Thursday, May 24, 2007

Foster children receiving inadequate medical care

Medicaid not enough for foster children
Wheeler, Stertease. AXcess News, May 24, 2007.

(Georgetown, KY) Washington - Children in foster care are at a higher risk for developing mental and physical health problems, but it's much harder for these children to receive proper medical care, experts said Monday.

They spoke at a discussion in the U.S. Capitol on federal issues regarding the health and well being of foster care children.

The focus of the discussion was on inadequate Medicaid funding, which in turn dictates how much medical care children in foster care receive. The panelists also discussed the need to push for mandatory medical coverage for children leaving the foster care system and to improve dental coverage and child-placement practices.

Dr. David M. Rubin, director of research and policy at Safe Place: Center for Child Protection and Health, said that states are not required to provide Medicaid coverage to young adults after age 18. Safe Place is a program developed by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to provide resources to address the medical and psychosocial needs of at-risk children.

The Chafee Independence Act of 1999 gives states the option of extending medical coverage to foster children who become too old for the system at age 18 and to help them make the transition into adult life. The "Medicaid Foster Care Coverage Act of 2007," introduced in the Senate in March, would make Medicaid coverage of foster care children mandatory through age 21.

Access to adequate dental health care is also a problem among foster children receiving Medicaid.

Foster parent Deborah D. Williams of Dumfries, Va., is a long-time foster parent.

"Dentist's wouldn't take kids under 4 on Medicaid," Williams said. "We do need care and more help in finding doctors that will take Medicaid."

According to a study conducted by the Child Welfare League of America, one-third to one-half of children afflicted with dental problems were reported to have dental decay. The CWLA is an association of almost 800 nonprofit agencies headquartered in Arlington, Va., that is responsible for assisting more than 3.5 million neglected children annually.

Another issue is whether kinship care, or children placed with relatives, is better than general foster care. Rubin said welfare workers make kinship care a priority over general foster care, but there isn't overwhelming evidence to prove that placing children with relatives is better.

"There is scant and conflicting evidence to show how placement of a child in kinship care influences the child's well-being long-term," Rubin said.

Despite the conflicts, Rubin did not dismiss the idea, and he said it could prove to be a good alternative to general foster care.

"We need to think about placement with kin. It is an important alternative to traditional foster care that may help children exit the system quickly," Rubin said. "I'm not here to say that we should push every child in kinship care, there has to be some limits ... they have to have some relationship with the child."

To provide better health care and an overall better way of life for children in foster care, two bills have been proposed to ensure better care of foster children. One would help relatives of foster children who agree to care for them and the other would also help non-relatives.

Source: Scripps Howard Foundation Wire


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