Although foster care placement is often precededby stressful events such as child abuse, foster care itself oftenexposes children to additional severe stressors. A history of fostercare, as well as the childhood abuse that often precedes it, is commonamong homeless young adults. This study examined whether a history offoster care was associated with psychiatric disorders, prior psychiatriccounseling, prescription of psychiatric medications, and priorpsychiatric hospitalization among newly homeless young adults.
Aconsecutive sample of 423 adults aged 18 to 21 years who soughtemergency shelter for the first time between October 1, 2007, andFebruary 29, 2008, were assessed at intake. Logistic regression analysesdetermined the associations between foster care and any psychiatricdisorder (affective, anxiety, personality, and psychotic) andpsychiatric treatment. The analyses adjusted for demographiccharacteristics, childhood abuse, substance use, prior arrest,unemployment, lack of high school diploma, and histories of psychiatricdisorders and drug abuse among biological relatives.
Homelessyoung adults with histories of foster care were 70% more likely thanthose without such histories to report any psychiatric disorder. Theywere more than twice as likely to have received mental health counselingfor a psychiatric disorder, to have been prescribed psychiatricmedication, and to have been hospitalized for psychiatric problems.
CONCLUSIONS: Historiesof foster care among homeless young adults should trigger screening forpsychiatric disorders to aid in the provision of treatment (counseling,medication, and hospitalization) tailored to the psychiatric needs ofthis highly vulnerable population. (Authors)