Foster youth, experts describe need for trauma informed care

Trauma Informed Care PanelFrom Press Release


Foster youth face many challenges when they’re part of the foster care system, and most face complex issues even before entering care.  Being removed from their home and family and placed in an unfamiliar environment, on top of the trauma they may have already endured, can seriously traumatize young people for years.  If left untreated, they may face mental health struggles throughout life.

Today, the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, co-chaired by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Debbie Stabenow, held a panel discussion on trauma informed care to discuss ways to prevent, detect and address trauma faced by those in the foster care system.  The discussion allowed foster youth and a foster parent to share their perspectives and experts to share research and best practices from the field.

This panel discussion is the final of three educational panels hosted by the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth throughout the month of May, National Foster Care Month. Participants in the trauma informed care discussion panel included:

Amnoni Myers, a former foster youth, shared her experiences as a youth in the foster system. She discussed her struggle to overcome abuse and neglect, and how she had to work to fully understand how trauma was affecting her life.  She advocated for better training for child welfare officials as well as foster parents and foster youth.

Donna Flenory, a foster parent, talked in depth about the need for caregivers to understand the triggers relating both to their kids as well as themselves.  She said that children don’t understand trauma and therefore cannot express how trauma is impacting them day to day.  She emphasized that child welfare workers and caregivers need to ask children “What happened to you?” rather than “What is wrong with you?”

Dr. Karyn Purvis of Texas Christian University spoke about the need to understand the holistic nature of trauma. She illustrated the various detrimental effects trauma has on the brain, which alter a child’s behavior and way of thinking.  In advocating for ongoing trauma informed training, she said, “These children bled before they came to us, but they can’t bleed to death on our watch.”

Dr. Ellen Gerrity of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Network talked about resources available to parents and practitioners in helping to deal with trauma in foster youth.  She stressed the need to provide quality curriculum for people throughout the child welfare arena so that youth brought into care receive better care.