Effect of Foster Care on Young Children’s Language Learning


  • The Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development (Charles A. Nelson, Network Chair). We are grateful to Hermi R. Woodward and the dedicated BEIP research staff. We thank Nicoletta Corlan, Nadia Radu, and Anca Radulescu for data collection; Gwen Gordon for data management; and Yang Zhang for comments on the manuscript. Portions of this research were presented at the 2009 biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jennifer Windsor, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, 115 Shevlin Hall, University of Minnesota, 164 Pillsbury Drive S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455. Electronic mail may be sent to windsor@umn.edu.


This report examines 174 young children’s language outcomes in the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, the first randomized trial of foster placement after institutional care. Age of foster placement was highly correlated with language outcomes. Placement by 15 months led to similar expressive and receptive language test scores as typical age peers at 30 and 42 months. Placement from 15 to 24 months also led to dramatic language improvement. In contrast, children placed after 24 months had the same severe language delays as children in institutional care. Language samples at 42 months confirmed that placement after 24 months led to lower expressive skill.