Kids in Foster Care Three Times More Likely to be Diagnosed with ADHD

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;
  • Among children with an ADHD diagnosis, those in foster care were as likely as others to be treated with ADHD medication, but also were more likely to have received psychological services; and
  • About three out of four of the children with ADHD in foster care received some psychological care in 2011.

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

The high proportion of children with ADHD in foster care who receive psychological services was promising, she noted, especially since behavior therapy is recommended as the first-line treatment for preschoolers with ADHD and is preferred in conjunction with medication as treatment for school-aged children with ADHD.

“As we work to improve the quality of care for children with ADHD, it will be important to consider the needs of special populations, including those in foster care,” Danielson said. “Working together, primary care and specialty clinicians can best support the health and long-term well-being of children with ADHD.”

The study’s findings were presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2015 National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C.

Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics