As a resource parent, you should seek help when the child in your home:
Displays reactions that interfere with the ability to function in school and at home
- Talks about or commits acts of self-harm
- Has trouble falling asleep, wakes up often during the night, or frequently has nightmares
- Complains of frequent physical problems but checks out OK medically
Treatment may be needed when the child in your home:
- Asks to talk to someone about a traumatic experience
- Talks over and over again about the trauma, or seems “stuck” on a particular part of it
- Seems plagued by guilt or self-blame
- Expresses feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
The first step in securing help for the child placed in your home is getting a trauma assessment. A trauma screening can be completed to help determine if a child needs a trauma-focused mental health assessment or treatment. A screening is a brief set of questions aimed at measuring a child’s exposure to trauma and his/her symptoms. It may be requested by you as a caregiver to the children placed in your home to complete a trauma screening. A trauma assessment is completed by a mental health provider that drives treatment planning for a child. Included in the assessment is a clinical interview, objective measures, behavioral observations of the child, and collateral contacts with family, child welfare specialist, etc.
There is a no “one size fits all” when it comes to treatments for children who have experienced trauma. However, research has shown that most effective trauma-informed treatments include common elements:
- They are based on scientific evidence; meaning the treatments have been systematically studied, and data demonstrating their effectiveness have been published
- They include a comprehensive trauma assessment to determine the child’s trauma history and needs
- After the assessment, the provider proposes a treatment plan, which includes involvement of parents, family or resource parents in the child’s therapy
- Trauma-focused therapy actively addresses the child’s traumatic experiences and traumatic stress symptoms
It is important for resource parents to advocate for the children placed in your home as the effects of trauma may be misunderstood or even misdiagnosed by mental health providers who are not trauma trained. Children in foster care are sometimes given many different diagnoses or misdiagnosed. For example, the nervousness and inability to pay attention that comes with trauma may be misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At any time during the treatment process, if you have concerns or questions regarding the treatment the child is receiving, share those concerns or questions with the child’s therapist and/or caseworker.
The symptoms of traumatic stress should be treated by someone who has the specific training to do so. There are many routes to finding a qualified mental health professional. A map of all the trained therapists in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Oklahoma as well as additional information and resources can be found through the Oklahoma TF-CBT website at http://oklahomatfcbt.org/. You can also ask a pediatrician, family physician or your CW Specialist for a referral to a professional with expertise in traumatic stress.
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