The Affects of Foster Placement on a Child

Children, placed in foster care, feel an incredible sense of loss and confusion when they are separated from their families.

They have lost the most important people in their lives — their parents, sometimes their siblings, other relatives, and individuals close to their family. They have lost their familiar pattern of living. They have lost their homes, pets, and the places and things that make up their world. Perhaps they even changed from creche or school, uprooting them from their friends and neighborhood. They have lost the little things that comfort them, such as certain smells, maybe a favorite toy or stuffed animal, a special place in their home, the way their parent made a sandwich, or the way the world sounded when they were falling asleep. No matter how nice a foster home is, in the beginning, it will feel strange and uncomfortable to a child.

In addition to changes where they live and play, children placed in foster care must often learn what “normal” behavior is in their new foster home. Even though it may have been unsafe, children often see their family’s behavior as normal. Many children in foster care find their family’s behavior reassuring simply because it is familiar. Sometimes children think that it is their fault they are placed in foster care.

Therefore it is critical for foster parents to understand that children will experience many complex emotions that they will not understand. They will not typically welcome the idea of being placed in a new home with strange people, noises, rules, and smells. The more patient and understanding foster families can be, the more likely it will be that the child will slowly adjust to his or her placement in the foster home.

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