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The Truth About Suicide and Children in Foster Care

Sadly, the news is too familiar of late.  Another suicide of a child in foster care.

This time, Giulianna Ramos Bermudez, 16, was found dead in her bedroom closet at an Orlando group home on June 29 of this year.  She was found in her bedroom in the Florida group home she lived in.  Authorities said Bermudez killed herself on by tying a belt around her neck.

On Sunday, January 22, 2017, 14 year old Nakia Venant from Florida broadcast live from the bathroom of the foster home she was living in, streaming as she fashioned a homemade noose from her scarf. The broadcast ended as she hung herself from a shower glass door frame.

Three weeks earlier, on December 30, 2016, 12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis from Georgia also committed suicide, stating that she had suffered from physical and sexual abuse by a family member, this time streaming it live on the site Live.Me.

Just ten days before that,  on Dec. 20, 2016, 16 year old  Lauryn Martin fashioned a blue scarf into a noose  and hanged herself in the doorway at a Florida Keys youth shelter

How prevalent is teen suicide? Shockingly, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States. At least 90% of teens who kill themselves, according to a study  by The American Academy of Pediatrics, have some type of mental health problem. This may include  alcohol or drug abuse, anxiety, behavior problems, and depression.  Indeed, these troubled youth also often have challenges and problems at school or with friends or family.  For some, it is a combination of both  Furthermore, man of those teens that do commit suicide were victims of physical or sexual abuse. 

To be sure, these are all issues that children in foster care face and struggle with on a daily basis. According to a study by Pilowsky and Wu (2006), Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly two and a half times more likely to seriously consider suicide than other youth.  The same study also found that adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly four times more likely to have attempted suicide than other youth.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing trends online is that of the pro suicide sites that can easily be found on the internet.  These sites offer suggestions on how to commit suicide, or as one site put it, “to find the final exit”.  Online users can find suggestions on how to kill themselves while asleep, in front of others, in the privacy of a bedroom, or even through the use of over the counter medication.  For those foster children who are suffering through great bouts of depression, these sites offer advice and suggestions from “pro suicide experts,” as well as from others who try to encourage the depressed victims to end their lives.  Adding additional confusion to these potential victims is the fact the many of these sites suggest that suicide is a positive solution to their problems, or even a spiritual release to their pain and struggle.  For a foster child looking for help or encouragement, this type of encouragement may be the answer they are looking for.

There are children in foster care, like Giulianna, like Nakia, like Katelyn, and like Lauryn, who are suffering from depression.  There are children who feel as if there is no where to turn to.  There are children in foster care, as you read this, who are considering suicide as a release of their pain, their abuse, their trauma. It is time the foster care system address this.  It is time that those in society decide to help.

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 15 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as an international speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several foster care books, including Keeping Foster Children Safe Online, and writes for several publications. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.

Dr. John DeGarmo's picture
Foster Care and Parenting Specialist

Dr. John DeGarmo is considered a leading expert in Foster Care and Parenting.  Dr. John and his wife have been parents to over 50 children, including adopting three children from the foster care system. He is the host of the weekly radio program Parent Factors with Dr. John. Find out more HERE.