Improving the Odds for the Healthy Development of Young Children in Foster Care

Dicker, Sheryl; Gordon, Elysa; Knitzer, Jane

Very young children are the fastest growing segment of the child welfare population. Over the past decade, the number of children under age five has increased by 110 percent in contrast to a 50 percent increase for all children. Over 30 percent of all children in foster care are under age five. Infants comprise the largest cohort of the young child foster care population, accounting for one in five admissions, and they remain in care twice as long as older children. Ensuring healthy development and permanency for these young children, given the range of risks they face, is a complex challenge that requires a unique mix of resources and strategies. Yet, there has been relatively little attention focused on linking child welfare practice with health care, early intervention, and other strategies that could effectively address the risks that these young children face and strengthen their families. This policy paper is intended to be a wake-up call—to challenge communities all over the country to attend to the needs of children in or at risk of foster care placement. It is about what child welfare agencies, courts, and other partners can do to improve the physical, developmental, and emotional health of young children in foster care. It highlights the special risks these children face and identifies strategies that service providers, courts, policymakers, and advocates can use to enhance the healthy development of young children in foster care and promote their prospects for permanency—whether that means reunification with their families or adoption.


More About This Work

Academic Units
National Center for Children in Poverty
National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University
Published Here
July 8, 2010