Children Falling Through the Cracks

Mental health services missing kids

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For children living in foster care, the trauma and mental health toll can be tremendous. Many studies have shown that up to 80 percent of them have developmental or mental health problems.

Yet most do not receive psychiatric or psychological care until their situation reaches a crisis point - and sometimes not even then.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports that while 60-85% of the children being served by the child welfare system meet criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis, most do not receive appropriate mental health care until their situation reaches a crisis level, if at all.

"Kids in foster care need psychological support."

"States have a duty to protect children in their care," said AACAP President Martin Drell, M.D. "The use of coordinated community-based services should also be implemented to ensure comprehensive care, resulting in a unique set of services and supports individualized for that child and family."

There are approximately a half-million children living in the foster care system in the United States, and many have been exposed to psychological trauma including abuse, neglect or maltreatment, parents with mental disorders or substance abuse, and high levels of violence in their homes.

In addition, they've often been subjected to adverse biological factors such as premature birth, prenatal drug or alcohol exposure and more. Placement in foster care only subjects them to further stress by disrupting attachments and their living and school situations.

Without the help they need to address these problems, it is unlikely they will overcome them. Their communities and families have often been characterized by inadequate health care, education, housing and social support. As a group, these youth are over-represented in special education programs and the juvenile justice system.

AACAP has released a list of recommendations to try and improve the services for children living in foster care. The recommendations include:

  • Access to formal screening and diagnostic assessment for psychiatric symptoms
  • Treatment with a full range of psychosocial and psychopharmacologic interventions
  • Careful screening of foster parents and their access to education and respite care
  • Supervision of a Board eligible/certified child and adolescent psychiatrist for treatment 
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 7, 2011
Last Updated:
December 9, 2011