Adopted Children More Prone to Health Conditions, U.S. Annual Study Shows

Adopted children are three times more likely to develop physical and mental health disabilities than kids raised by their biological parents, U.S. researchers found.

Nearly 45 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 who were adopted from foster care homes developed moderate to severe health problems, compared with 14 percent of all youth in the age group, according a report released today by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. The most common conditions were learning disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The U.S. spends an annual $8 billion on foster care and adoption assistance, the program that helps states care for homeless children, according to a 2006 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Neglect and abuse is the most common reason for entry into a foster home, according to Laura Radel, one of the study’s researchers. Almost three percent of children are adopted, or 1.8 million kids.

“This is the first time we have national representative data in this level of detail on adopted children,” said Radel, a senior social analyst at the Department of Health and Human Services. “It confirmed what we know that children who are adopted will frequently have health and developmental issues.”

The annual number of adoptions has doubled to 50,000 a year since the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families act, a law providing adoption incentive payments and expanded health coverage, Radel said.

Psychological Conditions

Attention deficit disorder affected 20 percent of foster care adoptees, and 16 percent suffered from behavior and conduct problems. Only four percent of all children, adopted and those living with biological parents, suffered from attention deficit disorder, according to the report. Seven percent of children adopted from foster homes had bone and muscle problems, while one percent of all children suffered the same conditions.

“The fact that these kids may have serious problems, to a greater extent than kids born into a family, is something that we need to pay attention to,” said Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics. “By no means should that be a barrier for adoption. With the new data, we hope to get feedback from researchers and lawmakers that can help ameliorate this problem.”

The annual report was prepared by 22 U.S. agencies that collect and analyze data related to children and families. The study uses the most recently available federal statistics to measure child well-being in a variety of areas such as health care, education, safety and behavior.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Renick in New York at orenick@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net.

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