ADHD Diagnosis Three Times More Likely for Children in Foster Care

Research presented at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children in foster care are more than three times as likely to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than other children enrolled in Medicaid.

Researchers from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined 2011 MarketScan Medicaid claims data from 11 states to identify the medical histories of children aged 2 to 17 years.

Not only were children in foster care more likely to have been identified as having ADHD when compared to their peers by a wide margin (26 percent vs. 7 percent), but they were also more likely to have a co-occurring internalizing disorder, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, or an externalizing disorder, such as oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.

“This is important because the presence of co-occurring conditions may affect decisions made to determine the appropriate treatment for the child’s ADHD,”said lead researcher Melissa Danielson in an email to The Chronicle. “It is important for caregivers, doctors, and other providers to look for the presence of co-occurring disorders such as depression or conduct disorder when developing treatment plans for these youth.”

The team of CDC researchers research also revealed that children in foster care who were receiving clinical services from Medicaid were about as likely to have received ADHD medication as other children and more likely to receive psychological services for ADHD.

The research is part of an effort to evaluate how well current diagnostic and treatment practices for children with ADHD match up with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other organizations.

Currently, AAP recommends that treatment for children between the ages of 6 and 18 with ADHD include both medication and behavioral therapy as the preferred treatment combination.

For younger, preschool-aged children (4 to 5 years old), behavioral therapy is recommended as the first line of treatment.

To read more about the study, click here.

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Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change 352 Articles
Jeremy is a West Coast-based senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at

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