Children in Foster Care Develop Resilience Through Compassion

A new study shows that a therapeutic intervention called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) appears to improve the mental and physical health of adolescents in foster care. CBCT is a tool that provides strategies for people to develop more compassionate attitudes toward themselves and others.

It is well documented that children in foster care have a high prevalence of trauma in their lives. For many, circumstances that bring them into the foster care system are formidable - sexual abuse, parental neglect, family violence, homelessness, and exposure to drugs. In addition, they are separated from biological family and some are regularly moved around from one place to another.

Emory researchers conducted the study in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS).

"Children with early life adversity tend to have elevated levels of inflammation across their lifespan," explains Thaddeus Pace, lead author of the study. "Inflammation is known to play a fundamental role in the development of a number of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and depression."

The study finds that adolescents who practiced CBCT showed reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP), reduced anxiety and increased feelings of hopefulness. The more the study participants practiced, the greater the improvement observed in these measures.

"The beneficial effects of CBCT on anxiety and feelings of hopelessness suggest that this intervention may provide immediate benefit to foster children," says a co-author Charles Raison.

"We are even more encouraged by the finding that CBCT reduced levels of inflammation. Our hope is that CBCT may help contribute to the long-term health and well being of foster care children, not only during childhood, but also as they move into their adult years."

REHACARE.de; Source: Emory University

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