The health of children and adolescents in foster care: a scoping review




Children; Children; Adolescent; Foster home care; Health status; Child foster.; Adolescent; Foster home care; Health status; Child foster.


Providing healthcare to foster minors is challenging, given the family and institutional risk factors. This scoping review aimed to identify characteristics of articles on these minors’ health, published in PubMed from 2010 to 2020, following the Joanna Briggs model. The research question was developed with the PCC acronym. Half of the 252 articles were from the United States; most were from the Health Sciences, then multidisciplinary ones, and from the Human Sciences. Under Health, Medicine published the most, then Dentistry, Public Health, Nursing, Nutrition, and Pharmacy. Psychology represented the Human Sciences. In Medicine, there were studies from Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Endocrinology, and Parasitology. The participation of Pediatrics, Psychology/Psychiatry, and Dentistry increased over time. The types of care (of which, foster care and child welfare system were the most prevalent) associated with continents, reflecting a deinstitutionalization in America, Europe, and Oceania. The most approached health topics were mental, physical, and oral health, and the need for health services. The increased number of health publications, predominantly in developed countries and addressing various problems, confirms this group’s vulnerability, evidencing the need for public policies.

Author Biographies

Nataly Pereira da Costa, University of Pernambuco

Psychologist, Master in Adolescent Medicine at the University of Pernambuco (FOP-UPE)

Alice Kelly Barreira, Federal University of Pernambuco

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Preventive Dentistry and Clinic at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE)

Viviane Colares , University of Pernambuco; Federal University of Pernambuco

Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Pernambuco (FOP-UPE) and the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE)


Ainsworth, F., & Thoburn, J. (2014). An exploration of the differential usage of residential childcare across national boundaries. Int J Soc Welf , 23, 16-24.

Almquist, Y. B., Jackisch, J., Forsman, H., Gauffin, K., Vinnerljung, B., & Hjern, A. (2018). A decade lost: does educational success mitigate the increased risks of premature death among children with experience of out-of-home care? J Epidemiol Community Health, 72, 997-1002.

Barbosa, V. M. C., Antunes, M. C., & Padilha, M. G. S. (2016). A reinserção familiar de crianças e adolescentes vítimas de violência intrafamiliar em acolhimento institucional por medida de proteção: o abuso sexual em foco. Bol./Acad. Paul. Psicol., 36(91), 286-309.

Carabez, R., & Kim, J. E. (2019). PART I: The role of public health nursing in addressing health care needs of children in foster care. Public Health Nurs, 36(5), 702-708.

Casanueva, C., Stambaugh, L., Urato, M., Fraser, J. G., & Williams, J. (2011). Lost in transition: Illicit substance use and services receipt among at-risk youth in the child welfare system. Child Youth Serv Rev, 33(10), 1939-1949.

Delap E. (2011). Scaling down: Reducing, reshaping and improving residential care around the world, positive care choices: Working paper 1. London: Everychild.

Deutsch, S. A., & Fortin, K. (2015). Physical health problems and barriers to optimal health care among children in foster care. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care, 45(10), 286-291.

Dhakal, S., Niraula, S., Sharma, N. P., Sthapit, S., Bennett, E., Vaswani, A., … Lau, J. Y. (2019). History of abuse and neglect and their associations with mental health in rescued child labourers in Nepal. Aust N Z J Psychiatry, 53(12), 1199-1207.

Ehlers, V., Callaway, A., Wantzen, S., Patyna, M., Deschner, J., & Azrak, B. (2019). Oral health of children and adolescents with or without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) living in residential care in rural Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. BMC Oral Health, 19(1), 258.

Foxcroft, D. R., & Tsertsvadze, A. (2011). Universal school based prevention programs for alcohol misuse in young people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, (5), CD009113.

Gabrielli, J., Jackson, Y., & Brown, S. (2016). Associations between maltreatment history and severity of substance use behavior in youth in foster care. Child Maltreat, 21(4), 298-307.

Gander, T., Boonmann, C., Fegert, J. M., Kölch, M., Schmeck, K., Di Gallo, A., … Schmid, M. (2019). Predictive factors for changes in quality of life among children and adolescents in youth welfare institutions. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol, 54(12), 1575-1586.

Greger, H. K., Myhre, A. K., Lydersen, S., & Jozefak, T. (2015). Previous maltreatment and present mental health in a high-risk adolescent population. Child Abuse Negl, 45, 122-134.

Heather, N. T., Weiler, L. M., Garrido, E. F., Rhodes, T., Boat, A., & Fadell, M. (2019). A positive youth development approach to improving mental health outcomes for maltreated children in foster care: Replication and extension of an RCT of the Fostering Healthy Futures Program. Am J Community Psychol, 64(3-4), 405-417.

Human Rights Watch (HRW). (2014). Without Dreams Children in Alternative Care in Japan. Nova York: Human Rights Watch.

Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI). (2015). The Joanna Briggs Institute reviewers’ manual 2015: methodology for JBI scoping reviews. Adelaide: Joanna Briggs Institute.

López, M., Del Valle, J. F., Montserrat, C., & Bravo, A. (2011). Factors affecting foster care breakdown in Spain. Span J Psychol, 14(1), 111-122.

McGuire, A., Cho, B., Huffhines, L., Gusler, S., Brown, S., & Jackson, Y. (2018). The relation between dimensions of maltreatment, placement instability, and mental health among youth in foster care. Child Abuse Negl, 86, 10-21.

Mohammadzadeh, M., Awang, H., Ismai,l, S., & Shahar, H. K. (2019). Improving emotional health and self-esteem of Malaysian adolescents living in orphanages through Life Skills Education program: A multi-centre randomized control trial. PLoS ONE, 14(12), e0226333.

Mohammadzadeh, M., Tajik, E., Awang, H., Latiff, L. A. (2018). Emotional health and coping mechanisms among adolescents in Malaysian residential foster care homes: A comparative study with adolescents living with families. Asian J Psychiatr, 32, 156-158.

Moré, C. L. O., & Sperancetta, A. (2010). Práticas de pais sociais em instituições de acolhimento de crianças e adolescentes. Psicol Soc, 22(3), 519-528.

Naylor, M. W., Wakefield, S. M., Morgan, W., & Aneja, A. (2019). Depression in children and adolescents involved in the child welfare system. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am, 28(3), 303-314.

Peters, M. D., Godfrey, C. M., Khalil, H., McInerney, P., Parker, D., & Soares, C. B. (2015). Guidance for conducting systematic scoping reviews. Int J Evid Based Healthc, 13(3), 141-146.

Ramos-Morcillo, A. J., Moreno-Martínez, F. J., Susarte, A. M. H., Hueso-Montoro, C., & Ruzafa-Martínez, M. (2019). Social Determinants of Health, the Family, and Children’s Personal Hygiene: A Comparative Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 16(23), 4713.

Rienks, S., Phillips, J., McCrae, J., Bender, K., & Brown, S. (2017). Complex health concerns among child welfare populations and the benefit of pediatric medical homes. Child Abuse Negl, 65, 212-225.

Silva, M. L., & Arpini, D. M. (2013). A nova lei nacional de adoção: desafios para a reinserção familiar. Psicol Estud, 18(1), 125-135.

Szilagyi, M. (2012). The pediatric role in the care of children in foster and kinship care. Pediatr Rev, 33(11), 496-508.

Szilagyi, M., Rosen, D. S., Rubin, D., & Zlotnik, S. (2015). Health care issues for children and adolescents in foster care and kinship care. Pediatrics, 136(4), e1131-e1140.

Thompson, C., & Lau, F. Y. (2013). A scoping review on health records for child-in-care. Stud Health Technol Inform, 183, 43-48.

Tordön, R., Svedin, C. G., Fredlund, C., Jonsson, L., Priebe, G., & Sydsjö, G. (2018). Background, experience of abuse, and mental health among adolescents in out-of-home care: a cross-sectional study of a Swedish high school national sample. Nord J Psychiatry, 73(1), 1-8.

Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O'Brien, K. K., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., … Straus, S. E. (2018). PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR): Checklist and explanation. Ann Intern Med, 169(7), 467-473.

UNICEF, & Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). (2010). At home or in a home? Formal care and adoption of children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Geneva: UNICEF, CEE/CIS.

UNICEF. Orphans. (2017). New York: Unicef Press Center.

Wolkind, S., & Rutter, M. (1973). Children who have been “in care”: an epidemiological study. J Child Psychol Psyc, 14(2), 97-105.




How to Cite

VASCONCELOS, G. B. .; COSTA, N. P. da .; BARREIRA, A. K. .; COLARES , V. The health of children and adolescents in foster care: a scoping review. Research, Society and Development, [S. l.], v. 10, n. 13, p. e101101321035, 2021. DOI: 10.33448/rsd-v10i13.21035. Disponível em: Acesso em: 4 dec. 2021.



Review Article