Study Location: Sacramento County, California, USA
Type of Paper: Original Article; Medical Chart Review
Purpose: To compare the health of children in foster care to the health of low-income children (i.e., Medicaid-eligible) who were not in foster care.
- Birth history: gestational age
- Physical growth: standard anthropometry [height, weight, head circumference (OFC)]. The method used to calculate z scores was not described.
Participants: 226 (80 under 3 years old) foster care and 264 (120 under 3 years old) Medicaid-eligible children between birth and 18 years old in the U. S. (Sacramento County, CA). Average age for the foster care group was 5. 1 years and for the Medicaid-eligible children 5. 8 years.
Methods: Medical chart reviews
- Birth history: 16% were born <38 weeks.
- Physical growth in the foster care group: The following number of children were below the fifth percentile for growth:
- Height for age (HAZ): 11%
- Weight for age (WAZ): 3%
- Head circumference for age (OFCZ): 3% (only children under 3 years old were included)
Conclusions & Clinical Implications: Growth failure (growth below the fifth percentile) was not very common in children in foster care. The one exception was for height; 11% had short stature. Although the purpose of the study was to compare the health status between children in foster care and low-income children to determine if health in children living in foster care is not just due to living in poverty, this comparison was not done for physical growth. Children in foster care however did have a greater prevalence of physical, developmental, and mental health problems. 16% were born less than 38 weeks gestation, which although not discussed in this paper, may affect nutritional status.
Limitations of the Nutritional Results: Preterm birth is generally defined as being born earlier than 37 weeks. This paper reported the prevalence of children born prior to 38 weeks gestation, and therefore, the percent of children who were born preterm was not reported. Physical growth results were reported for all children between the ages of birth and 18 years. Physical growth for children under 3 years old was not reported separately.
Reference: Hansen RL, Mawjee FL, Barton K, Metcalf MB, Joye NR. Comparing the health status of low-income children in and out of foster care. Child Welfare. 2004; 83 (4): 367-380. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15310062