Mental Health After Foster Care 

Published recently on The Imprint is this opinion piece by J. Christian Bell describing the benefits of therapy for himself and other former and current foster youth, and the need for increased access to non-pharmaceutical mental health services:

“My memories are a mosaic, a blend of both the bitter and the sweet. The searing pain of a hot iron pressed against my arm was punishment for attempting to protect my foster mother from abuse. Then there are the brighter moments: the moon rocks in the Smithsonian, riding my first horse, my first climb. These fragments coexist, a testament to the depths of my past. Buried beneath the pain lies a stolen childhood, nearly erased by a repressed mind. It wasn’t until I turned 27 that I decided to confront this past and seek therapy.

Therapy isn’t as easy to come across these days as mental health support is in short supply and direly needed for individuals who have experienced any kind of child welfare involvement. Congress has an opportunity to expand this support with the upcoming reauthorization of Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, and should act swiftly to ensure kids who have been in foster care have the opportunity to thrive after such trauma. . . . 

Therapy enabled me to revisit my past and leverage it for my future. It became the bedrock of my life, allowing me to prioritize my own happiness. I let go to grow and found the strength to fulfill my purpose today.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, ‘up to 80% of children in foster care have significant mental health issues, compared to 18-22% of the general population, with 21.5% of foster care alumni suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).’ The reasons behind these statistics are multifaceted — shifting environments, broken families and limited access to mental health care often lead to pernicious wounds. Some may reach out for help, while others suffer silently.

The dire need for accessible mental health care for current and former foster youth cannot be overstated.”

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