Morgan Cooley, Ph.D., LCSW: Foster Care’s Impact on Child’s Mental Health | All Together #28

In this episode, host Dina Sargeant is joined by Morgan Cooley, Ph.D., LCSW who is a licensed social worker specializing in couple and family therapy, child welfare-involved families, mental health, trauma, and supporting individuals who identify as LGBT+

Foster care is often the default path of many children who can’t live with their biological families. Understanding their experiences, and the effects of those experiences, can yield positive insights that could help shape policy and provide the support that these children need.

Meet Morgan Cooley

Morgan Cooley is a dedicated licensed social worker, PhD holder, and social work faculty member at Florida Atlantic University. She specializes in couple and family therapy, child welfare, mental health, trauma, and support for the LGBT+ community. Her research, influenced by both social work and family science, centers on the relationships between child mental health and family systems within the context of child welfare.

About the episode

Host Dina Sargeant and guest Morgan Cooley start the episode with a discussion on Morgan’s definition of a family.

Morgan disclosed her four categories of families: families by blood, families by choice, families by circumstance, and, sometimes, families by force. She added that a family group has a common element of intentionality, in that even genetic families need to be very intentional in keeping their family together.

Following the previous discussion, they discussed how vital the family unit is in society. Despite shifting definitions, expectations, and contexts, families are still critical, especially for children.

Morgan then discussed the most common effects of foster care on children. She talked about how the experience of entering foster care can already be negative. Children also often come into the system with inherent trauma and uncertainty. Research also reflects that gaps in the foster care system can create negative effects on children, resulting in externalizing and internalizing behaviors.

They then talked about how crucial foster parents are in addressing potential mental health issues. Morgan disclosed specific strategies that potential foster parents might want to adopt, such as keeping up to date with knowledge and training, effective self-regulation, relationship building, and so much more.

In conclusion

Fostering is undoubtedly a challenging experience for all parties involved, but more so for the children. Foster parents must do their best to mitigate the negative impacts that being in the system can have on fostered children, and one of the best ways they can begin is by listening to this episode.

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