Prevalence of mental health issue and their contributing factors within the foster care system

Lynn, Natalya Nerease
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This work explores the correlation between the occurrence of mental illness in those individuals who have been through the foster care system as well as some potential causes for the discrepancy between the rate of mental illness in children within the general population versus children in the foster system. Research has found that mental health issues have been linked to individuals who have been through the system occurring at nearly twice the rate of the general population. Substance abuse, depression, PTSD, and attachment issues have all been common mental health problems among this demographic. This paper includes a qualitative study where foster care community workers, foster parents, and former foster children shared their stories. A total of 16 participants were interviewed and 6 narratives were used within the context of this study. The data was evaluated using the phenomenological method to gain access to meaning and themes that emerged from all participants. There were seven main themes that emerged including the foster care system as a “obstacle”, employee perception, peer support, chaos of foster home life, the importance of stability, generational trauma/healing, and training of staff and parents. The mental health of foster children seems to rely of the success or failure of these themes within the system. Further research needs to be conducted to access what steps can be taken to assuage the impact of mental illness on this population.