Indexed on: 20 Mar '15Published on: 20 Mar '15Published in: Journal of child and family studies
The prevalence of both mental and physical health concerns among children in foster care is elevated compared to the general population; however, less is known about the overlap between the behavioral/mental health needs of children in foster care with significant medical issues. The purpose of this study was to examine the mental/behavioral health needs and adaptive behavior of children in medical foster care (MFC), a unique group of children in foster care with medically fragile conditions. Two sequential studies were conducted. In the first study, focus groups were conducted with MFC parents (n = 10), MFC nurses and social workers (n = 8), and foster care case managers (n = 9). The themes that emerged from the focus groups indicated externalizing behaviors and feeding issues were common concerns and there were a number of challenges for MFC parents to receive timely services to address mental health needs. In a follow-up study, 36 MFC parents were surveyed using the Child Behavior Checklist, the Behavioral Pediatrics Feeding Assessment, the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, and the Parenting Stress Index. Results indicated that on average parents perceived children’s externalizing, internalizing, and feeding behaviors to fall within typical limits; however, a significant portion of the parents rated their child’s behavior in the clinical range. Parents indicated significantly below average adaptive behavior. On average, parents did not report elevated stress levels. Findings from this study suggest that mental health needs among the MFC population are similar to the general foster care population; however, there is a lot of variability in this group and individualized assessment is needed.