Children with Autism More Likely to be in Foster Care, Says New Research

Policies are needed to help support families of children with autism to prevent them from becoming a part of the system.

Meghan Rivard January 31, 2018
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According to a recent study, children with autism are 2.4 times more likely to enter foster care than neurotypical children.

Usually, when people think of children in foster care, they think of child abuse and neglect. They think of social workers removing children from their home and placing them in foster homes. But that is not always the case.

In a recent article, David Mandell, professor of pediatric psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the reasons behind this trend. One reason is that autism is a diagnosis that is difficult to understand and to manage in a child. It takes patience, education, and training, and many parents are simply not prepared for the unique challenges of raising an autistic child. This has the potential to lead to abuse and results in the children being removed form the home and placed in foster care.

But there is another path that leads kids with autism into foster care: Families may voluntarily place their child into care. This can happen if care becomes too hard and the parents don’t have the adequate resources to care for the child. Some may even place their child into care because of the monetary benefit of receiving Medicaid insurance.

Unfortunately, while having access to Medicaid will enable a child to obtain the medical care and treatment they need, the statistics regarding outcomes for children in foster care are poor. Many children in care have a higher chance of ending up in the legal system, unemployed, or homeless. So what can be done to help these children and their families?

Policies need to be made that will assist families, providing them with supports that will enable them to be able to care for their children without resorting to placing them into care solely to gain access to Medicaid benefits. Professionals, social workers, mental health professionals, and others should work together alongside the families. Not only would that save money and financial resources, as that would cost less than placing children in care, but more than that, it would also give these children the best possible start in life.

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Meghan Rivard

Meghan is an adoptive mother and a big advocate of adoption and foster care. She resides in Indiana with her husband, their one-year-old daughter who is the center of their lives, and their dog Max. She has a Bachelor's and Master’s Degree in Social Work. Meghan stays at home with her daughter but is so happy she found this outlet to share her personal adoption story and educate about adoption!

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