face. The trauma-informed approach encourages foster parents to help their children find the right set of tools for success. They are no longer labeled as “unable to attach” because they were abused, but by working to address trauma and how it impacts them along with support, love, and the right care, the children in the foster care system can grow and find success. 

Hope with a Trauma-Informed Approach

Providing trauma-informed care encourages empathy and support while understanding how important it is to protect and love. We can set aside the phrases such as “bad kid” and look past the labels of mental illness and attachment disorders and behavioral challenges. Instead, we can embrace hope and help them understand that they are more than their challenges and their past-they are valued and worthy of a future. Trauma-informed care is important because it helps those foster parents offer the children hope that they can cope, grow, and overcome.