INTRODUCTION: Children in out-of-home care have high, unrecognized, and unmet health needs. The combination of exposure to abuse and neglect and a background of social disadvantage place them at significant risk for poor health, which affects their physical, developmental, and emotional health.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to screen children in out-of-home care for unidentified health problems and recommend appropriate health interventions.
METHODS: A health screening clinic for children in out-of-home care was established in a tertiary children's hospital in 2005 in collaboration with social services. Working within a multidisciplinary framework, the children had a comprehensive physical, developmental, and behavioral health screen. Recommendations were made to social services for appropriate health care.
RESULTS: Of the 122 children screened, 24% had incomplete immunizations, 20% had visual problems, 30% had dental problems, and 26% had hearing loss, 45% of the children under 5 years of age had speech delay, 60% failed the developmental screen, and 54% had significant behavioral and emotional problems.
CONCLUSIONS: Children in out-of-home care are a vulnerable group of the child population who experience unacceptable levels of poor health. Comprehensive health screens are important for identifying previously undetected health problems and recommending appropriate health interventions.