By Kristina Vaseau, Director, Child & Family Services, Spaulding for Children

More parents with children in foster care suffer from mental illness than the general population. Many suffer from poverty or live transient lives that make getting and following treatment difficult. Some may get diagnosed, get a treatment plan and medication — then stop for various reasons, including feeling better or a move. Then they relapse. The affects ripple through their families.

Parents Not Getting Care are Unable to Provide Care

“I am thinking of one mother we see,” said Kristina Vaseau, Director, Child & Family Services, Spaulding for Children. “Her instability is probably 70-percent of what prevents her from giving her kids the care they need. She cannot regulate herself.  If she were in treatment, she’d have some calm moments of clarity. But she is not in treatment and, therefore, we cannot recommend she have her children returned to her.”

How does this affect children?

“The foster care system in general is not stable. There are not enough homes and many families often are not equipped to deal with a child suffering from the stress and trauma of coming from a home with mental illness. These foster parents may ask that a child be removed as soon as there are any difficulties. Research now points to long term effects of trauma filled lives these children experience.”

What Can We Do?

“We need to better understand and treat mental illness. It’s not someone’s fault if there are insufficient material resources or stability in their homes to provide them the help they need.

“We need more medical providers — especially those who are able and willing to take patients who are on Medicaid.

“We need more mental health services throughout the community, and we need to make it easier for people to access the service (including transportation) and to pay for it.”