Emotional Effects of Children in Foster Care

Updated July 19, 2017

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, over 500,000 children are living in foster care situations. This number increases all the time. It is a hugely rewarding yet challenging job to be a foster parent. Many of these children come to you with histories of abuse, neglect, and/or emotional and behaviour problems. Being in foster care creates its own problems in children. They feel a variety of feelings in relation to their foster homes and their birth homes.


Children in foster care blame themselves for their situation. They blame themselves for breaking up the family and being removed from them.


Some children may only be in foster care for a couple days, while other children can spend years in and out of foster care. These kids develop feelings of being unwanted, especially if they are transferred to different foster homes throughout the years.

Attachment Issues

Being taken from abusive families and then moved around to different foster homes can make children have attachment issues. They may want to build relationships with their foster families, but are unsure how long they will be there.


Children in foster care do not have any say in where they go or when. So they tend to feel helpless that they cannot fix the situation themselves. Helplessness often leads to other feelings of isolation, depression and loneliness.


Even though a child may have been abused or neglected, she still may feel a sense of loyalty to her birth family. This can create bigger problems if the birth family is not able to regain custody. The child will not bond with her foster family and may isolate herself.

Unsure Future

Children put into foster care start to question their future. Their world has just changed significantly, and they do not know what that means. They may become hopeless or suicidal if their foster families do not address this issue.


Children are taught that their home is a safe place. If they were abused or mistreated in their home, now they do not have that security. Foster children who are moved around a lot tend to develop hypervigilence, which means they do not feel safe anywhere even if the foster home is a loving, safe environment.

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About the Author

Leala Munson has worked as a writer for several nationally recognized institutions for more than six years. Munson's work has appeared in the inaugural issue of "Sloane Magazine." She holds a B.A. in behavioral studies from Concordia College and has worked as an administrator at Harvard University.