National Foster Care Month is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau that seeks to increase national awareness of foster care issues. Southern Christian Services is joining in the effort to raise awareness for this year’s theme: “Strengthening Minds. Uplifting Families”. According to the Children’s Bureau, there are more than 390,000 children and youth in the foster care system nationwide. 80% of those children and youth are experiencing significant mental health issues. This is four times higher than children in the general population.
There are two primary contributing factors to the development of a child’s mental health. The first is biology. A large majority of children served in the child welfare system are predisposed to mental health challenges at birth solely based on genetics being passed down to them from their
biological family. The second contributing factor is environment. Children that enter the foster care system have been exposed to a wide range of adverse experiences such as substance abuse, deplorable living environments, and abuse by the hands of those tasked with caring for them. Studies conducted by the CDC show that adverse childhood experiences increase the likelihood of a child developing long term emotional, physical, and behavioral health issues as they age.
While the odds seem stacked against our children, there is hope for healing. Research shows that the brain of a traumatized child can be healed through positive experiences. It is through repeated positive, safe, and loving experiences created in connected relationships that a traumatized child can truly heal from the adversity they have experienced. Despite the hope offered for healing, mental and behavioral health continue to be one of largest unmet health needs for children and youth in the foster care system today.
Considering these facts, Southern Christian Services is committed to meeting those needs by providing safe places for our MS foster children. One way we do this is through our therapeutic foster care program. This program utilizes a community-based and trauma informed approach to caring for children and youth with mental, emotional, and behavioral challenges in the least restrictive environment possible. The program utilizes a “team” approach by directly engaging the therapeutic foster parents and foster children in the healing process. It is critical for everyone’s voice to be heard and valued in this process. By working alongside our therapeutic foster parents, we are able to provide our parents with practical tools and insights to help our MS foster children reach their fullest potential and heal from the trauma they have experienced. In addition to providing targeted support to our foster parents, we also ensure every child has access to qualified mental health therapists who specialize in treating trauma.
As an agency, we envision a community where every child has a safe place to call home and the opportunity to thrive. You can help give our MS foster children that opportunity by becoming a licensed therapeutic foster parent. To learn more about how you can change a Mississippi child’s life forever by visiting our website www.scscy.org/therapeuticfostercare or call 601-354-0983.