Young children in foster care: Multiple vulnerabilities and complex service needs

Susan Vig, Susan Chinitz, Lisa Shulman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Young children who have been removed from their biological families and placed in foster care are at significant risk for poor developmental outcomes. Their vulnerability is often the result of adverse biological and psychosocial influences: prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs, premature birth, abuse and neglect leading to foster placement, and failure to form adequate attachments to their primary caregivers. Children younger than 6 years form the largest group entering foster care, and remain longest in care. Meeting the complex needs of this vulnerable group of young children and their families presents extensive challenges for early intervention service systems. The purpose of the following discussion is to describe the foster care population and the kinds of medical conditions, mental health problems, and developmental disabilities experienced by young children in foster care, and to explore implications for intervention. By increasing their understanding of risk factors, vulnerabilities, and complex service needs, early childhood professionals can become effective advocates and provide services that ameliorate risk and optimize outcomes for these children and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-160
Number of pages14
JournalInfants and Young Children
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005


  • Developmental vulnerability
  • Foster care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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