Monday, January 15, 2007

Former Foster Children and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Comic from Cyanide and Happiness at

According to An April 6, 2005 study, former foster children in Washington and Oregon suffer post-traumatic stress disorder at twice the rate of U.S. War veterans.

The definition of PSD is "a condition in which victims of overwhelming and uncontrollable experiences are subsequently psychologically affected by feelings of intense fear, loss of safety, loss of control, helplessness and extreme vulnerability. In children, the disorder involves disorganized and agitated behavior."

After having suffered a traumatic event, children believe that if they are vigilent enough, they will recognize the warning signs and avoid future traumas.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of Michigan and Casey Family Programs reviewed case files of 659 adults, ages 20 to 33, who had lived in foster care between 1988 and 1998. They interviewed 479 of them.

It was the first significant study of how former foster children fared over a long period of time. Most of those studied entered foster care because they had been abused or neglected. More than half reported clinical levels of mental illness, compared with less than a quarter of the general population.

Foster children, the study said, are especially vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Peter Pecora, director of research for Casey Family Programs, said a fourth of those studied reported symptoms of the disorder -- twice the rate of U.S. war veterans. "It is a dramatic finding," he said, adding that national studies show that 12 percent to 13 percent of Iraq war veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam war veterans suffer from the disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs in some people who experience or witness life-threatening events, such as violent personal assaults, military combat or serious accidents. They often relive the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks, and feel detached or estranged.