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Mental Health Issues Among Children in Foster Care

October 5, 2012

The Foster Care Alumni Studies published  an article where they shared the findings from a study done on foster care alumni. The study is called the Casey National Alumni Study. They studied 3,547 people from the general population and 1,087 people that were foster care alumni. The backgrounds of the people from both groups were similar except for the fact that the alumni had been in foster care.

Their findings were tremendous in that they indeed found that being in foster care greatly increases your chances of having a mental illness. The mental illness that is the most prevalent is PTSD. Alumni are five times more likely to have PTSD than the general population and it even exceeds the rates of war veterans. Other mental illnesses that were found to be significantly more prevalent in foster care alumni are major depressive episode, modified social phobia, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, alcohol dependence, drug dependence, and bulimia.

This is something that might not necessarily be able to be prevented, but it is something that can be helped. There should be more mental health services that are available to foster children while in care as well as after they’re out of care. For example, if they show in psychological evaluations that they have PTSD  they should then be referred to some sort of therapy or have the option of other forms of treatment. Foster children are not always able to advocate for themselves, since they’re underage and wards of the state. Therefore, they might not be receiving the necessary treatments to help to be able to overcome their mental illness.

Also, most often after people are out of foster care they no longer have insurance or a way of receiving treatments that may be crucial in bettering their qualities of life. Therefore, there will continue to be, as the study shows, many alumni living with mental illnesses. This is an issue that is out there, yet there isn’t much awareness of it.


Ashley Burton


2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2012 12:26 am

    I agree that this is a really important issue that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. I wasn’t particularly surprised by the fact that foster system alumni are frequently afflicted by PTSD, but the fact that the condition’s prevalence among former foster children exceeds the current prevalence among war veterans is very striking. The study also found that foster system alumni have a comparatively disappointing rate of recovery (23% compared to 47% among the general population). These statistics just go to show that we’re not doing enough to promote mental wellness for kids currently in the foster system as well as those who have either been placed in permanent adoptive families or aged out. The study also states that mental health issues are “highly prevalent among alumni of foster care who have spent a year or more in care” – this is alarming when you consider how many teenagers have been in foster care their entire lives and have little chance of joining a permanent family before they age out. The fact that it only takes a year in the system to be at serious risk of acquiring some of these debilitating conditions is very disturbing.

    Gail Francis

  2. October 12, 2012 12:58 am

    I believe that the main issue causing such issues is the lack of oversight in the selection and monitoring of foster parents. Due to the fact that foster parents receive a (sometimes) hefty subsidy for fostering children, many foster children are treated as objects which provide an income, leading to their dehumanization and abuse. Due to this trend, I feel that GOOD foster parents are far less common than they should be. Just as a good owner would be wary of adopting a “used” dog because of its negative behavioral characteristics stemming from past abuse, many good parents are unwilling to adopt a child in need of significant “fixing”.

    I also find the fact that foster care alumni have higher rates of PTSD than veterans of combat to be shocking. I think that this supports the Freudian school of thought, that our upbringing may contribute to our mental well-being to a greater degree than our adulthood. The fact that chronic abuse and dehumanization in childhood is more disruptive than the horrors of war calls for more societal support for abused and abandoned children. Just as some animal adoption agencies have an “unannounced visit” clause, this should be done for foster homes to a much greater degree than we have at the present.

    Kevin Carrie

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