Up to 80% of children who enter foster care have serious problems with mental health (Simms, Dubowitz, & Szilagyi, 2000), as compared to 18% to 22% of children diagnosed with mental health problems in the general population (Roberts; Attkisson, & Rosenblatt, 1998).
The traumatic experience of abuse, neglect, and separation as well as environmental factors can lead to a variety of emotional problems for children and a greater likelihood of poor child well-being outcomes. For children placed in foster care, the trauma of separation from their families and the experience of multiple moves within the foster care system itself increase their vulnerability and compound their mental health problems. Many parents, who experience the multiple stresses that lead to involvement with the child welfare system, also need mental health services and supports as well as substance abuse services. Foster care children represent an extremely high-risk population for mental health problems.
The mental health problems of these children are not likely to disappear once they are adopted or reunified with their families. Therefore, children and parents need post-adoptive or post-reunification services to help them deal with lifelong effects of abuse, neglect, and separation. ( National Child Welfare Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice, Best Practice/Next Practice, Summer 2003.)