Federal Report: Foster Children Not Receiving Required Medical Care

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The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has released a report which found that nearly one-third of children in foster care who were enrolled in Medicaid did not receive at least one of the required health screenings over  a year’s time.

Peter Sullivan of The Hill says that each state has a required health screening timeline which must be followed when a child is put into foster care, but too often they are not.  The report advises that 29% of children did not receive one or more of the screenings, and 28% received their screenings late.

The report also found that HHS is not checking to assure the screenings are taking place on the required schedule. The report suggests broader measures to encourage the screenings and recommends “developing educational materials for foster parents that discuss the benefits of screenings and providing incentives to families and children in foster care to encourage participation in required screenings.”

Kaiser Health News explains that each state sets its own standards for screening children in foster care. The KHN report began with a review of foster children’s medical records between July 2011 and June 2012 in California, Illinois, New York, and Texas. In these states, 12% did not receive an initial screening and 17% did not receive at least one of the required follow-up assessments.

The report, according to California Healthline, also found that for 27% of foster children in these states, at least one screening was late, 17% received their first screening late and 10% received at least one follow-up screening late.

The recommendations which came from the report’s findings were that the HHS expand its reviews to become informed as to whether children are receiving screenings in line with state requirements and to identify and share practices that will ensure children in foster care systems are receiving all their recommended screenings.

Experts say that foster children are likely to experience high rates of chronic medical, developmental, and mental health issues. At the same time, these children have trouble getting access to health care.  The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that in order to identify and treat  these health problems, states will have to ensure that these services are accessible. Kelli Kennedy, reporting for the Associated Press, writes the Administration for Children and Families admitted that it is difficult to get documents showing whether children’s visits comply with the timetable of the state in which they live. In upcoming reviews, the agency says it will center on whether children’s health needs are being met.

A 2010 study of foster children in nine states found that three out of four kids did not receive the specified medical, vision, and hearing screenings even though they were enrolled in Medicaid. Also, 60% of children who received screenings were missing one component.

Although each state has jurisdiction for providing health screenings for foster children on a timely basis, the federal Administration for Children and Families, under HHS, funds the state programs and is ultimately responsible for them. The agency, according to the report, should work with states to discover any barriers that keep foster children and their families from accessing health care, and work with parents to create increased participation in regular screenings.