Children are placed in foster care when they or their caregivers, such as parents, guardians, or relatives, are going through a time of crisis. This may be because such children have abusive or neglectful parents, their guardians are going through hardships, or generally, the caregivers of these children are unable to provide them with suitable care and stability. A foster care facility is expected to provide these children with a safe and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, it often fails to do so and leaves these children even more traumatized than they were prior to entering the system.
State foster care systems are usually understaffed, underfunded, and mismanaged, leading to insufficient background checks of prospective foster families, infrequent social worker visits, and failure to report and investigate instances of abuse. Survivors of sexual abuse in the foster care system have the right to seek foster abuse compensation for the trauma and losses they have endured. By filing a civil foster care sex abuse lawsuit, survivors can hold negligent agencies as well as abusive foster families responsible for the crimes committed. A qualified foster care abuse lawyer will be able to guide you through the legal process.
What is Foster Care Abuse?
Foster care is a state-run system of private homes intended to be a temporary but safe living situation for vulnerable children. Due to a range of issues including an overwhelmed foster care system, failure to properly screen foster families and monitor foster children, and poor staff training, these vulnerable minors are often subjected to abuse at the hands of their foster families.
Children in foster care can become targets for sexual abuse as well as physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological trauma, and neglect. All of these can leave a child with long-lasting negative physical, emotional, and psychological consequences. Those who experience abuse often feel they have no one to turn to for help. They may also feel afraid, mistrustful, ashamed, or even embarrassed to confide in a social worker.
Recognizing Signs of Foster Care Sexual Abuse
Although most abused foster children are reluctant to report instances of abuse or neglect, there are some common red flags indicative of abuse that foster parents and state workers alike should look out for. Some of the signs of sexual abuse in foster care that a child may show are:
- Difficulty walking or sitting with no explanation
- Forming fast attachments to new adults or strangers
- Torn or bloodied undergarments
- Pain in the genital area
- Frequent nightmares
- Knowledge about sexual behavior
Foster Care Abuse Statistics
Neglect and abuse in foster care homes are sadly all too common. Consider these recent foster care abuse statistics:
- According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there were 615,000 confirmed survivors of foster care abuse in 2020, with three in four of these children experiencing neglect—the most common form of abuse. Out of these, 16% of children were physically abused and 9% were sexually abused.
- According to a John Hopkins study, children in foster care are four times more likely to be abused than those who are not.
- A study published in the National Library of Medicine on 60 girls aged 4-17 in foster care revealed that 84% had been physically abused and 81% had reported sexual abuse.
- According to Foster America, a foster child welfare organization, 60% of child trafficking survivors had histories within the foster care system.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Foster Care Abuse on Children?
Many children who are placed in foster care leave their homes already having experienced physical, psychological, or emotional trauma due to the inability of their caregivers to provide them with a safe and loving home environment. These minors also have to adapt to frequent changes in foster care placements, leading to a further lack of stability in their lives.
Even without having suffered any form of abuse, children in foster care are likely to have high rates of mental health disorders and other long-term negative outcomes. On top of that, when a child endures additional trauma or chronic trauma due to foster care sex abuse or other forms of abuse, it can lead to even more extensive and long-lasting effects, including:
- C-PTSD / PTSD
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal ideation or behaviors
- Increased risk of substance abuse
- Self-harming tendencies
- Chronic health conditions
- Engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors
- Physical injuries
- Difficulty with interpersonal relationships
- Low self-worth
- Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
- Increased chances of being victimized again
- Poor self-image
Help Keep Kids Safe: Report Foster Care Abuse
If you suspect that a child may be experiencing foster care abuse, you should immediately contact your state’s child abuse and neglect reporting number. You can find the contact information for your state through the Child Welfare Information Gateway run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Remember, many states place an affirmative duty on certain individuals to report abused or neglected foster care children. These may include police officers, teachers, healthcare professionals, and social workers.
After you have filed a report and the child is safely removed from the abusive situation, it may be helpful to file a civil lawsuit against the abuser as well as the negligent agency that may be vicariously responsible for the crime. A child sexual abuse lawyer should be able to guide you through the legal process and help you hold any negligent parties accountable.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Foster Care Abuse?
If a child is sexually abused while they are in the foster care system, they have the right to pursue justice for the crimes committed against them. Besides abusive foster family members, a foster care abuse lawsuit can also hold accountable the agency that placed the child into the abusive home. A civil child sex abuse lawsuit can enable the survivor to pursue compensation for damages, including:
- Mental trauma, pain, and suffering
- Relevant medical bills, such as emergency care treatment and prescription drugs
- Therapy bills, including expenses incurred in psychiatric treatment facilities
- Other miscellaneous damages related to the abuse
Am I Eligible for Foster Care Abuse Compensation?
If you were sexually abused by a foster parent, a relative or friend of the foster family, or another minor staying in the home you may be eligible for foster care abuse compensation. Foster care agencies are required to ensure the safety of vulnerable minors and when they fail to take basic measures to do so, they should be held accountable. Failing to conduct background checks, investigating possible abuse when a child exhibits common warning signs, or failing to act when abuse is reported are all examples of negligence that can make an agency potentially liable in a sex abuse lawsuit.
Foster care sex abuse leaves survivors with long-lasting physical and emotional scars that cannot be erased with mere financial compensation. However, the money received from a successful child sex abuse lawsuit can provide the survivor with the resources they need to access quality therapy and other support so as to empower them to undertake the process of healing from the trauma. It is also a powerful step in reclaiming their story when they can see that justice is served, especially if it can help prevent more foster care children from being abused in the future
Stand Up for What is Right: Contact a Foster Care Abuse Law Firm
Foster care agencies have a responsibility to keep foster children safe, but all too often they fail to take adequate preventative measures to prevent sexual abuse or report abuse after being made aware of it. Foster care children who have been abused deserve an advocate who will fight for them. If you suspect that a child has been abused within the foster care system, a foster care abuse lawyer can help you hold the relevant parties accountable. Contact a foster care abuse law firm to set up a free consultation with a child sex abuse attorney today.