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Child Maltreatment and Foster Care



It has been well documented that child maltreatment has a significant negative impact on children’s emotional and physical development and puts them at risk for a lifetime of mental and physical health issues.  There has been an abundance of research that has found associations between childhood maltreatment and a variety of physical health problems in adults, such as migraines, cancer, pain disorders and heart disease. 


Additionally, a broad range of psychiatric conditions and symptoms have been linked with a childhood history of maltreatment.  The literature paints a clear picture that being maltreated as child sets one up for a number of poor mental health outcomes that include, amongst other issues, a greater chance of being diagnosed with a personality and/or mood disorder.


However, it is not just the maltreatment that is deleterious.  When a child is removed from their primary caregivers, this can result in a myriad of negative developmental consequences.  The main goal of foster care is to provide a child with a temporary and safe home environment.  However, a well-known and long-term issue within the foster care system is that these stays are rarely temporary and children often stay in foster homes for quite long periods of time.  Also, foster children quite often experience changes in their placement, with a variety of studies reporting placement instability of foster care youth to ranging anywhere from 22% to 56%.


Unfortunately, there is a clear connection between multiple disruptions in placement and negative outcomes for children.  These children suffer from a number of emotional and behavioral problems as a result of such placement instability.  It is even more important for such children to have a stable home, with foster parents they can form attachments to and that allow them to stay for as long as necessary.  Unfortunately, the placement disruption rate for foster homes seems to be anywhere from 20-70%.




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