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How to Support a Foster Child with Mental Illness

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Having a mental illness at any age is no walk in the park, but when you are a child faced with an unsteady upbringing, this can often feel a lot worse. Not only are children not emotionally developed, but they also lack autonomy and control over their own lives, which can be increasingly frightening and cause them to protect themselves in any way they feel like they can.

If you are fostering a child with mental illness, you will probably have some challenges ahead of you, so it is best to be as prepared as you possibly can.

This piece will look at how you can support them.

Treat Them as You Would Any Other Child (But Remember They Are Unique)

Being fostered or not, a child with a mental illness is a child with mental illness. It is important to recognize that there can be challenges that foster children face that other children might not, but you could say the same about any child. Even those who have their biological parents could still be treated worse than someone without.

Every child has their own story, their own past, their own beliefs, and their own trauma – recognizing this will be a key part of supporting them.

Create a Safe Space

Something every child needs is a safe space where they can feel secure, and it can be difficult to feel secure in unfamiliar territory, or if your life has been particularly uprooted. So, allowing the child you are fostering to have a space that is their own, with their own boundaries, and a place where they can discuss how they feel with you is imperative to their mental wellbeing.

It is not always easy to listen to how others feel about their experiences and trauma – especially children. So, try your best to listen without judgement so they know they can come to you.

If you believe you can provide this for someone, head over to Foster Care Associates for more information

Look After Yourself

There is a reason why therapists are required to have regular therapy themselves.

Supporting someone with mental health issues can only be done safely and healthily if you can support your own mental wellbeing.

You cannot pour from an empty cup, and it is reasonable to believe that supporting someone with difficulties can also have a negative impact on you. Make sure to get support for yourself, especially if you have not had to deal with mental illness yourself or with children before. This can help you get some guidance and provide a safe space for you to discuss your concerns and ideas.

Think About Additional Support

Getting support can make a big difference in your child’s life. The Foster Care Associates has many support groups for children, enabling them to participate in events and activities, grow, and make friends. The good news is that FCA can also offer support to parents as part of their Team Parenting approach, aiming to help children and young people achieve outstanding outcomes with emotional recovery and improve their lives. With FCA, you can get advice and support from a therapist who provides therapeutic training to help support your child, either online or face-to-face. With this, you’ll learn how to understand and respond to your child’s needs and discover just how supported you are – you will never feel alone. This can help you manage and provide support to your child, knowing you have a support system of your own to guide you through this time.


Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash







Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.