Abuse and negligence
Children in foster care experience high rates of child abuse, emotional deprivation, and physicalneglect. In one study in the United Kingdom “foster children were 7–8 times, and children in residential care 6 times more likely to be assessed by a pediatrician for abuse than a child in the general population”. One study by Johns Hopkins University found that the rate of sexual abuse within the foster-care system is more than four times as high as in the general population; in group homes, the rate of sexual abuse is more than 28 times that of the general population. An Indiana study found three times more physical abuse and twice the rate of sexual abuse in foster homes than in the general population. A study of foster children in Oregon and Washington State found that nearly one third reported being abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home. These statistics do not speak to the situation these children are coming from, but it does show the very large problem of child-on-child sexual abuse within the system. There have been several notable lawsits concerning sexual abuse and negligence that caused review of the foster care system in some states:
In 2010, an ex-foster child was awarded $30 million by jury trial in California (Santa Clara County) for sexual abuse damages that happened to him in his foster home from 1995 to 1999. The foster parent, John Jackson, was licensed by the state, despite the fact that he abused his own wife and son, overdosed on drugs and was arrested for drunken driving. In 2006, Jackson was convicted in Santa Clara County of nine counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child by force, violence, duress, menace and fear, and seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. The sex acts that he forced the children in his foster care to perform sent him to prison for 220 years. Later in 2010, Giarretto Institute, the private foster family agency responsible for licensing and monitoring Jackson’s foster home and others, was also found to be negligent and liable for 75 percent of the abuse that was inflicted on the victim, and Jackson himself was liable for the rest.
In 2009, Oregon Department of Human Services agreed to pay $2 million into a fund for the future care of twins who were allegedly abused by their foster parents; this was the largest such settlement in the agency’s history. According to the civil rights suit filed on request of the twins’ adoptive mother in December 2007 in U.S. Federal Court, the children were kept in makeshift cages—cribs covered with chicken wire secured by duct tape—in a darkened bedroom known as “the dungeon.” The brother and sister often went without food, water or human touch. The boy, who had a shunt put into his head at birth to drain fluid, did not receive medical attention, so when police rescued the twins he was nearly comatose. The same foster family previously took into their care hundreds of other children over nearly four decades. DHS said the foster parents deceived child welfare workers during the checkup visits.
Several lawsuits were brought in 2008 against the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF), accusing it of mishandling reports that Thomas Ferrara, 79, a foster parent, was molesting young girls. The suits claimed that even though there were records of sexual misconduct allegations against Ferrara in 1992, 1996, and 1999, the DCF continued to place foster children with Ferrara and his then-wife until 2000. Ferrara was arrested in 2001, after a 9-year-old girl told detectives he regularly molested her over two years and threatened to hurt her mother if she told anyone. Records show that Ferrara had as many as 400 children go through his home during his 16 years as a licensed foster parent (from 1984 to 2000). Officials stated that the lawsuits over Ferrara ended up costing the DCF almost $2.26 million. Similary, in 2007 Florida‘s DCF paid $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged DCF ignored complaints that another mentally disabled Immokalee girl was being raped by her foster father, Bonifacio Velazquez, until the 15-year-old gave birth to a child.
In a class action lawsuit Charlie and Nadine H. v. McGreevey was filed in federal court by “Children’s Rights” New York organization on behalf of children in the custody of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The complaint alleged violations of the childrens’ constitutional rights and their rights under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment, 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA). In July 2002, the federal court granted plaintiffs’ experts access to 500 children’s case files, allowing plaintiffs to collect information concerning harm to children in foster care through a case record review. These files revealed numerous cases in which foster children were abused, and DYFS failed to take proper action. On June 9, 2004, the child welfare panel appointed by the parties approved the NJ State’s Reform Plan. The court accepted the plan on June 17, 2004. The same organization also filed similar lawsuits against several other states in recent years that caused some of the states to start child welfare reforms.
In the United Kingdom a convicted pedophile was allowed to become a foster parent despite having served three years in prison for sexually abusing a Boy Scout. The convicted pedophile – David Mason – was allowed to have a foster child placed with him because the Kent County Council did not have his identity checked. Mason is currently incarcerated for numerous charges including rape.