Allied Health Professional support for care-experienced children and young adults: a systematic scoping review

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Background: Looked after and adopted children and young adults (care-experienced) are known to have experienced significant childhood adversity and trauma resulting in deleterious impact on their health and wellbeing across the life course. This review aimed to systematically scope empirical literature focused on the provision of Allied Health Professional (AHP) support to care-experienced children to assist an understanding of service needs for this vulnerable population.
Methods: This review considered the following five AHP disciplinary areas: occupational therapy (OT), speech and language therapy (SLT), dietetics, physiotherapy and arts-based therapies (Art, Music and Drama Therapy). An electronic search of seven relevant databases was conducted in December 2021 using a combination of three key concepts to identify best evidence in the past decade (2011-2021) regarding AHP support to care-experienced children.
Results: A total of 13 studies met review inclusion criteria. Included studies reported specifically on SLT (n=5), OT (n=3) and arts-based therapies (n=5). No studies were identified with regard to the use of physiotherapy and dietetics with this population. Results indicated that care-experienced children have high rates of speech, language, communication and sensory needs. More rigorous screening, assessment and early intervention was identified as essential for this vulnerable group. Increased multidisciplinary collaboration and OT support especially for young adults in preparation for transitions are urgent needs. Included studies indicate promising results in relation to access to arts-based therapies with particular reference to identity formation for care-experienced children.
Conclusions: Integrated, collaborative, and multidisciplinary AHP care is necessary to address the complex needs of this vulnerable population. More extensive, higher quality research related to AHP provision for care-experienced children is essential to provide a more robust evidence base across the various professional disciplines that constitute allied health provision.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Publication statusAccepted - 23 May 2023


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