||The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which shows a correlation between exposure
to childhood adversity and negative health outcomes such as heart disease, cancer,
and lower life expectancy, makes a compelling argument for why we need to pay attention
to childhood trauma. Despite the fact that all children in foster care have had at
least one adverse childhood experience, the emerging scientific body of knowledge
on childhood trauma has not yet produced major changes in the policies and practices
of state foster care systems. One of the reasons that key actors in state foster care
systems have not yet acted on recent information about trauma is they lack concrete
skills on how to use this information to help children. This thesis seeks to address
the gap between information and action amongst foster parents, who spend the most
time with children and therefore have many opportunities to use trauma information
to help children heal.
Through a qualitative analysis of interviews with and survey responses from foster
parents and staff at child welfare agencies in four counties in North Carolina, this
study provides insight on the strengths and shortcomings of current foster parent
training in North Carolina, essential skills foster parents need to work with children
who have experienced trauma, and barriers to equipping foster parents with these tools.
The results demonstrate that child welfare agencies in North Carolina must equip foster
parents with a skill set of communication skills, sensory-based regulation strategies,
and discipline techniques, and, above all, treat foster parents as critical actors
in children’s healing processes.