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Title: Is Unhealthy Weight Being Overlooked in Foster Care? Comparing body mass index of children in out-of-home care with national estimates

Study Location: United States

Type of Paper: Poster Presentation

Purpose: To compare national estimates of body mass index for children in foster care with children in the general U.S. population.

Measures: Body mass index (BMI), age, race, gender and placement (foster care vs. kinship)

Participants: Participants in the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being Round 2 (NSCAW II): 2505 children 2 to 17 years old placed in out-of-home care; Participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): 3281 2 to 19 year-olds in the general U.S. population

Methods: Bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to compare the gender-specific BMI’s in each population (NSCAW II vs. NHANES).

Results: Sixty-six percent of all children in the U.S. have a healthy BMI (between 5th and 85th percentile in weight-for-height), compared to only 36% of children in out-of-home care. In the general U.S. population, there is a relationship between age and obesity such that there are fewer obese children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old compared to other age groups. There is no such relationship for children in foster care. Hispanic males in foster care were 2.4 times more likely to be obese compared to Caucasian males in foster care. For females in foster care, younger age was associated with a 2.4 and 3.0 greater odds of being obese compared to adolescents.

Conclusions and Implications: There are a disproportionate number of children who are overweight or obese in foster care compared to national averages. Additionally, Hispanic males and younger females in foster care are at a greater risk for obesity. Children in U.S. foster care are at high risk for overweight and obesity.

Limitations: Not available.

Citation/Reference: Helton, J.J. Is Unhealthy Weight Being Overlooked in Foster Care? Comparing body mass index of children in out-of-home care with national estimates. Poster Presentation. Society for Social Work Research 15th Annual Conference, January 14 2011. Tampa, Florida. http://sswr.confex.com/sswr/2011/webprogram/Paper14830.html


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