How to build resilience in children in Virginia foster care


How Do We Teach Children in Foster Care Resiliency?

What is Resilience?

Children in the foster care system have gone through traumatic events. Their biological parents were unable to care for them, which led them to be placed in social services.

This experience hugely impacts the mental health of the children. How can we turn them from negative thoughts and toward a positive mindset? One way is through resilience. So, what is resiliency, and how does it relate to foster care?

Here is the dictionary's definition: 

re·sil·ience /rəˈzilyəns/ noun: resiliency 

1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. (ex. "the often remarkable resilience of so many American institutions") 

2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity (For example." nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience")

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and achieve your goals despite the hardships you've been through.

The Importance of Resiliency

Foster children in care or entering care have had to deal with challenging situations. However, that doesn't stop some of these foster youth from going on and achieving great things. Their ability to bounce back from adversity is the perfect example of resilience in a foster child.

Our foster youth have to endure so much, from disturbing and negatively impactful situations in their homes to their removal from that home. Then they must endure being placed into a stranger's house and adjusting accordingly.

This is all while they are still in the early developmental stages of their lives. They may not know how to properly grieve, manage or regulate their emotions, show emotion, or adequately use their natural resources or healthy outlets.

Humans have a natural innate ability to adjust, pivot, and adapt. However, negative experiences still affect our mental and physical well-being. It's essential for us to build resilience over time.

Our personal life experiences will develop our resiliency throughout our lives. Though, our foster youth require it more at this point in their lives. So how do we build up resilience and be able to apply it properly when challenging situations arise?

How To Build Resiliency

Build a Solid Foundation

Having a solid foundation is vital in building resiliency. It will be the things you can reliably turn to when things begin to go wrong.

Everyone's foundations will be different, but they can include things such as:

  • Strong social support from friends and family members
  • Self-care techniques
  • Enjoyable hobbies
  • A healthy lifestyle

Be Flexible

Sometimes there will be unpredictable incidents that deter you or bring you down. This can even affect the strong foundation that you've built. Maybe your family member canceled major plans last minute, or you need more time in the day to enjoy your hobby.

Having a plan B and being willing to pivot your original goals and ideas is important. Stay open to the possibilities and attend to everything with a positive and growth mindset.

Be Self-Compassionate

There will be times when you have to deal with an issue or something that may seem too difficult. It can be easy to be our worst critic and blame ourselves for adverse events in our lives.

A challenging but beneficial skill to learn is to give ourselves grace and to be compassionate to ourselves. Be willing to tell yourself that things may be difficult now, but you have the capacity to move through it.

Work on forgiving yourself for your mistakes and move on from the situation with dignity and respect for yourself. Admire all the hard work you've put into situations and all the things you've done right.

Change Your Mindset

Adversity will come no matter how well you plan or prepare for it. Sometimes it will be unexpected and devastating. When that time comes, you will have to decide how you'll receive it.

Decide how you can tackle the situation to get the best outcome. This can involve reaching out to your support system, contacting professionals, or engaging in self-care.

If you have the mindset that the glass is half full no matter what, it'll never look or feel empty when the tough times come. Having a positive mindset will create the ability to leverage that negative situation into a positive one.

Hopefully, these four quick steps to build resiliency can serve as beneficial and influential in your lives.


My name is Vincent Ellis White, and I am a Home Study Specialist at Extra Special Parents (ESP), a licensed Child Placing Agency in Virginia. I mainly have two tasks in my ESP role:

1: training potential foster parents and guide them as they navigate the road to certification to become licensed foster parents.

2: I conduct home studies of prospective foster parents, which is critical to the road to certification.

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