Foster Care Month – Katie Claus

May is National Foster Care Month. Throughout the month, we will be featuring stories of individuals and families at River Valley Church involved in the foster care system.

Katie Claus is a Psychotherapist at Lakeview Therapy Center

It’s a safe bet that each child in the foster care system has experienced trauma to some degree. Trauma is both the reason foster care is needed and the very thing that makes it so difficult to carry out. When young children experience abuse or trauma it is internalized as shame, meaning the child views themselves as bad, worthless, and to blame for the abusive/dysfunctional caregiving they have received.

This view of self is why every new home, every failed placement is a new trauma. It confirms for these kids their worst fear – that they are too naughty, too flawed, too needy to be loved and wanted. It reinforces their shame and intensifies their trauma and expectation that caregivers are unreliable and that it will only be a matter of time before someone sees them for who they “truly are” and throws them away and abandons them “just like their biological parent(s).”

This makes foster parenting kids with trauma so difficult. This view of self and intense shame leads kids to act out and enact an almost self-fulfilling prophecy. They feel certain that they are so bad that nobody will want them so instead of waiting around for new foster parents to get to know them and to develop a relationship they take matters into their own hands and take control. They act out and push away because it feels safer.

These kids have survived by not fully trusting and relying on their caregivers who have neglected basic needs, and/or violated them physically, emotionally, or sexually. These children have learned to become too independent too early in order to survive caregivers that are just not safe. So they do not know how to interact and be loved by a safe caregiver and will resist and fight safe caregiving. Their brains are wired this way and to successfully parent these kids we need to find a way to literally rewire their brain connections to associate caregivers with love, safety, and consistency instead of fear, danger, and hurt.

Yet, there is hope. Every experience of consistent loving caregiving and meeting children’s needs in a consistent and predictable way (even when they fight it) builds a stronger pathway in their brain to help them trust caregivers. This is a challenging mission but not impossible. Once a pathway is built between safety and caregivers and consistency is provided, this connection can grow and overpower the previous connection which is their trauma response telling them not to trust. This is beautiful work and so needed but also so challenging.

About the Author

Leading people into an authentic, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

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