Double layer of trauma in foster children: Implications for foster parent training

Rhea Margaret McKay (2000)

Current epidemiological studies indicate that there are many children in foster care and that this group is at risk for psychological disturbances. It is commonly accepted that the child's disturbance stems from his experiences prior to placement in foster care. However, the separation and loss of the biological family can be very disruptive for the child. Consideration of both of these factors suggested that children in foster care may experience a double layer of trauma--the trauma due to preplacement experiences and the trauma due to separation and loss of the biological family and abrupt placement with substitute caregivers. An examination of this double layer of trauma through the lens of attachment theory and trauma theory provided a frame for understanding the effects of these experiences on the child's psychological development. Although many children in foster care may experience the effects of this double layer of trauma, foster parent training has not addressed the issue in this way. Foster parent training manuals for New Hampshire and Vermont were reviewed to discern how each state handled this issue. Another purpose of this study was to develop a foster parent training unit which emphasized the interaction and complexities of this double layer of trauma and provided strategies for working with foster children.