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October 2018Vol. 19, No. 8Shifting the Focus of Foster Care Research From Problems to Needs

Research on children in foster care has tended to focus overwhelmingly on their problems rather than their needs, according to a recent literature review. The authors point out that when needs have been studied, there has been an emphasis on psychological needs and related mental health issues—often to the exclusion of additional areas of need. The authors contend that future research should address the comprehensive needs of children in foster care and in doing so initiate a broad-scale shift in focus from problems to needs.

The authors advocate more research on physical and developmental health needs in particular. While research has focused on how children in care often have more complex medical issues than their peers, it has focused more on medical problems and diseases as opposed to children's potential needs for specialized interventions in this area. The authors call for more research on developing the identity and autonomy of children in foster care, including their need to develop self-esteem, coping skills, and self-regulation. They also advocate regular screening and assessments to determine the need for interventions.

The review points out that while many studies are based on instruments that measure problems, there should be a tool for measuring the needs of children in foster care as well as the satisfaction of those needs.

"The Needs of Foster Children and How to Satisfy Them: A Systematic Review of the Literature, by Anne Steenbakkers, Steffie Van Der Steen, and  Hans Grietens (Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 21), is available at (768 KB).