New Study Finds Foster Children at Higher Risk for Health Problems

Children in Foster Care Face Increased Risk of Both Mental and Physical Health Issues

Children in foster care face increased risks of physical and mental health issues, from asthma to ADHD to depression, a new study finds, reports U.S. News and World Report

Considering the adversity that foster children face, the study results aren't surprising, the researchers note. But this is the first study to compare rates of foster children’s health issues to those of U.S. children as a whole, including kids from low-income or single-parent families. The study confirms that children in foster care are particularly vulnerable.

Overall, foster kids faced two to three times higher risks of physical health issues such as asthma, obesity, and hearing and vision problems. They were five to seven times more likely to have behavioral issues or symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

The study did not conclude that foster care causes these problems, but was intended to create a clearer picture of how U.S. faster children are faring.

The findings come from a nationally representative government health survey done between 2011 and 2012. It covered nearly 96,000 children and teenagers, 0.5 percent of whom were in foster care. Overall, foster care kids had higher rates of certain physical health issues: 18 percent had asthma, for example, versus 9 percent of other U.S. kids. Almost one-quarter were obese, versus 16 percent of other children.

Often, the study found, there were more stark differences when it came to mental health and behavior. Between 14 percent and 17 percent of foster children had been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or behavior problems, based on foster parents' reports. That compared with 2 percent to 3 percent of other U.S. kids. Another 22 percent had been diagnosed with ADHD, versus about 7 percent of other kids.

Researchers hope the findings will encourage more physical and mental evaluations of children when they enter the foster care system and that foster parents will seek more help as they need it for their children. 


Photo: apdk Sad child. via photopin (license)