Addressing Psychological Health Needs Within the Foster Care System

Children in the foster care system are at risk for a number of both short- and long-term mental health issues. This is even more the case for kids who were maltreated before entering foster care. Among these kids, depression is particularly prominent, and untreated through therapy and other intervention, it can lead to a risk of suicidal behavior. Post traumatic stress disorder is also quite common. Other mental health risks for children in foster care include dissociation, ADHD, conduct disorders, and social problems. Medicaid claims indicate that up to 57 percent of children in the foster care system exhibit signs of the mental health needs mentioned here, but the majority of these children do not have access to, or do not receive, the therapy and treatment they need.

A new study, funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health and administered by the University of Colorado, aims to address these mental health needs. A preventive intervention program, called Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF), was developed to provide both group skills training and one-on-one mentoring to a group of almost 80 children in Denver area foster care who had been previously maltreated. The skills training used group activities to address problem solving, anger management, emotion recognition, peer pressure, healthy relationships, and abuse prevention. In the one-on-one mentoring sessions, kids had a chance to practice their skills with their mentors, who were social work graduate students.

The results are promising. The seven-year study assessed kids’ mental health states before, immediately after, and six months after completing the intervention program. In the majority of cases, children who had participated had significantly lower rate of mental health problems, especially dissociation and post traumatic stress disorder, than those who did not participate. These kids also reported feeling a higher quality of life immediately following the intervention. Mental health needs unaddressed by therapy or intervention in youth can translate to both mental and physical health burdens in adulthood. Additional programs and funding such as this may have promise for the overall well being of children who have been maltreated and are adjusting to foster care.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Melinda


    August 10th, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    No wonder there are so many kids in the foster care system who end up having problems. There are many adults who choose to be foster parents for the wrong reasons, for the money that they get from the state instead of a real love and caring heart for the kids that they will be taking in. That is a real shame because these are the kids who need the most love and care but are the ones who never seem to get it. They are neglected and left behind and sadly go on to live lives out of which they cannot dig out of the messes that were created for them when they were young children.

  • nate


    August 10th, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    I have seen at least a couple of cases wherein the child in foster care was having problems because the new family is radically different from where he came from. I don’t mean that in any particular way but in general. You know, people around you change.
    But if there are similarities then you can probably replace a person with another who can be that old person for you minus the negatives.But this is not happening and there is a lot of conflict in the children’s minds due to this.



    August 10th, 2010 at 11:02 PM

    There need to be better training provided to those who provide foster care to kids. Also, if the foster parents have a kid of their own, it may lead to a kind of favoritism between the children. All there things need to be taken into consideration before actually granting someone the right to undertake a child into their foster care.

  • Victoria


    August 11th, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    Here’s a note to those who want to take a child under foster care – do it only if you are genuinely interested in loving the child in a way that you would to your own child and never do it for any incentive. If you follow this,then you and the child will all be happy and will make a great family :)

  • Jeff


    August 11th, 2010 at 8:07 AM

    I have a friend who has been such a wonderful addition to the foster care ssystem in our area, she and her husband have even adopted two of the kids who first came to live with them as foster children. But she will tell anyone that it has not been without struggles and they just like any other family have to work on it on a daily basis to make sure that the entire family thrives together and does not tear apart. She does however have a lot of misgivings about the foster care system, in feeling that there were times that she needed advice and support but there was no one to turn to in those instances. So yes the families who take in the children do need to be better trained and utilized but so do the people who are supposedly in charge of the system to begin with. They need to be there for these families because this is not an easy task to take in kids who are not your own and try to make them such or at least offer them a soft place to fall for a while.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.



* Indicates required field.

Therapist   Treatment Center

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog

Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on