Young children are more likely than older children to be placed in foster care and to spend a larger proportion of their life in the foster care system (Goerge & Wulczyn, 1998). In a recent review of foster care in several states, the incidence of placement in foster care for children under age 5 was double that of children aged 5–17 (4 per 1,000 vs. 2 per 1,000) (Goerge & Wulczyn, 1998). Young children are in foster care longer than older children and infants are in foster care significantly longer than other age groups (Goerge & Wulczyn, 1998). In the 5 states studied, the median length of time infants spent in foster care ranged from 11 to 42 months (Goerge & Wulczyn, 1998). This paper explores the potential impact of foster care placement on young children’s attachment relationships and mental health.
Factors Leading to Placement in Foster Care
Children are removed from their homes to protect them from immediate physical harm (Zuravin & DePanfilis, 1997). Substance abuse and the drug culture account for the majority of young children placed in foster care (Simms, 1991). Race and socioeconomic status does not appear to have a major impact on decision making regarding foster care placement (Zuravin & DePanfilis, 1997). In general, foster care placement adequately provides for the physical protection of children. For example, in a study comparing home and out-of-home placements of infants born to substance-abusing mothers, there was a 7% death rate and a 4% rate of abuse and neglect in the home placements compared to none of these events in the infants placed in kinship or foster care placements (Tyler, Howard, Espinosa, & Doakes, 1997). However, foster care placement has implications for the healthy emotional development of young children. Attachment Disruptions Among Young Children in Foster Care
Out-of-home placement is typically associated with numerous disruptions in attachment relationships. These losses and lack of permanence undermine a...
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