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Good Foster Care Helps Neglected Kids Thrive
Date:4/5/2010

Study of Romanian orphans shows that better diet, close attention makes all the difference

MONDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Even for children who begin life with serious neglect, sensitive and loving foster care can help bring them physically and mentally on par with other kids, a long-running study of Romanian orphans shows.

While the study compared the progress of orphans growing up in institutions and then placed in foster care, its lessons apply to all children, said Dr. Dana E. Johnson, a pediatrics professor at the University of Minnesota and the lead author of a report in the April 5 online edition of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"Kids do not reach their full potential unless they have a nurturing environment in which to grow," Johnson said.

He and colleagues in other academic centers began their study of 136 infants in six Bucharest orphanages, average age 21 months, in 1999.

Conditions in the orphanages were less than ideal, Johnson said, with too few caregivers tasked with caring for many orphans. Food is available, he said, but "without individual care, these kids may not get enough to eat. These kids are not being fed according to their individual needs."

Orphans also got less attention because in such settings, "caregiver actions are based on efficiency and expediency rather than being responsive to child-based cues," the authors wrote.

The study was conducted, in part, to answer questions about how much benefit foster care can bring to children, Johnson said.

Half the children remained in the orphanages, the other half were assigned to a foster care program. Their physical and mental progress has been assessed periodically.

The latest report looks at the children's physical development. At the beginning of the study, the institutionalized children were below average in measures of growth and development. The deficits wer
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