In the United States, there are over 437,000 children in the foster care system. Nearly 60,000 of these children are here in California. Most families have their first encounter with the Child Welfare System after a report of possible child neglect and abuse, generally referred to as child maltreatment. Any child suspected to be a victim of abandonment, neglect, or physical, emotional, and sexual abuse is likely to end up in foster care. While the system should ideally protect vulnerable children, this is not always the case. Sexual abuse in foster care homes happens at an alarming rate. Despite the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) vetting foster parents and requiring them to meet the minimum personal, space, and safety requirements. If you are a survivor of foster care sexual abuse, we urge you to contact the Sex Crimes Attorney. We can help you seek compensation from the state for its failure to ensure safe placement.

Child Sexual Abuse Explained

Child sexual abuse refers to any sexual conduct with a person under 18 because minors cannot consent. There are two types of sexual abuse: physical and nonphysical abuse. Exposing your private parts to minors or taking their sexually explicit photos also amounts to child sexual abuse.

Here are other acts that count as child sexual abuse:

  • Kissing, groping, stroking, or sexually touching a minor

  • Child molestation

  • Sexual assault or battery

  • Sexual coercion

  • Drug-facilitated sexual abuse

  • Rape or sodomy

Furthermore, anyone can be an abuser within the foster care system. This includes foster parents with no criminal record, foster siblings, the employees of a group home, teachers, religious advisors, or even social workers. Often, sexual predators are in positions that allow them to exploit the vulnerable children within the foster care system sexually.

A skilled foster care sexual abuse attorney can provide invaluable help when filing a civil lawsuit. The expert understands California laws and regulations revolving around the foster care system. Moreover, the professional has in-depth familiarity with the courts, local civil procedures, and rules of evidence. At the Sex Crimes Attorney, we can help you present evidence and build a solid case to ensure you have optimal chances of receiving fair compensation.

Foster Care Sexual Abuse Statistics

Many foster parents are happy to provide a loving and supportive living environment for children in need. Some even go to the extent of legally adopting foster children, generally ensuring their futures are well-protected. Even with the heartwarming majority, a single case of sexual abuse in a foster home is one too many. Some predators take advantage of the vulnerability of these children and use the system to access them and sexually abuse them.

Ideally, the placement of a child into foster care should be a temporary arrangement. The child should return home after a short while, if possible. Unfortunately, the system is overworked and understaffed, leading to children remaining with their foster parents for months or years. Children who are not returned home or adopted by their foster parents remain under the California Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) legal responsibility. DCFS is liable for negligence and damages caused by foster care sexual abuse if the department knew or should have known that your foster parent was unqualified or presented a threat.

The Rate of Sexual Abuse in Foster Homes

Compared to children living with their biological parents, those in foster homes are at greater risk of sexual abuse. The foster care system must ensure the safe placement of vulnerable children and protect their welfare.

Here are a few locally conducted studies that demonstrate the prevalence of foster care sexual abuse:

  • According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, children in the foster care system face a four times greater risk of experiencing sexual abuse than their peers living with their biological parents. The study also confirmed that group homes pose an even greater risk where children are up to 28 times more likely to become sexual abuse victims.

  • According to the Darkness to Light, a child advocacy organization, children living in foster homes face a ten times greater likelihood of being sexually abused than those residing with their birth parents.

  • An Oregon and Washington State study unveiled that about one-third of children sexually abused during foster care placement reported the incident.

  • Research by the National Institute of Health conducted on 155 sexually aggressive teens and children formally in foster care showed that 81% were sexually abused, and 68% of them suffered at the hands of multiple sexual predators.

  • Research conducted in New Jersey concluded that once a child is in the foster care system, their safety cannot be guaranteed. 36.5% of child sexual abusers are foster parents.

  • 80% of sexually abused children personally knew their offenders

  • A multi-case study in Atlanta’s metropolitan indicated that about 34% of children in foster care experienced threats like abuse and neglect

  • More than 50% of the sex trafficking victims recovered in 2013 during nationwide FBI raids were from group homes or foster homes.

  • The New Jersey Office of Child Advocacy report suggests that 37.4% of child sexual abuse offenders are institution staff. 20% of these predators are relatives of the abused victim.

The above statistics merely touch on studies conducted of foster children willing to speak against their abusers. There are thousands of other cases yet to be reported. These harrowing numbers conclusively indicate that the system has failed to address the recurrent concern of children’s exploitation and physical or sexual abuse in foster care.

In 2017 alone, the US foster care system received over 66,900 minors, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

While some of these children enjoy safe placement, others are thrown directly to the homes of sexual predators. Many states have made considerable settlements to victims after being found liable for failing to protect the children under their care. In 2009, the twins allegedly abused by their foster parents received a $2 million settlement from the Oregon Department of Human Services. This is the largest settlement ever made by the agency.

What the Foster Care System Can Do To Mitigate the Risk of Sexual Abuse

Merely being in foster care drastically increases the risk of experiencing sexual abuse. The system lacks adequate oversight of agencies that negligently allow the placement of children in the hands of sexual predators or potential abusers.

Many agencies fail to play their role in ensuring the protection and welfare of vulnerable children for various reasons, including:

  • Understaffing

  • Overworked social workers

  • Undertrained state officials

Here are statistics from a 2017 Children’s Bureau report that highlight some of the reasons why California’s Child Protective Services (CPS) is underperforming:

  • CPS had 4,963 workers in 2017 tasked with handling intakes, background screening of foster parents, investigations of reports, and alternative responses.

  • The agency received 400,187 reports of alleged child abuse and maltreatment. This calculates into roughly 44 calls for every group of 1,000 children in placement.

  • From the 400,187 allegations, the workers investigated or gave alternative responses to 365,921 cases.

  • It was discovered that 3,497 children were sexually abused.

Child sexual abuse in foster care is an overwhelming problem because the workers cannot handle all the cases. This leads to weeks, months, or years going by before anyone acts on abuse allegations. According to the Los Angeles News report, California only managed to complete 22 out of 100 investigations in a timely fashion.

Essentially, state officials allowed abuse or neglect to continue because it was slow to investigate complaints. The officials also failed to conduct timely follow-ups to have issues resolved, generally leaving abused children to suffer in the hands of sexual predators for longer. Even when investigations began, it took the officials nearly 12 months to resolve some cases.

Foster care agencies can reduce the risk of child sexual abuse by:

  • Ensuring comprehensive training of state officials on how to handle complaints and investigations

  • Ensuring thorough screening of placement agents

  • Doing extensive background checks on potential foster parents

  • Providing ongoing contact with foster children and their foster parents

  • Implementing slid protocols of combating and investigating sexual abuse claims

  • Securing a higher rate of convictions for persons accused of child sexual abuse within the system

When the foster care system fails to address the issue of sexual abuse within the institution, it also inadvertently propagates the harm of children by failing to protect them. Often uprooted from their biological parent’s doorsteps, these children end up in a worse environment where they still do not enjoy a supportive and nurturing childhood.

It is never easy to speak about a dark childhood where you were sexually abused by adults meant to protect you. However, taking action against the foster care system is the only way to protect other children from suffering the same fate. A civil lawsuit will also ensure you obtain the compensation you need to seek reliable treatment for your emotional and psychological wounds.

Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

One of the significant perils of child sexual abuse is that it often leads to sexual aggression. Victims fall into cycles of abusive behaviors, typically imitating their offenders’ actions and vile characteristics.

Some of the sexually aggressive behaviors demonstrated by victims include:

  • Exposing themselves

  • Making sexually inappropriate statements

  • Conducting sexually abusive acts against other children

  • Initiating sexual touching with their peers or younger children

Physical and nonphysical signs serve as warning flags of a sexually abused child. Some of the signs that volunteers and social workers must be on the lookout for include:

  • An STI (sexually transmitted infection) diagnosis

  • Genital trauma (bloody garments, unexplained bruising around the genitals, trouble sitting or walking)

  • Signs of PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and panic attacks

  • Sudden changes in eating habits

  • A sudden change in a child’s moods or personality

  • Extreme agitation

  • Low self-esteem and both social and emotional withdrawal from others

  • An aversion to being touched in any way

  • Recurrent nightmares

  • Suicidal attempts and other self-harming mannerisms

  • Extreme worrying and fearfulness

  • Increased health concerns, including stomach aches and headaches

Behavioral Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

Behavioral signs can help social workers, adoptive parents, family members, or concerned persons recognize whether a child is a victim of sexual abuse. Apart from sexual aggression, other behavioral signs look out for include:

  • Sudden secretiveness

  • Too much understanding of sexual topics

  • Reduced talkativeness

  • Extreme fear in being left alone with certain people

  • Regressive behavior like bedwetting

  • Sudden fear of being away from their primary caregiver

  • Preferring to remain isolated from the family

  • Changes in grooming habits caused by fear of taking off clothes or bathing

  • Overdressing to hide their body/ dressing provocatively

Long Term Implications of Child Sexual Abuse

A single incident of child sexual abuse can have devastating long-term effects that roll into adulthood. These effects include:

  • Greater risk of depression and anxiety

  • Eating disorders

  • Drug or alcohol addiction

  • Guilt, shame, and denial

  • Poor self-esteem

  • Relationship and sexual problems

  • Dissociative behaviors

Childhood sexual abuse can mess up a person’s entire life. Here are depressing statistics of psychological conditions that could stem from enduring a sexually abusive environment as a child:

  • Roughly half the victims of child sexual abuse become sexual abusers as adults

  • Nearly 80% of adults sexually abused as children are at some point arrested for violent crimes

All children should enjoy a safe living environment, away from incidents that cause pain and trauma. If you or your loved one has suffered sexual abuse in the foster care system, a civil lawsuit can help right the wrong done to your childhood. Contact Sex Crimes Attorney today for a free and confidential consultation.

Reasons Why Foster Children Hesitate To Disclose Sexual Abuse

Children are susceptible to manipulation. This is perhaps why they will often not disclose sexual abuse incidents. When the abuser threatens them, they believe that coming forward with an accusation will only put them in immediate danger. They believe that reporting will have them kicked out. Consequently, an abused child has to choose between sleeping in the cold without food and clothing and remaining silent in a sexually abusive environment.

Fortunately, most children will speak out against their offenders if they have an adult they can trust. Foster children can only be lucky to have a person they firmly believe will not let them down, which is yet another reason child sexual abuse goes unreported. Bouncing from one home to another frequently means that foster children hardly ever build close or long-standing relationships with other children or authority figures. They are not comfortable with anyone enough to disclose an incident. Most of them cope by internalizing their trauma and accepting abuse as a “normal” part of their life.

Additionally, most children go into the foster care system precisely because they were victims in their original homes. Telling the truth “ruined” their families, and these children believe they deserve the cruelty they endure in placement.

If you are fighting trauma, self-esteem problems, depression, and other concerns allied with enduring child sexual abuse in a foster home, it is time to seek the justice you deserve. Let us help you fight to make the people and departments involved accountable for their negligence. Just like Child Service employees fired for reporting poor performance or problematic foster parents, you too can sue the agency for negligence and damages.

Who Is Liable, the Foster Care System, or the Sexual Abuser?

California has a system for family relations courts. It also has child protective service agencies appointed by the state. Therefore, children in the foster care system have the state of California acting in place of their parents or in “loco parentis.” The arrangement also means that the state is the authoritative figure that decides what is in a child’s best interests.

When the state decides to place a child within a specific household, it also has to ensure that the placement will work in the best interests of that child. If it fails to perform its duty of care and the child falls in the hands of a sexual predator, the state is liable for damages caused by the abuse.

Generally, the state has the moral and legal duty to ensure that child placement does not do more harm than good. Foster parents and group homes are agents of the state and act on behalf of California. The California foster care system is hence responsible for its actions.

The claim should be against California’s foster care system when filing a civil lawsuit. This system demonstrates negligence by failing to conduct thorough background checks on prospective group home caregivers or foster parents. You can also sue the foster care system because it was unable to complete diligent follow-ups to ensure your welfare or failed to act and conduct thorough investigations following suspected sexual abuse. Likewise, you have a valid claim if the foster care system knew or should have known about your risk of experiencing sexual abuse within a specific household.

If you survived sexual abuse after being state-ordered into foster care, turn to the Sex Crimes Attorney for a review of your case. The initial consultation will not cost you a dime, not to mention that we work on a contingency basis. You do not have to pay for our services from your wallet. We only win when you win.

Civil Case against California Foster Care System — Example

The Child Protective Services, Department of Social Services, and Foster Care System in California are supposed to ensure the safety and welfare of children in placement homes. These groups should also intervene when a child is abused, neglected, or mistreated. If you had to endure sexual abuse, violence, or assault in a placement home, you could hold these groups liable for your damages.

Following a civil lawsuit decided by a jury in 2018, a young girl obtained a settlement of $45.4 million. The girl endured molestation and sexual abuse in the placement home for years. This is despite having told the authorities about the incidents. The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services was liable for its failure to investigate the concern and remove the girl from her home.

The specifics of your case will help decide the right institution to sue for damages. Generally, you have the right to sue for damages when an institution is negligent for:

  • Failure to do thorough background checks on foster parents before allowing placement

  • Failure to report, investigate, and follow-up a sexual abuse claim

  • A delayed response when following a claim

  • Inability to put sexual abuse claims and reports on record in the system

  • Failure to report a claim to the law enforcement

A proper settlement should cover the following damages:

  • Pain and suffering

  • Psychological anguish and emotional wounds

  • Mental health treatment, including therapy

  • Future physiological or psychological health services

  • Other damages stemming from childhood sexual abuse

Filing a civil lawsuit allows you to make your offenders accountable for their negligence. It also allows you to share your story and protect another child from falling under the care of a sexual predator. A settlement for the economic and non-economic damages suffered will help bring some normalcy into your life, even as you gradually heal the wounds of a dark childhood.

Find A Foster Care Sexual Abuse Attorney Near Me

If you or a loved one experienced sexual abuse in the California Foster Care system, contact us for reliable legal assistance. At the Sex Crimes Attorney, we believe that every child deserves a safe and happy childhood away from threats and exploitation. We understand that the scars and wounds of childhood sexual abuse run deep and want to help you kick start your healing by seeking justice. The system owed you the duty of care to protect you from mistreatment during placement. Depending on the details of your case, we can go against one or multiple parties responsible for your mental anguish, pain, suffering, and lost quality of life. Call us today at 888-666-8480 for a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation.