National Foster Care Month with Dr. Arnold and the Wis. Foster Closet

MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU)- Thousands of kids and youth in the nation are growing up in the foster care system. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says there are currently more than 440,000 children in foster care right now.

Locally, at the beginning of this year, the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services said there were 195 kids in the county in out-of-home care, 80- of those cases were related to meth. In January there were also 76 licensed foster homes in the area, but there is a need for more.

Thursday morning Dr. Alicia Arnold and Tammy Wood-Garr of the Wisconsin Foster Closet joined us to talk about how being in the foster system can affect a child’s health, as well as how you can help out.

Are you seeing more kids in foster care at the doctor's office?

“Unfortunately, increasing numbers of kids are entering the foster care system. Many of these are related to a rise in drug abuse,” Dr. Arnold said.

What are some of the health issues that frequently affect kids in foster care?

“The medical community considers children in foster care to be a group of children with special health care needs,” Dr. Arnold said. “About a third of children in foster care have a chronic medical condition. Common problems include dental problems, difficulties with school, and mental health issues.”

A typical doctor's visit can be scary for some kids, is it more difficult for foster kids?

“The majority of children in foster care have been exposed to stress in the form of abuse, neglect or violence,” Dr. Arnold added. “Early childhood trauma affects the developing brain and can have long-term consequences like attention or attachment problems or aggression. Foster parents can be an overwhelmingly positive influence in the lives of these kids who have been through a lot.”

Tammy Wood- Garr started the Wisconsin Foster Closet six years ago in Menomonie. The organization just became a non-profit last year.

Wisconsin Foster Closet helps provide clothing and needs to children coming into the foster care system. They also give support to the foster families and encourage good will people to do the same.