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May 2024Vol. 25, No. 4Study Examines Prevalence of Foster Care Among Youth With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

A February 2024 investigation published in JAMA Pediatrics examines the clinical and sociodemographic characteristics of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in foster care. Youth with I/DD are more likely than other youth to experience foster care. To better understand the service needs and disparities experienced by these youth, researchers conducted a population-level analysis of youth with I/DD in foster care.

The report uses data about youth with I/DD who were enrolled in Medicaid through foster care in 2016, a total of 39,143 youth. Researchers used the data to examine the association between risk of foster care involvement and race, ethnicity, age, and sex. Three diagnostic subgroups of youth with I/DD were examined: autism spectrum disorder only, intellectual disability only, or both autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability.

Findings indicate that Black youth and females had an increased likelihood of foster care involvement, and the likelihood of foster care involvement increased with age. These findings align with research showing Black youth experience disparities and overrepresentation at all points of contact with child welfare, according to the report. The increased risk for females aligns with a recent call for research on the identification of autism spectrum disorder in females, as females are often diagnosed later than males.

The study identifies the need for more research and attention in several areas. It calls for increased attention to what happens to youth with I/DD once they are placed in foster care. The study also emphasizes the importance of continuity of care, largely because disruptions in health care can have significant effects on short- and long-term health outcomes among youth with I/DD.

It also calls for the representation of youth with I/DD in research, since knowing I/DD status could contribute to knowledge of what contributes to risk for foster care involvement, and subsequently, how to prevent it.

More information is available in the article, “Foster Care Involvement Among Youth With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.”