Kids Raised by Relatives Face Increased Health Risks

Extra support is needed when children don't live with a parent, expert says

SUNDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Children who live with relatives instead of their parents are at increased risk for physical and mental health problems, new research shows.

About 2.8 million children in the United States live with relatives, called kinship care, and about 800,000 are in foster care. Like those in foster care, the study found, children in kinship care experience a number of health issues.

"Children who live in kinship care with a relative have more special health-care needs, mental health problems such as [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] and depression and dental problems compared with children who live with their parents," Dr. Sara B. Eleoff, of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, in Rochester, N.Y., said in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

She and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 91,000 children included in a 2007 national survey, comparing those in kinship care with children who lived with at least one birth parent.

Compared with children who lived with a parent, children in kinship care were more likely to be black, older than 9 years, have public health insurance and live in households with incomes at or near the poverty level. Many kinship caregivers reported having poor overall health or mental health, the researchers noted.

"These children and their families may need additional services and supports," Eleoff said. "Therefore, health-care providers, educators and public health agencies should ask about children's living situations and consider the risk of special needs among children in kinship care."

The study was scheduled to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

More information

The Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about kinship care.

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