Foster care, or out-of-home care, is a temporary housing arrangement for children who cannot live with their families. When a child’s home becomes unsuitable for living, he or she may enter into foster care until it is safe to return. Foster care should be a secure, stable environment for a child during a difficult time. Unfortunately, foster care abuse can take away a child’s chance for a fresh start.
The Purpose of the Foster Care System
The foster care system came about as a way to give children with unsafe or unsuitable home lives a place where they can go while their parents or guardians sort things out. Foster care programs may temporarily place children with relatives, unrelated foster parents, group homes, or emergency shelters. Common reasons children may enter into foster care include the following home-life situations:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Child neglect or abandonment
- Medical neglect
- Drug use
- Death of relatives, with no available family
If birthparents resolve the issues at home and create a more suitable living environment, a child in foster care can return. If not, the child may stay in foster care or go up for adoption, if this is in the child’s best interests. Foster care can be critical to a child’s well-being. As of October 2016, 437,465 children in the United States were in foster care. Unfortunately, not every foster care situation is better than the one the child left.
How Does Foster Care Work?
First, child welfare officials will investigate claims of child abuse or neglect. Claims may come from concerned loved ones, neighbors, or teachers. Child welfare services may visit the home of the child to determine whether he or she would fare better in a foster home situation. If the child has suitable family members, child protective services may order the child live there instead. Otherwise, the child may need to go to a foster home for a temporary amount of time.
During out-of-home care, a child will continue attending school and receiving medical services as needed. In the meantime, the child’s family will receive support to reduce the risk of mistreatment to the child in the future. The ultimate goal is to reunite the child with his or her family. Parents and relatives may be able to visit if it is in the child’s best interests. Over time, the child may either return home and reunite with family or be given another permanent living arrangement, such as having custody given to a relative or being adopted by someone else.
Common Problems Within the Foster Care System
It is a sad reality that many children in foster care will suffer further abuse in a system meant to protect them. Foster families, group homes, or shelters may not improve the well-being of the children they support. Instead, they may cause additional damage to a child’s health, wellness, and emotional state. Foster care abuse can take many forms, including:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Mental or emotional abuse
- Child neglect
The average time spent in foster care is just over 18 months. Almost one-third of foster children remain in the system for over two years. Staying in the foster care system can increase the odds of a child experiencing some form of neglect or abuse. Unfortunately, issues with the child welfare system can lead to a child switching from home to home over the course of many years.
About Foster Care Abuse Cases
To encourage more people to become foster parents – and to help pay for the costs of taking in an abused or orphaned child – the government offers money for families that foster. Some people care more about the money they make than the well-being of the children they foster. This can lead to unsafe and abusive foster care situations. In other cases, a group home may have negligent or malicious supervisors that cause child abuse.
Although acquiring a license to foster children takes orientation, training, background checks, and health screenings, not all foster parents are good for children. Some may pass inspections only to use their power as foster parents to abuse or neglect children. The same is true for group homes. They may pass inspections, yet still fail to provide the appropriate standard of care. Negligent, careless, and abusive people can make foster situations dangerous for children.
Foster care abuse can cause significant physical, emotional, and psychological damage to victims. Children in bad foster care situations may suffer physical injuries, scars, and emotional distress that could last a lifetime. If you suspect foster care abuse or mistreatment, speak up. Talk to an attorney to start an investigation and civil lawsuit.
Protecting Children’s Rights in Foster Care
Many foster parents and group homes provide stable, loving, and supportive environments for foster kids. Sometimes, however, supervisors put children through neglect, mistreatment, mishandling, or abuse. In these situations, the foster child or legal guardian has the right to file a civil claim against the perpetrator – as well as the foster care organization, if applicable. Filing a civil claim in can help an abused child seek justice and financial compensation for his or her damages. Learn more about foster care abuse lawsuits by exploring the following FAQs.
- Can I sue a foster care agency for abuse?
- How many children are in the foster care system?
- What should I do if I suspect mistreatment of a child in foster care?
- What are signs of abuse?
- How much are lawsuits against a foster care agency worth?