Help-seeking steps and service use for children in foster care

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This study describes help-seeking steps and service-use patterns for school-age children in foster care. It also examines how these access indices are moderated by sociodemographic, enabling, and child disorder factors. Two home interviews and a telephone teacher interview were conducted using a sample of 302 randomly selected children (age 6-12 years) in foster care. The majority of children (80%) were given a psychiatric diagnosis, and 43% of the foster parents perceived a need for mental health services for the child. In the past year, about one-half of the children had received mental health (51%) and special education services (52%). Age and ethnicity, foster parent education, placement history, level of monthly benefits, number of caseworker visits, and disorder characteristics were related to help-seeking steps and mental health service use. Strategies to improve access to mental health services for children in foster care should include interventions at the caregiver and system levels.

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