Struggling in Silence: The Challenges Faced by Young People with Past Trauma in Care

Struggling in Silence: The Challenges Faced by Young People with Past Trauma in Care

24 May 2024

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This informal CPD article, ‘Struggling in Silence: The challenges faced by young people with past trauma in care‘, was provided by Magdalena Jalocha, Training Manager at Holden Knight Healthcare, a Recruitment Consultancy with a passion for achieving excellence.

Growing up in the care system in the UK presents numerous challenges, but for young people with past trauma, these difficulties are often magnified. Trauma, whether stemming from abuse, neglect, or other adverse childhood experiences, can profoundly impact a child's development and well-being. Upon entering the care system, these young individuals' struggles are compounded by systemic issues, lack of appropriate support, and the complexities of managing trauma within an institutional setting.

Understanding the Impact of Trauma

Research from the UK indicates that trauma can significantly affect a child's psychological, emotional, and physical health. Studies by the NSPCC highlight that children who have experienced trauma often face issues such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and behavioural problems. These children may struggle with trust, attachment, and forming healthy relationships, all of which are crucial for their development and well-being.

When children with trauma enter the care system, they bring their past experiences with them. Unfortunately, the care system often lacks the resources to address their complex needs effectively. The unpredictability and impersonality of care settings can exacerbate feelings of instability and insecurity, making it difficult for these children to heal and thrive.

Systemic Challenges

One of the primary systemic challenges is the lack of specialized training for caregivers. According to a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, many foster parents and residential care staff do not receive adequate training to understand and manage trauma-related behaviours. Without this understanding, caregivers may misinterpret a child’s actions as defiance or bad behaviour, rather than as manifestations of their trauma.

Additionally, the care system in the UK is often overburdened and under-resourced. High caseloads and frequent staff turnover mean that children do not always receive the consistent, individualized attention they need. Research by the Fostering Network highlights how frequent moves between foster homes or care facilities disrupt any sense of stability and continuity, further hindering the healing process.

Mental Health Support

Access to mental health services is critical for young people with trauma, yet it remains a significant barrier. A study by the Care Quality Commission found that long waiting lists, insufficient funding, and a shortage of qualified mental health professionals mean that many children in care do not receive timely and appropriate psychological support. This gap in services can lead to untreated mental health issues, worsening over time and impeding a child’s ability to succeed in school, form relationships, and transition to adulthood.

Moreover, stigma surrounding mental health can deter young people from seeking help. Within the care system, where survival often means hiding vulnerabilities, admitting to mental health struggles can be particularly challenging.

The Role of Education

The education system can also fail traumatized children. Trauma can impair concentration, memory, and the ability to regulate emotions, all crucial for academic success. According to a study by the Department for Education, schools often lack the resources or training to identify and support students with trauma. Consequently, these children may fall behind academically, further perpetuating feelings of inadequacy and failure.

Supportive educational environments that recognize and accommodate the needs of traumatized children are essential. This includes providing training for teachers on trauma-informed practices, offering counselling services, and creating a safe and inclusive school culture.

Building Resilience

Despite these challenges, there are pathways to resilience and recovery for young people in care. Trauma-informed care, which involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of trauma, can significantly improve outcomes. This approach emphasizes safety, trustworthiness, and empowerment and involves all aspects of the care system, from policy to practice.

Creating a stable and supportive environment is crucial. Consistent, caring relationships with trusted adults can help children rebuild their ability to trust and form healthy attachments. Providing opportunities for young people to express themselves and participate in decision-making about their lives also fosters a sense of control and agency.


Young people with past trauma face unique and profound challenges within the care system. Addressing their needs requires a concerted effort to reform how care is provided, ensuring that it is trauma-informed and adequately resourced. By prioritizing mental health support, training for caregivers and educators, and creating stable, supportive environments, we can help these young individuals not only survive but thrive. Their resilience in the face of adversity is a testament to their strength, and with the right support, they can build brighter, healthier futures.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Holden Knight Healthcare, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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Holden Knight Healthcare

Holden Knight Healthcare

For more information from Holden Knight Healthcare, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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