Many children are placed in foster care because of neglect, physical or emotional abuse, parental substance abuse or abandonment. These are issues that often trigger or exacerbate chronic physical, developmental and/or mental health disorders. Research indicates about 3 out of 5 children in foster care have at least one chronic medical condition and one-fourth suffer from three or more conditions.
To better help meet the medical needs of these children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued a policy statement, “Health Care Issues for Children and Adolescents in Foster Care and Kinship Care,” urging more intensive pediatric, mental health, developmental, and educational services for this vulnerable population.
Among the AAP recommendations:
- Every child and adolescent entering foster care should have an initial health screening within 72 hours of removal, with some children - including those under 3 or dealing with complex chronic health conditions - receiving an initial health screening within 24 hours.
- A comprehensive health assessment within 30 days of entry into foster care.
- Periodic health care visits, ranging from bimonthly to annually depending on age, for all children and youth in foster care.
The AAP notes – and we agree – that pediatricians have a critical role in ensuring the well-being of children in foster care.
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