Publication date: August 2019
Source: Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 103
Author(s): Anne Steenbakkers, Steffie van der Steen, Hans Grietens
Children in family foster care have been disproportionately exposed to traumatic experiences, which contribute to the problems and specific needs they experience. Despite the growing interest in the stories of children in foster care, only a few studies have focused on their lived experiences regarding traumatic events and the resulting impact. The aim of this study was therefore to ask youth themselves how they experience the impact of traumas prior to living in a foster family. Episodic narrative interviews were conducted with 13 youth aged 15–23 (formerly) residing in family foster care in the Netherlands. The interviews were subjected to open coding and organized in themes and sub-themes using thematic analysis. The impact youth experienced from traumas in the past could be grouped in three themes: the experience of emotional and social problems (such as internalizing problems, anger, and loss of bonds), specific strategies to cope with trauma (avoidance, looking for answers, preserving sameness), and not always experiencing impact. The results highlight the clinical problems youth experience, related to posttraumatic stress symptoms and complex trauma. However, youth also indicate strategies they employ to cope with this impact. Interventions for children in foster care with complex trauma should be tailored to the interconnectedness of complex trauma and attachment, and stimulate children’s helpful coping strategies.