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Psychologist Offers Tips for Growing Happy, Healthy Foster Kids

(November 08, 2011)

CHICAGO, IL -- (Marketwire) -- 11/08/11 -- When foster parents don't understand the fear, anger and other emotions experienced by children suddenly removed from their parents, the consequences are often disastrous, says psychologist Kalyani Gopal, author of "The Supportive Foster Parent" (www.thesupportivefosterparent.com).

Kalyani, who has counseled foster parents and foster children for more than 25 years, offers insights and strategies for helping those children grow into emotionally healthy adults. "The Supportive Foster Parent" includes strategies for coping, and teaching children to cope with a myriad of problems, from anger to clinical depression.

"When this child arrives, this child does not want to live with you," Gopal writes. "Some of these children resist adjusting to foster care, pine for the absent parent and get defiant, oppositional, aggressive, withdrawn, or just simply guarded."

The good-hearted foster parents -- who might have had a profoundly positive effect on the child's life and the lives of the generations she begets -- become disillusioned, hurt and even angry. They give up.


That doesn't have to happen, Gopal says.

The president of Mid-America Psychological and Counseling Services in Merrillville, Ind., she offers these suggestions:

  • Don't expect gratitude. Your foster child may be angry about being uprooted and may transfer that anger and pain to you. He or she may lash out with hurtful invectives. For new foster parents expecting a child grateful for a warm bed, good food and kind adults, this can come as a shock. Don't take it personally, and don't lash out in return.
  • If you have children, make them part of the planning. Talk to your children about whether they'll they resent a child tagging along with them. Will they have to share a bedroom? Children who have a say in the foster parenting process are more likely to accommodate a foster child.
  • Show maternal responsiveness. A child's earliest experiences can have lifelong consequences, but neglected babies and toddlers may not know how to signal their needs or respond to affection. Calm young children by rocking, holding, or singing to them.

About Dr. Kalyani Gopal

Dr. Kalyani Gopal is a licensed clinical psychologist with special interests in child sexual abuse assessment and treatment, attachment issues, and foster care assessment, adjustment and training. She serves on the Lake County, Ind., Child Protection and Child Fatality teams, and was the recipient of the Outstanding Service to Lake County award in 2004.

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