Helping fostered children adapt to new care situations

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For children in a foster care situation, it can be hard to easily adapt to new care situations. Fostered children have often witnessed or experienced traumatic situations or chronic neglect and often show severe anxiety in their new circumstances. Here are some of the signs to look for, as well as some of the ways you can look to address this anxiety. 

Severe seperation anxiety

Some children who fear being abandoned again will show a strong attachment to their new caregivers to the point where it can be hard on other relationships in the family unit. Plan with the foster child for a gradual and stepped down response, where they might spend the first week sharing a bed with their primary care givers, the next few weeks in a mattress in the room and slowly move to another room for sleep. Allow the child to keep some comfort items to remind them of your love and attention continuing even when you are not physically present.

Aggression

If your child is used to only getting attention for negative behaviour, they may act out through violence and aggression to get attention. Underlying this action is often concern that you won't notice or care about them without these actions. It's important not to overreact to these incidents in the first instance, but use a calm and consistent response to discipline without resorting to physical punishment or withdrawing affection. Instead, withdraw privileges such as time on electronic devices as a punishment, and continually reinforce the rules within the context of your home being a safe and loving place for everyone.

Seeming disregard

Some children, especially those who've spent a lot of time in the foster system, struggle to bond with new carers and can seem disengaged. This is a safety mechanism they develop to avoid being saddened when they leave a home. Remember that your job in the short term is both to keep them safe and to model a family environment. For a very anxious child, even the chance to observe healthy family interactions and even if they don't feel comfortable participating, it is still a useful part of their fostering experience.

If you are a fostering kids with anxiety and find they have troubling settling in your home after a long period of time, it can be useful to access some counselling for your foster child, so that they can work through any underlying concerns or issues.

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