Legally Reviewed by:

Jonathan Rosenfeld

March 2, 2023

Over $400 Million worth of case results

Awarded The Best Lawyer in 2024 by U.S. News

Nationally Recognized in Legal Community

Do you need an advocate to protect a foster child? Is the child being abused by their foster parents or the foster care system?

Our sexual abuse attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC advocate for minor children experiencing abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.

Our legal team can file a civil lawsuit against foster parents and the placement agency for the child’s physical, emotional, and sexual damage.

Call a Chicago foster care sexual abuse lawyer at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free case evaluation and discuss your legal rights. All sensitive information you share during your confidential consultation remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

foster care sexual abuse lawyer

A Child Protective Services System

Many courts place children under foster care, which is usually a state-run system where minors are placed in private homes under the care of a ward of the state. Others are placed with state-certified caregivers in group homes, treatment centers, and residential childcare communities.

Although foster care is meant to support abandoned and orphaned children, it can sometimes be an abusive place for kids to live. However, since most foster children are too scared and fragile, they don’t always report to the authorities when sexually abused.

In any case, a young girl or boy is highly vulnerable, making them easy targets. Some are in foster care because their biological parents abused them at home.

Besides being scared, they may also feel too guilty or ashamed to report sexual abuse in foster care since they may not trust or feel comfortable with the representatives from the Children’s Bureau or family services.

If the government authorities fail to do their jobs properly, the child’s mental and physical health and life could be at risk. Recognizing the signs of child maltreatment or emotional abuse can help save a child’s life.

Noble Intent to Provide Care to Troubled Foster Children

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [1], foster homes are intended to be safe but temporary homes for a minor, with the long-term goal of relocating the child to a permanent family and home.

Although foster care is supposed to provide a safe and supportive environment for children, sometimes, the foster home becomes a source of extreme neglect or abuse. Foster home abuse can include physical assault, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse.

A Broken Foster Care System?

The explanations for why abusive conditions exist in the foster care system vary greatly. However, long-term studies repeatedly demonstrate that the primary reasons for poor care include:

  • Inadequate screening of foster care families
  • Inadequate monitoring of children placed in a foster care environment [2]
  • Moving children too frequently from one family to another
  • Overwhelmed foster care systems
  • Poor training of staff

The responsibility of Illinois foster care agencies is to safeguard children placed in homes.

The minor may bring a cause of action against the negligent agency for the abusive conduct of their foster parent or the foster system. Typically, these civil lawsuits are based on the agency’s failure to implement safeguards to put children in a safe foster care environment.

Other cases are based on the foster care agency’s failure to recognize the abusive situation that led to the child’s physical, emotional, sexual, or financial harm.

Being a child, the victim cannot bring a foster care abuse lawsuit without the assistance of an adult. However, the court may decide that involving a guardian may not be necessary.

Some Illinois foster care agencies that could serve as legal guardians include Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Church Charities, Little City, Child Link, Childserv, Foster Enterprise, and Jewish Child & Family Services.

Types of Foster Care Abuse

Foster children are already going through some trauma, whether it’s abandonment, the death of a close relative, or abuse in their own homes. Often, the foster care agency fails to put the child in the right home due to negligence or being overworked due to a heavy caseload.

As a result, the minor is placed in a home where they’re subjected to child abuse of all kinds. Here are common types of abuse in a foster home:

Physical Abuse

If foster parents are hitting, striking, punching, or hurting the child physically, that’s a huge red flag.

Around the country, there have been incidents of foster fathers and mothers hurting children with cigarette burns, hitting them, and inflicting physical pain to the point where children have ended up in hospitals.

Sexual Abuse

Since foster youth does not have an adequate support system, they become easy targets of childhood sexual abuse at the hand of foster fathers and mothers or other people who frequent the foster home.

According to NY Daily News, a man in Long Island was accused of molesting eight boys in his foster care. The accused was taking care of 106 foster kids. After multiple complaints from the neighbors and anonymous tippers, the man was finally charged with childhood sexual abuse, and the boys were taken away from his custody.

In some child sexual abuse cases, the boy or girl could face sexual abuse due to neglectful foster parents letting dangerous people into the house.

Emotional Abuse

The child is likely to be emotionally abused if they are visibly unhappy or show extreme behavior, like excessive aggression.

More importantly, if the child has attempted suicide or shows no attachment to the foster guardian or social worker, these are huge red flags.

On the other hand, if a foster caregiver constantly humiliates, belittles, or blames the child for things they did not do, that’s a sign of emotional or psychological abuse.

Neglect by Foster Parents

The parents could be legally liable if a child’s necessities, such as food and health, are unmet. For instance, the parents may not be feeding the child or not adequately dressing them according to the weather.

Along with physical harm, foster children may also suffer at the hands of sexual predators and emotional abusers. You must keep your eyes open for any abuse and report it immediately.

The national foster care system ensures the child’s mental, physical, and emotional safety. The foster father or mother could be held liable if the child is stripped of these fundamental rights.

If you notice any signs of abuse and neglect in a foster home, consult a legal professional to ensure the parents are held accountable for their negligence or maltreatment of the child.

Determining Abusive Behavior of Foster Parents Who Abuse Children

You don’t necessarily have to look at the child for signs of abuse and neglect. The Child Welfare Services [4] has issued a PDF with information about signs of abuse for a foster caregiver. Typical signs of neglect and abuse include:

  • Shows little to no concern for foster kids
  • Constantly blames the minor under their care for poor academic performance
  • Denies there’s anything wrong with the minor
  • Displays aggressive behaviors or now has a criminal record
  • Asks teachers to give harsh physical punishments to the child for misbehaving or doing poorly in school
  • Sees the minor under their care as a burden or entirely worthless
  • Depends on the child for emotional needs and personal satisfaction
  • Demands over-the-top academic or personal perfection from the child and becomes abusive when the minor fails to meet their expectations

The parent’s behavior with their foster children and warning signs can also reveal suspected abuse. For instance, the child and parent may rarely look at each other or even sit on the same side of the room.

In addition, the minor may talk to their friends about having a poor relationship with their foster mother, father, or other children in the house.

In some cases, the foster kids and the parents explicitly state their dislike or hatred for each other.

Foster Care and the Law: Protecting Children Against Abuse in Foster Homes

If you suspect a child is being abused in the foster care system, you can report it to the authorities. The US foster care system is legally required to take necessary steps to keep minors safe.

Has your child suffered abuse in a foster care home? You can file a lawsuit against the foster caregiver or report it to Child Protective Services [5].

A child may be placed in foster care because:

  • Their home with birth parents and other family members is no longer safe
  • Their parents or guardians are no longer able to provide proper care
  • The child no longer has a parent or guardian to care for them

The primary goal of foster care is to return younger children, tweens, and teens to their homes – if possible.

Unfortunately, many children in foster care in Illinois that are not in a safe environment suffer lifelong trauma due to child abuse. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC is an Illinois child abuse law firm representing children negligently placed in these environments by foster care placement agencies.

Physical and Behavioral Signs of Abuse in a Foster Care Setting

Children in foster care often do not report the abuse inflicted upon them. As a result, it can sometimes be hard to determine if the child is doing well in the child welfare system.

Here are some signs of abuse and neglect in minor kids:

Physical Abuse

  • The minor flinches when the foster parent is near
  • Unexplained burns, broken limbs, or bruises
  • Patterned injuries, such as finger or belt marks
  • A child is frightened to go near the foster caregiver
  • A minor being uncomfortable with physical touch
  • Unusually aggressive behavior

Emotional and Psychological Abuse

  • A child excessively scared of making a mistake
  • Extreme behavior (too passive, too compliant, too angry)
  • Poor performance in school
  • Socially withdrawn
  • A change in eating habits
  • Poor self-esteem [6]
  • Low confidence and not friendly with other minor kids

Child Sexual Abuse

  • Difficulty sitting, walking, or playing
  • Complaints about pain in the genitals
  • Blood on pants or underwear
  • Bedwetting
  • Reporting nightmares or insomnia
  • Unusual knowledge of sexual behavior for their age
  • Neglected
  • Not dressed appropriately for the weather
  • Constantly hungry
  • Routine absence from school
  • Poor hygiene
  • Lack of primary dental and medical care

Remember that these are common signs of sexual and physical abuse and do not always confirm the abuse. However, if you notice these signs and the child’s discomfort or pain is apparent, it’s essential to take steps to hold the negligent parties responsible for their actions.

Illinois Foster Care Lawsuits on Behalf of Abused and Mistreated Children

In circumstances where a placement agency had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous situation – yet failed to act – and the individual was repeatedly harmed, a legal claim may be pursued against the agency responsible for overseeing the situation.

Much of the actual harm done to foster children is psychological. Because of that, the case must be presented by attorneys experienced in conveying the significance of these life-changing circumstances to a jury who may be hearing about an incident that occurred years prior.

Child sexual abuse, physical assault, and emotional trauma can cause long-term effects that may not be immediately apparent. If a foster care agency was made aware of the potential for harm and failed to take action to remove the sexually abused child from home or notify authorities, they could be held legally responsible.

Previous Child Sexual Abuse Before Adoption

Most children in the foster care system are available for adoption. After years of living in the foster caregiving system, they may find a suitable home with loving people eager to adopt the child into the family.

However, the foster care system has no obligation to tell the potential adoptive parents that the boy or girl is a victim of child sexual abuse. The system also does not have to tell the new family if the child has a history of being sexually abused by other foster children in the home.

The adopting parents may only learn about the sexual abuse after they have already adopted their son or daughter who disclosed the information – often years later.

The exposed secret can be devastating for the entire family, but it can also be the first step in getting help for the child and holding the people who allowed the abuse responsible.

Why is Sexual Abuse Such a Serious Problem in the Foster Care System?

Sadly, foster children are often subjected to child sexual abuse when placed with foster caregivers. Data show child sexual abuse in foster care is at an all-time high.

According to John Hopkins University, as many as one in four girls and one in six boys will become child abuse victims before they turn 18. Out of these children, it is estimated that more than half will never tell anyone about sexual abuse in foster care.

Foster children are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse because they are often placed in homes with strangers. A sexually abused child in a foster home often does not have access to a child protection support system to ensure their environment is safe.

Child sex abuse in a foster home might involve:

  • Sexual touching or fondling of a child’s genitals, breasts, or buttocks
  • Making a child touch an adult’s genitals
  • Inserting objects (including fingers, toys, or penis) into a child’s vagina or anus
  • Oral sex with a child
  • Rape of a child
  • Recurring sexual exploitation
  • Non-contact sexual abuse, including participation in child pornography
  • All other inappropriate sex acts

Many children who experience sexual abuse live in fear that their sexual abusers will return to hurt them again, which could result in the child living a life full of anxiety and mistrust. Unfortunately, sexual assault often leads to further victimization down the road.

For example, sexually abused children in foster and group homes are seven times more likely to be re-victimized later in life. Many children cannot or will not make serious sexual abuse allegations or report foster care abuse to identify responsible parties committing sex crimes.

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are proud to fight for the rights of sexually abused children and remain committed to seeking justice for those who have been harmed due to the incompetence of a foster care agency.

Our team uses proven litigation techniques to investigate complaints and has demonstrated the neglect of agencies responsible for monitoring the child’s care.

These agencies were charged with looking after children placed in the homes of temporary or long-term foster families but failed in their duties. As a result, we have recovered significant financial compensation to cover our clients’ damages.

Call Our Foster Care Sexual Abuse Lawyers for a Free Confidential Consultation

Call our foster child sex abuse lawyers at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation today. We provide legal advice. All information you share with our law office concerning foster care abuse and neglect remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

We accept all personal injury cases through a contingency fee agreement, meaning no upfront fees are required. We are only paid for our legal services after successfully resolving your case through a jury trial award or negotiated settlement.

Our office is headquartered in Chicago, but we regularly handle matters across Illinois and the entire Midwest and provide legal assistance in a timely manner.

Resources: [1] Health and Human Services, [2] NIH, [3] Oxford Academic, [4] Child Welfare Services, [5] Child Protective Services, [6] Counselling Directory

Client Reviews

Jonathan Rosenfeld was professionally objective, timely, and knowledgeable. Also, his advice was extremely effective regarding my case. In addition, Jonathan was understanding and patient pertaining to any of my questions or concerns. I was very happy with the end result and I highly recommend Jonathan Rosenfeld.

- Michonne Proulx

Extremely impressed with this law firm. They took control of a bad motorcycle crash that left my uncle seriously injured. Without any guarantee of a financial recovery, they went out and hired accident investigators and engineers to help prove how the accident happened. I am grateful that they worked on a contingency fee basis as there was no way we could have paid for these services on our own.

- Ethan Armstrong

Jonathan helped my family heal and get compensation after our child was suffered a life threatening injury at daycare. He was sympathetic and in constant contact with us letting us know all he knew every step of the way. We were so blessed to find Jonathan!

- Giulia

This lawyer really helped me get compensation for my motorcycle accident case. I know there is no way that I could have gotten anywhere near the amount that Mr. Rosenfeld was able to get to settle my case. Thank you.

- Daniel Kaim

Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial.

- Lisa
Free Consultation (888) 424-5757