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October 18, 2016 Practice Points

Health Challenges for Foster Youth

By Cathy Krebs

A national large scale study was completed recently—the first of its kind—to compare the mental and physical health of foster children with the general population. The results were published recently in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The authors were able to conclude that children in foster care had more mental and physical health conditions than those not placed in foster care, and in fact were in poor mental and physical health compared to children in virtually every type of situation, including those from economically disadvantaged families. Foster children were approximately twice as likely to have a learning disability, asthma, or speech problems, and three times as likely to have ADD or ADHD and hearing or vision problems. Children in foster care were also seven times as likely to experience depression, five times as likely to have anxiety, and six times as likely to have behavioral problems. One of the authors noted, "This work makes an important contribution to the research community by showing for the first time that foster care children are in considerably worse health than other children. Our findings also present serious implications for pediatricians by suggesting that foster care placement is a risk factor for health problems in childhood."

Cathy Krebs is the committee manager for the ABA Section of Litigation's Children's Rights Litigation Committee in Washington, D.C. She is also the newsletter editor for the committee.

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