The number of children in foster care in California has doubled in the last decade and is expected to continue rising as a result of increased and continued parental drug use. Recent studies indicate that the long term effects of maltreatment, lack of continuity of healthcare and frequent placement changes often impact the physical, emotional, and psychological development of children in foster care. As a result, pre-existing and preventable health conditions are frequently overlooked and under-treated. This results in problems growing more acute as children move from placement to placement.
Children in foster care depend on government-funded health services to respond to their often complicated, acute, and chronic health conditions. Public Health Nurses work in Child Welfare Agencies in conjunction with the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program (CHDP) to address mental, physical, and emotional healthcare needs that impact children in foster care in California.
These nurses work in collaboration with Department of Human Services Social Workers and Probation Officers to assist in the development and implementation of health service plans for children residing with Resource Families or living in group homes. Statewide, counties have found Public Health Nurses to be helpful and beneficial in improving outcomes for children in foster care.
Did You Know?
- Currently there are over 3000 children foster care in Kern County, with approximately 225 on Probation.
- 40-60% of children in foster care have chronic medical conditions such as asthma, cognitive abnormalities, visual and auditory problems, dental decay, and poor nutrition.
- Lack of adequate medical records may often result in either over or under-immunization and over or under-treatment of chronic health conditions of children in foster care.
- Children in foster care require and use health services more than other children and are more highly represented in specialty clinics such as neurology and psychiatry in response to their overwhelming and complex needs.
- Children in foster care rarely enter the system with useful health records or mental health histories; confidentiality issues, bureaucratic requirements, or limited parental knowledge and unavailability, restrict access to full documentation.
- Approximately 40-72% of children in foster care require ongoing medical treatment, and studies indicate that 50-60% have moderate to severe mental health problems.
The foster care Public Health Nurses work toward preventing disease and disability, improving health outcomes and building a healthier Kern County.
- Nationally there are over 500,000 children in foster care; California ranks among the highest with approximately 100,000 children in foster care.
- Children in foster care range from newborns to adolescents and include all ethnicities and races.
- The Health Care Program for Children in Foster Care [HCPCFC] is a collaborative effort between the Kern County Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Services to ensure timely, high quality, consistent healthcare for all children in Kern County.
Profile of Public Health Nurses Working With Children in Foster Care
- Advocate for the healthcare needs of children in foster care.
- Participate with the assessment providers or center in developing a healthcare plan.
- Assist Resource Parents in obtaining timely, comprehensive care for the children in their care.
- Expedite timely referrals for medical, dental, and mental health services.
- Follow children placed out-of-county to ensure access to necessary services.
- Serve as a resource to facilitate referral to early intervention providers, specialty providers, dentists, mental health providers, and other community based programs.
- Oversee the creation and updating of the Health and Education Passport as required by law.
- Interpret medical reports for social workers, Resource Parents, and the courts.
- Educate social workers, judges, Resource Parents, school nurses and others in the community about the unique and growing healthcare needs of children in foster care.
For more information about the Health Care Program for Children in Foster Care in Kern County, please contact the Foster Care Public Health Nurses at:
The Health Unit
Department of Human Services
O.C. Sills Building, Room 220
100 East California Ave
Bakersfield, CA 93307
Kern County Department of Public Health
1800 Mount Vernon Ave
Bakersfield, CA 93306