Issue Brief
Need for Early Intervention for Trauma
Experienced by Children in Foster Care

Challenges in the Current Foster Care System
With over 402,000 children in foster care in the United States (c. 2012), studies show the majority who pass through the system have been exposed to severe trauma that is rarely addressed adequately. Left untreated, trauma like PTSD can lead to multiple life-long impairments in a child’s emotional, mental and physical development.

The current system is highly reactive and lacks a holistic, evidence-based approach.  It treats only the superficial facets—the visible symptoms. This typically manifests
in behavior issues that result in a high number of
placement changes—from foster home to foster home.

Poor Outcomes and Alarming Statistics for Youth Who Have Spent Time in Foster Care

• Homelessness: 25% become homeless within 4 years  of leaving the system.

• In Prison: 7 times more likely to get involved in crime.

• Mental Health: 80% have an identified mental health diagnosis by age 21.

• Medical Health: There’s a higher rate of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

•  Addiction to drugs and alcohol: 7 times more likely to become an addict.
•  Education: Only half will finish high school by age 18.

•  Poverty: Most lack employment skills and drop out of school.

•  Sex Trafficking: 50-90% of child victims were once in foster care.

Child Maltreatment is a Multigenerational Issue
Unresolved mental health issues in parents is one of the top two contributing factors to the abuse and neglect of children. These children have a greater probability of growing up and abusing their own children if the trauma they’ve endured by their parents is not resolved properly. This is a multigenerational issue. For these children, adversity in their childhood development dramatically disrupts the natural progression  in meeting their emotional, mental and physical milestones.

Child maltreatment places a huge economic toll on society.  
The price of untreated child abuse and neglect adds up to $9 billion annually. Prisons and juvenile detention centers cost an additional $64 billion every year. It is a pay now or pay later issue.

New Recommended Changes to the Foster Care System – Focus on Trauma
All-Star Children’s Foundation is creating a trauma-focused assessment and treatment home where highly specialized services are delivered by an accredited medical and clinical leader in children’s health and well-being.

Studies show that with proper trauma-informed,evidence-based therapy that takes into account an individual’s neurodevelopment and traumatology, the effects of trauma can be reversed and help that individual lead a productive and healthy life.

The brain in young children develops by building a foundation first in the lower part of the brain then continuing upward towards the top of the brain. Children who experience trauma very young show “blocks” and therefore do not develop a healthy foundation to support the rest of their brain growth and development.

Brain science research shows that areas of the brain that are “blocked” by trauma can be reversed and rebuilt with appropriate trauma-focused therapy. The brain’s neuroplasticity enables change and flexibility which, in turn, promotes stronger neuronal structures.

High-quality trauma care is what is lacking in the current system. Traditional therapy is not as effective with children in the child welfare system. The current system focuses on mental health treatment of the symptoms and not on the root of the issues that lead to the symptoms. We must not expect a different outcome when using the same techniques that have been used over the past 20 years. We owe it to our children to utilize innovative methods of treatment that reaches the core of their issues…Trauma.

Our program focuses on the assessment and treatment of emotional trauma. It also fosters opportunities for parents and caregivers to participate in the child’s treatment and to engage in learning effective parenting techniques that they can practice during visits with their child in our home and upon transitioning to their permanent home with them.  We have an obligation to children – who through no fault of their own have suffered trauma – to provide them with leading edge treatment modalities. These evidence-based practices have proven to extinguish the trauma and improve the long- term outcomes for
future success.

Resources
• Child Welfare Outcomes Report 2010-2013.
• Adoption and Foster Care Analysis
Reporting System. 2014.
• Child Welfare Information Gateway. 2013.
• Institute for Safe Families.
• World Health Organization and
International Society for Prevention of
Child Abuse. 2006.
• Dr. Vince Felitti; Dr. Bob Anda;
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris: How Childhood
Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime.
Adverse Childhood Experiences. ACE.
• TED Talk | Nadine Burke Harris: How
childhood trauma affects childhood