Mental health and well-being - Part 4: Children in foster care more likely to suffer from mental problems

Mental health and well-being – Part 4: Children in foster care more likely to suffer from mental problems

The foster care system usually depicts the negative aspects of foster parents and foster care. However, foster care is surrogate care of children beyond their own home by people who are not their biological or adoptive parents or legal guardians. These children may be taken care by relatives in place of family members involved in neglect or abuse.

Children can be put in foster care for various reasons. Some of them might have undergone physical or sexual abuse or neglect in their homes and were relocated to a safer environment. A small number of children also find their way into foster care when their parents are unable to control them and fear that their behavior might lead to delinquency or harm others. In addition, children are also put under foster care when they are neglected by their biological parents or legal guardians or have parents or legal guardians who are unable to take care of them due to their substance abuse, incarceration or mental disorders. These children are given custodial care while their parents or guardians receive treatment or complete their sentences.

Foster care children have higher risk of physical problems

A study, published in the Pediatrics in October 2016, delved into the mental and physical well-being of children who spent time in foster care. The study concluded that children in the U.S. foster care system were at a significantly higher risk of mental and physical health problems, ranging from learning disabilities, developmental delays and depression to behavioral problems, asthma and obesity compared to the children who were not in foster care.

The study analyzed data of 900,000 children from the National Survey of Children’s Health during 2011-2012 and found that 1.3 percent children were living in foster care. When compared to the children who did not spend any time in foster care, children adopted from foster care or living in informal or court-mandated arrangements showed a trend of single-mothers and economically disadvantaged households. The study found that children in such settings were:

  • seven times as likely to go through depression
  • six times as likely to exhibit behavioral problems
  • five times as likely to feel anxiety
  • three times as likely to have attention deficit disorder (ADD), hearing impairments and vision issues
  • twice as likely to suffer from disabilities, developmental delays, asthma, obesity and speech problems

The study was able to analyze the hard-to-reach population and broaden the understanding of the mental and physical health of these vulnerable children. It also produced a statistical description on the living arrangements, physical well-being and behavior of children in the foster care system. However, the researchers stressed on further study in this direction. Study co-author Kristin Turney, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, (UCI), said, “This study expands our understanding of the mental and physical health of these highly vulnerable children, but we must take a closer look if we are to understand how foster care really affects child well-being.”

Path to recovery

If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of mental disorders, it is advisable to seek professional help. Contact the Colorado Mental Health Help to know about a holistic approach to treatment established on a variety of evidence-based treatment plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-899-5063 or chat online to know various mental health treatment centers in Colorado. You can connect with our medical representatives for any assistance or information on mental health rehab in Colorado.


Read the rest of the series, “Mental health and well-being:”

Part 1: People addicted to drugs prone to mental disorders

Part 2: Tips to help people with mental illness

Part 3: Need to overcome eating disorders for a happy life