A large group of children in need of medical attention in the United States aren’t getting it, according to a newly released study. The report, issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), indicated that foster children who experience emotional and physical trauma are not being treated for it.
According to the report, anywhere between 30 to 80 percent of children come into foster care with at least one physical health issue, while up to 80 percent enter with a significant mental health need. The report also said that 46 percent to 60 percent of children younger than six years of age have a developmental disability that qualifies them for services.
These physical health issues range from the common, such as asthma, to the severe, such as cerebral palsy.
Medical Care and Foster Children: Why Aren’t They Treated?
However, the reasons many foster children across the country aren’t treated for these issues by a doctor involve instability. Given that foster children are often moved from placement to placement, setting up a “medical home” where a doctor can see them on a continuous basis is difficult.
“There are many barriers to providing high-quality comprehensive health care services to the transient population of children and adolescents in foster care, whose lives are characterized by adversity, loss and uncertainty,” the report said.
Medical Care and Foster Children: What NJ Does
New Jersey, however, has a plan in place aimed at making sure foster children receive medical help when they come into care.
As per the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) policy, foster parents are responsible for obtaining appropriate medical and dental care for the child or children in their homes on a routine and emergency basis. This also includes required annual physical and dental exams.
According to the Resource Family Handbook, NJ foster parents are also responsible for:
• Contacting DCP&P immediately whenever emergency care is required. During weekends and after hours, parents should call the 24-hour hotline at 1.877.652.2873.
• Consenting to emergency care, including hospital admission, only in cases when immediate consent is critical to the child’s well-being and DCP&P cannot be reached. Parents must notify DCP&P as soon as possible after consenting to emergency medical treatment.
• Notifying DCP&P of any health needs that the child may develop while in the parent’s care
Foster children in NJ are provided Medicaid which contracts with four Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) programs. While this means all children in care are insured, it doesn’t mean access is always convenient.
Medical Care and Foster Children: What Foster Parents Do
Many resource families have reported difficulties in finding a doctor that accepts this insurance, especially specialists.
“(I’ve driven) hours upon hours, miles upon miles,” Andrea Gillespie, a NJ resource parent, said. “I have a child with special needs and she deserves the best care at the best hospitals and outpatient centers.”
This is a sentiment echoed by many foster parents who seek medical help for the children in their care. In light of this recent study, it’s important foster parents continue to make the extended effort for the health of their foster children.
To read the full study, click here.