Foster Care and Child Sexual Abuse

Foster Care and Child Sexual Abuse

It is a sad fact of life that, on occasion, a child’s parents are deemed unable to provide a safe, stable, home environment for their children. If such a situation should develop, the state has the legal authority to temporarily remove an endangered child from their home and place that child in foster care. Although the foster care system usually works as intended, there have been many cases where a foster child has become a victim of sexual abuse or exploitation at the hand of a foster parent or a foster sibling.

According to published studies of child sexual abuse during foster care, the problem is more widespread that many of us could imagine.

  • An estimated 80% of child sexual abuse victims personally knew their abusers.

  • In 2018, 7% of all child sexual abuse cases occurred in a foster care setting.

  • In California, one study found that children in foster care are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than are children living with a biological parent.

  • Nationwide, more than half of the child pornography and child sex traffic victims identified as a result of FBI raids were in foster care at the time their abusers were arrested.

Every state has its own system of family relations courts and child protective service agencies. From a legal point of view, when a child is placed in foster care the state is acting in loco parentis (“in place of the parents”). This means that the state has the legal authority to act in what it decides is in the child’s best interests. It also means that the state must take all reasonable steps to protect the children from sexual abuse. If the state fails in its legal duty to protect a child, the state could be held liable for the consequences of that abuse.

As we have noted in other posts, adults who were victims of childhood sexual abuse are known to suffer from a number of psychological conditions including:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Higher rates of substance abuse and/or addiction

  • Up to 50% of childhood sexual abuse victims will themselves become abusers as adults

  • 80% of child sexual abuse victims will be arrested for violent crimes

Since the state has both the legal and moral duty to protect children that it has placed under foster care, the courts tend to view foster parents and/or group foster care homes as agents of the state. Under the well-established laws of agency, the state is ultimately responsible for the actions of its agents in its foster care system. Most lawsuits filed against a state’s foster care system are based on an agency’s failure to properly conduct a background investigation of a prospective foster parent or for failing to conduct a thorough investigation of reported or suspected sexual abuse.

If you were the victim of childhood sexual abuse while you were in state-ordered foster care, we invite you to contact the childhood sexual abuse victims’ lawyer at The Doan Law Firm, a national law practice with offices located throughout the county.

When you contact our firm, your case review and first consultation with our childhood sexual abuse victims’ lawyer is always free of any charges and does not obligate you to hire us as your legal counsel. After speaking with our childhood sexual abuse victims’ lawyer, should you decide that a lawsuit against your abuser is in order, we are usually willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement we are prepared to win for you.

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