Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders among Foster Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: Past Research and Future Directionsedit
At a time when there is increasing attention being given to systematically integrating the well-being of children with the goals of safety and permanence in child welfare, little is known about the psychosocial functioning of foster youth transitioning to adulthood from substitute care. This article systematically reviews 17 peer-reviewed articles and/or research reports to identify lifetime and past year prevalence rates of mental health disorders and service utilization. At ages 17 or 18, foster youth are 2 to 4 times more likely to suffer from lifetime and/or past year mental health disorders compared to transition aged youth in the general population. Findings show that mental health service use declines at ages when the prevalence rate of mental health disorders is peaking. The findings of this review suggest the need to focus future efforts in three main areas: 1) Setting a common research agenda for the study of mental health and service use; 2) Routine screening and empirically supported treatments; and 3) Integration and planning between child and adult mental health service systems.