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Children in out-of-home care: Does routine health screening improve outcomes?

Authors


Dr Dimitra Tzioumi, Child Protection Unit, Sydney Children's Hospital, High Street, Randwick, NSW 2031, Australia. Fax: +02 9382 1410; email: dimitra.tzioumi@sesiahs.health.nsw.gov.au

Abstract

Aim:  Children in out-of-home care have high and frequently unidentified health needs. The Child Protection Unit at Sydney Children's Hospital offers comprehensive health screening to children in care. Recommendations for remediation are made, but follow-up in the clinic is not offered. Current research has failed to establish whether health screening results in health benefits for the children screened. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of the health screening clinic on children's health outcomes by tracking the first 100 children screened, determining how many of the health recommendations made for each child had been implemented and, if possible, what the health outcome had been.

Methods:  Research questionnaires were sent to the Department of Social Services caseworkers of the first 100 children screened.

Results:  Adherence to health recommendations was high; however, it was not possible to quantify the degree of health benefit to the children screened. A number of systemic problems were identified, which are likely to hinder the accessibility of health care for children in care.

Conclusions:  Comprehensive health screening of children in care is likely to benefit a child's health, although this could not be determined. Agencies responsible for placing children in care need systems in place to ensure better inter-agency collaboration between the health system and community services. This should help improve health outcomes.

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