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Youth Mental Health First Aid Adds Foster Care Focus

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.

–Neil Postman

The most vulnerable of the vulnerable” is what many have called children in foster care. Often these children come from homes marked by mental illness, substance use and violence, all of which exact a toll.

Children in foster care are twice as likely as their non-foster care peers to have developmental delays, asthma and obesity; three times more likely to have ADD/ADHD, hearing problems and vision problems; five times more likely to have anxiety; six times more likely to have behavioral problems; and seven times more likely to suffer from depression, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics

Now foster care, kinship and adoptive parents who welcome these children into their homes with open arms have a new tool to help. The National Foster Parents Association (NFPA) and its Council of State Affiliates have partnered with Mental Health First Aid to add a foster care focus to the Youth Mental Health First Aid curriculum.

“All youth come to these caregivers with trauma,” said Jim Hatch, M.B.A., LSW, Council of State Affiliates chairman. “There are sometimes visual signs, but sometimes there are not.” It’s important for resource families to be able to recognize the signs of crisis and become confident in understanding how to intervene appropriately, Hatch added.

The Mental Health First Aid foster care-specific scenarios highlight common situations to help resource families respond effectively to a youth’s sometimes silent needs.

The addition of the foster care scenarios in the Youth Mental Health First Aid curriculum “a huge step” in preparing resource parents for enhancing the health and well-being of youth in foster care, said NFPA Executive Director Irene Clements. NFPA will promote the importance of this training for all resource parents across the country, as well as to child protection staff who work with foster families, she added. “Our aim is to help families and youth establish stability and lasting well-being,” Clements said.

“Adding a foster care focus to Youth Mental Health First Aid expands the scope of this lifesaving program and helps us reach our goal of making Mental Health First Aid as common as CPR,” noted Betsy Schwartz, National Council vice president for public education and strategic initiatives.

Now foster parents can #BeTheDifference in the lives of the children they are privileged to serve.


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