Self-Care Skills and Strategies for Foster Parents

Posted November 20, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog selfcareskillsandstrategies 2017

Help­ing chil­dren heal from abuse or neglect is reward­ing but hard. Like the chil­dren in their care, kin and fos­ter par­ents need to find ways of expe­ri­enc­ing strong feel­ings with­out becom­ing over­whelmed. They must also take care of them­selves — phys­i­cal­ly, psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly, emo­tion­al­ly and spiritually.

You can’t give away what you don’t have,” says Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion Senior Asso­ciate Doreen Chap­man. You can’t pro­vide sup­port, nur­tur­ing and com­pas­sion until you learn how to take care of yourself.”

Tools and exer­cis­es for self-care are part of Trau­ma Sys­tems Ther­a­py for Fos­ter Care (TST-FC), a pow­er­ful new train­ing cur­ricu­lum that helps care­givers meet the needs of kids and teenagers who have expe­ri­enced trauma.

Down­load the Fos­ter Par­ent Resource Guide

TST-FC includes tech­niques that help both chil­dren and care­givers regain con­trol when strug­gling with dif­fi­cult emo­tions and behav­iors. Learn­ing these cop­ing skills can help care­givers think about and rec­og­nize their own trau­ma triggers.

TST-FC also empha­sizes the impor­tance of social sup­port net­works for care­givers. These net­works can be sources of prac­ti­cal assis­tance, emo­tion­al sup­port, ener­gy and hope and they can include oth­er fos­ter par­ents, social work­ers, faith-based pro­fes­sion­als as well as fam­i­ly and friends.

One of the adages of TST-FC is that no one should ever wor­ry alone,” says Kel­ly McCauley of KVC Health Sys­tems, Inc., who wrote the cur­ricu­lum in con­sul­ta­tion with Dr. Glenn Saxe of NYU Lan­gone Health.

TST-FC’s self-care assess­ment allows fos­ter par­ents to devel­op plans to sup­port them­selves. The assess­ment mea­sures both strength and poten­tial growth in the fol­low­ing areas:

  • phys­i­cal self-care (e.g. diet and exercise);
  • psy­cho­log­i­cal self-care (e.g. reflec­tion and curiosity);
  • emo­tion­al self-care, (e.g. friends and recreation);
  • spir­i­tu­al self-care (e.g. prayer and med­i­ta­tion); and
  • work­place self-care (e.g. breaks and workload).

Fol­low­ing this assess­ment, par­tic­i­pants have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss their goals with oth­er care­givers and to out­line ways to achieve these goals.

In TST-FC train­ing, we want fos­ter par­ents to feel safe, to be able share their chal­lenges,” says McCauley. We can then equip them with skills and tools that help chil­dren man­age their emo­tions and behav­ior and that help care­givers main­tain con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ty to make a dif­fer­ence in these kids’ lives.”

The TST-FC train­ing cur­ricu­lum includes four group ses­sions, where facil­i­ta­tors lead care­givers through role play­ing, hands-on exer­cis­es and reflec­tive con­ver­sa­tions that con­nect a child’s life expe­ri­ences with his or her behav­ior. The cur­ricu­lum also offers detailed facil­i­ta­tor guides, train­ing pre­sen­ta­tions, hand­outs and a fos­ter par­ent resource guide.

Sup­port­ed by the Casey Foun­da­tion, TST-FC has been test­ed by child wel­fare agen­cies and eval­u­at­ed by the non­prof­it research cen­ter ChildTrends. It is avail­able online with­out charge.

Go to the TST-FC train­ing curriculum

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