Editorial

How to Spot the Signs of Depression in Foster Kids

Any child is vulnerable to depression, with 10% of all kids showing signs of depression before they reach the age of 11. As a foster carer, it is important to recognise the signs so you can help children in your care.

Causes of Depression

There is no single cause. Experts believe there is a genetic component and depression can be a familial trait. There is also evidence that introverted children are more likely to have depressive episodes because they tend to internalise their anxieties. Children with physical and mental disabilities, or those dealing with chronic illnesses, are also more susceptible to depression.

Exposure to trauma also plays a part. Foster children may have been abused by their birth parents, neglected, or experienced some other form of trauma. This can lead to low self-esteem and depression. If you are thinking of fostering in Rosyth, learn to spot the symptoms of depression in foster children.

The main ones are:

Low Mood

All children experience periods where they are sad, especially when going through the teenage years. Feeling low isn’t a sign of depression but when a child is sad for longer periods, it could indicate that they are depressed.

Appetite Changes

Children with depression often eat more or less than normal. Some kids stop eating and develop an eating disorder whereas others binge eat, or comfort eat to deal with their emotions. Look closely if your foster child has a disrupted eating pattern.

Withdrawing from Friends and Peers

Some kids prefer to spend time alone rather than hanging out with friends. Being introverted is not a crime but avoiding friends and peers all the time isn’t healthy, nor is staying in their room 24/7. Be wary if a foster child spends too much time alone. It could be because they are being bullied at school and/or depressed.

Emotional Outbursts

Unexplained crying and sudden emotional outbursts for no obvious reason may indicate a child is suffering from depression.

Lacking in Energy

Happy kids have lots of energy unless they’re ill. They love to play outdoors and jump all over the furniture. Depressed kids have no energy and don’t want to play. They might spend too much time in their room or on the sofa with the TV. If your foster kids seem abnormally fatigued, rule out physical causes first. If the doctor can’t find any underlying health problem, the issue could be depression.

How to Handle Depression in Foster Kids

Mental health doesn’t have the same stigma as it used to have, but it can still be difficult to talk about issues like depression. In addition, kids don’t always have the emotional maturity to feel comfortable talking about their feelings.

Be open with your foster children and let them know you are always available and happy to talk about any problems they might have. Try not to force help on them but suggest there is help available if they want to talk.

Do take depression seriously and don’t try to shrug off any signs you notice. If you think something is wrong, it probably is. If in doubt, speak to your mentor and ask for their advice.

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