Managing Eating Issues In Foster Children

It’s not uncommon to find eating problems in children who are in foster care.  This often surfaces from not being fed regularly or consistently which develops into a survivalist mentality.  Understanding the reasons behind eating issues in foster children can help families to better tackle and overcome difficult meal times.

I have a picky eater

All children are different.  Some take longer to finish their meals, and some avoid food groups altogether.

You may have a child who is unfamiliar with an ‘everyday’ food.  They may only be used to eating high-fat, unhealthy food, so healthy food may not taste good to them.

I have a hoarder

Some children may hoard or hide food in their room, even if it’s inedible or doesn’t make sense such as dried pasta or toothpaste.  This stems from emotional anxiety and neglect.  They may feel that they need to stash food in the event that they are unable to get more food later on, and may feel less anxious when they do.

I have a fast or big eater

Some children may come across as human vacuums – eating everything in their path as quick as they can.  They may have a survivalist mentality as they haven’t been able to count on regular or consistent meals.  Children in this situation will eat as much as they can when food is available.  They may get upset if they think they are not getting equal portions to others.  Some children may not know when to stop eating which often results in vomiting.

I have a messy eater

When children are neglected, some of the basic niceties that you expect in your home may not be familiar to them such as using utensils, eating with your mouth closed, not eating off other people’s plates or having regular mealtimes.

Organic problems with eating

Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder may have a very fast metabolism and may eat a lot without putting on weight. Some children may need to have food in smaller quantities, but more often. Some children have sensory issues and are very sensitive to texture, heat and spice and may reject most food. Some children have mouth pain or teeth problems and eating is painful. Very young children with eating problems may not have developed their muscles around their mouth, so have difficulty with eating and chewing.

How can I help?

It is critical that foster parents work with their health providers on any food issues to determine whether there is an organic problem for a child. It is also important for foster parents to monitor weight gain and development, especially in very young children and infants.

It is important to be sensitive to the fact that we learn the expectations and rituals about eating from our families and our environments.  It is important to be respectful and sensitive as you teach children the basics skills that they need to know to get along in your family. Don’t worry if you think this is a lot to handle, you will have sufficient training and a dedicated social worker to support you both.


Find out more about becoming a foster carer by enquiring with us today.

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