Foster Parent Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania
Child Protective Services exists to help children who are abused or neglected at home, or who lack responsible caretakers. The handbook provided to Philadelphia foster parents describes this mission as follows:
Foster care provides a temporary, safe, stable and nurturing family life experience for a child when the child’s family is unable to provide this for her.
When the foster parent who is charged with caring for a child who has already experienced abuse or neglect, it is critical that the temporary caretaker provide a safe and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, some foster parents take advantage of the trust placed in them to exploit children.
Foster Children May Be Vulnerable to Sexual Abuse
Children and teenagers may be especially susceptible to abuse by a foster parent, for a number of reasons. First, if the child has already been the victim of sexual abuse, that mistreatment may have come to seem “normal” to the child, making him or her less likely to resist or seek help when molested by a foster parent.
In addition, the victim has been placed with the foster parent by the very authority that investigates abuse claims and makes arrangements for the care of abused children. The fact that authorities have placed the child with an abuser may make him or her feel hopeless, as if there is no one who can be trusted to help with the current situation.
Finally, foster children who have been in long-term abusive situations, lived with parents who were addicts or otherwise lacked a supportive family structure may be prone to negative behaviors that make them easy victims. Abusers may convince these children that no one will take their word over that of a foster parent who has been background-checked and approved by the state and works closely with the child’s caseworker.
Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Statistics
At any given point, there are between 13,000 and 15,000 Pennsylvania minors in foster care. Teenagers make up more than half of this number.
More than 2/3 of substantiated reports involved children who were living with one or both parents at the time of the abuse. However, 5% of substantiated abuse claims—more than 200 in 2015—involved children who were in foster care, a group home, or residential care at the time of the abuse. Just over 40% of claims were substantiated, leaving open questions regarding thousands of allegations of child abuse.
Child Sexual Abuse Statistics
According to the 2015 Annual Child Protective Services Report from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, 47% of substantiated abuse reports involved sexual abuse. That means a significant percentage of children being placed with foster parents or in group hopes were removed from their homes due to sexual abuse. These children are all the more vulnerable, and betrayal by the foster parent the state has charged with protecting them in the wake of the original abuse can be devastating.
Other Abusers in a Foster Care Setting
Foster parents are not the only possible abusers in a foster care environment. Children in foster care are vulnerable to abuse by friends of the foster family, teachers, coaches, religious leaders and other adults in the same way children living with their parents are. However, foster children may lack the trusted support network necessary to resist and report this type of abuse. Foster children may also face sexual abuse at the hands of other children in the household, either the children of the foster parents or other temporary wards.
Compensation for Foster Care Sexual Abuse
When a foster parent sexually abuses a child, or a child in foster care is sexually abused and that abuse continues due to the negligence of the foster parent, caseworker or other person charged with responsibility for the child, the victim may be entitled to damages.
Exactly who is civilly liable for sexual abuse may vary from case to case. Some possible responsible parties include the abuser, any person charged with care of the child who failed to fulfill his or her responsibilities, and the agency or organization that vetted the abuser, employed the caseworker responsible for the child’s case, and created and enforced policies that may have left the child unprotected.
Talk to a Sexual Abuse Attorney
If you were the victim of sexual abuse in a foster home, you can fight back. Just schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you pursue the compensation you deserve