info packet 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 8
Foster Care to
The common response to behavioral problems in our society is to punish.
We see this in our schools, in our homes, and especially in our juvenile
justice system. The issue with this strategy is that it’s not only ineffective,
40-80% of children behind bars have at least one diagnosable
mental illness. This relationship between incarceration and mental
illness is rooted in the relationship between trauma and behavioral
Behavioral problems are merely the signal that a child lacks the social
and emotional skills to handle the challenges they’re facing in an adaptive
way--and the challenges faced by foster youth are significant; it’s clear
why they’re 2.5 times more likely to enter the criminal justice system
than their peers.
It’s also clear that the likelihood of incarceration is directly related to
the level of instability and trauma a child is exposed to: foster youth
placed in group homes--which are sometimes prison-like to begin with-are twice as likely to be incarcerated, and 90% of those with 5
or more placements will enter the criminal justice system.
Incarcerating children sets into motion a cycle of trauma and
criminalization. Once the label of juvenile delinquent is applied, future
behavioral problems are more likely to be perceived as dangerous and
criminal, which leads to future arrests. Every time a child is re-arrested,
fresh trauma exacerbates maladaptive coping behaviors, further
entrenching them in this cycle.
But the developing brain is exceptionally resilient and pliable. Every time
we respond to behavioral problems with compassion, patience, love,
and guidance, we are breaking this cycle and tapping into the massive
potential locked inside these kids.