In this brief, Child Trends examines the prevalence of children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) in the foster care system. CYSHCN have—or are at increased risk for—chronic physical, developmental, or behavioral/emotional conditions.[i] This brief provides an overview of the literature on CYSHCN and their experiences in the foster care system, a detailed explanation of the methodology used for the current brief, an explanation of our findings, and a brief discussion of practice and policy implications.
Our findings suggest that children and youth’s reasons for entering foster care, their experiences while in care, and their reasons for leaving care vary depending on whether they have an SHCN. The findings presented below represent the national data; additional information on all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) is available in Appendix A.
For our analysis, we utilized the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Foster Care File, which provides data on the characteristics and foster care experiences of children and youth who have spent at least one day in foster care during a given fiscal year. Although AFCARS does not identify children who have a special health care need (SHCN), per se, it does indicate whether children have physical, developmental, or emotional/behavioral disabilities; we used this information as a proxy for SHCN.
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