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Who are the infants in out-of-home care?: An epidemiological and developmental snapshot

Wulczyn, F., Ernst, M., and Fisher, P. – 2011

This issue brief examines the unique characteristics and service needs of infants in out-of-home care. Reports that the risk for placement in out-of-home care is significantly greater for infants than for older children. Infants also spend the longest amount of time in out-of-home care. Infants are more likely to be placed in foster family settings than older children. A study of demographics shows that the most common type of abuse of infants is physical neglect, which includes prenatal drug exposure. Infants are more likely to be less healthy than older children placed in out-of-home care. A study of case data shows that 61% of infants’ caregivers are active drug and/or alcohol users. Families of infants are also more likely to experience greater levels of domestic violence, crime, stress, and mental health problems than those of older children. Research shows that foster infants suffer high levels of toxic stress, which can impair development. Report notes that infant development is also impaired by prenatal substance exposure. Suggests that more research should be conducted on how to mitigate toxic stress and increase resiliency in infants and young children in foster care.