Children who are put into the foster care system typically come from difficult home lives. They may have endured abuse or neglect by their parents in their home. Many children suffer from behavioral disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, or other mental or physical issues as a result of the treatment that they received at home. They need caregivers who are able to accommodate their special needs, and they require supportive services including counseling in order to recover from their difficult beginnings.
Unfortunately, this is not often what happens to foster children. Instead, far too often, children are put into situations where their home lives are as bad or worse than the experiences they had with their natural parents. They may move in and out of homes and their caseworkers who are supposed to be protecting them often drop the ball and fail to ensure that these vulnerable children are given even a minimum of safety and security.
Psychology Today describes the way in which foster care victimizes children and explained some of the long-term consequences that result from problems in the foster care system.
According to the Psychology Today article, official statistics show as many as 28 percent of kids are abused while in the foster care system. However, official statistics may be severely underestimating the problem since foster kids are often conditioned not to speak up about the abuse they endure. The author of the article suggests that in interviews with foster children, most believe foster care abuse is a much greater problem than the statistics would suggest.
Unfortunately, the abuse is overlooked because staff members are overwhelmed with their responsibilities, are given too many children to monitor, and have extensive paperwork obligations. The author explains that: "paperwork would often trump the actual visits in priority because it was required in order to keep the agency funded and our jobs intact."
Incentives within the foster system also end up with children being kept in foster families they are assigned to, sometimes resulting in leniency in evaluating the conditions of the foster home so a child does not have to be moved.
This can result in children experiencing a variety of long-term emotional and psychological problems. Children who are being victimized by abuse or who live in unstable foster environments do poorly in school, develop a distrust for authority, and may be more likely to engage in harmful behaviors such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and promiscuity at a younger age. This can have life-long consequences for a foster child.
Children who are in need of help deserve better than the system is giving them. When kids are victimized by abuse and neglect due to institutional failures, it is important that they understand their legal rights and are able to make appropriate damage claims to hold foster care agencies accountable. An attorney can help.