Youth Suicide Rates Decrease After Entrance into Canadian Foster Care

Children are removed from their homes and placed into foster care when their home environments are physically or emotionally unsafe. Children who are neglected, victims of sexual or physical abuse, or mistreated in other ways often spend time being cared for by a foster family. In Manitoba, Canada, more than 7,000 children received these services in 2008. The majority of these children have deep psychological scars that they struggle with, and many experts worry that the Canadian child welfare program does not have the resources to address these problems. Previous studies in Sweden have shown that foster children are more likely to be admitted to psychiatric hospitals, attempt suicide, or complete a suicide attempt than Swedish children not receiving services. In order to determine if suicide rates decrease or increase after entrance into Canadian foster care, Laurence Y. Katz, of the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy led a study comparing suicide rates of children who received care between 1997 and 2006 to those of children who were not in foster care.

Using data from more than 8,000 children ranging in age from 5 to 17, Katz found that 2 years prior to being placed in care, future foster children were more likely to commit suicide, attempt suicide, or be hospitalized than the general population. However, the results showed that these rates decreased after the children had been placed into care. The most significant decreases in these rates were found in the children with diagnosed psychiatric problems. Katz believes this could be that the children with psychiatric issues were exposed to elevated stress levels in their homes of origin, resulting from their parents’ incapacity to emotionally or physically manage the existing psychiatric problem. Overall, foster care, which is often maligned for underserving youth, appears to be beneficial to this at-risk segment of the population. Katz added, “These findings indicate the need for further research in this area, the results of which have important policy implications for governments and agencies with the responsibility to optimize services for this vulnerable population.”

Katz, L. Y., Au, W., Singal, D., Brownell, M., Roos, N., Martens, P. J., Chateau, D., Enns, M. W., Kozyrskyj, A. L., Sareen, J. Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Children and Adolescents in the Child Welfare System. Canadian Medical Association Journal 183.17 (2011): 1977-981. Print.

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  • Drew


    February 28th, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    Finally something positive for a social service system somewhere! All of the time we hear about kids in these systems and how they are neglected and left to live these horrible situations, but it sounds like there is something good coming out of this system in Canada. Hopefully this shows that some of the screening systems are getting better and the families that these children are being placed with are better educated about their specific needs and can get them to a more positve place in life.

  • Barb


    February 28th, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    If nothing else at least foster care with the right set of parents can at least let a child experience that feeling of having a home and having a place to call their own.
    So many times for most of these children they have never had anything good that they could call their own but this version of foster care is giving this to them.
    And if the family really bonds with the child it is like they have been given a brand new lease on life. They are going to be able to have a much better life than what they would have had with their biological family, and if this is what it takes to get them some normalcy, then by all means let’s share this information and get systems set up like this all over to take in the so many children who need a good and stable home life.



    February 29th, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    While nothing can compare with a good environment and a stable family and home,foster care does a lot for individuals who are not lucky enough to have such conditions. It’s definitely better than a home wherein there are problems with parenting and other issues.

  • Anestacia


    September 16th, 2012 at 4:47 AM

    Yeah well I’m a foster kid and in most cases the rate of suicide goes down but foster care has made me think more and more of suicide

  • Chris


    December 6th, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Foster parents abuse led to our boy attempting suicide. 41 days in foster care and CPS cancelled the psychologist I had for our boy and didn’t get him help.

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