June 1, 2009

Tougher Laws to Halt Foster Parent Abuse

Many foster parents are loving people who want to open their homes to a child or children in need. They take the subsidy given by the state and use it as it was intended to support the child, provide for their physical, emotional, spiritual and developmental needs and ease the burden on the household of having another child in the home.

However, there are those foster parents who take children in as a means to supplement their income, or to provide an outlet for their abusiveness.

Federal law, through the Adoption and Safe Families Act, requires criminal background checks for any prospective foster parent. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act also requires a fingerprint based check of national crime data before a foster child can be placed in the care of any adult.

Placements will be denied if the prospective parent has been convicted of felony child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against children, a crime involving violence such as rape, murder, sexual assault...but not including physical assault or battery. Placements will also be denied if in the past 5 years, the applicant has been convicted of a felony for physical assault, battery or a drug related offense.

All states must comply with the federal laws, but some states also add other requirements as well.

If these background checks were sufficient to prevent foster care abuse, then there wouldn't be so many stories in the news about foster children being abused.

Trudy Festinger, head of the Department of Research at NYU's School of Social Work, did a study in Baltimore that found that 28 per cent of the children in foster care had been abused while in the system. The ACLU's Children's Project estimates that a child in the care of the state is ten times more likely to be abused than one in the care of his parents.

Although there is already a dearth in needed foster care placements, its absolutely worth it to tighten up the requirements for foster care parents and protect children from further abuse. Some potential, needed changes which could be implemented on a federal or state level without significant costs to any state that is properly monitoring their placements would include:

- Disallowing any person convicted of a felony from becoming a foster parent unless they were a juvenile at the time of the felony.

- Requiring monthly record-keeping and documentation of how foster care subsidies are spent, subsidies which can be reduced by the amount of inappropriate expenditures. This will discourage those who are in it for the money from pursuing foster care as a means of padding their income.

- More thorough investigation of potential foster parents including a check for prior abuse and neglect substantiations (some states do this already) and interviews with any former natural or foster children who have lived in the home.

- Most importantly, a report of abuse from a foster child about any foster parent should result in immediate required removal of the child from that foster care setting followed by a thorough investigation of the situation before that foster family can take another placement. Certainly, some children will use this to 'forum shop' for a foster parent they like better, but so what? It cannot hurt to investigate, and if foster children know that they will be heard and removed rather than potentially ignored and left in the care of real abusers, they may be more likely to speak up.

- Finally, federal law should require states to provide trauma assessments and long term trauma specific therapy, as well as pay monetary damages into a trust for the child upon their 18th birthday to any child who is substantiated to have been abused in a foster care setting. Putting this expense on the states may make them more eager to thoroughly investigate the homes they place foster children into.

The laws must be strengthened to protect abused and neglected children from being further abused in the interest of their protection.


  1. The laws are there, the problem is with the social services departments around the country. You will find we have a real child abuse problem on our hands at the national and even global level.
    I have found through my own research that when a child who is known to social services suffers abuse many to most times the social workers were aware of the problems and just fail to do their jobs.
    Foster children are all known to social services so when they are abused it is even more frustrating.
    Let me also remind you in many places there are foster children who have dropped out of sight and apparently out of mind as was the case in Florida several years ago.
    Our best hope is to find a way to insure social service workers do the simplest things such as follow their own guidelines. Show up and do their jobs. We can have all the laws imaginable but if the workers don't work the kids will still suffer and in the worst cases die.

  2. Absolutely right...sister....Not only do the social workers fail to do their jobs in many cases they are corrupt. There has to be accountability for CPS when they break the law, commit perjury, violate welfare policy, forge and falsify documents....

    Children are dying because of CPS...




  3. There are just not enough safeguards in place. The foster care system is a mess. One person mentioned that social workers fail to do their job but the fact is there are not enough social workers. There is a huge shortage and each social worker is thus overburdened and unable to do their job thoroughly and correctly. Great blog you have here. It's wonderful to see such a strong advocate for children. I am adding your blog to my list in my blog http://voicesinthedarkness.blogspot.com/ which was made to raise awareness of child abuse, specifically child molestation.

    Blessings and peace

  4. Social workers are corrupt even the subsidy given by the state to support the child they use it for their self interest. System should be aware and to take strong steps against the social workers. So that the children can get their right.

    Criminal law firms