With more than 390,000 American children and adolescents currently in the foster care system, The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Partners for Vulnerable Youth (NAPNAP Partners) recognizes the unique set of health care needs that are often inadequately addressed, unrecognized and untreated in these children and adolescents. Because of racial, social and socioeconomic disparities within the foster care system, many complications arise when addressing the health and well-being of children in foster care. Pediatric-focused advanced-practice registered nurses (APRNs) are uniquely positioned to care for such vulnerable populations, and NAPNAP Partners is committed to education, advocacy and advancement efforts to support improved health care for those in foster care.
“Children and adolescents in foster care often have disproportionately higher rates of developmental, behavioral and mental health concerns than those who are not,” said NAPNAP Partners for Vulnerable Youth President Jennifer Sonney, PhD, APRN, PPCNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN. “By working to address the gaps that often lead to missed visits, immunizations and inconsistent treatment plans, there is the opportunity to provide those living in foster care with an established course of health care.”
Research has shown that more than 40% of children and adolescents living in foster care experience multiple adverse childhood events (ACEs), including but not limited to abuse, neglect or household challenges. In children that experience ACEs, there is the chance for short- and long-term stress, neuroendocrine abnormalities and altered brain structure and function. Children in foster care who present with a high ACE score tend to experience placement instability which further perpetrates barriers to health care for these individuals. Additionally, children and adolescents in foster care are more likely to be managed with psychotropic medications without appropriate screenings or assessments. By offering child-centered and trauma-informed care that follows best practices and evidence, there is the opportunity to meet this group’s unique social, behavioral, mental and physical health needs.
NAPNAP Partners is committed to offering all children evidence-based, quality care. Through promoting efforts to educate fellow pediatric-focused APRNs on the unique needs of children and youth in foster care, advocating for the establishment of medical homes within the foster care system, and educating APRNs on the importance of understanding and implementing trauma-informed care, there is the opportunity to prepare providers better to care for children and adolescents in foster care. Additionally, by highlighting the importance of reviewing and accessing past medical records when caring for these patients, it will be possible to accumulate vital information to contribute to the future health care of these individuals.
The position statement, including additional steps NAPNAP Partners is committed to taking to make impactful changes, is published in the May/June edition of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner’s Journal of Pediatric Health Care and can be accessed here.
May 11, 2023