Monitoring the development of foster children

June 23, 2017, Leiden University

Foster children's behaviour is more problematic than that of their peers in 'normal' family situations. However, it is difficult to determine the exact cause of behavioural problems. Anouk Goemans, a researcher in clinical child and adolescent studies, calls for more screening and monitoring. PhD defence on 27 June.

About 20,000 children are currently in in the Netherlands. Some because of parental neglect or even abuse, others because or parental limitations made caring for them too much of a challenge. They were placed in a foster for the shorter or longer term.

Behavioural problems

Unfortunately, some of these children have to leave their foster family prematurely because of difficulties that are often caused by behavioural problems. In the most serious cases, children end up moving from foster family to foster family. PhD candidate Anouk Goemans looked for factors that have a positive effect on a foster child's development and can thus prevent this from happening. The ideal outcome would have been a model that predicts the psychosocial development of foster children.

No prediction model

Goemans didn't manage to come up with such a . A meta-analysis of various prior studies and a longitudinal study [a study with several observations over a period of time, ed.] did provide a number of predictors, but as Goemans says, there is 'too much interindividual variation' in the development paths of foster children. 'Although the predictors can to some extent explain the development of children in foster care, together they do not yield a model that can accurately predict this development.'

Extra help

One of Goemans' discoveries was that extra help from support workers, for instance supervision or interventions, correlates negatively with behavioural problems in foster children. In other words: children who received extra support displayed more behavioural problems. Goemans: 'But this result was based on a single observation. The most plausible explanation is quite simply that children with problems must receive more support than those who don't have problems.' The foster children in the study who did not receive extra support also displayed considerable behavioural problems.

Parental stress

Goemans also found that behavioural problems in foster children predict more in foster parents, but not vice versa. It therefore appears that do not burden foster children with their own stress. Goemans: 'This could be because becoming a foster parent is often a conscious decision, or because of the preparation courses that they follow.'

Systematic monitoring

Goemans therefore advises support workers to systematically screen and monitor the of foster children, so that they can provide extra support wherever necessary. In addition, this will make it possible for researchers to determine the factors that cause behavioural problems. Placement policy could be changed on the basis of these findings, ensuring that stay longer in a foster family.

Checklist

Tools do exist that allow for a more structural monitoring, but they have not yet been implemented in the Netherlands. The Brief Assessment Checklist (BAC) is particularly useful, says Goemans. This tool – which is already in use in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and England – can measure the relationship between foster parent and child quickly and effectively. Does the child yearn for affection? Does the child fail to distinguish between its foster family and strangers? The BAC includes all these signs, which makes it a useful tool for workers. Its systematic use could be the next step to a prediction model.

Explore further: Care system not to blame for increased risk of mental health issues in children

Related Stories

Care system not to blame for increased risk of mental health issues in children

June 21, 2017
Children in the care system – who are more likely to have mental health difficulties than others in the wider population – are not more at risk due to being in care, according to new research from the University of York.

Understanding children's behaviour key to foster care support

October 15, 2013
Providing foster carers with accurate information about the behaviour of children in their care could reduce "placement drift" and encourage stronger family connections.

Recommended for you

A bad mood may help your brain with everyday tasks

July 18, 2018
New research found that being in a bad mood can help some people's executive functioning, such as their ability to focus attention, manage time and prioritize tasks. The same study found that a good mood has a negative effect ...

Depression during pregnancy rises in a generation

July 18, 2018
Anxiety and depressive symptoms during pregnancy have risen by 51 per cent within a generation according to findings from a major study by the University of Bristol published last week [Friday 13 July].

Forty percent of people have a fictional first memory, says study

July 17, 2018
Researchers have conducted one of the largest surveys of people's first memories, finding that nearly 40 per cent of people had a first memory which is fictional.

Celebrating positives improves classroom behavior and mental health

July 17, 2018
Training teachers to focus their attention on positive conduct and to avoid jumping to correct minor disruption improves child behaviour, concentration and mental health.

Algorithm identifies patients best suited for antidepressants

July 17, 2018
McLean Hospital researchers have completed a study that sought to determine which individuals with depression are best suited for antidepressant medications. Their findings, published in Psychological Medicine on July 2, ...

Researchers explore how information enters our brains

July 17, 2018
Think you're totally in control of your thoughts? Maybe not as much as you think, according to a new San Francisco State University study that examines how thoughts that lead to actions enter our consciousness.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.