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Minerva Psichiatrica 2015 September;56(3):109-15


language: English

The long stay in group homes and mental health status of children: a two-year follow-up

Ferrara P. 1, 2, Leone A. 2, Romani L. 2, Guadagno C. 2, Alvaro F. 3

1 Institute of Pediatrics, Sacro Cuore Catholic University, Rome, Italy; 2 Campus Bio‑Medico University, Rome, Italy; 3 Commissioner for children, Regione Lazio, Rome, Italy


AIM: The term “foster care” collects “institutions, group homes or private homes hosting orphaned, abandoned and maltreated children”. Aim of the study was to re-evaluate, with a 2-year follow-up, the physical and mental health status of children still living in foster care.
METHODS: The pilot survey included 8 group homes in Rome. The follow-up has been conducted between September 2013 and April 2014. We focused over improvement or worsening of the health status of children still living in group homes and over negative predictors of failure to adoption.
RESULTS: The pilot survey included 91 children aged between 2 and 17 years. The 2-year follow-up showed 34 children (37.4%) still living in group homes and 57 (62.6%) children no longer resident there. The 34 children were divided into 27 females (79%) and 7 males (21%). The mean age was 12.5 years for females and 11.4 years for males. The mean time of permanence was 68 months (5.7 years) but it increased when comparing the time of permanence with the child’s age. The growth parameters displaied no significant differences, placing most of the children between the 10th and the 90th percentile. At the follow-up, 16 children (47%) were diagnosed with certified psychiatric diseases with an increasing rate of 29% (P=0.01). The 2014 follow-up also showed an increasing number of all the preview organic diseases, from 31 to 61 pathologic conditions identified, with an increase rate of %. Fifty-seven children (62.6%) were no longer resident in family homes: 23 (40.4%) went back to their own family, 5 (8.8%) went to temporary custody, 29 (50.9%) were adopted. Therefore only 29/91 (31.8%) children were adopted.
CONCLUSION: A child in foster care has the chance to be well assisted; however, the study reveals the profile of a weaker child, even more in need of care.

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