raised in orphanages are stunted physically, emotionally and
intellectually but good foster care can help orphans start to
grow again, researchers said on Friday.
experiment in which foster homes were set up in Romania showed
that children taken out of the country's notorious orphanages
began to grow taller and put on weight, gain intellectually
and lose the most marked symptoms of depression and anxiety.
researchers said their findings apply to all children in orphanages,
not just in Romania. Their study, however, provided them a unique
opportunity to examine the effects of foster care in a place
where it had never existed before.
orphanage is a bad place for a child to grow up in," Dr Dana
Johnson, a pediatrician and adoption specialist at the University
of Minnesota, told a news conference.
and colleagues, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation, did the first scientific comparison of what happens
to children raised in orphanages versus those raised in foster
care and children raised in normal families.
persuaded the Romanian government to place 69 children in foster
homes -- something that had not existed in Bucharest before.
Another 67 had to remain in the orphanage and the researchers
compared the two groups.
workers trained the foster families and checked on the children's
age of entry, institutionalized children are doing very poorly
compared to community controls," Dr. Nathan Fox of the University
of Maryland told reporters.
mean IQ score is close to the retarded range compared to community
children and compared to standard norms. The good news is ...
foster-care children showed increases in IQ at 42 and 54 months
(4 1/2 years)."
especially, did well, Fox and colleagues told a meeting in St.
Louis of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
the age of 42 months (3 1/2 years) there is a significant group
difference between children who were placed into foster care
and children who remained in institutions," Fox added.
SAD TO EAT
found the children also grew very quickly in foster care.
who are neglected or abused do not grow," Johnson said. They
may not be fed properly, but also depressed children do not
eat well, he said.
can predict in regular orphanages that you are going to lose
one month of growth for every three months in the orphanage,"
Johnson said. "A three-year-old child will be the size of a
placed into foster care, they literally shoot up, Johnson said.
the time they have been in foster care for a year and a half,
they had reached normal size in terms of height," he said. "I
always tell the families not to buy many expensive clothes."
believes physical growth can be used as a way to measure a child's
everything dramatically improved in the foster children. Behavioral
disorders, especially in boys, did not always disappear.
Dr. Charles Nelson of Harvard University found that brain scans
did not change as dramatically as he had hoped among the children
in foster care.
team had found that electroencephalograms, or EEG scans, done
on institutionalized children were much different from those
of children raised in families. The children are scanned while
looking at pictures of human faces with various emotional expressions.
is a diminution of brain activity," Nelson said.
care did not immediately improve this, although those children
who spent the longest time in foster care did begin to show
some improvement, he said.
Charles Zeneah of Tulane University said the study might help
governments come up with better ways to help children orphaned
or abandoned due to wars, the AIDS epidemic and other scourges.
has never been an institution, even in the West, that has been
able to promote normal development, but there are interventions
that can make it a more family-like environment," Zeneah said.
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