Fostering — Good Emotional and Mental Health for Fostered Children


One of the primary factors in regards to the good health of future children is feeling good about themselves. Therefore self-esteem plays a major role in children's lives.

At the root of many mental health problems is a lack of self-esteem — how good or bad we feel about ourselves. Children and young people in the care system often have severe feelings of worthlessness or even self-loathing. Some may blame themselves for what has happened to them. Others may be discriminated against in society, because because of their racial or cultural background. They may be seen by society as 'a problem child' simply because they are in the care system. It's not surprising then that children and young people who are looked after often have very low self-esteem.

Helping children and young people to develop self-esteem is not easy. It's a complicated process that demands lots of patience and understanding. Below are some guidelines. Foster carers should try to establish a trusting relationship with children and young people by being honest, consistent and reliable, showing that you accept them as people-even if you do not accept all their behavior lets them know that you respect their individuality — that they are unique, they are not 'just like anyone else.'

Accentuate the positive — regular praise works wonders. Even if they seem to reject praise they may quietly be absorbing it. Listen to them, give them time and attention.

Try to understand what is causing their behavior good or bad. Give feedback and sensitively bring any problems out into the open. Help them increase their skills in solving personal problems by helping children to build on their known strengths and interests.

Foster carers should be on the lookout for extra things that would benefit their self-image — like music lessons, dance classes, extra help with school work etc.

Everyone feels anxious, nervous, or uncomfortably edgy sometimes. Having a calming spirit can be achieved by noticing the imbalances in fostered children's body and mind and bringing them back into balance through helping them to change their thoughts and actions.

Spiritual well-being is a state in which the positive aspects of spirituality are experienced, incorporated and lived by the individual and reflected into ones environment. How the effects of spiritual well-being affect on foster children is greatly determined by themselves and their experiences. Through guiding foster carers and other professional helpers, children can become increasingly self-empowered and begin to realize and appreciate that even though they have issues, stressors, and challenges, they are not quite defined or limited to their circumstances; they have a way to gain freedom and control.

Emotional health has many aspects. Put simply, it is based on self-esteem, how you feel about yourself, and behavior that is appropriate and healthy.

For fostered children and young people to become emotionally healthy, their carers need to provide a supportive environment within which they can work towards them to develop into people who:

Understand and adapts to change

Copes with stress

Has a positive self-concept

Has the ability to love and care for others

Can act independently to meet his or her own needs

Everyone, including people who are emotionally healthy, have problems. Emotionally healthy people are able to adjust to and solve problems, and in doing so they help others as well as themselves to get satisfaction out of life.

Some measurable benefits that people experience from spiritual well-being, counseling and groups are:

  • A feeling of being more content with their life situation
  • Greater enjoyment of self-time, finding an inner peace
  • Greater ability to take control of and resolve their life's issues
  • A greater sense of satisfaction in their activities and life situations
  • Ability to take a more active part in life rather than standing still and watching it pass by
  • Ability to build more intimate, loving and lasting relationships

A greater sense of purpose and meaning to their life. It's a tall order but providing the importance of good health in fostered children and young people is recognized and properly resourced, it is achievable.

Dan Rowley