Researchers determined that children in the U.S. foster care system are more likely to suffer emotional and physical health problems.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics, where child care specialists tried to assess any health implications in children submitted to foster care. Results showed that children in foster care are more vulnerable to suffering from attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, obesity, behavior problems, and many other ailments.

Foster children are in the worst situation overall than every other children. Image Credit: YouTube

Kids in harsh lives

According to the study, at least 1 percent of U.S. children have to live under foster care. There is some background suggesting that foster kids are more likely to suffer from poor health, but no conclusive studies had yet proven the existence of a link between both circumstances.

The report suggests that children in foster are often subjected to parental abuse, poverty, and other important factors that may hinder their correct development. It is known that foster kids have trouble performing well in school and finding jobs, with an increased likelihood of using drugs and alcohol at an early age.

Kristin Turney and Christopher Wildeman, sociologists from the University of California, Irvine, reviewed 95,677 children aged 0 to 17. Each child was assessed, and then the adults of its household were interviewed. Nine times out of 10 the mother or father served as the representative. Because the analysis was so extensive, only half of the surveys were completed, to which researchers accommodated the results according to the questions that were not answered.

The kids were classified by several parameters. First, they were to be labeled according to their level of health and their activity limitations, whether the restrictions stem from health or social issues. The parents were also asked if the child had documented learning disability, ADHD, anxiety, ADD, behavior problems, developmental delay, hearing problems, speech problems, or obesity.

Then the parent or tutor had to answer if the child was in foster care and if they were the authorized instructor of the child. The relation of the representative to the child was also noted, where many cases made themselves present. Sometimes the child was under the care of a single mother, a single father, their grandparents, married step-fathers, or other types of relatives.

The economic variables were also taken into account. Researchers noted the age, gender, and birth weight of the child, and measured its overall household characteristics. They analyzed if the representative was employed, its level of education, if it received welfare if the family can be classified as poor, if the house was owned by the parent, and so on.

The data was measured on tables and then submitted to mathematical models, trying to assess the child’s health against the variables found in foster care households.

Foster kids have a worse health condition overall

The most common ailment suffered by foster children is obesity, which was present in 15.8 percent of the children surveyed. Other common health conditions were asthma and learning disability, which was found in 8.8 and 7.9 of the surveyed children respectively.

Children in foster care were noted to be twice as likely to have learning disabilities, showing a 14.7 percent over a 7.6 percent for children not placed in foster care.

Behavioral problems, one of the most concerning and expected conditions, were present in 17.5 percent of children placed in foster care, compared to 2.9 percent for those who were not submitted to foster care. This is also true for depression, showing a 14.2 percent versus 2.0 percent.

In essence, children placed in foster care are more likely to have adverse health conditions compared to children in regular households. They are three times more likely to suffer from a learning disability, ADD, and hearing problems, twice as likely to suffer from asthma, and at least seven times as likely to suffer from depression.

But lastly, Foster children appeared to be in a worse situation overall than every other child in a different family situation.

“This is typically a difficult-to-reach population, so having access to descriptive statistics on their living arrangements, physical well-being and behavior provided an excellent opportunity to help identify the health challenges they face,” stated Turney.

She also noted that through this study, there is a precedent for understanding how foster care works and the ways it affects children.

By 2014, there were at least 415,129 children in foster care, only half of them ever reunite with their families again in their lives.

They are also at least twice as likely to suffer from PTSD, according to Harvard Medical School. It has also been determined that former foster home children have low post-secondary grades and lower employment rates compared to the general population. Employment rate sits at 80.1 percent for former foster children aged 20 to 34, while children in regular households show 95 percent.

Professor Ronald Kessler, who participated in the study, noted that foster children perform poorly mostly because of experiences of abuse and neglect, which highlights the need for implementing mental health treatment in the foster care system.

Source: University of Carolina, Irvine