Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Week.

Often, when we talk about mental health we use familiar contexts like post natal depression, soldiers’ PTSD and the impact of modern pressures on children, such as exams and harmful online content, so we often miss the damage done in quieter corners of modern life.

This week, Researching Reform would like to highlight the impact of our current child protection system on families’ and children’s mental health.

Whilst family policies and legislation try hard to keep up with scientific advancements in the fields of psychology and child development, the lag combined with too many competing financial and management interests within child protection focused departments mean that what we have in place today to respond to vulnerable children and their needs is still not good enough, by a long way.

We already know that foster care can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in children. In fact, according to a Harvard Medical School study, they are almost twice as likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as war veterans.  Needless to say, this has long term implications for a child’s educational, and later on, career success.

One of the biggest factors which leads to PTSD in foster children is the number of placements they endure. As many as one in five foster placements break down, which leads to high levels of stress, anxiety and interrupted development. This research from the Social Care Institute For Excellence is still an important read – for the data on how often children bounce around from placement to placement to the excellent suggestions for stemming this phenomenon.

From foster care to forced adoption, and here the long term effects of the practice are well documented too. This research from Australia which looks at the removal of children from parents without their consent concludes that the psychological impact ranges from complex and pathological grief and loss to self-identity and attachment issues, anxiety and attachment disorders, personality disorders, and once again symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

So, this Mental Health Awareness Week, we are asking child protection professionals and families to come together to raise awareness of the current policies in place which we could improve on to protect families’ mental health and really make sure we’re putting children and their wellbeing first.

Our question to you then, is just this: what aspects of the family justice and child protection system do you think negatively affects mental health and how can we make those processes more humane? 

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