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Does my foster child have depression?

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Being able to recognise the signs of depression in the children in your care is an important skill to have as a foster parent. When a child comes into your care, they may be struggling to process past trauma. They also may find it difficult to adjust to new changes in their lives. In this guide we’ll explain some of the causes of depression in foster children, the signs to look out for and the help and resources available to support you.

Causes of depression in foster children

Depression and anxiety can be triggered by personal life events or can have no obvious or specific cause. If there is something specific causing the child in your care to become depressed, it’s important to take the steps to understand the causes so you can better support them.     

Some of the signs that a child might be more likely to suffer from depression include:

  • Genetics: While the research into the genetics of depression is still in its infancy, depression is known to run in families. It’s important to note that this isn’t always the case but is something to be aware of.
  • Bullying: If your foster child is being bullied it can cause poor mental health. Not only can bullying cause depression but can also cause low self-esteem and loneliness. If bullying is not dealt with quickly, it can cause long-term depression and anxiety that can be carried through to adulthood.
  • Family difficulties: Children in care who have experienced difficult relationships with their biological families can have difficulty processing their feelings surrounding their circumstances. When left unchecked this can manifest into symptoms of depression.
  • Physical, emotional or sexual abuse: Understandably, the trauma of living through abuse can cause depression in foster children.

Sometimes, depression in children can be caused by a single difficult event, such as being taken into care. However, it’s often caused by a mixture of things. It’s important to remember that every child is different, and some may be more predisposed to depression than others.

Signs of depression in children

Symptoms of depression may differ from child to child. It can present itself in various ways, some children may present with physical symptoms of their depression such as headaches and stomach aches. Other signs include:

  • Feeling sad, or having a low mood often
  • Being irritable or having a short temper all the time
  • Lack of interest in things that they used to find interesting
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Having trouble sleeping or find that they are sleeping too much
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Becoming indecisive
  • Lack of confidence
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling numb or empty
  • Have thoughts of suicide or self harm
  • Self harming themselves

Other signs of depression in foster children can include problems at school, this could be behavioural problems, trouble concentrating or a drop in performance.

What should I do if I suspect my foster child is depressed

If you think your foster child might be depressed, it’s important to support them as much as possible and to remember there is also support and training available for you as a foster parent. Some of the actions you can take include:

  • Talk to your foster child: Speak to your foster child and try to find out what’s troubling them and encourage them to talk about their feelings. If your foster child doesn’t want to talk to you, let them know that you are worried about them and you’ll be there for them if they need you.
  • Take your foster child seriously: Take whatever problem that is causing your foster child to feel depressed seriously, even if doesn’t seem like a big deal to you.
  • Speak to their social worker: Speak to your foster child’s social worker, and your social worker too, if you believe your foster child has developed depression recently. If your foster child has a history of mental illness, it may be something your social worker will be able to provide some insight about.  
  • Speak to a medical professional: If your foster child is suffering from depression, it’s important to speak to a medical professional to discuss treatment options.

What support is available for foster children with depression

If you’re worried about your foster child’s mental health, there are various networks available for advice. There are different channels to support you both externally and within Excel Fostering.  

External support for foster children with depression

YoungMinds: YoungMinds is a charity that offers free confidential support to anyone worried about the mental health or well-being of a child or young parents. It also provides lots of information for carers about mental health generally.

MindEd for Families: MindEd is a service intended to support parents and those caring for children when they are concerned about a young person’s mental health or well-being. It provides help and advice for those worried about a child’s mental health.

How can Excel Fostering help?

Here at Excel Fostering, we offer therapeutic fostering. This is a type of foster care where carers look after children with complex needs. Our therapeutic foster carers receive special training unique to Excel Fostering. If you become a therapeutic foster carer, we will provide you with everything you need to give your foster child therapeutic care. This service is known as MATTS (Multi-disciplinary Assessment Treatment and Therapy Service) and includes an in-house psychological assessment and 1:1 support. Ensuring you never feel ‘alone’ in caring for your foster child.

Find out more about the different types of fostering we provide here. Or, if you feel like you can support a child with therapeutic fostering, get in touch with Excel Fostering today.

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