* This work was presented in part at the annual meeting of the Ambulatory Pediatric Association in Baltimore, Maryland on May 6, 1992.
Self-reported depressive symptoms in school-age children at the time of entry into foster care*
Article first published online: 6 AUG 2009
Ambulatory Child Health
Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 45–57, March 2000
How to Cite
Allen, E. C., Combs-Orme, T., McCarter, R. J. and Grossman, L. S. (2000), Self-reported depressive symptoms in school-age children at the time of entry into foster care*. Ambulatory Child Health, 6: 45–57. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-0658.2000.00054.x
Children who have been uprooted from their families and placed in foster care deserve early mental health treatment, when indicated, to improve their mental health and help them with the difficult process of adjusting to foster care.
- Issue published online: 6 AUG 2009
- Article first published online: 6 AUG 2009
- children’s depression;
- Depression Inventory;
- Depressive Disorder;
- foster home care
Objective To test the following hypotheses: (1) Children entering foster care report more depressive symptoms and have a higher prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms than children not in care. (2) Demographic and historical data can predict which children in foster care are at highest risk for depression.
Design Cross-sectional study, including a comparison group.
Setting Foster Care Health Program in Baltimore, Maryland, and Baltimore City Public Schools.
Methods We administered the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) to 160 school-age children entering foster care and to a comparison group of 60 urban, African-American school children.
Results Children entering foster care had higher mean CDI scores than children in published norms (p < 0.03). A similar difference in CDI scores between children in foster care and urban, African-American children did not reach statistical significance. Prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms did not differ significantly between the children in foster care, published norms, and comparison group (13.8, 10 and 8.3%, respectively). Depressive symptoms in children entering foster care were associated with age, but not with gender or ethnicity; parental history of affective disorder or substance abuse; history of abuse or neglect; or previous foster care or mental health treatment.
Conclusions Children entering foster care report more depressive symptoms than children in published norms. The prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms is similar for children in foster care, published norms, and urban, African-American children. Depressive symptoms in children entering foster care are associated with age, but not with other demographic and historical variables.
Implications for Practice Children entering foster care should be a particular priority for mental health screening, with early mental health treatment when indicated.