Foster Children with Disabilities or Medical Issues

There are nearly half a million children in foster care in the United States. Studies have shown that their medical and mental health needs are frequently overlooked. Many foster children also have diagnosed disabilities, ranging from minor developmental delays to significant mental and physical challenges.

As wards of the state, foster care children are dependent on government-funded health services. Almost all foster children are eligible for Medicaid, and they may also be able to receive other government benefits. Learn more about benefits and resources available to foster children with disabilities or medical issues.

Foster Children with Disabilities

Roughly one-third of the children in foster care have disabilities. Once placed in foster care, kids with disabilities can experience further deterioration in their health if their foster care placements aren't able to meet their particular needs. Foster children with a disability tend to be less successful in obtaining a permanent placement, and they're also frequent victims of abuse.

Funding for Health Care

Most of the money to pay for the medical needs of children in foster care comes from Medicaid. Often, children who aren't eligible for Medicaid are covered under the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). A complex safety net of government programs ensures that kids in foster care have health insurance coverage.

Foster Care and Trauma

Children are often placed in foster care because they were neglected, abandoned, or abused. Mistreatment of children hampers their ability to form healthy attachments with caregivers and can delay emotional development. Many foster children have been exposed to parental substance abuse, homelessness, or domestic violence. They often experience further trauma due to family separation and the stress and disruption brought about by frequent moves and impermanent placements in the foster care system.

Trauma exposure affects children's capacity to problem solve, increases their vulnerability to stress, and makes them resistant to change. Foster parents and caregivers should educate themselves about the emotional and mental struggles commonly experienced by foster children. Some experts advise foster parents to respect a foster child's distrust and build a relationship through predictability.

Foster Children with Disabilities or Medical Issues: Additional Resources

The following sites provide further information about the health of children in foster care.

  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Child Welfare Information Gateway - Provides resources for those serving children with disabilities, including state and local sources.
  • Children's Rights - National advocacy group working to reform child welfare systems. Provides links to informational studies about the abuse or neglect of children in foster care.
  • Youth Law Center - Protects the rights of children in foster care and advocates for system reforms to improve the quality of care provided in the foster care system.
  • AdvoKids - Advocating and educating to promote safety, security, and permanent homes for foster children. California-based AdvoKids provides online legal resources and information about common foster child mental health issues.

Need Legal Help Caring for Foster Children with Disabilities? Contact at Attorney

The complex topic of health care can become even more confusing when it's combined with the child welfare system. If you have legal questions about foster children and their medical needs or disabilities, consider reaching out to a family law attorney near you.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified family law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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