Some youth have experienced multiple relationship changes throughout their adolescent years, which compounds any already existing challenges related to ambiguous loss, grief, attachment injuries and developmental gaps related to separation from their birth families. Moreover, youth who age out of foster care often live with some degree of trauma, which is stored in the nooks and crannies of implicit memory and the reflexive nervous system, or outside of conscious control. All these conditions bring unique challenges to relationship development.
While there is no guidebook, there are several helpful resources to prepare supportive adults (who may or may not have professional training) in establishing and maintaining relationships with youth who age out of foster care. For example, the “Child Development and Trauma Guide” highlights indicators of how trauma manifests and impacts children and youth at different stages of development. The guide also provides general tips on how to respond to youth who exhibit trauma symptoms. The “Transformational relationships for youth success” report reveals characteristics of supportive adults who help youth thrive, such as individuals who consistently show up for youth during the highs and lows, and challenge them to be a better version of themselves without judging them. Finally, “Relationships First: Creating Connections That Help Young People Thrive” provides a developmental framework and a wide variety of tips to creating strong relationships with youth.
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