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Matching neglected children with foster care families earlier in life promotes resilience, healthy functioning, new Stanford study says

Stanford research indicates that orphaned or neglected children who are placed in foster care early in life develop resilience at similar levels to children who were never institutionalized. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Feb 1 2018

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In the News, Students

Researchers found that neglected children in Romania who were matched with foster care families earlier in life are more likely to be just as resilient and healthy as their peers later in life.

Neglected children who are placed with foster care families earlier in life are more likely to be just as resilient and competent socially, academically and physically as their peers who have never been institutionalized when they reach their teenage years, according to new Stanford research focused on children in Romania.

Researchers found that 56 percent of previously institutionalized children who were randomly placed with foster care families when they were between 6 months and 2 and a half years old were as competent across a range of metrics as their peers at 12 years old. This is more than double the percentage of those children who remained in institutional care, of which only 23 percent were deemed to be competent at age 12, according to the study, published Feb. 1 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The number of children who met the researchers’ threshold for competent outcomes was even greater among children placed in family care at young ages. Of those children age 20 months and younger at the time of placement, 79 percent were deemed competent. This is nearly the same rate as children who were never institutionalized.

“This study proves that resilient outcomes can be promoted by placing kids into foster care earlier in life,” said Kathryn Humphreys, a Stanford postdoctoral scholar in psychology and a lead author on the study. “These kids are not doomed, and many of them end up with normal outcomes. So it’s important for us to work on removing them from those neglecting environments as soon as possible.”