Higher Quality Foster Care Produces Healthier Adults

June 5, 2008

Better quality foster care has important repercussions for the mental and physical well being of foster care alumni, according to a report published in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

THURSDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- Better quality foster care has important repercussions for the mental and physical well being of foster care alumni, according to a report published in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues conducted a study of 479 adults who had been in foster care from age 14 to 18, of whom over 80 percent of alumni were traced, and of these 92.2 percent were interviewed. Although all alumni were eligible for the same private foster care program, only 111 secured places while the remaining 368 teens had been placed in two public foster care programs.

In personal interviews administered one to 13 years after leaving foster care, the investigators found that alumni of the private program had less major depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, ulcers and cardiometabolic disorders, but those in the public programs had less respiratory disorders.

"Public sector investment in higher-quality foster care services could substantially improve the long-term mental and physical health of foster care alumni," the authors conclude.

The author of an accompanying editorial writes that Kessler and colleagues "have taken advantage of a 'naturalistic' experiment to begin to answer a previously unaddressed issue of paramount importance, namely, whether the quality of psychosocial intervention in individuals with a history of child abuse and neglect has a significant effect on that person's outcome." The editorialist reports a financial relationship to several pharmaceutical companies.

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