Child abuse is the third cause of death of American children under the age of 4 (Primary Prevention of Child Abuse, ’99). According to a 2007 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), in 2005 an estimated 1,460 children died as a result of abuse or neglect; almost 76.6% of these children were 3 years old or younger. Shockingly, 5 children die every day in the U.S. as a result of child abuse or neglect. The National Foster Care Education Project reports that foster children are 10 times more likely to be abused than children among the general population. Subsequently and very sadly, 30% of these children later abuse their own children.
Abuse or neglect is defined as any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent, caretaker, or guardian which results in serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or death. Common types of abuse or mistreatment against foster children include: neglect, physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, sexual abuse, medical neglect, abandonment, threats to harm the child, congenital drug addiction, unusual punishment, overcrowded sleeping conditions, educational neglect, and the prescribing of dangerous psychotropic drugs. Unfortunately, some of these children experience more than one type of abuse.
A boy in Los Angeles County who was placed in foster care after his parents committed suicide became a spastic paraplegic after being beaten, sodomized, burned on his genitals, and nearly drowned by foster parents. The Children’s Defense Fund have published findings of Court before a congressional subcommittee wherein children in a foster home had been handcuffed, beaten, chained, tied up, kept in cages, over drugged with psychotropic medication, burned, suffering fractured skulls, and broken limbs. Foster children tend to be moved around frequently, averaging at least 4 different placements, with every placement increasing the risk of abuse or neglect.
Part of the problem is (1) there are more children placed in foster care than there are available safe and accommodating foster homes and (2) an overall lack of resources. The number of foster homes is steadily decreasing as the number of children placed in foster homes is steadily increasing. There are an estimated 100,000 homes for over 500,000 foster children and those that are not placed in foster homes are placed in child protective facilities which are often, overcrowded and/or in worse conditions than an adult prison.
Los Angeles County has paid tens of millions of dollars in settlements to children abused while in protective custody. There has also been a moving trend across the nation to place the child welfare system into full receivership, under control of the courts. Luckily, there also are many children’s rights activists groups that have been established to help protect foster children from continued physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse. Some of the most active organizations include, but are not limited to: The Children’s Rights Project, The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, The American Civil Liberties Union’s Children’s Rights Project, Helping Hand Home, National Foster Parent Association, and American Humane Association. Anybody suspecting that a foster child has been a victim of a crime should immediately make a report to the appropriate authorities, such as the local Child Protective Services Agency.
If you have any questions about this article, or if you suspect that a child is suffering from abuse while in foster care, you should immediately call our law office to speak with a Pasadena foster care abuse attorney.