Mental Health Problems of Children in Foster Care

Abstract

We compared the rates of mental health problems in children in foster care across three counties in California. A total of 267 children, ages 0 to 17, were assessed two to four months after entry into foster care using a behavioral screening checklist, a measure of self-concept and, in one county, an adaptive behavior survey. Results confirmed previous research and indicated consistently high rates of mental health problems across the three counties. Behavior problems in the clinical or borderline range of the CBCL were observed at two and a half times the rate expected in a community population. Fewer children fell within the clinical range on the self-concept measure. No significant differences in rates between the three county foster care cohorts were observed, despite the different demographic characteristics of the counties. On the adaptive behavior scale, the mean scores for children in foster care were more than one standard deviation below the norm. Our findings suggest that the most important mental health screening issue with children in foster care is to identify what specific mental health problems need to be addressed so that the most effective treatment services can be provided.

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Correspondence to June M. Clausen.

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Clausen, J.M., Landsverk, J., Ganger, W. et al. Mental Health Problems of Children in Foster Care. Journal of Child and Family Studies 7, 283–296 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022989411119

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  • foster care
  • mental health
  • behavior problem
  • assessment