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Hans Grietens: how can we help foster families take care of foster children with a history of sexual abuse?

How can we help foster families take care of foster children with a history of sexual abuse?

Many foster children suffer from trauma due to past sexual abuse. They are anxious, have little faith in others and have low self-esteem. Foster families do not always understand what is going on or know the history of their foster child. It is only after a while that they learn how deeply the child has been affected.

Hans Grietens

We talked at length with these foster families about the problems that they experience in caring for their foster child, how they deal with these difficulties and what support they would like to receive. We asked foster children what their needs were after placement in the foster family. The stories of foster families show that caring for foster children with a history of abuse is experienced as an ‘top-class sport’. Foster families must be available for their foster child 24/7 and are often confronted with unexpected events. For example, foster children may suddenly start talking about the abuse that they faced, or show uncontrolled sexual behaviour. Foster children indicate that they need safety, empathy and structure and want to regain control of their lives.

To achieve this, specific knowledge and skills are required. Everyone in the foster home must take good care of themselves and each other. The family must receive intensive guidance from professionals with expertise in the field of trauma and assistance to sexual abuse victims. To this end, we are currently developing a digital environment in which foster parents can find answers to their questions and can learn from the experiences of other foster parents.

prof. dr. H.W.E. (Hans) Grietens
First name
Full Professor
Child welfare, foster care, child maltreatment, violence, trauma, children's voices, qualitative research methods
Last modified:03 September 2019 1.33 p.m.
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