Post traumatic stress disorder
Regions of the brain associated with stress and post traumatic stress disorder
Children in foster care have a higher incidence of Post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).In one study (Dubner and Motta, 1999) 60% of children in foster care who had experienced sexual abuse had PTSD, and 42% of those who had been physically abused fulfilled the PTSD criteria. PTSD was also found in 18% of the children who were not abused. These children may have developed PTSD due to witnessing violence in the home. (Marsenich, 2002).
In a study conducted in Oregon and Washington state, the rate of PTSD in adults who were in foster care for one year between the ages of 14–18 was found to be higher than that of combat veterans, with 25 percent of those in the study meeting the diagnostic criteria as compared to 12–13 percent of Iraq war veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam war veterans, and a rate of 4% in the general population. The recovery rate for foster home alumni was 28.2% as opposed to 47% in the general population.
“More than half the study participants reported clinical levels of mental illness, compared to less than a quarter of the general population”.
Foster children are at increased risk for a variety of eating disorders, in comparison to the general population.
Obesity children in foster care are more prone to becoming overweight and obese, and in a study done in the United Kingdom, 35% of foster children experienced an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) once in care.
Hyperphagic Short Stature syndrome (HSS) is a condition characterized by short stature due to insufficient growth hormone production, an excessive appetite (hyperphagia) and mild learning disabilities. While it is believed to have genetic component, HSS is triggered by being exposed to an environment of high psychosocial stress; it is not uncommon in children in foster homes or other stressful environments. HSS improves upon removal from the stressful environment.
Food Maintenance Syndrome is characterized by a set of aberrant eating behaviors of children in foster care. It is “a pattern of excessive eating and food acquisition and maintenance behaviors without concurrent obesity”; it resembles “the behavioral correlates of Hyperphagic Short Stature”. It is hypothesised that this syndrome is triggered by the stress and maltreatment foster children are subjected to, it was prevalent amongst 25 percent of the study group in New Zealand.
Bulimia Nervosa is seven times more prevalent among former foster children than in the general population.
A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants in his study exhibited symptoms of disorganized attachment. Children with histories of maltreatment, such as physical and psychological neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, are at risk of developing psychiatric problems. These children may be described as experiencing trauma as the result of abuse or neglect, inflicted by a primary caregiver, which disrupts the normal development of secure attachment. Such children are at risk of developing a disorganized attachment. Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms, as well as depressive, anxiety, and acting-out symptoms.
Poverty and homelessness
New York street children; 1890
Nearly half of foster kids in the U.S. become homeless when they turn 18. “One of every 10 foster children stays in foster care longer than seven years, and each year about 15,000 reach the age of majority and leave foster care without a permanent family—many to join the ranks of the homeless or to commit crimes and be imprisoned.
Three out of 10 of the United States homeless are former foster children. According to the results of the Casey Family Study of Foster Care Alumni, up to 80 percent are doing poorly—with a quarter to a third of former foster children at or below the poverty line, three times the national poverty rate. Very frequently, people who are homeless had multiple placements as children: some were in foster care, but others experienced “unofficial” placements in the homes of family or friends.
Individuals with a history foster care tend to become homeless at an earlier age than those who were not in foster care. The length of time a person remains homeless is prolonged in indiviuals who were in foster care.
Children in foster care are at a greater risk of suicide, the increased risk of suicide is still prevalent after leaving foster care and occurs at a higher rate than the general population. In a small study of twenty-two Texan youths who aged out of the system, 23 percent had a history of suicide attempts.
A Swedish study utilizing the data of almost one million people including 22,305 former foster children who had been in care prior to their teens, concluded:
Former child welfare clients were in year of birth and sex standardised risk ratios (RRs) four to five times more likely than peers in the general population to have been hospitalised for suicide attempts….Individuals who had been in long-term foster care tended to have the most dismal outcome…former child welfare/protection clients should be considered a high-risk group for suicide attempts and severe psychiatric morbidity.
Children in foster care have an overall higher mortality rate than children in the general population. A study conducted in Finland among current and former foster children up to age 24 found a higher mortality rate due to substance abuse, accidents, suicide and illness. The deaths due to illness were attributed to an increased incidence of acute and chronic medical conditions and developmental delays among children in foster care.
Georgia Senator Nancy Schaefer published a report “The Corrupt Business of Child Protective Services” stating:
“The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1998 reported that six times as many children died in foster care than in the general public and that once removed to official “safety”, these children are far more likely to suffer abuse, including sexual molestation than in the general population”.
Poor academic prospects
|Educational outcomes of ex-foster children in the Northwest Alumni Study*
- 56% completed high school compared to 82% of the general population, although an additional 29% of former foster children received a G.E.D. compared to an additional 5% of the general population.
- 42.7% completed some education beyond high school.
- 20.6% completed any degree or certificate beyond high school
- 16.1% completed a vocational degree; 21.9% for those over 25.
- 1.8% complete a bachelors degree, 2.7% for over 25, the completion rate for the general population in the same age group is 24%, a sizable difference.
*The study reviewed case records for 659 foster care alumni in Northwest USA, and interviewed 479 of them between September 2000 and January 2002.
Several studies have indicated that foster care children tend to underachieve academically with many never completing high school. In a study conducted in Philadelphia by Johns Hopkins University it was found that; among high school students who are in foster care, have been abused and neglected, or receive out of home placement by the courts, the probability of dropping out of school is greater than 75%.
Throughout the 1990s, experimental HIV drugs were tested on HIV-positive foster children at Incarnation Children’s Center in Harlem. The agency has also been accused of racism, some comparing the trials to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, as 98 percent of children in foster care in New York City belong to ethnic minorities.
Studies have revealed that youth in foster care covered by Medicaidinsurance receive psychotropic medication at a rate that was 3 times higher than that of Medicaid-insured youth who qualify by low family income. In a review (September 2003 to August 2004) of the medical records of 32,135 Texas foster care 0–19 years-old, 12,189 were prescribed psychotropic medication, resulting in an annual prevalence of 37.9% of these children being prescribed medication. 41.3% received 3 different classes of these drugs during July 2004, and 15.9% received 4 different classes. The most frequently used medications were antidepressants(56.8%), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder drugs (55.9%), and antipsychotic agents (53.2%)