Objectives: To report baseline mental health measures from the Children in Care study, a prospective epidemiological study of children in court-ordered foster and kinship care in New South Wales, Australia. Methods: Mental health, socialization and self-esteem were assessed in 347 children in a statewide mail survey, using two carer-report checklists, the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Assessment Checklist for Children (ACC). Results: Children in the study had exceptionally poor mental health and socialization, both in absolute terms, and relative to normative and in-care samples. Levels and rates of disturbance for children in foster care exceeded all prior estimates. Rates of disturbance for children in kinship care were high, but within the range of prior estimates. Boys presented with higher scope and severity of mental health problems than girls on the CBCL, while gender-specific patterns of disturbance were shown on the ACC. A moderate age effect was accounted for by children's age at entry into care. Conclusions: Children in care are at high risk of mental health problems. Psychological support for the children and their carers is an essential secondary prevention strategy. Implications for service delivery are discussed.
Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health Vol. 42, Issue 3, p. 89-97