Suicide in Foster Care: A High-Priority Safety Concern

Suicide rates among youths in foster care are among the highest in the United States. Despite this fact, many foster-care agencies do not perform universal suicide-risk assessments as part of routine care. This commentary includes an argument for the importance of implementing universal suicide-risk assessments for youths in foster care. Important contextual information that prevents behavioral-health clinicians from implementing universal suicide screenings of youths in foster care is discussed. Several possible strategies for implementing universal suicide-risk assessments are offered; the pros and cons of each strategy are discussed. The perspectives of multiple stakeholders should be included in the consideration of universal suicide screening for youths in foster care, including behavioral-health providers, primary-care doctors, supervisors, directors of agencies, foster parents, and case managers. Although each of these stakeholders can improve suicide prevention, youths in foster care may not have regular access to each stakeholder.

Case managers may be the optimal stakeholders for implementing universal suicide screening because of their frequent access to youths in foster care; therefore, case managers should receive training in suicide-risk assessment and prevention strategies.