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We Must Strive to Improve the Mental Health of Children in Care

Many children who have come into care may have previously experienced trauma, neglect, abuse, violence or fleeing their home country due to war. These experiences leave a long lasting scar on the minds of children and can go on to affect the way they behave with others and the relationships they form and have with those close to them.

It is therefore of utmost importance that every foster carer and adopter understands the background that a child may have come from and take into consideration their religious sensitivities, their beliefs, culture and personality to provide them with the love and stability they need.

According to research conducted by IRISS, ‘ Around half of mental health problems (excluding dementia) start before 15 years of age, and 75% before 18. Nine out of ten children who have been abused or neglected at a young age will develop a mental health problem by the age of 18. 65% of young people who have a mental health need are not currently receiving any statutory service support. Despite this Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) make up less than 1% of the NHS budget (NYAS, 2019).

This is extremely worrying statistics and one that should make us all reflect on the importance of having stability and mental health support for young children and young people.  In addition, IRISS found that Care experienced children and young people have consistently been found to have much higher rates of mental health difficulties than the general population, including a significant proportion who have more than one condition (The Mental Health Foundation, 2002). They are approximately four times more likely to have a mental disorder than children living in their birth families (NSPCC, 2015). Almost half (rising to three quarters in residential homes) meet the criteria for a psychiatric disorder (NSPCC, 2014; Coram Voice, 2015; Social Market Foundation, 2018)

As a community we must strive to highlight the needs for mental health support of young children in care and all children should have the right to get mental health support should they need it. Children in care often carry feelings with them that they may be reluctant to talk about based on their past experiences. It is important as a foster carer or adopter that you are able to listen to your child’s concerns, feelings and be able to talk things through in order for to improve their wellbeing.