How can foster care help vulnerable children?

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Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Barican, J., Garland, O., Gray-Grant, D., & Nightingale, L. (2012). How can foster care help vulnerable children? Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 6(3), 1–15. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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Background: Children who enter foster care often face significant obstacles beyond not being able to reside with their parents. These include higher rates of mental disorders, such as conduct disorder, as well as a reduced likelihood of completing high school.      

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify studies evaluating treatment foster care, where children are cared for by foster parents who have specialized training and extra support, to determine if this type of care improved children’s outcomes relative to typical foster care.  Applying our inclusion criteria, we accepted five randomized controlled trials. 

Results: Most forms of Treatment Foster Care produced statistically significant benefits. Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care proved to be effective for adolescents with behaviour problems. A less intensive version of this intervention for younger children resulted in greater placement stability. Fostering Individualized Assistance Program also resulted in fewer behaviour problems among youth.

Conclusions: Treatment Foster Care is a promising intervention for children and youth experiencing emotional and behavioural problems and in need of protective care.  

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