Delinquency Due to the Foster Care System

This semester we discussed a lot about child development, and risk factors that can lead to psychological problems, and may result in crime activity. I wanted to focus however, on children in the foster care system, and some of the psychological, and behavioral problems that may be developed due to their vulnerable circumstances. It is said that about 70% of people in state prisons have at one point in their life been in the foster care system. Before being placed in the system many children have been in high risk situations such as, “neglect (50%–60%), physical abuse (20%–25%), and sexual abuse (10%–15%; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Department of Education, & U.S. Department of Jus- tice, 2000)…Other traumatic exposures that may result in foster care placement are a lack of medical care, poverty, homeless- ness, violence in the home, parental substance abuse, and parental mental illness” (Hornor,pp.160-162). Even while being in the system they may also be at risk for dealing with similar trauma. Children may deal with biological issues such as drug uses, prematurity, obesity, or anemia. These issues may increase if there are multiple children in a household because of the lack of attention. 

Due to the high amount of risk in foster homes children seem to struggle in, and outside the home. Children in the foster care system are more susceptible to developing psychiatric disorders that might be long term. These psychiatric disorders may include; depressive disorder, conduct disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), PTSD, antisocial personality, and intermittent explosive disorder. “Travis Hirschi introduced his theory of Social Bonding in his 1969 book ‘Causes of Delinquency.’ His major focus was to contribute to an understanding of the causes of juvenile delinquency. For Hirschi, the ‘bond’ resides in the child and involves four factors or systems: Attachment, Commitment, Involvement, and Belief” (Adoption in Child Time). Without these four stable bonds in a child’s life they find it hard to create meaningful relationships,and have good morals, due to lack of attention. Many children thus tend to act out of resentment and form aggressive, or even violent behavior. It is important for Forensic Nurses, CPS workers, or the overall foster care system to make sure they do thorough health evaluations and screenings to find the best possible treatment for these adolescents or young adults. In many cases the most effective treatment plan involves the entire family actively participating in treatment, to help combat some of the issues within the household.


Striking Back in Anger: Delinquency and Crime in Foster Children. Adoption in Child Time. (2019). Retrieved December 13, 2021, from 

Hornor, G. (2014). Children in foster care: What forensic … – ceconnection. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from 


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  1. Studying developmental factors shaping criminal behaviour during this course was an absolutely unique experience. Looking at foster families as another developmental factor gives me a wow-effect since indeed it can shape delinquency due to the lack of maternal or paternal support even though a potential criminal can be raised in the family environment, it still does not exclude the fact of lacking biological parents.

    This is a great pattern to look at!

  2. Wow, what a great post! The statistic that not even half, but 70% of all people incarcerated in a state prison had been in foster care at one point in their lives is so striking to me. I think it really speaks to the cyclical nature of crime and how risk factors present in childhood or adolescence can really have a lasting impact on someone’s life and future behavior. The lack of consistent healthcare, nutrition, socialization, and even attentive parenting are all such large risk factors present in the foster care system to take into consideration. It reminds me of our discussion on ACEs and how those scores can correlate to future behaviors and trauma.

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