Building a Trauma-Informed Foster Care System: Giving Foster Parents the Tools to Help Children Heal

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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.





Giordano, Gianna (2019). Building a Trauma-Informed Foster Care System: Giving Foster Parents the Tools to Help Children Heal. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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