Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 443–451 | Cite as

The Mental Health of Adolescents Residing in Court-Ordered Foster Care: Findings from a Population Survey

  • Michael Tarren-Sweeney
Original Article


The mental health of a representative sample of 230 adolescents residing in foster care in New South Wales, Australia, was estimated in a state-wide epidemiological survey from carer-report responses on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Assessment Checklist for Adolescents (ACA). Rates of CBCL total problems, externalizing and internalizing scores above the borderline range cut-points were 49, 44 and 29% respectively, representing a relative risk of 3.8, 3.7 and 2.7 respectively in comparison to Australian children at large. These rates are 10–14% lower than that previously estimated for pre-adolescent Australian children in foster care. Whereas older age is associated with poorer mental health among pre-adolescent children in foster care, the present study findings suggest that this effect does not extend into adolescence. Around half of adolescents residing in foster care have mental health difficulties requiring referral to treatment services, including attachment- and trauma-related difficulties that are uncommon among clinic-referred children at large.


Foster care Adolescent mental health Developmental psychopathology Child Behavior Checklist Assessment Checklist for Adolescents 



The present study was funded and facilitated by the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services. However, the information or views contained in this study do not necessarily, or at all, reflect the views or information held by the New South Wales government, the Minister for Family and Community Services, or the Department.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author(s) declare(s) that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Rights

The surveys were approved by the Human Ethics Committees of the University of Newcastle, Australia (H-2008-0256) and the University of Canterbury, New Zealand (HEC-2008/93). All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committees and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Health SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia

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