by: Michael Rose
Children are vulnerable, underrepresented and impressionable. Parents and legal guardians should act as children’s protectors and shield them from the darker side of our world until they are capable of picking up a sword and fighting for themselves. Too often do foster children live in a world with two dark sides, without a shield or sword to protect them. Foster care abuse has become even more prevalent as it recently has evolved into a for-profit industry that blatantly capitalizes on the most vulnerable children in our society. These for-profit companies see children’s lives as commodities – getting paid by the government every time they place a child with a foster parent.
Foster care has turned into a billion dollar industry with little government oversight. In fact, the government pays private foster care agencies millions in tax dollars to share the burden of the overloaded public foster care agencies. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the last “Federal Fiscal Year,” over 670,000 children spent time in foster care. It is then no wonder why public foster care agencies are stretched so thin and these children are being placed in private agencies – their resources are limited and over half a million children have needed a place to go. The necessity of placing these children somewhere has been the government’s priority, whereas monitoring the safety of these children after placement is left in the agencies’ discretion with little to no government oversight.
Abuse in foster care systems is becoming more prevalent as the industry becomes more privatized since there is an additional incentive to place these children in homes – money. Congress only recently started launching investigations into privatized foster care companies once countless foster children deaths and outrageously high abuse rates surfaced. Foster child abuse easily goes unnoticed due to a lack of screening the foster parents, monitoring the safety of the children, following up on claims of abuse, and deficient protocols for the children to understand and report abuse in the first place. Virtually all children in foster care are placed there due to some sort of neglect or abuse in their household. Having been neglected or abused may lead these children to think that this sort of behavior from parents or guardians is normal. Viewing abusive behavior as normal discourages these children from speaking up and reporting such behavior. By raising awareness of the problems and signs of abuse can help protect these children from being subject to it. Some warning signs of child abuse and/or neglect include:
- Anti-social behavior, such as withdrawal from friends or usual activities
- Unexplained injuries, or injuries inconsistent to explanation
- Lack of needed medical treatment
- Depression or anxiety
- Reluctance to go home
- Poor hygiene
- Inappropriate sexual knowledge and/or behavior
- Difficulty sitting and/or walking
- Taking or hiding food, money, clothes or supplies
- Suicidal behavior or attempts
While this list is not exclusive, a child displaying any of the above warning signs may be indicative of abuse or neglect. If a child is displaying some concerning behavior, you should seek help immediately and keep in mind that health care professionals are legally required to report all suspected cases of child abuse and/or neglect to the authorities. This can sometimes have the unfortunate effect of having children taken away from their parents or legal guardians and then placed in a foster home with even worse conditions and less safety monitoring. It is therefore vital when reporting a suspected case of abuse that you do not make bold or baseless accusations, but provide the doctor with accurate information and observations.
If you are the parent or guardian of a foster child who you believe has been abused or neglected, contact an attorney who can inform you on your legal options to help protect the rights of the foster child and get justice for their injuries.