Foster Care:

Health Needs of Many Young Children Are Unknown and Unmet

HEHS-95-114: Published: May 26, 1995. Publicly Released: May 26, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the health-related services needed and received by young children in foster care, focusing on: (1) the relationship between the receipt of health-related services and foster care placements with relatives versus placements with nonrelatives; and (2) how responsible agencies are ensuring that foster children are receiving needed health-related services.

GAO found that: (1) despite foster care agency regulations requiring comprehensive routine health care, an estimated 12 percent of young foster children receive no routine health care, 34 percent receive no immunizations, and 32 percent have some identified health needs that are not met; (2) an estimated 78 percent of young foster children are at high risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as a result of parental drug abuse, yet only about 9 percent of foster children are tested for HIV; (3) young foster children placed with relatives receive fewer health-related services than children placed with nonrelative foster parents, possibly since relative caregivers receive less monitoring and assistance from caseworkers; (4) the number of young children placed with relatives increased 379 percent between 1986 and 1991, which resulted in the lower likelihood of these children receiving services associated with kinship care; and (5) the Department of Health and Human Services has not designated any technical assistance to assist states with health-related programs for foster children and does not audit states' compliance with health-related safeguards for foster children.

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