Texas Foster Kids Could Benefit From Trauma-Informed Care

There’s problems with the system – and change isn’t happening fast enough.

By Nathan Bernier May 4, 2015 2:06 pm,

The Texas foster care system currently has more than 30,000 kids in its care. While some of these children are in healthy, positive, nurturing environments – some are not. And for children who have also suffered trauma, the system can be especially difficult.

Reyna Mondragon grew up in the Texas foster care system. By age 11, Mondragon had been sexually abused, had a miscarriage, and tired cocaine. She was then abandoned by her family and found herself in the custody of Texas Child Protective Services. Mondragon was then put through several different homes, hospitals, and medical routines. None of which helped with the foundation of her problems – the traumatizing events of her childhood.

Mondragon’s story illustrates how the system fails to provide appropriate services for some foster children, who are often severely traumatized before they enter the child welfare system. There are also some cases where children experience trauma while under the state’s care.

The question is, what kind of services did Mondragon need? It’s a buzzword going through the mental health community currently: trauma-informed care.

Beth Cortez-Neavel, a freelance journalist with the Texas Observer, spoke with the Texas Standard about the gap between mental health and foster care.

“Trauma-informed care is behavioral and mental health care that’s based on understanding that children have undergone immense trauma,” Cortez-Neavel says. “There’s been research that traumatic events actually change how the brain develops and it can even change how DNA presents itself in a human being.”

So what is Texas doing now to provide mental health services to foster children and youth?

Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) looked into this question after last legislative session.

“They found out, ‘We don’t really know,’” she says. “There are a few bills in session that are based on some of their research. They found that trauma-informed care is necessary.”

One of the bills, the “normalcy bill,” looks like it will pass during this session. It’s just one of many steps that the foster system will need to take in order to prevent cases like Mondragon’s.