Children placed in foster care experience trauma at a much higher rate than the general population, so it may be likely that a child in your foster care or a child you may be considering fostering could have experienced a traumatic event.

You already need to provide a loving, nurturing home for a child in your foster care, but how can you better understand trauma in foster care to be a foster parent?

Trauma and children in foster care

Around 40% of adults have reported a traumatic experience at least once in their lifetime, but that number swells to around 90% in foster children — with half of those reporting four or more traumatic events.

While this number is concerning, these children are being placed in a temporary home for a reason and oftentimes that reason is traumatic. After all, being taken from your home and placed into another can itself be a traumatic experience.

Understanding how trauma affects children and what you can do can be key to being a good foster parent.

How does trauma affect children?

According to, the effect of trauma on children can affect their physical health, mental health, emotional health and behavioral health.

Physical Health

Trauma can affect a child’s physical health through:

  • Inability to control physical responses to stress
  • Chronic illness, even into adulthood (heart disease, obesity)

Mental Health

  • Trauma can affect a child’s mental health through:
  • Difficulty thinking, learning, and concentrating
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty switching from one thought or activity to another
  • Depression, anxiety

Emotional Health

Trauma can affect a child’s emotional health through:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Difficulty forming attachments to caregivers
  • Trouble with friendships
  • Trust issues

Behavioral Health

Trauma can affect a child’s behavioral health through:

  • Lack of impulse control
  • Fighting, aggression, running away
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide

What can I do as a foster parent?

The most important thing you can do as a foster parent dealing with trauma in foster care is to be understanding.

Often, the child or children in your care have dealt with traumatic situations that you have no background experience with and cannot understand. And even if you can, that does not make their situation common or less painful.

Being patient, changing discipline methods, showing affection and talking when encouraged can be positive methods of building trust and comfort with a child in foster care who has dealt with trauma.

Contact Us

Becoming a foster parent is a big decision, and it is important to understand the relationship between children in foster care and trauma before accepting them into your home.

If you are ready to change a child’s life, we are waiting for you to call — and so are they!

KidLink Community Services provides therapeutic services to youth in foster care, foster parents and biological families throughout Tennessee. If you are interested in learning more or starting the journey to becoming a foster parent, please contact us at 877-714-1313 or filling out a contact form.

Family meets with counselor to talk about young boys mental healthHow do I decide if fostering is right for me?