Physical and Emotional Health Issues Common with Foster Kids

What are the common health issues foster parents and those adopting from foster care should expect? We talk with Christy Street, Program Director of Fostering Health NC, which is a program of North Carolina Pediatric Society.

In this episode, we cover:

  • Term “health” broadly to encompass physical, emotional, mental, behavioral, developmental, educational, and oral health.
  • Impact of trauma on kids physical and mental health.
  • Those areas of the brain most affected by trauma, especially early trauma, are those involved in stress response, emotional regulation, attention, cognition, executive function, and memory. 
  • Issues common with foster kids and with foster care parenting is limited access to health care before entering foster care and lack of knowledge about previous health care. How does this impact care and what can foster or adoptive parents do?
  • The role of transience and uncertainty for kids in foster care provides challenges for foster parents and doctors in providing health care to kids in foster care.
  • Immunizations
  • Medicaid Care management
  • Foster kids often come to us with a bag full of medications that have been prescribed somewhere along the line and a host of diagnoses. What role can foster or soon to be adoptive parents play?  
  • What are psychotropic drugs and why are so many foster children on them?
  • What can foster parents do if they question the amount or type of medication their foster child is taking or even the underlying diagnosis? 
  • What role does a foster parent have in seeking a change in medication for their foster child?
  • What doctor do you take your foster child to? Your pediatrician? Their previous doctor, if they had one? The doctor that has prescribed the medication?
  • Pre-natal exposure to alcohol and drugs: impact, diagnosis. 
  • One of the most confusing aspects of caring for a child in foster care is identifying who has the authority to consent for health care on behalf of the child or adolescent. Varies by state (caseworker can tell you).
  • Sleep issues with foster children. What causes sleep issues? What can foster parents or parents adopting from foster care do to help children in foster care sleep better?
  • How common are weight issues in foster children? Why is obesity and being overweight an issue? What can foster parents or parents adopting from foster care do? 
  • Dental care for foster children. How much and how soon?
  • Coping with feelings of “why bother” when a foster child will return to the same chaotic household they came from.

NC Pediatric Society and the Fostering Health NC Program

Mission: Children and youth in foster care are at high risk of developing physical, developmental and behavioral conditions and are considered by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to be Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs. As a result, they require comprehensive, trauma-informed, and coordinated care. Often, this coordination is inhibited by a number of controllable factors.

Guided by the AAP’s Standards of Care and the input of our state advisory team and subcommittees, the FHNC team mission is to help improve the health and well-being of children and youth in foster care.

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Music Credit: Michael Ashworth

Image Credit: Ilya Andrianov