Foster Parent

PTSD in foster kids…

PTSD in Foster Kids…

Sadly too many kids in foster care have some sort of PTSD. My little one has lived with us for going on 3 years. She lived with me when she was just over a year old for an entire year. She spent 2 years with her bio parents. Long enough to cause trauma. Let me say this….kids are resilient….up to a point. Trauma will affect children in different ways. Most kids coming into foster care have some sort of trauma. After all, they were removed for a reason! Our little one came out of the whole drug crisis.

Thankfully her bio parents protected her a great deal. They made those 2 years with them as magical as possible. They would do lots of free things around town. Her bio mom was very artistic. She could draw the most amazing pictures. She would make chalk pictures and sketches that could be sold in any art studio. Unfortunately, as much as they tried they could not hide their drug use nor properly care for her. I have mentioned this before but it is worth mentioning again…she weighed 22 pounds just shy of 5 years old when she came into care. She was removed for several reasons…I have only touched on a few.

Having a child with PTSD is not easy. This is not a label that will define her. It is not a label that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Right now it is a label that allows us to see Beth our therapist for Parent/Child Psychotherapy once a week. This PTSD label allows me to share with others so I don’t get the judgemental stares from the perfect moms. It is like a tool in a tool belt and helps us understand one piece of who she is.

The suitcase…

Our therapist explained PTSD like this…Imagine a child carrying a suitcase. It is roughed up and well worn. In this suitcase are all sorts of emotions and memories. The child will have this suitcase for life. There are times when she will carry it and be able to run and function and play like any normal child. Sometimes we will need to help her carry the suitcase. There are also times when we will need to carry her as she carries the suitcase.

So you get the whole image of the suitcase. There will be times when the suitcase will come flying open. From my experience, this is always at the worst times. We will be in a hurry, in a public place, or right before bed! You can not just shove the items back in. When the suitcase comes open you need to take the time to help the child process what fell out.

It could be a memory or could be emotions she can not label. Or it could be just a good case of the “can’t help its!” Whatever it is, it requires your help in examining, labeling and packing. Sometimes one or two things will pop out like “do you think bio mom and dad are in jail?” “Do you think bio mom or dad will try to come and take me away?” What she needs from me as the adult is to reassure her she is safe, loved, and with us forever! Sometimes the spill is much bigger. This usually involves tears, questioning of being loved, total and irrational meltdown. What makes this different from a normal kid fit? Not a lot except the fit is coming from a place of fear and trauma.

Point of no return

When our little one gets to this point of no return it has to run its course. She had gotten to the point now that she will ask me to snuggle her. This is where I will sit on our bottom step and scoop her up and just love on her. I will wipe the hair out of her face and kiss her forehead. Sometimes I will hum to her. Anything that lets her know she is not alone. I will tell her she is loved and safe. I don’t use this time to teach her how to handle life or answer her wild questions. She is not in a place to hear it. She physically can not access the reasoning part of her brain.

The spilling of the suitcase is becoming less and less the more she is with us. This is something she may always have. The suitcase may someday turn into a backpack so it is not as cumbersome. It may turn into a steamer trunk too. My guess is when she hits puberty with all sorts of hormones and physical changes we may get the steamer trunk. Regardless we have techniques to help her handle it. As she gets older she will be able to advocate for herself more. As I said it does not define her. It does not excuse normal expectations of obedience and following the rules. It just means on certain days and times she needs a little grace as she copes with her baggage. But then again…don’t we all? Here is a time when she just had to tap out for the day! Check the story out here.



  1. CHack

    This post made me cry Tracy.. God has blessed this little one so much with giving her to you.. I see so much of my life in this one blog post…The whole suitcase analogy is spot on.. PTSD is something that I think will always leave a scar or two..but to understand it, and be able to learn it’s triggers, and source, is something I wish I had, had, or known as a child. I did not realize what it even was till in my 40’s. As a child of the system.. So thankful for you, and your perseverance, and love that God has placed on your heart for this child.. Good job Mama!
    Blessings.. Will continue to pray for her, and you!!

    1. beachchairtracy

      Thank you for your kind words. We are the lucky ones. Thankfully we were given the tools early on to help understand. She is thriving and we are loving this journey we are on. I am glad this helped you! I hope as you continue on your journey your suitcase will be manageable. Bless you!

  2. […] super hard to be a foster kid. Yesterday was one of those days. To read a little backstory go here  Yesterday was one of those days where the suitcase came […]

  3. Donna Gnann

    God’s love and the love of a family will help her get through this and become an amazing adult. You are the SUPER Mom and I love you and my precious grandchild so much. Dad too is a part of this wonderful responsibility/ journey Continue in His love my family and remember we are always there to love and support

    1. beachchairtracy

      Thanks mom! Still impressed you figured out how to comment!

  4. Katy

    Tears rolling down right now.
    Keep being the perfect mom to her. God has designed you for such a time as this.

  5. Rosie

    You are doing such a good job, and you have a lot of understanding, and I love how you know how to tap into help for all of you. I have a niece who had been given up for adoption, she is now a mom with kids of her own. Her bio mom (my sister) had told her much misinformation. I’m trying to get closer to her, at her acceptance rate, she has been reaching out to me lately. I don’t know if I will ever have opportunity to share with her details that would help her understand in a way that she was not abandoned, and many other things. However, I am there for her as much as she would like I don’t push myself on her. Kids do have strong feelings that stay with them for life, one complication can be as they get older, what their bio parent(s) might say to them, that can set things askew, at least being and adult it isn’t as bad as when they are a child and they get mixed messages.

    1. beachchairtracy

      I wish you success as you reach out to your niece. I think you have the right mindset to go a little at a time. I am glad she is reaching out to you. Continue to be there for her!

  6. Pero

    Can’t even start to imagine how it is to little one , you are great person , not many people would do what you did

  7. This post made me cry. Hats off to you, Tracy. You are a wonderful mama!

  8. Marko

    So sad post , fell so sorry of little one and kids in similar situations . Saw on news recently story : father threw 4 of his kid of balcony , luckily none died , but can you imagine what’s now in those kids heads . Horror

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