Foster Care for Young Children: Why It Must Be Developmentally Informed

Zeanah, C. H.,
Shauffer, C.,
Dozier, M.
Published: December, 2011
Journal Article
Journal Name: 
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Volume: 50

Issue: 12

Foster care is a societal intervention for orphaned, abandoned, and maltreated children. In the United States, more than 400,000 children are in foster care, and nearly half of those are younger than 5 years. In this article, the authors focus on a central problem of foster care – that it is often not developmentally informed. Their central thesis is that foster care for young children should be a different intervention than that for older children. The authors argue that developmental research on the science of attachment should inform how we design and implement foster care for young children. If foster care is developmentally informed, they say, crucial features will be more intentionally pursued. Colleagues in child protection and family courts make complex and difficult decisions daily, and they need the best available information to inform these decisions. Toward that end, the authors outline challenges and offer recommendations that derive from applying attachment research to young children in foster care.

Correspondence to: Charles H. Zeanah, M.D., 1440 Canal Street, TB 52, New Orleans, LA 70112; E-mail:, Website:
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