As a foster carer, it is essential that you can recognise the symptoms of depression in your child.
Depression is a mental health condition that is more commonly associated with adults. However, children and young people can also be affected by it, with one in six children aged 6-16 suffering from a mental health condition, such as depression.
In 2020, the NHS reported that children in foster care are at much greater risk of experiencing poor mental health than those in the general population.
That’s why as a foster carer, it is important to be especially vigilant for signs of depression in your child. In some cases, the children that are under your care may have come from traumatic backgrounds, and the transition these children have had into the foster care system can be a turbulent and challenging time for them. Sometimes, the things they have experienced in their past can act as a trigger for depression.
Throughout your fostering journey, you should keep an eye out for the signs of depression in children, as depression can pose a significant risk to your child’s wellbeing.
Here are some of the warning signs of depression in childhood, and the steps you can take to support your child.
What to look for
Depression isn’t always easy to identify, especially in young children. However, according to the NHS, the most common symptoms of childhood depression include:
- Persistent low mood
- Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
- Feeling tired or exhausted all the time
- Sleep problems (such as sleeping too much or too little)
- Inability to concentrate
- Withdrawing into themselves (not interacting with friends or family)
- Loss of confidence
- Appetite changes (such as overeating, or refusing to eat)
- Dramatic changes in weight
- Feeling numb or failing to express emotion
- Thoughts about suicide or self-harm
- Self-harming (causing deliberate harm to themselves)
Problems at school can also be an indicator of depression (and other mental health conditions) in children and young people.
Remember, a child doesn’t have to exhibit all the symptoms above in order to be suffering from depression. They may only exhibit a few at a time.
Supporting your foster child with depression
If you suspect that your child may be depressed, it is important to get help earlier rather than later. The longer that your child experiences feelings of depression, the more profound an impact it can have on their life and development. It can also increase the risk of their depression developing into something more long-term.
Remember to stay calm and make full use of the services and resources available to you. As their foster carer, there are many things you can do to help support them throughout the difficulties they are experiencing.
- Take the problem seriously. Remember that although this may not seem like a big deal to you, it could be a major issue for your child.
- Speak to your Supervising Social Worker. You should get in contact with your Supervising Social Worker immediately if you believe your foster child has depression. They will be able to guide you through getting the right support for your foster child.
- Have a talk. Try to have a conversation with your child about how they are feeling, and what is troubling them. See our advice on how to talk to children about their mental health. If your child doesn’t want to talk, don’t force them. Reassure them that you are there for them if they need you.
- Educate yourself and them. It’s important that both you and your foster child understand what you are dealing with. Here’s where children can learn about mental health online.
- Seek professional help. If you are concerned for your foster child’s wellbeing, it is important to seek additional support from a mental health professional, such as a GP.
Where to get help
There are a variety of different charities and services you can use to get help. Some of these include:
- Samaritans: call 116 123 (open 24 hours a day), email [email protected], or check your local Samaritans branch
- MIND: call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (weekdays from 9am-6pm)
- YoungMinds Parents Helpline – call 0808 802 5544 (weekdays 9:30am-4pm)
If you are a foster carer with Compass Fostering, you should also reach out to your support team for more guidance on dealing with childhood depression. As a carer with Compass Fostering, you also have the opportunity to undertake specialist therapeutic training that will further your understanding on how to deal with depression in children.
You can speak to your Supervising Social Worker about further training, or look at the courses offered here.
How Compass Fostering aims to support children with depression
At Compass Fostering, our key objective is to improve the outcomes of children and young people in the foster system. We aim to provide the services and support to improve the self-esteem, confidence, life chances, achievements and stability of the young people placed in our care. Part of this involves finding new ways to combat the mental health risks that they face, including ensuring that all of our foster carers are equipped with the knowledge and professional guidance to deal with mental health issues, such as depression, as effectively as possible.
That’s why all of our carers undergo essential training throughout their induction as a part of our REACH Training programme. This programme aims to empower our foster carers with the resilience and education necessary to support a child throughout adversities such as depression. In addition to this, all our carers have access to extensive and ongoing support throughout their fostering journey.
When you join the Compass Fostering family, you’re never alone. If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer with Compass Fostering, and want to find out more, get in touch with us here.