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Child in Foster Care: Higher Risk of Undergoing Mental Health Problems

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Various researches over time have indicated that children under foster care are at a higher risk of undergoing mental health problems and emotional instability. The case in point is that of Jenni, a ten-year-old girl who has been in the foster care system since a very young age. When she was seven years old, she lost a foster carer to who she was very close. Following this, she lived with a number of different families before finally finding a permanent family who care for her. Although she seems to be comfortable with them at home, she is facing issues in school.

MAIN AREAS OF CONCERN:

As Jenni is a 10-year-old girl who has spent most of her life in foster care she may exhibit behavioral and mental health problems or is at a very high risk of developing such issues. Various researches have established that children under foster care are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, ADD, ADHD, and/or some form of learning disability (REF). It is also seen that the majority of children placed under foster care have undergone some form of trauma. Moreover, being put in foster care itself is a traumatic experience for a child. These children are at a higher risk of undergoing abuse both sexual and physical. Neglect and separation are forms of emotional abuse which are predominantly present in such situations. Exposure to complex trauma at such a young age does not only interfere with the child’s capability to develop secure attachments but has other dire consequences as well. Loss of core capacities for self-regulation and interpersonal relatedness is a by-product of such trauma. The self-esteem of children brought up in foster homes are also threatened by the unfortunate events witnessed by them, lack of constant support, and the feeling of abandonment. Children like Jenni are at the risk of experiencing additional trauma and cumulative impairment.

A number of children, such as Jenni, enter foster care at a very young age when brain development and growth are most operational and active. If the child has undergone prolonged neglect and is continuously influenced by a negative environment, it may have various adverse effects. They may then suffer from emotional, social, and cognitive impairment and their brain development too can be impaired. Further, their learning and coping processes are also very negatively affected.

Apart from this, at the age of seven, she lost her foster carer who she was very close. The death of a caregiver is considered to be one of the most stressful events that a child can experience and causes an immense amount of grief. Exposure to such an incident results in hindrance in the child’s daily functioning and increased risk of PTSD and depression. it further leads to losses such as peers, home, emotional stability, and self-esteem. After the death of her caregiver, Jenni was placed in various families. Studies suggest that children who are placed in multiple foster families undergo difficulties not only in trusting adults and peers but also in forming attachments and adjusting with them.

As mentioned above, children who are placed in different foster homes and/ or lost a caregiver often find it very hard to form attachments with their peers. This is probably the reason why Jenni has trouble making friends and is often found eating lunch alone. Further, Jenni claims that other girls in school are mean to her. Bullying presents special risks for vulnerable children such as Jenni who have spent most of their lives in foster care and are low on self-esteem and peer acceptance. Bullying leaves children feeling threatened, afraid, and intimidated. Due to this, such children showcase chronic absenteeism, reluctance to go to school, loneliness, increased apprehension, and decreased academic performance.

It is seen that Jenni is not being able to keep up with her academics. Research suggests that children raised in the foster system are one of the most educationally vulnerable populations in a school setting. They often display difficulties in a number of cognitive and psychosocial domains. It is seen that frequent changing in schools, breakdown in communication among key people, and low self-esteem in turn has a negative impact on the child’s academics.

IMPACT ON FUTURE DEVELOPMENT:

As discussed above, the client’s concerns revolve around her traumatic experiences in the foster system, the grief from losing her foster carer at the age of seven, her low self-esteem, distorted body image, her academic decline, and her difficulty to adjust in school. Without proper care and attention given to these issues and early interventions, the impact of these concerns could be devastating for Jenni’s future development. The impacts of these concerns if not treated on time are explained in detail in the paragraphs below.

Childhood trauma is an unfortunate experience that involves maltreatment, abuse, and neglect. Children like Jenni have experienced traumatic events since a very young age and therefore have a continued and increased susceptibility for further wounds from unstable environments; Thus further increasing their vulnerability. Studies suggest that exposure to such traumatic events at a young age can often be associated with the development of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The decline in cognitive functioning and poor everyday and social functioning in adulthood is also a common outcome.

Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have established that adverse experiences during childhood such as loss, neglect, and/or abuse are associated with a dramatic increase in the risk to develop depression. Moreover, the loss of a parental figure or a caretaker during childhood as seen in Jenni’s case also increases the chances of depression in adulthood. In a study conducted on 8667 adult members of an HMO in the San Diego area, it was reported that there is a strong correlation between the number and the intensity of childhood adversities experienced and depression in adulthood. Depression is known to be one of the most disabling and debilitating mental conditions. When an individual is depressed he/she is not able to function in their full capacity, thus resulting in problems within their occupation and interpersonal relationships. Studies suggest that depression can have an insidious onset and can initiate and encourage subsequent life stresses.

As mentioned above, PTSD is a common outcome of childhood trauma. It has a grave effect on the individual as it causes reoccurring thoughts about the traumatic incident, flashbacks, nightmares, and chronic anxiety. It has a negative effect on the child’s ability to cope with new stressors and hinders their emotional and social development . The co-occurrence of childhood trauma and psychological disorders is associated with higher chances of suicide attempts and/or drug abuse.

Cognitive deterioration is very commonly found to be associated with anxiety and depression symptoms in a person. Moreover, poor cognitive functioning in specific domains such as verbal memory, attention, and working memory is found in adults who have undergone complex childhood trauma. Lower IQ scores, as well as sub-syndromal symptoms, are found to be associated with higher rates and severity of childhood trauma. This further has a negating effect on their further education and career.

Identity development is a continuous process that begins early in life. It highly depends on the individual’s social environment which includes family member and peers along with the past events that he/she have experienced. Development of identity is gravely affected by one sudden separation from parents and the death of a parental figure as the child begins to feel abandoned and out of place. As Jenni has undergone her share of traumatic experiences since a very young age, her path to a healthy self-image can be threatened. According to Geiser, poor self-concept is a very common and widespread phenomenon among children in foster care.

Furthermore, Jenni seems to be conscious about her body as she is physically more developed than other children her age. This clearly has the potential to have a negative effect on her self-esteem. Such issues relating to body image can further lead to body image dissatisfaction and body dysmorphia. It is also seen that Jenni is bullied in school. Bullying is another major contributor to poor self-esteem and self-image. Low self-esteem can further lead to depression, anxiety, poor decision-making and coping skills, self-doubt, loneliness, and insecurity. Rosenberg suggested that an individual’s sense of self impacts their social interactions. How one perceives himself or herself is extended to the individual relationships they share with others.

Children who have been neglected, abused, and/or been have been subjected to bullying are at serious risk of not being able to form healthy relationships. Such children often develop attachment disorders and are unable to foster love and trust. They end up venting their frustration, pain, and anger on society. When children outgrow the foster care system, they often find themselves with little or no financial, medical, and/or social support. They find it extremely challenging to function in their own capacity, productively and efficiently in society. Many of them end up feeling lonely and insecure as they grow up. 

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Child In Foster Care: Higher Risk Of Undergoing Mental Health Problems. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 16, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/child-in-foster-care-higher-risk-of-undergoing-mental-health-problems/
“Child In Foster Care: Higher Risk Of Undergoing Mental Health Problems.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/child-in-foster-care-higher-risk-of-undergoing-mental-health-problems/
Child In Foster Care: Higher Risk Of Undergoing Mental Health Problems. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/child-in-foster-care-higher-risk-of-undergoing-mental-health-problems/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
Child In Foster Care: Higher Risk Of Undergoing Mental Health Problems [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2022 May 16]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/child-in-foster-care-higher-risk-of-undergoing-mental-health-problems/
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