Foster Care Remains a Sexual Abuse Laboratory Experiment

From The Register-Guard of Oregon, comes the headline: “Foster dad found the ‘perfect prey’” According to Circuit Court Judge Thomas Branford, foster children were given not love but “rape and sodomy and sexual abuse.”

A Lincoln County jury convicted him “of repeatedly raping, sodomizing and sexually abusing two of his adopted foster children — a developmentally disabled daughter and a son — and sexually abusing two of his other foster children.”

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that police have charged a foster father with raping his 16-year-old foster daughter several times over four months. The police have text mail messages of him bragging about it to a friend as evidence.

From Kansas, KMBC-TV reports on a foster father arrested in a sting operation. He’d made arrangements to meet to have sex with an officer posing as a 13-year-old girl in a chat room.

From Arkansas, Today’s THV reports: “A former foster care supervisor in Polk County is under arrest after being charged with sexually assaulting a teenage foster child.” The former DHS employee is also charged with raping a woman.

From Canada, the Calgary Sun reports that: “More sex charges have been laid against a Calgary man once named ‘Foster Parent of the Year.'”

Elsewhere, the New York Post reports that a 72-year-old Catholic Marianist brother has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old in his care.

The article continues on to explain that: “The group home has been plagued with problems over the years, including the alleged gang rape of a 9-year-old by three teens and reports that the foster-care facility was out of control.”

Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Daily News reported on the case of Shannon Berthiaume. “Social workers from the city’s Department of Human Services took her kids away and kept them, pingponging between foster homes, for a year and a half,” the article explains.

When Berthiaume finally got them back, all three had been sexually molested in their foster homes, she said.

“DHS has destroyed my family,” said Berthiaume, wiping tears from her cheeks.

It has always been this way. In a report issued in 1992, the San Diego Grand Jury told the story of one mother whose children had been scattered out to all four corners of the County. While in foster care, two of her children were sexually abused and one was physically abused. She poignantly told the Jury: “They took my beautiful children and returned broken dolls.”

“I’ve been doing this work for a long time and represented thousands and thousands of foster children, both in class-action lawsuits and individually, and I have almost never seen a child, boy or girl, who has been in foster care for any length of time who has not been sexually abused in some way, whether it is child-on-child or not,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights, Inc., to the Philadelphia Daily News.

“It is quite common.”

And, indeed, it quite is.

A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of foster children in the State of Arizona serves to indicate the extent of sexual abuse of children in state care. The suit, filed during the early 1990s, alleged that over 500 of an estimated 4,000 foster children – a figure representing at least 12.5 percent of the state’s foster care population – had been sexually abused while in state care.

The action also charged that “the acts and omissions of Defendants were done in bad faith, with malice, intent or deliberate indifference to and/or reckless disregard for the health, safety and rights of the Plaintiffs.”

In Maryland, a 1992 study found that substantiated allegations of sexual abuse in foster care are four times higher than that found among the general population.

A followup study of a sample group of foster children found that nearly 50% of the substantiated maltreatment reports involved sexual abuse. Foster fathers or other foster family members were found to be the perpetrators in over two-thirds of the substantiated cases, while other foster children in the home were determined to be the perpetrator in only 20% of the incidents.

One of the more comprehensive surveys of abuse in foster care was conducted in conjunction with a Baltimore lawsuit. Trudy Festinger, head of the Department of Research at the New York University School of Social Work, determined through casereadings that over 28 per cent of the children in state care had been abused while in the system.

Reviewed cases depicted “a pattern of physical, sexual and emotional abuses” inflicted upon the children in the custody of Baltimore’s Department.

Cases reviewed as the trial progressed revealed children who had suffered continuous sexual and physical abuse or neglect in foster homes known to be inadequate by the Department. Cases included sexual abuse of young girls by their foster fathers, and that of a young girl who contracted gonorrhea of the throat as a result of sexual abuse in an unlicenced foster home.

A survey of alumni of what was described as an “exemplary” and “model” program in the Pacific Northwest would bear this out, as Richard Wexler explained during his Congressional testimony.

“In this lavishly-funded program caseloads were kept low and both workers and foster parents got special training. This was not ordinary foster care, this was Cadillac Foster Care,” he explained.

In this “exemplary” program, 24 percent of the girls responding to a survey said they were victims of actual or attempted sexual abuse in the one home in which they had stayed the longest. Significantly, they were not even asked about the other foster homes in which they had stayed.

To drive his point home, Wexler cited Benjamin Wolf, an ACLU attorney who brought a landmark suit against the Illinois foster care system, describing that system as: “A laboratory experiment to produce the sexual abuse of children.”

Industry players consistently bend over backwards to prevent these abuses from coming to light. I explained some years ago in an article on my site, “if there is one thing that is riskier for bureaucrats than admitting that their system may not be doing good, it is that it is doing far more harm than good.”

Thus we find situations such as that in which the California Department’s legal division discovered a “secret room” in the Los Angeles Department containing 15 filing cabinets holding approximately 3,000 case files on foster care facilities that had problems which were not reported to the state.

In one case, ten foster children slept on the floor of a garage, while ten more were crammed into an upstairs bedroom. Three had been abused, one with a fractured skull and two broken limbs. Yet the home was not closed until months after the conditions were discovered.

Thus we find caseworkers at the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (since reinvented as the Department of Children and Families) running files relating to a botched investigation through a paper-shredder.

Thus we find a New York City caseworker indicating as “unfounded” the repeated rapes of a young girl in institutional care, notwithstanding the testimony of credible witnesses.

Thus we find an agency administrator in Oklahoma quietly dismissing two agency employees accused of the sexual abuse of foster children without so much as a blot on their records.

Thus we find what was described as a “whitewash of wrongdoing” in an edited audit of a child welfare office in Utah, and death threats made against the rare brave legislator who dared to push for the public release of the unexpurgated document.

Thus we find a report of system-wide abuses at the Columbus-Maryville “shelter” in Illinois suppressed by Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy.

Whenever something inside of their foster care system blows up in their faces, the child welfare bureaucrats invariably first resort to trying to sweep it all under the carpet. If that doesn’t work, and the press actually finds a story worthy of its attention, the bureaucrats in turn resort to obfuscation and child saving apologetics.

Never do the startling revelations regarding abuse in foster care ignite a public outcry for a “foster care panic in reverse;” that is an outcry for removing children from foster care and returning them to their biological homes.

But heaven forbid that the statistically rare death of a child “known to the system” takes place outside of the foster care system, and in a biological parent’s home. Whenever that occurs, the cattle call is sounded for increased removals into foster care, and another removal stampede begins.

This pattern is all-too-familiar to Richard Wexler, who notes that politicians will first swoop down on such a case “like vultures,” seeking out scapegoats. They will pledge to “crack down on child abuse” by urging more people to report the slightest suspicion of maltreatment to authorities. They will then suggest legislation to make it even easier than it already is to remove children from their parents.

Follows then a second stage, a “foster care panic” in which caseworkers apprehensive about making mistakes set about the task of removing a greater number of children from their homes.

The third stage finds bureaucrats “ducking for cover,” finding some way to blame the death on efforts to keep families together. They will say “the law” requires them to keep children in, or return them to, dangerous situations.

The lucrative sex abuse laboratory pulls in between $35,000 – $38,000 in federal dollars per eligible child in state care from Title IV-E. Of that amount, only a small portion gets doled out to the foster parents, while the remainder is targeted toward increasing bureaucratic expansion. Other revenue maximization gimmicks tap into additional federal funding once a child has entered state care.

Isn’t it odd how the removal stampede always runs in the direction of increasing federal revenue and promoting agency expansion?

One has to wonder whether reversing the course of the financial incentives themselves would result in the reversal of the course of the removal stampede.

If so, many broken dolls who were once beautiful children may finally return home.