The care and health needs of children in residential care in the Maltese Islands

Child Care Health Dev. 2001 May;27(3):251-62. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2214.2001.00200.x.


Objectives: To survey the health needs of children in residential care in the Mediterranean Islands of Malta and Gozo.

Setting: Thirteen children's Residential Homes in the Maltese Islands.

Study design: Cross-sectional interview survey.

Methods: Carers at the Residential Homes were interviewed using a semistructured questionnaire between June and November 1996. Data related to all the children resident in the homes at the time of the interview were collected including socio-demographic factors, reasons for admission to care, medical needs and medical services received.

Results: In all, 309 children, aged birth-16 years-equivalent to 4.2/1000 Maltese children-were in residential care at the time of the study. Fifty-three per cent were boys and 52% were < 8 years of age. The most common reasons for admission into residential care were single parenthood (25%), separated parents and parents unable to offer adequate care (19% each). Admission 'medicals' rarely included a developmental assessment or use of growth charts. Medical and developmental examinations were not carried out on a regular basis and children were medically examined only when required. Dental check-ups were performed more regularly; 30% of the children had a dental check-up every 6 months. Behavioural problems were common affecting 20.7% of all children, followed by chronic bronchial asthma which was present in 7.4%. Developmental delay (global or specific) was reported in 23.3% of children under the age of 4.

Conclusions: Residential care is the predominant form of substitute care for disadvantaged children in Malta and Gozo. The demography of the child population in Residential Homes in these Islands is different from that in other countries, in that 52% of children in residential care are < 8 years of age compared to proportionately more adolescents in other countries. Medical supervision is minimal. A standardised medical and developmental assessment should be established as an essential part of this form of substitute care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Malta / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Residential Facilities / statistics & numerical data*