Use of mental health services among older youths in foster care

J. Curtis McMillen, Lionel D. Scott, Bonnie T. Zima, Marcia T. Ollie, Michelle R. Munson, Edward Spitznagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study examined lifetime, 12-month, and current mental health service use among older youths in the foster care system and examined variations in mental health care by race, gender, maltreatment history, living situation, and geographic region. Method: The Service Assessment for Children and Adolescents, the Child Trauma Questionnaire, and the Diagnostic Interview Schedule were used in interviews with 406 youths in Missouri's foster care system who were aged 17 years. Results: Ninety-four percent of the youths had used a mental health service in their lifetime, 83 percent used a mental health service in the past year, and 66 percent were currently receiving a mental health service. Lifetime rates for inpatient psychiatric care (42 percent) and other residential programs (77 percent) were exceptionally high. A quarter of the youths received mental health services before they entered the foster care system. Among youths who received residential services, half did not receive community-based services before receiving residential services. After the analyses controlled for need, predisposing characteristics, and enabling characteristics, youths of color were less likely to receive outpatient therapy, psychotherapeutic medications, and inpatient services, and they were more likely to receive residential services. Youths who had been neglected and youths in kinship care were less likely to receive some types of services. Geographic differences in service use were common and sometimes mediated the effect of race on service use. Conclusions: The child welfare system was actively engaged in arranging mental health services for youths in the foster care system, but the system was unable to maintain many youths in less restrictive living situations. The variations by race and geography indirectly indicate quality concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-817
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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