May is Foster Care Month in the United States – an observance of the families who nurture foster children and the nearly 400,000 youth who are in the foster system. Even in ideal circumstances, growing up in foster care can be challenging and adversely affect mental and behavioral health long into adulthood.
Foster Care and Trauma
Children in foster care face incredible hardships. The trauma of being removed from their biological family is only the beginning. Many bounce between different homes and schools, forcing them to adapt to constantly changing environments.
Though foster care aims to provide children with a safe and nurturing temporary home until they can reunite with their biological family or get adopted, entering the foster care system is an example of an adverse childhood experience. Often, authorities remove children from their biological home due to physical or emotional abuse, neglect or abandonment. Other reasons include having an incarcerated parent, a death in the family or the presence of an untreated substance use disorder. All these events can have severe mental health implications.
Mental and Behavioral Health Disorders Associated With Foster Care
Children who grow up in – and age out of – the foster care system become familiar with instability, grief and loss from a young age. The near-constant process of starting over can cause attachment disorders that affect their ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.
Without adequate support, these young people may have a hard time coming to terms with their situation, which can have long-term consequences such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation.
Often, children and adolescents who learn from an early age that the world is an unpredictable, unfriendly or dangerous place turn to drugs and alcohol because they have grown up lacking positive role models and examples of healthy coping behavior. As a result, they can develop an addiction that makes their mental health worse, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.
Foster Children Deserve More Resources
While some children in foster care eventually reunite with their biological families, more than 20,000 foster care children age out of the system every year before this happens, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Transitioning to adulthood is challenging for foster care youth, as a lack of support leads to an increased risk of homelessness, unemployment, low education and financial difficulties. These difficulties are even more significant for LGBTQ+ children and communities of color, which are overrepresented in our foster care system.
Adoption-Specific Programming in Orange County
Since our founding in 2012, PACE Recovery has treated many clients with adoption-related issues such as anxiety, depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as anger and substance use. Our adoption programming uses several specialized, clinically focused approaches to treat adopted people for the underlying issues that contributed to their substance use or mental health disorders.
We know men often struggle with their well-being in silence because they do not know how to ask for help. At our Orange County center, PACE’s team of professionals offers men’s-only mental health and dual-diagnosis treatment. Through a combination of holistic methods and proven mental health care, we have found a path to recovery for even the most severe cases. To learn how we can help you set healthier goals and create a new identity, reach out to us today.