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Building Resilience in Foster Children: The Role of the Child's Advocate []

Children who enter the foster care system often suffer from the effects of traumatic stress. The sources of their trauma may vary: they may be the victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect-or they may be exposed to violence in their homes or communities. Similarly, many children who enter the child welfare system have experienced the loss of one or more significant adults in their lives, often through death or abandonment. Although the removal of a child from an abusive or neglectful home may be necessary to ensure the child's safety and wellbeing, the child may experience that removal as traumatic. Because so many children entering the child welfare system are impacted by trauma, it is essential that children's advocates understand trauma. its impacts upon children's development, and steps they can take to enhance their clients' resilience.

Researchers and some mental health professionals have been aware of trauma and its impacts on children for years, although focused research began only in the 1980s. More recently, courts have begun to recognize and address the impact of trauma on children in various legal contexts. Unless a foster child's trauma has been addressed, he or she will be at heightened risk for adverse outcomes' such as placement or school failure, delinquency, poor physical health, and emotional/ behavioral dysregulation (i.e.. out-of-balance emotions that lead to out-of-control behavior)."

This Article provides an introduction to, and brief overview of trauma, its impact upon foster children, and steps children's advocates" can take to lessen or ameliorate the impact of trauma upon their clients. This Article begins in Part 11 by defining relevant terms. Part III addresses the prevalence of trauma among children entering the child welfare system. Part IV considers the neurodevelopmental (i.e., the developing brain) impact of trauma on children and will explore how that trauma may manifest emotionally and behaviorally. With this foundation in place, Part V discusses the need for a comprehensive trauma assessment including a thorough review of the child's history of potentially traumatic experiences and the impact those experiences have had and are continuing to have on the child. This Article argues that a more complete understanding of the number and severity of potentially traumatic events a child has experienced, as well as knowledge of the various traumatic impacts on the child's developing brain are essential to begin addressing the needs of children in the child welfare system. Next, in Part VI, this Article explores ways in which a child's resilience can be enhanced, specifically the importance of connectedness/ relatedness, mastery, and affect regulation. Finally, Part VII discusses implications of this information for children's advocates.


Vandervort, Frank E. co-author. "Building Resilience in Foster Children: The Role of the Child's Advocate." J. Henry and M. A. Sloane, co-authors. Child. Legal Rts. J. 32, no. 3 (2012): 1-24.


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