Attachment Disorder Within the Foster Care System
The aim of this paper is to examine the diagnosis of attachment disorder and it’s relationship to children within the foster care system. The prevalence of children placed into foster care as well as the circumstances that put them there are examined. Attachment and attachment disorder are discussed and defined. This article targets the current treatment methods and considers the aspects specific to children within the foster care system that affect how those treatments will work. An absence of established diagnosis and treatment criteria is discussed as well as current efforts to combine the previously known and well-established information on attachment and current issues related to children in the foster care system. Overall the lack of proper diagnosis and treatment models are leaving children who are already vulnerable with an illness that will affect the rest of their lives and those around them.
Attachment Disorder Within the Foster Care and Adoption System The relationships formed in early infancy and childhood create the framework from which all future relationships will be played out. The cement that holds this framework together is called attachment. When children enter the foster care and or adoption system, the bond that was previously formed is broken. At times this occurs due to a birthparents choice to place their child for adoption, but more often this results from abuse or neglect. This abuse or neglect can lead to the development of various forms of attachment disorder. Attachment disorder is a serious psychological illness that without intervention can lead to detrimental and lifelong effects. Children in the foster care system are at higher risk for developing this serious illness and care should be taken to not only understand the disease, but to also find ways to help treat it’s effects. Abuse and Neglect Statistics
The numbers regarding child abuse in the United States are staggering. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reports that most states recognize four major types of abuse that includes: neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and sexual abuse (Child Welfare Information Center, 2010). Neglect is a passive form of abuse in which the victim’s needs are not met by their caregiver (Goldman, Salus, Wolcott & Kennedy, 2003). Physical abuse is when physical force is used to cause harm, physical pain, injury or other bodily harm to the child (2003). Psychological abuse is also known as verbal or mental abuse and usually involves a parent behaving in a way that conveys a feeling of worthlessness to the child (2003). Sexual abuse is sexual behavior with a child that may include fondling, intercourse, rape, incest, sodomy, exhibitionism, sexual exploitation, or exposure to pornography (2003). Using this definition of abuse, they estimate that there were approximately 695 thousand new reports of abuse in 2010. Of those new reports of abuse, 78.3% suffered neglect, 17.6% suffered physical abuse, and 9.2% suffered sexual abuse. Those reports of abuse resulted in over 250 thousand children entering the foster care system, only half of which later returned home. Consistently there are about 400-500 thousand children who are in the foster care system at any given time (Child Welfare Information Center, 2010). While the statistics show that there is a high prevalence of abuse, Johnson, 2004, points out that the numbers could be even higher as in order to be able to identify abuse, researchers and clinicians need to be able to know who and what to be looking for (Johnson, 2004). Training in recognition of the signs and symptoms of attachment disorder could help improve these numbers as they often point to a larger problem in a child’s family of origin. According to national statistics, children who grow up in foster care face a...
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