Foster Care Sucks, According To Science
By Kurtis Bright
Study Involving 900,000 Children Proves What We All Knew: Foster Care Is Terrible For Kids
People have long suspected that children who end up in the foster care system face long odds when it comes to achieving a rich and fulfilling life--or even simple happiness. There are of course countless movies and stories that use the stock trope of a horrible foster care environment in some fashion or another: evil foster parents, cruel siblings, terrible home conditions--the list is endless.
However this imagery isn’t only confined to the imaginations of Hollywood screen writers. A recent study, perhaps the first of its kind, confirms what many have long suspected: foster care is terrible.
A team of sociologists from the University of California at Irvine found that not only were mental health problems such as depression and anxiety strikingly common in foster children, so were physical ailments like asthma and obesity.
The survey looked at over 900,000 children and the results were shocking--at least to anyone who is unfamiliar with the foster care system in the US: foster children were seven times more likely to be depressed, six times more prone to behavioral problems, and five times more like to suffer from anxiety than kids from the general population.
It was interesting to note that the foster kids’ scores were clearly differentiated even from general population kids who came from all kinds of family situations: children from traditional families with a mother and father, as well as single-parent and even economically disadvantaged homes all had a leg up on foster care kids.
One more notable statistic found in the study was that kids in foster care were three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. In these times of overdiagnosing and overmedicating, we are starting to become aware of the degree to which ADHD is used as a catch-all easy diagnosis employed to corral--and subsequently drug--children who perhaps don’t fit the mold or have unaddressed underlying emotional problems.
It’s troubling that this is the first time such a scientific study of the plight of foster children has been conducted, as noted by the study’s authors.
“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 Kristin Turney, study co-author.
Aside from the fact that no one has bothered to do a study like this on foster children, what’s perhaps even more disturbing is that the list of problems facing hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system just goes on and on.
Hearing or vision problems are three times more likely for them. And they are more likely to develop speech problems. And then there’s the asthma and obesity.
“Foster care children are in considerably worse health than other children,” Turney added, suggesting that doctors and other health care professionals take care to note the living arrangements of kids and monitor their health carefully if they are in foster care.
Another idea: maybe it’s time we rethink they way we do foster care altogether, if the result is sick, unhealthy, unhappy children.