Foster Children Experience PTSD

June is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) awareness month.

PTSD occurs after a person has experienced trauma, a shocking, disturbing, dangerous event wherein the person feels their life is in danger. Our knowledge of the effects of PTSD have been studied in veterans of wars and there is new research on the long term effects of trauma on former foster children from Harvard University, University of Michigan, and Casey Family Programs.

Study Finds Foster Children Suffer PTSD

The study suggests that states should not only help kids within the foster care network, but also provide assistance to its alumni. Beyond lengthening placements and providing more social service workers to foster children, the provision of social and financial support for alumni may counteract future mental health risks. - read more here

How KIFS is Helping

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy & PTSD

KIFS staff attended an EMDR training session in order to better serve our clients. EMDR is a psychotherapy treatment designed to help people process traumatic events. Developed by Francine Shapiro in 1989, the theory behind EMDR states that stimulating the brain using eye movements, sounds or pulsations while focusing on a traumatic memory can create changes in the brain that can help a client overcome symptoms such as anxiety, anger, and depression that are associated with the memory.

EMDR has been found to help clients create new associations with traumatic memories and to reduce sensitivity to external triggers. Studies have shown it to be an effective treatment for trauma disorders such as PTSD. EMDR has been found to be effective with both adults and children, with some researchers claiming that it can be more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy for children with traumatic histories.

KIFS Independent Living Program

 KIFS is working to develop a new Independent Living Program that will allow us to work closely with young adults who are aging out of the foster system. Ultimately we want to provide a strong support system in the areas former foster children usually struggle with: lack of strong support network, accountability, financial and educational struggles, sustaining relationships, and breaking the cycle of drug use and/or homelessness.


What Options do Foster Children Have?

Foster children have two options when they turn 18.

Extended Commitment: Foster children may extend their commitment to the State and receive support until they are 21. The benefits of this commitment are designed to help them make a smooth transition into young adulthood. Many of us have the good fortune of family and/or community support during this transition, something most foster children lack. Benefits include:

  • Tuition Assistance

  • Tuition Waiver

  • Housing

  • Medical Benefits

There are so many things we take for granted until they aren’t there: money management, securing a first apartment, getting into school or additional training, time management, managing the responsibilities of school and work, personal and professional relationships, and health care.

Foster children often have no one to work with them through the struggles particular to young adulthood. In a perfect situation foster parents would be able to help them but some of them have been in foster care so long they think they don’t need or want the help.

Opting Out of Extended State Commitment: Foster children aging out of the system who choose to opt out of extended commitment to the State still have some resources available to them such as Project Life and educational training vouchers but the support is not as broad.

  • Project Life

  • Education & Training Vouchers (ETV) - some eligibility requirements

  • Medical Benefits - Youth are eligible to maintain Medicaid until 26 years old

Our Independent Living Program (ILP) will require a commitment to the State and will include one on one case management. An ILP case manager will be the adult foster child’s point person whose entire job is linking them to community resources, housing, job, transportation, course work on financial literacy programs will provide information and resources pertaining to their current situation.

We provide support 24-hours a day. Our case managers provide weekly check-ins and on-call support and maintain small case loads in order to provide quality, individualized attention. 

For a more in-depth overview of PTSD and treatments see The US Dept of Veterans Affairs whiteboard video series.

Nicolette Meade