Children who are taken from abusive or neglectful homes and placed in foster care still show scars and fail as students as long as eight years later, a study by two East Coast researchers has found.
Abuse is known to produce such problems as poor self concept, mental retardation, short attention span, impaired capacity for enjoyment, problems with thinking, language and motor skills, and juvenile delinquency--all of which can lead to school failure. Therefore, the researchers reasoned that school progress would provide a good measure of a child's rehabilitation.
But the study, which compared abused children who had been placed in foster care with those who had been left in the home, found that both groups continued to fare poorly in school. The researchers concluded that "foster care with the 'rescue' of the child from the abusing or neglecting family is not in itself a sufficient treatment for the child victim."
The finding underscores the need for therapeutic programs, the researchers said, noting that at least 150,000 children in the United States are currently in foster care (for an average stay of two years) as a result of having been abused physically, emotionally or sexually.
Such "placement" is often the only treatment they ever receive, according to Drs. Desmond K. Runyan of the University of North Carolina and Carolyn L. Gould of the University of Maryland, who conducted the study. It compared 114 abused children between the ages of 11 and 18 in several North Carolina counties who had been placed in foster care for at least three years with 106 maltreated youngsters who were left in their homes.
While their school attendance improved over time, their school performance did not. Only 44% of those in foster care, and 32% of those at home, were making passing grades an average of eight years after having been identified as victims of maltreatment. About a third were in special classes.