Did you know that Children’s Mental Health Week is taking place on 7th–13th February this year. Place2be has stated that year’s theme will be ‘Growing Together’, to encourage adults and children to consider how they have grown and how they can help others to grow in their mental health.
Statistics show that 1 in 6 children aged 5-16 are likely to be suffering from some form of mental health issues (footnote for source). Oftentimes children can be overlooked and left out when we’re having important conversations about mental health and emotional being. Children may be unable to articulate their feelings and thoughts in a way that would engage an adult’s attention, but that doesn’t mean those negative thoughts may not exist. When you factor in children in care, things get a little more complicated. Common mental health diagnoses among children in foster care include disruptive behaviour disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety and mood disorders. Sadly, many children in care feel ignored, alone and unloved.
The link between trauma and mental health is well established, and with incidents of trauma more likely among children in care, the importance of trauma-informed practice and care is clear. Many children and young people are taken into care following abuse and neglect and being removed from their family and any sense of familiarity can traumatise them further leading to or exacerbating existing mental health problems.
Children in care often live unstable lives, being moved from one placement to the next – sometimes with very little notice or explanation. They may experience multiple moves, and all of this can have a negative impact on their development and contribute to feelingsof anxiety, fear and instability.
Children need stability and structure in order to thrive, and while that is quite difficult when living in care, we as adults need to give that to them. We need to address issues of poor mental health for care-experienced children as a priority and ensure that children who are at greater risk of placement instability are supported.
How can we help change this? Firstly, we believe that the mental health needs of children should be assessed before each placement matching in order for each child to be cared for in a way that is helpful to their development. In addition, cultivating strong, positive relationships with their social worker is so important to the contribution of wellbeing of children in care and the stability and success of their placements.
As a carer, helping children understand that they are valued, and their voices are valid is one of the most helpful ways in aiding in their healing. Being a lending ear and providing a semblance of stability in their otherwise often chaotic lives is also important. Practicing mindfulness exercises with children is also a great way to centre them and lessen their anxiety.
If you need support around helping children in care, please do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org