Did you know May is Foster Care month? And do you know if children in the child welfare system experience medical treatment in the same ways that children in the general population do? For the most part they do, however, there are notable differences in the life experiences and family circumstances.
Children typically become involved with the child welfare system because they have been abused or neglected, and these experiences affect their responses to medical care, such as:
• When medical treatment is invasive, painful, or prolonged, it may be a trigger or reminder of past traumas, such as physical or sexual abuse.
• Even routine physical exams may be extremely uncomfortable for children who have been sexually abused.
• Children who have been abused or neglected may not initially trust adults to keep them safe---even health care providers.
Also, children in foster care tend to have more medical needs and chronic health conditions compared to children in the general population. And for many, health care frequently occurs in emergency rooms and in the absence of consistent, supportive caregivers. These are just some of the factors that put children in foster care at greater risk for developing medical trauma.
Although recognition is increasing that these children have experienced emotional trauma due to histories of abuse and neglect, medical trauma in this population often goes unrecognized. When caring for children in the foster care system, be alert to signs of medical trauma. Consider screening your patients with the Medical Trauma Assessment and Action Form, a brief screener designed especially for children and youth in foster care and group homes. Use this screener with your foster care patients to identify those at higher risk for medical trauma and to make a plan for addressing it.
Learn more about medical traumatic stress, foster care, and where and when you can intervene and then continue the conversation about the healthcare concerns and needs of children in the child welfare system on Facebook.