Study shows foster care is bad for your health

Children who have been in the U.S. foster care system are at a significantly higher risk of mental and physical health problems — ranging from learning disabilities, developmental delays and depression to behavioral issues, asthma and obesity — than children who haven’t been in foster care, according to a University of California, Irvine sociologist.

“No previous research has considered how the mental and physical well-being of children who have spent time in foster care compares to that of children in the general population,” said study co-author Kristin Turney, UC Irvine associate professor of sociology. “This work makes an important contribution to the research community by showing for the first time that foster care children are in considerably worse health than other children. Our findings also present serious implications for pediatricians by suggesting that foster care placement is a risk factor for health problems in childhood.”

Published online Oct. 17 in Pediatrics, the large-scale study is the first to offer health comparisons based on a nationally representative sample of U.S. children. Turney and co-author Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, analyzed data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health. Of the more than 900,000 kids included in the survey, 1.3 percent were identified as having been in foster care.

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