The Intersection of Foster Care and Mental Health

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In the United States, there are more than 400,000 children and teens in foster care.  Research reveals that children and teens in the foster care system have disproportionately high rates of psychiatric disability.

One study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that nearly half (47.9 percent) of youth in foster care were found to have clinically significant emotional or behavioral problems.  Likewise, researchers at the Casey Family Programs estimate that between one-half and three-fourths of children entering foster care exhibit behavioral or social competency problems that warrant mental health services.

Youth who have “aged out” of foster care also show high rates of psychiatric disability.  According to a study by the Casey Family Programs and Harvard Medical School, a high number of former foster children have psychiatric disabilities as adults.  Over half of foster care alumni had mental health diagnoses, compared to 22 percent of the comparison group.

The disproportionate level of mental health diagnoses is perhaps most evident with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Thirty percent of foster alumni are diagnosed with PTSD, which is about twice the rate of U.S. combat veterans.

by Stephanie Orlando, Disability Blog

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