Suicide Prevention Among Foster and Transitional Foster Youth

Without question, suicide leaves a community mourning, grief-stricken, and devastated. Nothing can account for the loss of life and potential suicide leaves the family, friends, and greater community to deal with in the aftermath. As we work to raise awareness for suicide prevention this month, we’d like to highlight the increase danger foster youth face. We can only work to prevent suicide amongst foster youth by acknowledging their increased risk, as well as teaching prevention methods to foster caregivers, professionals, and our greater community.

Foster Youth & Suicide Statistics

  • Foster care teens were nearly 2.5 times more likely to seriously consider suicide than their peers
  • Foster care teens were nearly four times more likely than their peers to attempt suicide
  • Childhood abuse or trauma increases the risk of attempted suicide by 2-to-5 times
  • Two thirds of suicide attempts may have direct correlation to abusive and traumatic childhood experiences
  • A study of 8-year-olds treated for or at risk for maltreatment found 10% reported thoughts of suicide

Studies show that foster youth experience a higher incidence of PTSD than combat veterans, so it is easy to see why the same youth are 3 to 5 times more likely to die by suicide than their peers. Suicide ideation is often the result of sustained trauma, depression, and other mental illnesses, which studies routinely show plague our foster youth before they enter long-term foster care. These disheartening statistics do not apply solely to current foster youth, as studies also show transitional foster youth are more than twice as likely to suffer from suicide as their peers. These statistics do not have to plague or foster youth. It may be impossible for us to change their past, but our actions can directly impact, and reshape their future.

The first step in preventing suicide in foster care youth is learning how to identifying youth in danger, and becoming aware and informed of the warning signs. Sadly, many youth in foster care experience a multitude of risk factors that increase their likelihood of engaging in suicidal behavior.

Suicide Risk-Factors Among Youth

  • Mentally ill including substance-abusing parents
  • Domestic violence
  • Social isolation
  • Childhood trauma
  • Repeated, unmitigated trauma
  • Un-treated mental illness and substance abuse (in teens)
  • Abuse and neglect
  • Family conflict and dysfunction
  • Violence and victimization
  • Bullying
  • Poor coping skills
  • Family history of suicide
  • Exposure to suicide and suicide attempt
  • Firearms availability
  • Self-injury and/or prior suicide attempts

To combat these risk factors, caregivers, foster parents, and professionals should work to establish protective factors in at-risk foster and transitional foster youth. A lack of access to help and support further isolates foster youth, and continues to create challenges for the youth’s emotional healing. Through providing these protective factors, and advocating and supporting measures that provide services that build protective factors, families and caregivers can help reduce or mitigate some of the risk factors our foster youth face.

Protective Factors Against Suicide in At-Risk Youth

  • Promote psychological and emotional well-being and health
  • Create family connectedness
  • Create a safe school that promotes school connectedness
  • Build self-esteem
  • Become a caring, and trusting adult
  • Help build academic achievement
  • Create connectedness, support, and open communication with parents (or a trusting adult)
  • Teach coping skills
  • Physical activity and sports
  • Reduce access to alcohol, medications, drugs, and firearms

It is imperative that current and former foster youth receive trauma-focused therapy that teaches the youth positive ways to react to stress and manage emotional and traumatic triggers. As a part of ongoing support and advocating for the foster youth, foster parents can attend mental health visits, and continue to talk with the youth about their positive steps towards healing. This continued support acts as a protective factor in the youth’s life.

Here at Walden, we provide current and transitional youth trauma-informed therapy to help them heal. We holistically engage their caretakers in ongoing support and education to foster healing, and work hard to build a network of caregivers and adults committed to our youth’s success. We encourage you to join us, by helping to spread awareness and supporting our foster youth.

Supporting Foster Youth in Education

As we embark upon a new school year with children and youth eagerly donning new backpacks of their favorite characters and colors, we must take time to consider foster youth and their educational journeys. Studies show that foster youth are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to reaching educational goals and success equal to their peers. Whether it is their high incidence of PTSD due to early childhood trauma, or their lower chances of completing high school and moving on to higher education compared to their peers, our foster children and youth need our help in reaching academic success.

We must make sure foster children and youth do not fall through the gaps and cracks in education by implementing preventative and proactive measures that help our educators, administrators, and the educational paraprofessionals serving our youth. We’d like to share a few time-proven strategies teachers and administrators can implement to help foster children and youth succeed this school year, and beyond.

5 Ways Educators and Administrators Can Support Foster Youth

  1. Understand Their Life. Like people, all children do not have the same life experiences. For children and teens in foster care we must begin by understanding the often disruptive experiences they have endured. Most children in foster care have experienced trauma, including neglect and abuse, and have been taken away from their home because of a lack of safety, and physical and mental abuse. Knowing this helps teachers and administrators better understand a child’s distracted, detached, or even angry reaction towards school or adults.
  2. Know Their History. The first step towards understanding is becoming acquainted with the child’s unique history and background. Do not assume to know why the child was placed in foster care, but instead work hard at learning and understanding the circumstances that led to the child’s placement. This is best accomplished by meeting with the child’s social worker, mental health professional, and foster parent. In this meeting the child’s educational team can learn the specific traumas and ensuing triggers the child is healing from, so they can help support the child’s healing by providing a safe, and welcoming environment.
  3. Advocate for the Child. One of the greatest needs of foster children are advocates to champion their success and continued growth and healing. Having a teacher or administrator work on their behalf as an advocate does a myriad of good in helping the child succeed and rebuild their life. First, educational advocates ensure the best decisions are made regarding the child’s future. Second, when a child sees adults advocating on their behalf it helps them regain trust in adults, something often broken through their traumatic experience. Finally, it is important for the holistic care and success of the child to have adults vested in their interest at all levels of their care.
  4. Foster Consistency and Stability. There are many reasons why foster youth struggle to finish high school at rates equal to their peers, but one of the main reasons is a lack of consistency and stability. Help foster children and youth by helping to removing barriers to regular school attendance, help foster children create a community that will support them, and be one of many relationships that grow with the child as they grow. By providing support with attendance, community, and relationship-building you help will foster children create a new identity built on a supportive community.
  5. Give Them Hope. When a child lacks hope it is hard for them to imagine a future of success. Foster children are often voiceless victims of neglect and abuse that makes them feel powerless over their lives. While they may not be able to change their past, encourage foster youth to see their future is in their hands and within their control. The best way to help foster youth is to mentor them, and help them gain and learn independent life and living skills, as well as encourage them to seek higher education and gain employable skills. For younger foster children, encourage and support their participation in arts, sports, music, and school clubs that will allow them to build meaningful relationship around similar interests with peers, and boost their self-confidence and esteem.

We know all foster children and youth have enormous potential for healing and growth. Their success is guaranteed when they are surrounded by a team of educators and educational leaders who are not only committed to their well-being, but are also equipped with ways to support their growth.

Pets + Youth: The Case for Bringing Pets into Foster Youths’ Lives

Old Yeller. Lassie. Toto. Benji. Pet the Pup. Comet. What do all these pups have in common? They are famous childhood pets from some of our fondest movies, literature, and television shows. The image of a child and dog is a common, popular one, but have you ever wondered why? Recent studies have proven what animal lovers have long known as truth—the unwavering love, companionship, and presence of a pet provides tremendous psychological and physical benefits for children. Here at Walden, we couldn’t think of a better pair than a foster child, former foster youth, or adoptive child and a pet. In fact, children and youth recovering from trauma benefit greatly from emotional support or service animals in their journey towards healing.

We’ve extensively discussed the emotional healing foster and former foster youth must undergo to combat a past of trauma, abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect. One great therapeutic approach to helping children heal is to provide them with emotional support animals. These pets, whether dogs, cats, turtles, or birds, offer support and unwavering love that becomes a lifeline to children recovering from PTSD, anxiety, depression or other emotionally stressful conditions.

How do pets help foster children heal?

Current and former foster youth who have suffered from trauma often have a difficult time building and establishing trust, which often leads to further challenges in developing and maintaining loving, supportive relationships. Their past traumas often lead to difficulties in letting emotional guards down, and an inability to trust unconditional love offered by someone else, especially an adult. As a result, a number of these youths develop anxiety and depression, which adds more layers of stressful conditions to overcome.

With a pet these children are able to experience unconditional love, support, and companionship that allows them to rebuild and regain trust by forming a healthy and loving relationship. This child-pet relationship serves as a foundational learning and healing experience that children can build on and grow from in other relationships.

In addition to allowing foster and former foster youth to experience unconditional love and companionship, pets have been shown to increase oxytocin levels. Oxytocin helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety by slowing down a person’s heart rate, lowering their blood pressure, and helping to block their production of stress hormones. Youth who have routinely been plagued with incidences of trauma and abuse have often been placed in environments that have increased their fight or flight stress hormones levels, forcing them to continually live with raised heart rates and blood pressure. Essentially, these youths’ bodies have existed for prolonged periods at heightened survival stress levels. Oxytocin helps them experience more feelings of peace and calm, increasing their capacity to feel happiness and joy, and allowing them to reset their bodies’ stress levels.

Experiencing companionship and increased feelings of joy isn’t all pets provide current and former foster youth. Pets also help children work through painful feelings of anger, resentment, unworthiness, apathy, and anxiety. Children who have the opportunity to care for an animal that is vulnerable and dependent on them are given the chance to experience and witness positive emotions and reactions from the animal, as well as view themselves as a caretaker. In a sense, great pets model great behavior to children while also teaching them kindness and service. Instead of anger and rage pets often display love and playfulness to their owner. Resentment is replaced by immense gratitude, as animals are almost always happy to shower affection onto their caretakers. Feelings of unworthiness, apathy, and anxiety are replaced by displays of companionship, feelings of purpose, and increased moods of joy and calmness.

At Walden we champion therapeutic ways to help our children and youth heal. We often state it only takes one adult to change the life of a child forever, but we also know pets and animals can have the same lasting and meaning impact. We look forward to continuing to share relevant ways to incorporate and honor the many ways pets and animals help current and former foster youth heal and recover from trauma, abuse, PTSD, and neglect. Join us in celebrating these meaning child and pet bonds.

To read more about the plight current and former foster youth face in healing, please see our past articles:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Foster Youth

The 18th Year: Challenges for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

 

 

The Dog Days of Summer

Boy with dog

Many families with children own a pet. Animals are great for kids—and kids are great for animals. They mutually benefit from having an in-home playmate. But pets can be downright healing for children and youth in foster care.

Removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect, SoCal’s 35,000 foster youth are often recovering from trauma. As a result, trusting people and forming supportive attachments can be especially difficult for children and youth in foster care.

The great news is that research has shown that foster kids who have the opportunity to enjoy the comforting contact and affection of a pet can then more easily form trusting relationships with other people. Forming trusting relationships—a skill we all need for good cognitive health and social well-being—is a key milestone in overcoming the effects of trauma. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion and empathy. For these reasons many foster care and adoptive families consider getting a therapy or emotional supportpet.

So let’s appreciate our animal friends, and remember that there are vulnerable children in need of their love and support.

 #Superhero: 10 Ways to be a Foster Child’s Hero

Does your idea of a superhero wear a cape, primary colors, a big letter on their chest, and a mask? Maybe your superhero can fly, or has some heightened sense or ability that allows them to come to the need of others and save the day. We love a good superhero story complete with magical powers, a captured villain, and of course, a happily ever after ending, but we’ve discovered something—Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, the greatest superpower is the ability to see and care for others in need. Our foster children and youth need everyday heroes doing everyday things to make their days brighter. Read on for free, hands-on and everyday ways to be a foster child’s hero. Remember, you don’t have to foster a child to make a difference and change their life.

10 Ways to be a Foster Child’s Hero

  1. Be a cheerleader/cheer them on. A great way to encourage and support a foster child is to attend their school activities, plays, sporting events, etc.
  2. Share a ride. Help transport a foster child to school, extra-curricular activities, visitation meetings, or consider ride sharing/carpooling with a foster parent.
  3. Be a tutor, chaperone, or proofreader. Offer to help a grade school foster child, or former foster youth attending college by offering to tutor, proofread, help with homework, or chaperone an outing.
  4. Teach a foster youth to drive. If you know a current or former foster youth who isn’t driving, help them learn to drive, which is a valuable independent living skill.
  5. Be a library and reading buddy. Take a foster child to the library, and offer to read to a foster child.
  6. Teach a hobby. Offer to teach a foster child how to play an instrument, paint, or some other creative craft.
  7. Provide lodging to a former foster youth during college holidays and summer breaks.
  8. Mentor or provide apprenticeship to former foster youth in your professional field.
  9. Teach interviewing and resume building skills. Help a former foster youth prepare for the job market by teaching them interviewing skills and reviewing their resumes.
  10. Invite a foster child or youth to a sporting event, neighborhood game, or another free community event.

It only takes one adult to change the life a child forever. You can be that one caring adult that makes a difference. For more ways to support foster children and youth, please see our website.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

San Diego Pride Parade: Why We March for LGBTQ Equality

For years Walden staff has joined the LGBTQ community to march in the San Diego Pride Parade. Along with our family and friends we wear rainbow tutus, faces, capes and the brightest ‘Walden pink’ t-shirts and hats we can find. Although we love the atmosphere of love and community, we are marching for more than fun. We march to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community because we know the message of Pride, equality and freedom, is still not guaranteed for all, especially for our LGBTQ youth.

Recent reports confirm what we have witnessed in our own homeless youth population—LGBTQ youth are at a greater disadvantage to suffer from homelessness, suicide attempts, and drug abuse as their straight and cis gendered peers, and when they are in these most fragile states, they are also more likely to be sexually victimized and physically harmed. Although LGBT youth comprise less than 10 percent of the youth population, studies show they comprise up to 40 percent of the homeless youth population.

  • We march because LGBT youth are 120 percent more likely to be homeless than their straight and cis gendered peers.
  • We march because LGBT youth are more than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide as their straight and cis gendered peers.
  • We march because LGBT youth are at greater risk to be sexually victimized, struggle with mental and physical health issues, and three times as likely to use illegal drugs as their straight or cis gendered peers.

We march for Pride because we know the peril our LGBTQ youth face, and we believe all children, like all people, deserve to be safe.

When anyone enters homelessness a cycle of disadvantaging consequences begin; however, these consequences for LGBTQ youth are often life-threatening—their physical and mental health declines sharply, they are less likely to secure long-term education, and they are at greater risk for suffering from sexual abuse and exploitation, along with drug and alcohol abuse. Added to these risks is the combined social stigma and discrimination of being homeless and LGBTQ identifying. The combination of these consequences set LGBTQ youth up for lifetime difficulties in the job market, financial instability, less long term educational success, and a diminished life expectancy.

This does not have to happen. Yet, because there is little funding at federal, state, and local levels to specifically target and support LGBTQ youth and the unique dangers they face, it does.

When we join our LGBTQ brothers and sisters to march in Pride, we are affirming the value of the LGBT community, and working in solidarity for their future.

Pride marches combat shame.

Pride marches redefine worth.

Pride marches create safe, welcoming communities.

Pride marches champion equality and standing against discrimination.

Pride marches raise awareness for the housing, employment and marriage inequality the LGBTQ community faces.

Pride marches honor the lives of LGBTQ people killed or violently harmed because of their sexuality, and says Enough!

Pride marches create community for people who don’t have the daily privilege to openly be themselves.

Pride marches are not for us to look for opportunities to wave rainbow flags, wear colorful clothes, and party with strangers, though these are part of the fun of participating in Pride marches. Pride marches are to create solidarity for those amongst us struggling and suffering. Whether we join and march alongside LGTBTQ as identifying or allies, we are holding space to affirm value, and we are marching to empower the LGBTQ community to remain proud of their identity and continue working towards progress for equality.

Supporting Teen Independence: Tools and tips to empower youth

 

As children mature into adolescents, parents and caregivers must also adapt, shift, and grow into a new role: life skills and independence coach. There are few young adults who reach adulthood without an adult intentionally guiding, teaching, and mentoring them, ensuring they have the life skills necessary to become successful adults. When practiced, teen independence builds confidence, creates self-assurance, and helps teens grow into self-sufficient and independent adults.

Adult independence is best defined and understood by looking at the four major kinds of independence that contribute to self-sufficiency. As with all people, teenagers mature at differing rates, creating a broad spectrum of readiness and ability to begin practicing independence. As a parent, caregiver, or mentor of an adolescent learning independence, help them by building on the skills they already possess, while slowly introducing them to newer and more advanced skills. By meeting your teen where they are at, you set them up for early success that builds confidence, which further promotes self-awareness and self-sufficiency.

4 Types of Independence

Domestic Independence

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • House chores

Time Management/Awareness

  • Managing time to complete tasks; scheduling tasks
  • Study skills
  • Short/long term goal setting

Relationship Intelligence

  • Appropriate social skills
  • Building healthy relationships
  • Confidence with and around different people/situations
  • Creating healthy boundaries in relationships

Self-Awareness/Self-Help

  • Self-care, including hygiene and mental/physical health
  • Protecting self in public
  • Ability to cope with emotions (boredom, loneliness, anger, frustration, love, grief)
  • Building resourcefulness

In addition to these differing types of independence, teens and young adults need to learn the following life skills that help them become contributing citizens:

Accountability: The awareness to connect choices to their likely consequences, and the ability to cope with and recover from errors in judgment. Also includes the ability to learn from mistakes and successes, so mistakes aren’t repeated, while successes are built upon.

Responsibility: The ability to take care of responsibilities at work, school, and home, often with little to now prompting. The awareness of what needs to be done, and the confidence to take on tasks as needed.

Decision Making: The ability to identify and solve problems using rational thinking, listening, and developing an ability to prioritize and balance wants and needs.

Work Ethic: An appreciation and understanding of the need to invest time and labor into gaining something desired. The willingness and ability to work long and short term for things wanted and needed.

One of the most effective ways of helping a teen learn independence is placing a mentor in their lives. These mentors help them wade through impulsive, emotional decisions, provide guidance and leadership, and surround them with adults they can trust and model positive behaviors after. If you are a parent struggling with teaching your teen independence, consider helping your teen find a mentor. If you have been placed in a mentoring role with a teen, consider it a great opportunity to empower and invest in the next generation.

12 Ways to Support Teen Independence

  1. Provide autonomy. Give your teen a chance to make decision on their own, within boundaries. Be present to help them recover from mistakes, yet allow them to experience the consequences of their actions.
  2. Model healthy adulthood. Allow your teen to see you make positive decisions, as well as practice responsibility and accountability. This includes modeling self-care, healthy living habits, healthy relationships, strong work ethic, and trusting behavior patterns.
  3. Talk with mutual respect. Show your teen respect in the way you talk with them. Make sure that you practice listening to their ideas, validating their decisions, and allowing them to express their opinions without judgement or ridicule.
  4. Be a curator, not an overseer. Remember, do not engage in a power struggle with your teen. Set strict boundaries, and yet be willing to give up power on things that doesn’t compromise your teen’s safety, as well as your joint morals.
  5. Teach your teen how to be a good friend. A big part of being a great citizen and establishing healthy relationships is understanding how to be a caring friend. Make sure to teach your teen how to care for relationships with others.
  6. Talk money young, and often. Make sure to teach your teen financial literacy and how to make wise money decisions. Get them in the habit of managing small amounts of money, so they can grow into a financially literate adult.
  7. Teach emergency preparedness. Make sure your teen knows how to react and who to contact in the face of an emergency. Stress the importance of a level head, reacting without panic, and basic emergency skills like how to deal with minor injuries, small grease fires, natural disasters, and minor car accidents. Make sure they always know who to call for help.
  8. Teach your teen how to be emotionally levelheaded. Part of surviving in the world is learning how to react emotionally in a varied number of situations. Make sure your teen knows how to regulate their emotions, particularly anger, grief, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness. Make sure to teach your teen about healthy mental health, and how to seek help early.
  9. Teach trust and boundaries. To help set your teen up for a life of healthy relationships, teach them how to build trust in others, as well as how to set, enforce, and observe their’s as well as other’s boundaries.
  10. Support location/transportation Intelligence. Make sure your teen knows how to travel alone, whether through a city, a state, or abroad. This includes teaching them how to read maps, understand directions, knowing local landmarks, and understanding how local transit operates.
  11. Show interest. Express genuine interest in things or people your teen are interested in. This includes getting to know their friends, understanding their hobbies, being familiar with “pop” culture or the culture they are invested in, and showing genuine support in their life.
  12. Give them space and privacy. Allow your teen to experience space and privacy to develop a sense of self. Make sure to include them in family and group outings, but always give them the freedom to be alone as needed.

Finally, the greatest way to help a teen grow into a self-sufficient and successful adult is to give them ample love and encouragement from an adult they an trust. Always look for ways to be a loving and caring adult to the teens in your sphere of influence. It only takes one adult to alter the life of a youth forever.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Foster Youth

For decades the picture of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been a U.S. war veteran, fighting bravely on behalf of our country. Through public awareness campaigns and public service announcements we have collectively learned to associate PTSD with the brave fight of our soldiers. We recognize the symptoms—flashbacks, jittery nerves, withdrawn or depressed behavior, chemical dependency, an ongoing experience of negative feelings—and actively champion causes to help our military heroes recover. We want you to know there is another silent epidemic of PTSD amongst us: Former foster children are nearly two times as likely to experience PTSD as U.S. war veterans.

Sit with that statistic for a minute, and consider the thousands of current and former foster children suffering with PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that effects survivors of life-threatening events. These events can surely include combat, but also include incidences of abuse, witnessing or experiencing violence, and separation from primary caregivers in children. While it is normal for everyone to experience life-changing events that disrupt the quality of everyday life, those who are in prolonged or severe life-threatening situations have a higher incidence of PTSD and require help recovering.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD is a broad umbrella for four different types of symptoms, with each symptom or any combination of these symptoms occurring on a spectrum particular to the individual. It is important to remember that each PTSD diagnoses is uniquely individual to each person’s combination of experiences and personal temperament.

  1. Reliving/Re-experiencing. Those experiencing this symptom will relive or re-experience the incident repeatedly, often having bad memories and/or nightmares. They have “flashbacks” that make them feel like they are undergoing the experience again.
  2. Avoidance behaviors. Individual with this symptom will work hard to avoid people, situations, or memories that trigger or recall the traumatic event. This can range from refusing to talk or think about the event, to avoiding similar situations and people that resemble the traumatic experience.
  3. Ongoing negative beliefs and feelings. It is not uncommon for a PTSD sufferer to have a shift in their thinking about themselves and/or others as a result of their trauma experience. This could involve feelings of guilt, shame, anger, resentment, or can be a shift away from activities that once brought joy. Other common emotions are numbness, inability to experience happiness, or a persuasive feeling that the world is dangerous and distrustful.
  4. Hyperarousal/Hypersensitivity. Those suffering from PTSD often feel amped or keyed up. They may experience more jittery nerves as they are often acutely aware of danger. This leads to difficulty concentrating, sleeping, and finding it hard to rest and relax.

Children Experiencing PTSD

As children age, their PTSD symptoms mimic adults, but children generally display PTSD symptoms according to their age. Here are PTSD symptoms observed in children:

  • Under 6: Children under the age of 6 will often have issues sleeping, and will need their caretakers close for comfort. It is important to recognize these symptoms as PTSD and not “clinging” behavior. These children also act out their traumas through play.
  • Ages 7 to 11: School age children continue to act out their trauma through play, but also may draw pictures or tell stories that feature their trauma. These children can suffer from nightmares, or may begin to act overly aggressive and irritable. In addition, they may have trouble with schoolwork and friends.
  • Ages 12 to 18: Pre-teen and teenage youth display symptoms similar to adults. They can experience depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or exhibit reckless behavior such as substance abuse, promiscuity, or running away.

Raising awareness of the challenges our current and former foster youth experience helps us to overcome the difficult road these children encounter in gaining self-sufficiency and success later in life. Recent studies show former foster youth are less likely to complete post-secondary education, and generally are under or un-employed compared to their peers. These lower success rates are directly connected to the higher mental health crises current and former foster youth experience. Issues such as depression, social phobia, panic or anxiety syndromes, as well as higher incidences of drug abuse, incarceration, or teenage pregnancy are common barriers that keep these youth stuck in cycles of stress and challenges.

What Can You Do?

We say it constantly: The power of one caring adult can change the life and direction of a youth forever. After 42 years of working with foster care children and families, Walden has seen first-hand how the right action, and the right people can alter a child’s future.

Like adults, children with post-traumatic stress syndrome can and will heal—with help. Among the many different treatments available, we are strong champions of holistic, wrap-around services that engage our youth and their families’ mental health needs, as well as meeting their other health and physical needs. Walden’s therapeutic foster care program shows that healing is possible through nurturing and targeted services. Here are ways you can help current and former foster youth:

Raise Awareness

  • Reading and sharing articles that highlight the challenges current and former foster youth face helps by supporting organizations committed to helping children heal.
  • Know the warning signs, and act. If you see something, say something.
  • Understand treatment options. There are many ways of treating PTSD in children, including counseling therapy and medication. Knowing there are pathways towards healing raises hope.
  • Reduce the stigma. The greatest barrier of children and adults facing mental health illnesses is the stigma often attached to care. Help dismantle stigmas by sharing, talking, and providing support to those in need.

Be a Foster Youth Champion

  • Support organizations committed to helping foster children find loving homes and healing. Often, these nonprofit organizations can benefit greatly from regular monetary donations, big or small.
  • Volunteer your time and resources. Can you volunteer, or give a foster youth a job? Think about resources you have that can help a foster youth gain independence, and offer your support.
  • Educate and teach. Educate yourself on legislation affecting foster youth and teach your peers. Most people do not act out of a lack of information, not from a lack of caring.
  • Be a foster youth and children’s advocate locally and nationally.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be overcome. For our youth is takes one caring adult to change the path and alter the life of a child forever. We have seen it hundreds of times, and will work tirelessly to ensure all children have a loving home and family. Join us.

To read more about current legislation affecting foster youth, please visit our Newsroom.

To learn more about how Walden supports former foster youth, please visit our Transitional Housing Placement program page.

To learn more about our therapeutic foster care program, please visit our Foster Care program  page,

To learn more about the challenges former foster youth face, please read see our previous posts:

The 18th Year: Challenges for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

Actions of Impact: How to Help Former Foster Youth Aging Out of Care

To offer financial support, please visit our donate page.