Alcohol and Substance Use among Adolescents in Foster Care in Washington State

Mar 2002 |
Online Library
Results From The 1998-1999 Adolescent Foster Care Survey

This paper presents findings from telephone interviews comparing the substance use risks and problem behavior of youth in foster care, as compared to similar interviews of youth living with their own families. Key Findings: Adolescents in foster care are more likely than youth living with their own parents to be at risk of substance abuse because of their birth parent’s substance abuse, the transition to the foster family, and their own attitudes and early behavior. They are also more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and to begin that experimentation at an earlier age, than youth living with their own parents. And in the six months before the interview, youth in foster care are about 50% more likely to have a current substance abuse disorder or current need for treatment. When self-reported use of substances during the year just before the interview is examined, a different effect emerges. In "use of alcohol or any other drug" the two groups are almost identical. With some substances – notably alcohol, powder cocaine and opiates foster care adolescents actually a little less likely to than living their own families. In looking at thirty-day use, substance among fostered youth drops below rates parents combined (use drug), opiate "heavy marijuana, all drugs combined. Conclusions: What causes these changes usage patterns? This report did not provide definitive answers, but it suggest areas for further investigation based on differences social services provided youth. They are: 1) provision itself, 2) increased formal treatment that results from attention child’s wellbeing accompanies treatment.

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