Newsroom | Domestic Violence Trauma Contributes to the Number of Teens in Foster Care

MAG News

Every 44 minutes in Arizona, one or more children witness domestic violence. Many carry the trauma of that violence with them for years. All too often, children enter foster care due to allegations of domestic violence in their homes.

Mesa program helps teens overcome trauma and start new lives

Domestic Violence, Homelessness, Brain Injury, Foster Care

     

All too often, children enter foster care due to allegations of domestic violence in their homes.

Every 44 minutes in Arizona, one or more children witness domestic violence. Many carry the trauma of that violence with them for years. All too often, children enter foster care due to allegations of domestic violence in their homes.

In the first six months of 2022, nearly 400 teenagers in Arizona aged out of foster care. If history is an indication, within two years, more than half of them will become homeless. With many different resources available to help foster care children, why does the number of homeless teens continue to grow?

Foster 360, a program that is part of the Mesa United Way, finds that the answer is trauma, and how programs respond to it. During a recent presentation to the Regional Continuum of Care Board, hosted by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), Foster360 noted that most of the teenagers who aged out of the foster care system experienced some sort of domestic violence early on in their lives.

Foster360 Co-Director Sommer Knight shared a story about a young adult who had so much anxiety when he first arrived in the program, his lips would turn blue, and he was not able to speak.

“After three months, his nervous system was calm. We got him into his GED,” she stated, referring to a General Educational Development test. “He passed his GED in one month. This is a kid who was on the streets. Just yesterday we asked him ‘what is something you didn’t have before Foster360 that you have now.’ And he said ‘Hope. When I was on the streets I was just surviving, I was happy to wake up every morning. But I didn’t think there would be something I could be hopeful for. Foster360 has given me hope. Hope of a future.”

Foster360’s treatment programming starts with helping foster teens take a break.

“We give kids when we can, a rest period,” Knight said. “We spend 30 to 90 days, no work, no school, just calming nervous systems and building trust.”

Elena Reid Steinbeiss, Foster360 Co-Director, says that when children enter foster care, they have likely experienced complex trauma from a series of events, usually during the foundational years of life. Their program takes a different approach to helping foster teens.

“There is a need for safe housing and refuge, but past that, if we really want to change people’s lives, not only for foster teens, but all people, it’s not just about giving them houses, it’s about we really must find programming around that housing,” she said.

80% of teenage residents in Foster360 have an identified brain injury.

Eighty percent of teenage residents in Foster360 have an identified brain injury. And focusing on the issues associated with that makes the Foster360 program unique.

“No one is doing the correlation between brain injury and homelessness and aged-out foster youth,” said Program Co-Director Sommer Knight.  She says instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, they look at the unique needs of each resident. “Here is what we can do for trauma, but what do you need for your individualized treatment plan and coaching as a whole person? So that is the big thing that makes us different,” added Knight.

To learn more about Foster360 and the Mesa United Way, contact Elena Reid Steinbeiss or Sommer Knight.

Published November 30, 2022

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