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Providing better mental health support to children in care

mental health and foster care

To mark World Mental Health Day, which falls on October 10th each year, Five Rivers foster carer Mark has called for greater mental health awareness of children and young people in care.

From a support worker background and having worked for local housing associations and councils previously, Mark has experienced first-hand the lack of emotional and wellbeing support available in the system for youngsters with mental health issues.

A specialist therapeutic carer for 14 years, Mark has fostered 10 boys on long-term placements, which means they usually stay in his care until they are 18 and sometimes 20 on extended placements. Mark is currently caring for two 14-year-old boys and a 17-year-old boy.

Speaking about the ways children and young people in care can be better supported with their mental health, Mark said: “Not every young person I have cared for struggles with mental health issues but being separated from families and living with strangers or bouncing from home to home, can be very difficult. Recognising these signs and providing the right type of support is so important.

“It’s also really important that on World Mental Health Day, we use the occasion to raise more awareness about changing the ways we support young people, especially those in care, who are often forgotten about. As parents and carers, all we can do is help and support these young people. More of us need to recognise that mental health matters, no matter one’s background, and share support to combat mental health issues.”

Discussing mental health issues may be difficult to talk about with the children and young people you foster, but Mark has shared five great tips with us to help you start the conversation around mental health awareness with youngsters:

  1. Break down the mental health stigma – “We need to increase the understanding of mental health and its impacts to deal with it appropriately so that there is less of a stigma.” – Mark’s tip: Tell your children they should never feel ashamed for how they feel.
  2. Encourage communication about feelings and emotions – “Communicating emotions and feelings can help young people find ways to cope in situations when they feel overwhelmed. Sometimes kids don’t want to go outside and that’s okay too. Patience is key.”
  3. Spend time outside can be therapeutic for mental health issues – “Spending time in the fresh air is proven to increase happiness and mood.”
  4. There is always someone to share a helping hand in a time of need – “Tell your [foster] child they are not alone, but they are supported. There are a number of specialists who can help with mental health issues.”
  5. Five Rivers can provide you the support you might need – “Five Rivers provides foster carers with the specialist support they need when caring for youngsters with mental health issues.”

If you would like to know more about how you can help a child in need, contact us on 0345 266 0272 or visit






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