Tip Sheet Tuesday: Helping Children in Care Build Trusting Relationships

TPicture1rust is defined as, “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence,” or “confident expectation of something; hope.”

Imagine losing your home, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your friends, your school, your pet, your toys, and even your bed. Now imagine losing these things over and over again.

Many children in foster care have had these types of experiences. These losses that children experience are traumatic events, and they often have to relive these traumas. Maybe they were told by an adult, who they trusted, that “this is the last move,” or “you’re coming home to stay,” only to have those promises broken for whatever reason. These are children whose lives have been turned upside down due to the trauma of abuse and/or neglect, followed by the trauma of being removed from the their home—both of which are counter to how trust is defined.

Factors that can impact trust 

There are many reasons why children in care have a difficult time developing positive connections and establishing trusting relationships with others, including:

Trauma is a significant factor impacting children’s ability to trust—people, relationships, situations, and themselves. Trauma is defined as “an extremely distressing experience that causes severe emotional shock and may have long-lasting psychological effects.”

Traumatic experiences such as physical and sexual abuse, neglect, separation from birth family, and multiple moves are all examples of trauma that children in care may have experienced.

Author and therapist Arleta James explains the effects of trauma well: “First and foremost, we must come to understand that trauma interrupts ‘normal’ child
development. The child that is chronologically age 12, may really be functioning as a three- or four-year old.”

She goes on to say, “In essence, all children have a chronological age and a social and emotional age. Usually, the two are in accord. However, institutionalization, neglect, abuse, etc., causes a discord between the two ages.” (Read the full tip sheet.)





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