Mental Health of Adolescents in Foster Care: A Literature Review

Anne Coulomb


This paper examines the mental health of adolescents in the child welfare system and appropriate interventions to address their needs. Rates of mental illness among adolescents in the child welfare system are higher than those in the general population of the same age cohort. Currently, most adolescents are only screened for trauma exposure and symptoms during an assessment after a reported instance of abuse or neglect. The
Illinois Department of Child and Family Services utilizes a community based approach that allow at risk children to stay in their home community and use preexisting resources for treatment. Each child receives an individualized treatment plan that focuses on their strengths as well as the strengths of their community. These children have experienced stressful events, potentially including foster care placement. Cognitive based compassion training (CBCT) has the potential to help address such trauma based stress. This intervention helps adolescents learn to regulate their emotions and manage stress which could reduce effects of chronic stress. Finally, treatment foster care (TFC) is also considered as a viable intervention. Treatment foster care provides children with access
to individual and family therapy, placement with foster parents who have been trained and screened, and services that extend beyond their time in foster care. In order to remedy the common problem of adolescents with mental illnesses who have not received more comprehensive treatment, a holistic approach with continuous screening is recommended. Elements of this approach are explored in this article.


foster care services; youth; mental illness

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Copyright (c) 2017 Anne Coulomb

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