Apr 20th, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM


Growth and Development Among Toddlers and Preschoolers in the Foster Care System

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jeri L. Bigbee


Purpose/Aims: The purpose of this study was to evaluate growth and development among toddlers and preschoolers in the foster care system. Background: Toddlers and preschoolers in the foster care system are at high risk for growth problems and developmental delays. Healthcare providers assessing and treating these children may not have the specialized knowledge and/or background for identifying problems, so children may not be identified early and may not receive necessary interventions. The Ellen Marie Pediatric Unit (EMPU), established by the Boise State University Department of Nursing in collaboration with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare District 3, is a screening clinic providing health assessments for foster children entering the foster care system in southwest Idaho. Methods: A retrospective study was implemented as part of a larger evaluation study, using chart reviews of all toddlers and preschoolers (defined as age 12-60 months) seen at the EMPU between March and September, 2008. This analysis focused on the following variables: height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) percentiles, development assessment results, ethnicity, age, and gender. Results: A total of 12 records were reviewed. The clients ranged in age from 12-56 months with a mean of 31 months. There were 7 (58%) females and 5 (42%) males. The ethnic distribution was as follows: 75% Caucasian, 8% African American, 8% Native American, and 8% Hispanic. One third of the sample were developmentally delayed, based on the developmental assessment results. The most common developmental delays were language delays (67%), and gross motor delays (33%). Growth assessment results indicated that the average BMI was in the 32nd percentile, the average height was in the 40th percentile, and the average weight was in the 29th percentile. Seventeen percent of the sample fell below the third percentile and 8% were above the 95th percentile for weight and/or height. Implications: These findings support previous research indicating that toddlers and preschoolers in the foster care system are at high risk for growth and development delays. Early identification and treatment are key to healthy outcomes. Limitations of this study included the small sample size and limited data particularly related to BMI’s. Continued utilization of specialized programs focusing on the assessment and management of the health of this high risk population is needed.

Funding provided by the Jody DeMeyer Endowment and the Boise State University Department of Nursing.