Assessing the health status of children entering foster care

R. Chernoff, T. Combs-Orme, C. Risley-Curtiss, A. Heisler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

252 Scopus citations


Objective. Most research on health problems of children in foster care has been cross-sectional, resulting in overselection of children who have been in care long-term and underrepresentation of children who are in care for a short time. Methodology. This paper reports on the health of a large cohort of children who had complete health examinations at the time of entry into foster care in a middle-size city during a 2-year period. Results. Results indicate that >90% of the children had an abnormality in at least one body system, 25% failed the vision screen, and 15% failed the hearing screen. The children were also lighter and shorter than the norm. Mental health screening revealed that 75% had a family history of mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse. Of children older than 3 years of age, 15% admitted to or were suspect for suicidal ideation and 7% for homicidal ideation. Of the children younger than 5 years of age, 23% had abnormal or suspect results on developmental screening examinations. At the time of entry into foster care, 12% of the children required an antibiotic. More than half needed urgent or nonurgent referrals for medical services and, for children >3 years of age, more than half needed urgent or nonurgent referrals for dental and mental health services. Just 12% of the children required only routine follow-up care. Conclusions. The high prevalence and broad range of health needs of children at the time they enter foster care necessitate the design and implementation of better models of health care delivery for children in foster care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-601
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • foster care
  • health status
  • service model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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