Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Do I Deal With: Foster Kids Who Threaten or Talk About Suicide

Is Suicide too tough for foster parents to deal with?  It is a difficult subject to be certain, frightening for many to be sure. If a foster parent hears that a incoming child has attempted or threatened suicide in the past, would they or should they consider not taking the child?

Of course they'd be afraid the child would attempt suicide again "on their watch." Its a natural fear. But, isnt this the type of child you got into foster care to help? OR, is it okay to know your own limits and be okay with that?

Whether you know it or not, many children in foster care, who have suffered abuse or trauma, may be suicidal at one point in their lives. Whether you are ready to deal with it or not, if you are doing foster care, you should be prepared and ready to address self-harm or suicidal behavior in your foster children.

Here are some facts from:  Suicide and the Foster Child  By Helen Ramaglia, July 11, 2013

• Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly two and a half times more likely to seriously consider suicide than other youth (Pilowsky & Wu, 2006).
• Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly four times more likely to have attempted suicide than other youth (Pilowsky & Wu, 2006).
• Experiencing childhood abuse or trauma increased the risk of attempted suicide 2- to 5-fold (Dube et al., 2001).
• Among 8-year-olds who were maltreated or at risk for maltreatment, nearly 10% reported wanting to kill themselves (Thompson, 2005).
• Adverse childhood experiences play a major role in suicide attempts. One study found that approximately two thirds of suicide attempts may be attributable to abusive or traumatic childhood experiences (Dube et al., 2001).

Ramaglia goes on to say:  "Foster children can benefit from programs that bring together other like-minded children where they can share their pain, share their stories and heal from the inside out. If such programs existed, and were led by foster alumni, this would aid them even more of ridding themselves of turmoil that can often become debilitating.

There are few, if any programs encouraging the foster child to rid themselves of the pain and darkness that often consumes their lives outside of a therapeutic setting."
(read full article here:  Suicide and the Foster Child)

So... What can a foster parent do? Educate yourself. Ask for training from your therapeutic staff and avail yourself from materials offered through foster parent training.  

Know the warning signs.
According to The Role of Foster Parents in Suicide Prevention the warning signs include: 

 ■■ Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
■■ Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
■■ Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
■■ Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
■■ Talking about being a burden to others
■■ Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
■■ Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
■■ Sleeping too little or too much
■■ Withdrawing or feeling isolated
■■ Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
■■ Displaying extreme mood swings

Another excellent point made in this same booklet says: 

 Encourage your child to talk with you. Your comfort in speaking with a foster child about suicide (and his or her willingness to talk with you about these issues) may depend on many issues: your experience as a foster parent, howlong the youth has been with you, his or her family’s cultural background, and whether the child is used to talking with adults about difficult topics.

 For example, some families talk things over, while other families are reluctant to discuss personal issues. Some families have a tradition of mutual support, while others encourage their members to
be self-reliant. A family is shaped not only by its own history, but by the cultures the family belongs to. All of this affects the approach you select when initiating a conversation with your foster child about how he or she feels.

■■ Another factor unique to foster children is the possible fear that sharing their suicidal thoughts will result in being removed from your home. This may influence whether a foster child will admit to feeling suicidal.
It is important to let foster children know that they can talk to you about their problems and that you will make every effort to keep them with you. Foster parents can help by not automatically moving a child who expresses suicidal feelings.

Finally, get professional help.  Know that this is a difficult psychological situation and your foster child needs professional intervention. Contact their case worker or counselor and or take them to emergency health services if necessary to keep them safe. 

There are many published materials and resources for foster parents on this subject. Be familiar with them so you know what to do when the situation arises. 
Here are some links:

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  1. Ignorant foster parents imposing 'discipline' of cutting off our boy from all friends and family led our boy to attempt suicide. Stupid CPS cancelled the psychologist I had and neglected to get another.

    1. Hi, Sorry to hear about your situation. I don't know enough about the case to really say anything about this. I hope your son is doing better. I find it hard to understand why CPS would have discontinued your counselor without good cause (too far away or something like that...) but again, i dont know... We will keep you all in our prayers...

  2. i had a friend who was in foster care, and i swear i hate her so much. she's selfish only cares about herself doesn't take care of her body odor so she smells bad. and she goes around trying to have sex with her boyfriends she's a disgrace. the worse part is she's so selfish and always asking for money. after broadcasting to the school i watched porn and wrote it, she fought me lost her boyfriend then she attempted killing herself. WTF? i know a couple foster kids who actually have plans for their future who are actually doing things in their lives. who are actually really good people and their more pretty then she is! they went though more then that b**** who is always trying to get her hands on free money. she wants to be a famous singer but once i want to fucking sing with her she gets mad and tells me to stop because i sound better? i swear! i really hate her. but i wish her the best she'll get better in high school.. i hope. but i never want to see her face again