Many children across the United States live in foster care. These homes are created as a safe place for children to live until they find a permanent home. Unfortunately, many of these homes are not as safe as they appear. In the United States alone, more than 63,000 cases of foster care sexual abuse were reported in 2010.
Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual behavior. This can include touching (fondling, sexual penetration) and also non-touching (sexual exploitation, sexual comments, photographing) behaviors. Abusers often use their position in the child’s life to coerce, threaten, or pressure them to perform sexual acts and keep quiet about it afterwards. Both male and female children can become victims of sexual abuse, and it occurs at all age groups.
Foster homes are typically temporary situations, although sometimes the foster family will adopt the child. The children placed into foster homes usually come from a background of abuse and neglect. Foster families are chosen to love, care for, and protect these children. However, some foster families continue the abuse, and this often leaves the children with no way to get help.
Although sexual abuse can certainly occur within the foster home, it can happen anywhere within the foster care organization. Foster care workers, social workers, psychologists, employees of foster care placement agencies, child advocates – all of these groups have the potential of hiding a sexual abuser.
There are many laws in place to protect foster children, but they often fall short. There is also supposed to be a rigorous process to go through before one is allowed to become a foster parent. However, foster families are often in short demand, and this can lead to the process being circumvented. Sometimes, agencies do not perform background checks on the family, do not perform an investigation, do not check out the house and living conditions the child will be in, and do not continue to monitor the child after they have found a placement. This allows abusers to start, and continue, the abuse.
Although there is no way to guarantee that someone is not a sexual abuser, there are still some actions a foster care agency can take to decrease the risk of sexual abuse:
- Thorough background checks should be performed on all adults living in the house with the foster child.
- Adequate training and support resources should be provided to the foster family.
- Agencies should complete a thorough background check on all employees and staff, and provide continuous training in the recognition and prevention of abuse.
- Staff should provide regular monitoring of foster parents, with physical check-ins and regular phone calls.
- Staff should also regularly visit and talk with the foster children.
- All child abuse claims should be thoroughly investigated and reported.
Too often, child abuse goes unreported and children do not get the help they need. Additionally, many children blame themselves for their abuse. Doing so increases the risk of negative effects, such as low self-esteem, substance abuse, self-harm behaviors, suicidal thoughts or gestures, and depression. If the child knows you failed to help him or her or did not report the abuse, s/he might assume it was because the abuser did nothing wrong. The children would logically assume that since one person didn’t help, there is no reason for them to tell another. If you know a child who is in an abusive situation, call your local police department or child protective services today.
The attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm will demand financial compensation for victims of sexual abuse in the foster care system; requiring abusers to pay for their transgressions. Under no circumstances will payment for our services be requested unless and until we win your case and collect an acceptable financial settlement in your behalf. Experts in the complexities of proving sexual abuse and substantiating damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other injuries, our attorneys are confident of winning your case and are willing to make fees contingent on that success.