June 26, 2011

The Negative Affects of Foster Care

Filed under: Secret family courts — Granarchist @ 11:14 pm

The negative effects of foster care

Individuals who were in foster care experience higher rates of physical and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.[24] In a study of adults who were in foster care in Oregon and Washington state, they were found to have double the incidence ofdepression, 20% as compared to 10% and were found to have a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than combat veterans with 25% of those studied having PTSD. Children in foster care have a higher probability of having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and deficits in executive functioninganxiety as well other developmental problems.[25][26][27][28] These children experience higher degrees of incarcerationpovertyhomelessness, and suicide. Recent studies in the U.S., suggests that, foster care placements are more detrimental to children than remaining in a troubled home.[29][30][31]


Foster care has been shown in various studies to have deleterious consequences on the physical health and mental wellbeing of those who were in foster care. Many children enter foster care at a very young age, a period where the development of mental and psychological processes are at one of their critical peaks. The human brain doesn’t fully develop until approximately the age of twenty, and one of the most critical periods of brain development occurs in the first 3–4 years. The processes that govern the development of personality traits, stress response and cognitive skills are formed during this period. The developing brain is directly influenced by negative environmental factors including lack of stimulation due to emotional neglect, poor nutrition, exposure to violence in the home environment and child abuse.[citation needed]

Negative environmental influences have a direct effect on all areas of neurodevelopment: neurogenesis (creation of new neurons),apoptosis (death and reabsorption of neurons), migration (of neurons to different regions of the brain), synaptogenesis (creation ofsynapses), synaptic sculpturing (determining the make-up of the synapse), arborization (the growth of dendritic connections ,myelinzation (protective covering of neurons), and an enlargement of the brain’s ventricles, which can cause corticalatrophy.[citation needed]

Most of the processes involved in healthy neurodevelopment are predicated upon the establishment of close nurturing relationships and environmental stimulation. Foster children have elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone in comparison to children raised by their biological parents. Elevated cortisol levels can compromise the immune system. (Harden BJ, 2004).[32]Negative environmental influences during this critical period of brain development can have lifelong consequences.[33][34][35][36]

[edit]Epigenetic effects of environment

Gene expression can be affected by the environment through epigenetic mechanisms. Negative environmental influences, such as maternal deprivation, child abuse and stress[37][38] have been shown to have a profound effect on gene expression, includingtransgenerational epigenetic effects in which physiological and behavioral (intellectual) transfer of information across generations-not-yet-conceived is effected. In the Överkalix study in Sweden, the effects of epigentic inheritance were shown to have a direct correlation to the environmental influences faced by the parents and grandparents.[39] Many physiological and behavioral characteristics ascribed to Mendelian inheritance are due in fact to transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. The implications in terms of foster care and the cost to society as a whole is that the stress, deprivation and other negative environmetal factors many foster children are subjected to has a detrimental effect not only their physical, emotional and cognitive well-being, but that the damage can transcend generations.[40][41][42]

In studies of the adult offspring of Holocaust survivors, parental PTSD was a risk factor for the development of PTSD in adult offspring in comparison to those whose parents went through the Holocaust without developing PTSD. The offspring of survivors with PTSD had lower levels of urinary cortisol excretion, salivary cortisol and enhanced plasma cortisol suppression in response to low dose dexamethasone administration than offspring of survivors without PTSD. Low cortisol levels are associated with parental, particularly maternal, PTSD. This is in contrast to the normal stress response in which cortisol levels are elevated after exposure to a stressor. The results of the study point to the involvement of epigenetic mechanisms.[43][44]

Epigenetic Effects of Abuse

“In addition, the effects of abuse may extend beyond the immediate victim into subsequent generations as a consequence of epigenetic effects transmitted directly to offspring and/or behavioral changes in affected individuals. (Neighh GN et al.2009)[45]

It has been suggested in various studies that the deleterious epigentic effects may be somewhat ameliorated through pharmacological manipulations in adulthood via the administration of nerve growth factor-inducible protein A,[46] and through the inhibition of a class of enzymes known as the histone deacetylases (HDACs). “HDAC inhibitors (HDACIs) such as Trichostatin A(TSA); “TSA can be used to alter gene expression by interfering with the removal of acetyl groups from histones”, and L-methionine an essential amino acid, have been developed for the treatment of a variety of malignancies and neurodegenerative disorders. Drug combination approaches have also shown promise for the treatment of mood disorders including bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression.”[47][48]

[edit]Post traumatic stress disorder

Regions of the brain associated with stress and post traumatic stress disorder[49]

Children in foster care have a higher incidence of Post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).In one study (Dubner and Motta, 1999)[50] 60% of children in foster care who had experienced sexual abuse had PTSD, and 42% of those who had been physically abused fulfilled the PTSD criteria. PTSD was also found in 18% of the children who were not abused. These children may have developed PTSD due to witnessing violence in the home. (Marsenich, 2002).

In a study conducted in Oregon and Washington state, the rate of PTSD in adults who were in foster care for one year between the ages of 14-18 was found to be higher than that of combat veterans, with 25 percent of those in the study meeting the diagnostic criteria as compared to 12-13 percent of Iraq war veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam war veterans, and a rate of 4% in the general population. The recovery rate for foster home alumni was 28.2% as opposed to 47% in the general population.

“More than half the study participants reported clinical levels of mental illness, compared to less than a quarter of the general population”.[51][52]

[edit]Eating disorders

Foster children are at increased risk for a variety of eating disorders, in comparison to the general population.

Obesity children in foster care are more prone to becoming overweight and obese, and in a study done in the United Kingdom, 35% of foster children experienced an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) once in care.[53]

Hyperphagic Short Stature syndrome (HSS) is a condition characterized by short stature due to insufficient growth hormone production, an excessive appetite (hyperphagia) and mild learning disabilities. While it is believed to have genetic component, HSS is triggered by being exposed to an environment of high psychosocial stress; it is not uncommon in children in foster homes or other stressful environments. HSS improves upon removal from the stressful environment.[54][55][56]

Food Maintenance Syndrome is characterized by a set of aberrant eating behaviors of children in foster care. It is “a pattern of excessive eating and food acquisition and maintenance behaviors without concurrent obesity”; it resembles “the behavioral correlates of Hyperphagic Short Stature”. It is hypothesised that this syndrome is triggered by the stress and maltreatment foster children are subjected to, it was prevalent amongst 25 percent of the study group in New Zealand.[26]

Bulimia Nervosa is seven times more prevalent among former foster children than in the general population.[57]

[edit]Disorganized attachment

A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants in his study exhibited symptoms of disorganized attachment.[58][59] Children with histories of maltreatment, such as physical and psychological neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, are at risk of developing psychiatric problems.[60][61][62][63] These children may be described as experiencing trauma as the result of abuse or neglect, inflicted by a primary caregiver, which disrupts the normal development of secure attachment. Such children are at risk of developing a disorganized attachment.[62][64][65] Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms,[66] as well as depressive, anxiety, and acting-out symptoms.[67][68]

[edit]Child abuse

Children in foster care experience high rates of child abuse, emotional deprivation, and physical neglect. In one study in theUnited Kingdom “foster children were 7-8 times, and children in residential care 6 times more likely to be assessed by a pediatrician for abuse than a child in the general population”.[69]

[edit]Poverty and homelessness

New York street children; 1890

Nearly half of foster kids in the U.S. become homeless when they turn 18.[70][71] “One of every 10 foster children stays in foster care longer than seven years, and each year about 15,000 reach the age of majority and leave foster care without a permanent family—many to join the ranks of the homeless or to commit crimes and be imprisoned.[72][73]

Three out of 10 of the United States homeless are former foster children.[74] According to the results of the Casey Family Study of Foster Care Alumni, up to 80 percent are doing poorly—with a quarter to a third of former foster children at or below the poverty line, three times the national poverty rate.[75] Very frequently, people who are homeless had multiple placements as children: some were in foster care, but others experienced “unofficial” placements in the homes of family or friends.

Individuals with a history foster care tend to become homeless at an earlier age than those who were not in foster care and Caucasians who become homeless are more likely to have a history of foster care than Hispanics or African Americans[citation needed]. The length of time a person remains homeless is prolonged in indiviuals who were in foster care.[76]

[edit]Suicide-death rate

Children in foster care are at a greater risk of suicide,[77] the increased risk of suicide is still prevalent after leaving foster care and occurs at a higher rate than the general population. In a study of Texas youths who aged out of the system 23 percent had a history of suicide attempts.[78]

Swedish study utilizing the data of almost one million people including 22,305 former foster children who had been in care prior to their teens, concluded:

Former child welfare clients were in year of birth and sex standardised risk ratios (RRs) four to five times more likely than peers in the general population to have been hospitalised for suicide attempts….Individuals who had been in long-term foster care tended to have the most dismal outcome…former child welfare/protection clients should be considered a high-risk group for suicide attempts and severe psychiatric morbidity.[79]

Death rate

Children in foster care have an overall higher mortality rate than children in the general population.[80] A study conducted inFinland among current and former foster children up to age 24 found a higher mortality rate due to substance abuse, accidents, suicide and illness. The deaths due to illness were attributed to an increased incidence of acute and chronic medical conditions and developmental delays among children in foster care.[81]

[edit]Poor academic prospects

Educational outcomes of ex-foster children in the Northwest Alumni Study;
  • 56% completed high school compared to 82% of the general population, although an additional 29% of former foster children received a G.E.D. compared to an additional 5% of the general population.
  • 42.7% completed some education beyond high school.
  • 20.6% completed any degree or certificate beyond high school
  • 16.1% completed a vocational degree; 21.9% for those over 25.
  • 1.8% complete a bachelors degree , 2.7% for over 25, the completion rate for the general population in the same age group is 24%, a sizable difference.

Foster care has been proven in innumerable studies to not be conducive to academic performance. In a study conducted inPhiladelphia by Johns Hopkins University it was found that; among high school students who are in foster care, have been abused and neglected, or receive out of home placement by the courts, the probability of dropping out of school is greater than 75%.[82]

[edit]State abuses in the United States

[edit]Drug testing

Throughout the 1990s, experimental HIV drugs were tested on HIV-positive foster children at Incarnation Children’s Center in Harlem. The agency has also been accused of racism, some comparing the trials to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, as 98 percent of children in foster care in New York City belong to ethnic minorities.[83]

[edit]Unnecessary/over medication

Studies”[84] have revealed that youth in foster care covered by Medicaid insurance receive psychotropic medication at a rate that was 3 times higher than that of Medicaid-insured youth who qualify by low family income. In a review (September 2003 to August 2004) of the medical records of 32,135 Texas foster care 0–19 years-old, 12,189 were prescribed psychotropic medication, resulting in an annual prevalence of 37.9% of these children being prescribed medication. 41.3% received 3 different classes of these drugs during July 2004, and 15.9% received 4 different classes. The most frequently used medications wereantidepressants (56.8%), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder drugs (55.9%), and antipsychotic agents (53.2%).

Concomitant psychotropic medication treatment is frequent for youth in foster care and lacks substantive evidence as to its effectiveness and safety”.[84]

– Psychotropic medication patterns among youth in foster care., Pediatrics 2008

Psychiatrists prescribed 93% of the psychotropic medication, and it was noted in the review of these cases that the use of expensive, brand name, patent protected medication was prevalent. In the case of SSRIs the use of the most expensive medications was noted to be 74%, in the general market only 28% are for brand name SSRI’s vs generics. The average out-of-pocket expense per prescription was $34.75 for generics and $90.17 for branded products, a $55.42, difference.[85]

[edit]Sexual abuse and negligence

One study by Johns Hopkins University found that the rate of sexual abuse within the foster-care system is more than four times as high as in the general population; in group homes, the rate of sexual abuse is more than 28 times that of the general population.[86][87] An Indiana study found three times more physical abuse and twice the rate of sexual abuse in foster homes than in the general population.[87] A study of foster children in Oregon and Washington State found that nearly one third reported being abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home.[88] These statistics do not speak to the situation these children are coming from, but it does show the very large problem of child-on-child sexual abuse within the system. There have been several notable lawsits concerning sexual abuse and negligence that caused review of the foster care system in some states:

In 2010, an ex-foster child was awarded $30 million by jury trial in California (Santa Clara County) for sexual abuse damages that happened to him in his foster home from 1995 to 1999.[89][90] The foster parent, John Jackson, was licensed by the state, despite the fact that he abused his own wife and son, overdosed on drugs and was arrested for drunken driving. In 2006, Jackson was convicted in Santa Clara County of nine counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child by force, violence, duress, menace and fear, and seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.[89]The sex acts he forced the children in his foster care to perform sent him to prison for 220 years. Later in 2010, Giarretto Institute, the private foster family agency responsible for licensing and monitoring Jackson’s foster home and others, also was found to be negligent and liable for 75 percent of the abuse that was inflicted on the victim, and Jackson himself was liable for the rest.[89]

In 2009, Oregon Department of Human Services agreed to pay $2 million into a fund for the future care of twins who were allegedly abused by their foster parents; this was the largest such settlement in the agency’s history.[91] According to the civil rights suit filed on request of twins’ adoptive mother in December 2007 in U.S. Federal Court, the children were kept in makeshift cages—cribs covered with chicken wire secured by duct tape—in a darkened bedroom known as “the dungeon.” The brother and sister often went without food, water or human touch. The boy, who had a shunt put into his head at birth to drain fluid, didn’t receive medical attention, so when police rescued the twins he was nearly comatose. The same foster family previously took into their care hundreds of other children over nearly four decades.[92] DHS said the foster parents deceived child welfare workers during the checkup visits.[91]

Several lawsuits were brought in 2008 against the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF), accusing it of mishandling reports that Thomas Ferrara, 79, a foster parent, was molesting young girls.[93][94] The suits claimed that even though there were records of sexual misconduct allegations against Ferrara in 1992, 1996, and 1999, the DCF continued to place foster children with Ferrara and his then-wife until 2000.[93] Ferrara was arrested in 2001, after a 9-year-old girl told detectives he regularly molested her over two years and threatened to hurt her mother if she told anyone. Records show that Ferrara had as many as 400 children go through his home during his 16 years as a licensed foster parent (from 1984 to 2000).[93] Officials stated that the lawsuits over Ferrara ended up costing the DCF almost $2.26 million.[94] Similary, in 2007 Florida‘s DCF paid $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged DCF ignored complaints that another mentally disabled Immokalee girl was being raped by her foster father, Bonifacio Velazquez, until the 15-year-old gave birth to a child.[95][96][97]

In a class action lawsuit Charlie and Nadine H. v. McGreevey[98] was filed in federal court by “Children’s Rights” New York organization on behalf of children in the custody of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).[99][100] The complaint alleged violations of the childrens’ constitutional rights and their rights under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, theChild Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment, 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, theAmericans with Disabilities Act, and the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA).[101] In July 2002, the federal court granted plaintiffs’ experts access to 500 children’s case files, allowing plaintiffs to collect information concerning harm to children in foster care through a case record review.[99] These files revealed numerous cases in which foster children were abused, and DYFS failed to take proper action. On June 9, 2004, the child welfare panel appointed by the parties approved the NJ State’s Reform Plan. The court accepted the plan on June 17, 2004.[100] The same organization also filed similar lawsuits against several other states in recent years that caused some of the states to start child welfare reforms.[102]

[edit]The lost children (Australia)

Children of the United Kingdom’s Children’s Migrant Programme

An estimated 150,000 British children were sent to overseas colonies and countries in the commonwealth such as Australia. This practice was in effect from the beginning of the nineteenth century until 1967. Many of these children were sent to orphanages, foster homes and religious institutions, where they were used as a free source of labor and many were severely abused and neglected. These children were classified as orphans although most were not. In the period after World War II the policy was dubbed the “Child Migrants Programme”. The prime consideration was money as it was cheaper to care for children in commonwealth countries than it was in the United Kingdom. At least 10,000 children, some as young as 3, were shipped to Australia after the war,[103][104] most to join the ranks of the “Forgotten Australians“, the term given for those who experienced care in foster homes and institutions in the 20th century. Among these Forgotten Australians were members of the “Stolen Generation“, the children of Australian Aborigines, forcibly removed from their homes and raised in white institutions. In 2008 Australian Prime MinisterKevin Ruddapologised to the approximately 500,000 “forgotten Australians” and in 2010 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a similar apology to those who were victimised by the Child Migrants Programme.[105][106][107]


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[edit]Further reading

  • Hurley, Kendra (2002). “Almost Home” Retrieved June 27, 2006.
  • Carlson, E.A. (1998). “A prospective longitudinal study of disorganized/disoriented attachment”. Child Development 69 (4): 1107–1128. PMID 9768489.
  • Knowlton, Paul E. (2001). “The Original Foster Care Survival Guide”; A first person account directed to successfully aging out of foster care.
  • McCutcheon, James, 2010. “Historical Analysis and Contemporary Assessment of Foster Care in Texas: Perceptions of Social Workers in a Private, Non-Profit Foster Care Agency”. Applied Research Projects. Texas State University Paper 332.

[edit]External links

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