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Study finds foster children have poorer mental, physical health

Researchers found that foster children are at greater risk for health problems than children in nearly any other living situation.

Children who live in foster care are five times more likely to have anxiety, six times more likely to have behavioral issues and seven times more likely to be depressed, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The study is the first to compare the health of U.S. children in foster care with children in other living situations. The study also found that kids living in foster care are more likely to have a learning disability and issues with speech, vision and hearing.

In an email to MedPage Today, which reported on the research, study co-author Kristin Turney, PhD, said the research highlights the health challenges children in foster care frequently face. “These children experience more health problems than comparable children who are living in households below the poverty line,” she noted. “It is likely that children are coming to their foster care placements with health problems, likely as a result of the maltreatment and neglect they experienced in their homes of origin.”

Despite the study’s limitations—children in group homes weren’t included, nor were those who were hospitalized or are incarcerated through the juvenile justice system—the research suggests that physicians who care for foster children should pay close attention to signs of physical or mental health problems. To learn more, read MedPage Today’s coverage of the study, or read the research in Pediatrics.

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