Children in the foster care system already have a difficult time adjusting to their new setting. This is especially true if they do not feel they are welcomed into their new school environment or find themselves experiencing new levels of trauma in what should be a “safe place”. It is important to understand that not every child who is in foster care has experienced the same type of trauma and that specific trauma experiences can lead to difficult/hard to handle behaviors. This can lead them to be withdrawn in the classroom, defiant towards caregiver, and struggle academically.
Children in foster care have already suffered from the trauma that led them to be placed into the foster care system and what are schools doing to prevent more trauma from occurring in the schools? Fortunately, many schools are creating an atmosphere that allows foster children to feel safe and understood in their new school settings. Schools are beginning to encourage teachers to take trauma informed training, allowing them to have a better understanding of trauma-based behaviors and how this can affect the overall functioning of a child. It is important for teachers, and mandated reporters in general, to recognize the signs and symptoms of a child currently experiencing trauma or that has experienced a trauma in their past. Trauma can affect children in a variety of ways and it is important for a child to know that supportive adults are there for them. They need to know you will advocate for them in any way possible, allowing them to feel safe and comfortable with you in a world that has been so frightening at times.
One can become an advocate for a foster child who has experienced trauma in their school by:
- helping the child find counseling services to review their feelings towards the incident that occurred in the school
- providing the child with choices
- making an “out” plan if the child begins to experience unwanted feelings due to the trauma they have experienced or just in general
- Being their shoulder to cry on or someone that will listen when they are ready to discuss what happened to them
- Communicating with school counselor on the different behaviors a child may be exhibiting
- Allowing a child to know that they are safe with you and creating a safe environment for them in / outside of your home or classroom
- Communicating with social workers as well if you see a difference in their behavior
- Promoting trauma informed individualized programs in their school
- Understanding that the child may not have all of the answers for their behaviors or feelings but supporting them anyway
- Allowing for mental health days if a child does not feel comfortable going to school / needs time to think
- Letting them know that they are supported by you and others around them
- Allowing them to ease into a new environment and not pushing them out of their comfort zone
- Not sharing their experiences with others unless they give permission