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What can Occupational Therapy Practitioners do within the Foster

Care System to Improve Overall Mental Health and Transitions?


KELSEY SMITH, OTAS
Northland Community and Technical College
Occupational Therapy Assistant Program
Bottom Line
Clinical Scenario
There are over half a million children in the
foster care system in the United States
(Bruskas, 2008 as cited in Paul-Ward, LanbdinPattavina, & Haskell, 2014). Many of the
children in the foster care system and adults
formerly in care have emotional and behavioral
problems, accompanied by a mental illness
diagnosis. There is a lack of mental health
assessments and treatments provided for those
with mental illness in the foster care system and
coming out of the system (Paul-Ward, LambdinPattavina, & Haskell; 2014). Currently, there are
no resources found that document occupational
therapy involvement within the foster care
system.

Articles Selected for Appraisal


Level 2: 1
Level 3: 1
Level 5: 3
Qualitative: 3

Occupational Therapy (OT) can play a large


role in treatment for children and adolescents
in and coming out of the foster care system.
OT has the potential to play a leading role in:
- Providing birth parents and children
opportunities to interact within a safe setting
(Lewis, 2011).
- Placing children in the most beneficial
setting based on the individual needs (Robst,
Armstrong, & Dollard; 2011).
- Providing proper mental health screening
and assessments, goal setting, coping skills
(for stress, PTSD, symptom management,
etc.), and relaxation techniques.
- Providing therapeutic activities to address
sensory deficits and negative attachment
disorders in young to middle childhood
youths (Purvis, McKenzie, Cross, & Razuri;
2013).
- Providing group therapy sessions
addressing living skills, education, work, role
models, social skills, and leisure interests
(Precin, Timque, & Walsh (2010).

Summary of Key Findings


By the foundations of a holistic approach,
OT practitioners focus on the parents as
well as the children in therapy and can help
health professionals give better applied
care to foster parents, meeting their
occupational needs and recognition of life
roles while improving quality of life (Blythe,
Halcomb, Wilkes, & Jackson, 2013). The
focus of skilled OT intervention can be on
changing, developing, or enhancing the
clients performance skills and patterns,
and are based upon cognitive, cognitive
behavioral, psychodynamic, and the human
model of occupation frames of reference
(Precin, Timque, & Walsh; 2010).

Limitations
Many of the studies selected had small
sample sizes and specific patient populations,
which may affect the generalization of results.
Some articles were indirectly related to the
focus question rather than in direct relation
due to little amount of literature available on
occupational therapy involvement within the
foster care system.