Helping Foster Parents Be a Healing Force in Young Lives
Sarah H. Springer, MD, FAAP
May 29, 2018
As a pediatrician who has cared for many children who have experienced abuse or neglect, I know that the single most important factor in their healing is the love and support of a trusted adult. For children who have had to be removed from their parents, foster parents can have a tremendous therapeutic effect. With one of the most difficult but most rewarding jobs in the world, foster parents have the power to help a traumatized child heal, making a difference that can last a lifetime.
When I think about the importance of foster parents, I am always drawn to a story told to me by a friend and colleague. She had lived through unbelievable trauma as a child, experiencing things that no child should ever have to live through. Numerous trips back and forth between foster care, residential care, and an abusive, neglectful, chaotic home had left her hardened, angry, and scared. Landing in yet another foster home as a teen, she had no expectation of concern or support from the adults who greeted her warmly. She had no interest in school, and didn't care about the law or getting into trouble.
What happened next, however, changed her life forever. Her new foster parents seemed to really care about her as an individual. They asked about why she was taking the medicines in the plastic bag that her caseworker had handed them. They seemed to understand that her anger and defiance came from fear and hurt. They listened to her, and learned that nighttime had been terrifying for her, and that she was not sleeping due to fear.