Children in Foster Care 3X More Likely to Have ADHD

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Children in foster care are three times as likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than children outside of foster care, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The findings show a “substantial need” for medical and behavioral services for children in foster care, according to the lead author of the study, Melissa Danielson, MSPH, a statistician with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

For the study, researchers at the CDC examined 2011 Medicaid outpatient and prescription drug claims from multiple states.

They found that more than 1 in 4 children between the ages of 2 and 17 in foster care received an ADHD diagnosis, compared with 1 in 14 children in Medicaid who received an ADHD diagnosis. They also found that about half of the children with ADHD in foster care also had another disorder such as oppositional defiant disorder, depression, or anxiety, compared with about one-third of children with ADHD in Medicaid.

However, there is a promising trend of children with ADHD in foster care receiving treatment. They were as likely as the children in Medicaid to be treated with ADHD medication, but were more likely to receive psychological services. In 2011, about 3 out of 4 of the children with ADHD in foster care received some psychological care.

This news is encouraging, Danielson noted, given that behavior therapy is recommended as the first-line treatment for preschoolers with ADHD, and that behavior therapy in conjunction with medication is recommended for school-aged children.

Children in Foster Care 3X More Likely to Have ADHD
However, about three out of four children with ADHD in foster care received some psychological treatment.

A new study has found that children in foster care are three times more likely than others to have a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

For the study, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined 2011 Medicaid outpatient and prescription drug claims from multiple states across the United States.

What they found is that:

  • More than one in four children between the ages of two and 17 who were in foster care had received an ADHD diagnosis, compared to about one in 14 of all other children in Medicaid;
  • Children with ADHD who were in foster care were also more likely to have another disorder, with roughly half also diagnosed with conditions such as oppositional defiant disorder, depression, or anxiety. This is compared to about one in three children with ADHD in Medicaid who were not in foster care.
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