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Mental Health

Mental Health Care Is Coming Up Short for Kids in Foster Care

— April 17, 2024

Research shows more psychological support is needed for children in the foster care system.

Growing up in foster care is a tremendous challenge for any young person. Without the support of a traditional family, foster kids are forced to find their way in a world that can be wildly inconsistent and unpredictable. Those are not the characteristics needed for a stable upbringing, and many who come out of the foster system deal with related struggles for many years – or even a lifetime.

One of the reasons that foster kids may struggle to get on track is the lack of mental health care. Perhaps more than any other group of young people, foster children need the help of a robust mental health system that can address their concerns and guide them in the right direction. Without the support of such a system, the results can be devastating.

It is nothing short of a tragedy when anyone takes their own life, and that is even taken to another level when it is a young person. A 15-year-old foster kid in Kansas recently committed suicide, which highlighted the ongoing urgent need for additional mental health care for young people in this position around the country. Of course, suicide in teens is not limited only to kids in foster care, so more access to resources is needed across the board in this area.

Mental Health Care Is Coming Up Short for Kids in Foster Care
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

Roughly 8 million children in the United States alone need some form of psychiatric attention each year. Only about 4 in every 5 get that attention, and the kids who are in foster care tend to need more support than most. When it is all added up, it’s clear that more resources are needed, and that special attention should be paid to getting those resources to the foster children who need it most urgently.

The very nature of winding up in foster care is almost inevitably going to lead to some mental health issues that need to be addressed by a professional. The separation from their parents – perhaps permanently – is a huge hurdle, along with the reality that the child may have been neglected or abused prior to that separation. Also, the ongoing placement changes from one foster home to another can leave a child feeling isolated and without the support that a young person needs to build confidence and self-esteem. Also, it’s common for foster kids to be overmedicated to address behavioral problems, which can lead to more issues later on as compared to getting proper therapy from a young age.

The issue of lacking mental health support for young people in the foster program is really just a microcosm of what is happening throughout society with regard to mental health. There are not enough providers, or enough programs, to get everyone the help that is needed in their lives. Hopefully, there will be improvement in this area in the near future for everyone, and in particular, for young people who are trying to find their way in the world through the foster system.


Why foster kids aren’t getting the mental health care they need

Mental and Behavioral Health Needs of Children in Foster Care

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