Whether a child is in foster care, has been adopted or has been placed with relatives, their needs are complex and unique. These situations could result in physical, developmental, and mental health concerns, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics details the needs of children and families in an updated clinical report published in the December 2020 Pediatrics. “Pediatricians can help families navigate difficult social circumstances, medical care and transitions to adulthood,” said Veronnie F. Jones, MD, MSPH, FAAP, an author of the report.

Primary reasons for children to enter a foster care or adoption situation are neglect, parental substance abuse, poor caregiver coping skills, physical abuse and inadequate housing, to list a few. And in some cases, children entering foster care or adoption may have complex medical needs.

Pediatricians are here to help.

Pediatricians can counsel caregivers about the need to understand the child’s specific questions or health concerns in the context of the child’s current developmental stage. In addition, your Pediatrician can encourage honesty and nonjudgmental communication using positive language during sensitive topic conversations such as racial and cultural issues and grief or loss.

“We build trust with children when we communicate openly and early,” said Elaine E. Schulte, MD, MPH, FAAP, author of the report. For example, rather than waiting until they’re older to discuss the foster care or adoption process, early discussion using terms such as ‘biological family’ or ‘birth family’ as part of the regular conversation will help. 

Your Pediatrician provides additional assistance.

  • Children and teens involved in the child welfare system often have multiple health care needs that will require an interdisciplinary team.
  • Children in foster care or adoption are at a far greater risk than the general population for neurodevelopmental disorders. Pediatricians can monitor and screen for disorders, such as fetal alcohol syndrome or common mental health issues.
  • Pediatricians can advocate for young adults who are transitioning out of care or the juvenile justice system. They are at higher risk for poor physical and mental health outcomes, low socioeconomic status, and lower educational attainment.
  • Pediatricians can address the effects of adverse childhood experiences, early childhood adversity, and trauma on early brain development and life course trajectory for both physical and mental health. 

“Simple interactions can have dramatic influences on children and teen resilience,” Dr. Jones said.

Do you have questions or concerns regarding a child placed in your care? Give our office a call at 345-949-2970.