• Embrace TFC

Bullying

Updated: Jun 11, 2018


Our culture, and the use of social media, has led to bullying becoming more normalized than ever before. In recent research studies, it is proven that bullying is on the rise in our schools. A recent survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire revealed that 25% of students report that they have been bullied at school, compared to 13% in 2013. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education show that since November 2016, 13% of students reported being “made fun of, called names, or insulted,” while 5% of students reported being “pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on.” As we are now firmly established in the “digital age”, cyberbullying has become a significant problem among our youth. Anywhere from 30% to 60% of teens report being victims of cyberbullying, primarily through social media and texting. Even more concerning is that 85% to 90% of those students have not told their parents or caregivers what is happening.


Students living in poverty and female students are more likely to report being bullied. Other specific groups who are most often the victims of bullying include, people of color, ethnic and/or religious minorities, LGBTQ youth, and students with disabilities. Many of our children in foster care fall into one or more of these categories, making them prime targets of bullies. We all know that, sadly, many children in foster care have had multiple placements, sometimes due to no fault of their own. These children are not familiar with the communities they are living in, the schools that they attend, or the adults and peers in their new environments. This makes them further susceptible to being bullied.

So who are bullies, and what can we expect to see from their victims?

This chart below offers a summary:



Bullies are likley to: 

  • suffer symptoms of depression

  • experience suicidal ideation

  • suffer from psychiatric problems

  • suffer from eating disorders

  • engage in substance abuse

  • engage in fighting behaviors

  • engage in criminal misconduct

  • engage in academic misconduct

  • have parents who use punitive forms of discipline

  • have less-responsive and less-supportive parents

  • come from harsh home environments

  • have poor parent-child communication

  • lack adult role models

  • have suffered child abuse

  • have lower school bonding

  • have lower academic achievement

  • have lower school adjustment

  • have authoritarian parents



Victims are likely to: 

  • suffer symptoms of depression

  • experience suicidal ideation

  • suffer from psychiatric problems

  • suffer from eating disorders

  • suffer feelings of loneliness

  • have low self-esteem

  • suffer from anxiety

  • be less popular than other children

  • spend a lot of time alone

  • have suffered child abuse

  • have less-responsive and less-supportive parents

  • come from harsh home environments

  • have parents who allow few opportunities to control social circumstances

  • have problems with school bonding

  • have greater rates of absenteeism

  • have problems with school adjustment

  • experience physical health problems



What can those of us who work with and care for youth in foster care do about bullying? Here are some suggestions:


Connect children with their peers in the neighborhood who are of the same age and attend the same school. This will provide them with a sense of belonging with at least some of their peers, and make them more comfortable and less likely to become a victim of bullies.


Advocate with schools to provide effective anti-bullying programs.

If a child in foster care is the bully, make sure their treatment plan includes counseling or other interventions that may be useful.


If a child in foster care is being bullied, ask for help in school advocacy, providing assertiveness training, or dealing with the kinds of issues that often make children the target for bullying, such as poor hygiene, unstylish clothing, difficulty in "reading" social cues, or special education needs.


Be attentive to cues such as an unwillingness to interact with certain other children in the neighborhood or family, reluctance to go to school or out to play in the community, or dropping out of activities that previously were enjoyed.


When it comes specifically to cyberbullying, there a number of things we can do. Make sure that you are discussing social networking facts with children. Be as aware as you can of all of the sites that your children use, and monitor their activity as much as possible. Establish and review cell phone rules with children regularly. Discuss values and general principles with children regarding all electronic communications. We cannot allow bullying behavior to become normalized, and we must fight against the perpetrators and effectively advocate for our children who become victims.


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Sources https://www.scfamilies.org/media/1003/bullying.pdf https://thinkprogress.org/bullying-during-the-trump-years-7437a9bcbb88


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About the Author: Ronnie Gehring is the Site Manager for Embrace Treatment Foster Care in Virginia Beach, VA. He has been with Embrace TFC since October 2016. Ronnie received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Eastern Kentucky University and Master’s degree in Social Work from University of South Carolina. He has experience working as a Program Director for the CASA program, a foster parent trainer, foster care program supervisor, and an activist on the Board for the Virginia Association of Licensed Child Placing Agencies and as a member of the Board for the Virginia Coalition of Private Provider Associations.