Long-term foster care can lead to behavioural and emotional problems

Children remaining in long-term foster care may have more behavioural and emotional problems than those who are reunited with their families or are adopted, according to a new study from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

“Children in long-term foster care suffer from behaviour and emotional problems at alarming rates. Better identifying and assisting children with, or at risk of developing such problems upon entry to foster care and throughout their out-of-home placement, may alleviate their needs and troubles and provide mechanisms for supporting them as they get older,” the researchers said.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Young children are adopted more often than older children — compare 61% of 3-5s with 5% of 15-18 year-olds.
  • 27% of children aged 11-18 in out-of-home care had clinical emotion problems while 41% had clinical levels of behavioural problems.
  • Unsurprisingly, children with emotional and behavioural problems are more likely to be in foster care in the first place. Four years after removal, 32 percent of children with clinical levels of emotional problems and 35 percent of those with clinical levels of behavioural problems were in foster care placements. This compares with 19 percent of those without such problems.
  • Children with emotional problems are less likely to be reunified with their families. Among children with no emotional problems, 31 percent were reunified with their family compared with 19 percent of children with emotional problems. One-third of children with no behavioural problems were reunified with their family compared with 18 percent of children with behavioural problems.

The full research report can be found at //www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/CarseySearch/search.php?id=164.

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