Fears and Traumas
Every year, approximately 140,000 children are removed from their home and placed into the foster care system due to neglectful and abusive home situations. (Child Welfare Policy Brief, 2016) Some of these traumas range from crimes of neglect for failing to feed children in a home to crimes of abuse in the form of rape and sexual molestation within a family unit. Unfortunately, many of these traumas do not necessarily end when these youths are admitted into foster care. Many youth report additional harm from caregivers in the form of sexual, physical and verbal abuse. (Samuels & Price, 2008) Even if youth are placed with a loving and responsible caregiver, youth still face the trauma of separation from their parents and siblings. (Leathers, 2005) Considering this, most youth who are in the foster care system have faced fears and traumas or they will encounter them during their time in the system. These experiences are emotionally damaging and leave wounds that are often overlooked. None of this information is new to youth who are in the system -- it is merely another reminder of the disturbing reality they face every day. The first step to move past these traumas is to recognize them and the hold that they have in your life. This discipline will focus on identifying these experiences so that you may begin to work through them later in the counseling discipline.
Some youths are unable to recognize traumas in their lives because they have been conditioned to believe that these are normalities. This makes it important to understand exactly what trauma entails before beginning to identify such events in your life.
Emotional and psychological trauma can be a recent event or a childhood experience. There are several symptoms of trauma which include but are not limited to helplessness, anxiety, distrustfulness, emotional numbness and disconnectedness. (Robinson, Smith & Segal, 2017) Trauma is the result of a single serious or ongoing stressful event that often makes you feel helpless and terrorized. These events can threaten your safety, but can also leave you feeling emotionally overwhelmed without causing physical harm. (Fratto, 2016) Some forms of trauma and abuse that many foster youth have reported from their guardians and individuals in custodial roles include getting kicked, hit, slapped, thrown, pushed, beaten, abandoned, choked, smothered, strangled, tied up and/or blindfolded, deprived of food, deprived medical treatment, attacked with a weapon and raped. (Child Welfare Policy Brief, 2016) These forms of abuse cause physical harm but abuse can also be verbal and cause the same emotional and psychological trauma.
Once you have a clear understanding of the symptoms of trauma and events that cause it, you can begin to identify these traumas in your life. Unresolved traumatic issues have been proven to cause chronic adverse reactions throughout your lifetime making it important to face these burdens so that you can release their hold on your life. (Fratto, 2016) Your first goal is to identify a pivotal traumatic event that you experienced which continues to affect you today. For some, this might be the first time you experienced physical or verbal abuse from someone you loved. Others might say it was the moment they were removed from their home and put in the foster care system. No answer is wrong, and maybe you can immediately recognize several traumatic moments. It might be beneficial to identify a smaller, less traumatic event before tackling a more impactful one. If you feel uncomfortable with this, practice with a trusted mentor or counselor present so that you are not alone. The purpose of this exercise is for you to acknowledge the reality of these events instead of ignoring them. No one promised it would be easy or painless, but it is necessary so that you can move beyond these traumas.
Now that you have identified a traumatic event (or several), you should then focus on how this makes you feel. This step is often the hardest. The goal in this step is not to work through your emotions or resolve them (we will cover this in the counseling discipline), but to merely give yourself the opportunity to react to the traumas you have experienced and feel whatever emotions that directly resulted from this event. A few examples of emotions you may feel are anger, betrayal, or sadness. These are all very real and justified emotions and you deserve the opportunity to feel this way so that you do not repress these feelings. It may seem easier to ignore the emotions or stifle them, but this is dangerous because you are left with unresolved inner conflicts that will reveal themselves in your future. Again, you might practice this with a trusted mentor or counselor because this step can often be the most overwhelming. If you don’t feel as if you have someone in your life, please reach out to RLA and we will connect you with someone! This is not something you can accomplish in a single day, but it is a practice that occurs over time and eventually you will recognize emotional relief as you unburden yourself from the weight of these traumas.
If you now recognize that you are in an abusive or neglectful situation, please reach out to RLA or a trusted mentor. We are here to guide you to resources and professionals who are committed to the safety of youth. Staying in a situation of abuse and neglect can cause you traumas and stresses that no one deserves to face. We are here to listen. We are here to help. You are not alone!
Ark of Hope for Children embraces the needs of hurting children around the world and strives to help them in poor situations. Child trafficking, child abuse and bullying are all severe struggles these children face which pushed this organization to find more programs and volunteers to help create change for the better. Most importantly, they strive to create a beacon of hope for children to find support and reassurance through them! Follow their beacon: arkofhopeforchildren.org.
Child Welfare Policy Brief. (2016, April). Are there too many children in foster care? Retrieved from https://www.childrennow.org/files/8714/6896/7555/Foster_Care_Policy_Brief-Too_Many_Children.pdf
Fratto, C. M. (2016). Trauma Informed Care for Youth in Foster Care. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 30, 439–446.
Leathers, S. (2005). Separation from siblings: Associations with placement adaptation and outcomes among adolescents in long-term foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 27(7), 793–819.
Robinson, L., Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2017, January). Coping with Emotional and Psychological Trauma Dealing with Recent or Childhood Trauma So You Can Move On. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm
Samuels, G. M., & Price, J. M. (2008). “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” : Survivalist self-reliance as resilience and risk among young adults aging out of foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 30, 1198–1210.
"Don't give fear a name, don't let it rule your life. Be strong and of good courage.”