A foster family is supposed to care for the children they are trusted with. The environment should be nurturing and protective and not pose any threats to children.
Imagine how dreadful it must be if that environment becomes dangerous. Imagine the betrayal if a child in foster care is sexually abused.
One of the important aspects to be considered when appointing foster parents is to make sure neither one is a sexual abuse offender. This is not always easy, but those that have been released on parole will have a probation parole officer, who will be able to prevent any sexual offender from becoming a foster parent.
Sexual abuse in foster care
Most of the children placed in foster care are vulnerable because they come from unfortunate, and even dangerous, contexts and backgrounds. They are placed in foster homes where they can be looked after, feel safe, and hopefully be loved. If a child in this context has any sexual behavior forced on them, they are being sexually abused. This is not only a violation of the children’s rights but is a complete betrayal of them within the foster care system.
In fact, this issue is also significant for the foster care system. The problem is that the idea of putting children into foster care may be seen as being dangerous for the children, rather than helping them. The system itself will suffer.
Support for Victims
It’s absolutely vital that the victims of sexual abuse in foster care receive help. This can be in the form of counseling sessions, support groups, interventions by social workers, investigation by the police, and the assistance of a lawyer.
Often, other people close to a child who is sexually abused in foster care are secondary victims and also need support. They should seek help from support groups, other relatives, or social workers.
Filing a case for sexual abuse in foster care
A person who was sexually abused in foster care can file a case until they are 40 years old and within 5 years of the effects of the abuse being discovered.
The first step in filing a case for sexual abuse in foster care is to acknowledge that the abuse has taken place and that harm has been done.
Before proceeding with filing any claim, it’s important that the victim seeks support – from a social worker, family members, or a support group. Ideally, the victim will be able to find legal counsel, because they’ll need the support of a lawyer, as well as their input when the case is reported.
Then, the abuse must be reported to the police. The victim must do this in person, so they will need to be accompanied by someone who will support them. This may be a social worker or another support person. If the victim has legal counsel, then they will accompany them.
The lawyer will have to open a case for an instance of abuse. As a first step, this is likely to be a civil lawsuit, but it may evolve into a criminal lawsuit.
The victim must work with their lawyer to identify who is responsible for the abuse. Hopefully, the abuser will be easily identified. It may also be that the victim will choose to sue the foster agency, or even the foster system itself. The victim’s lawyer will advise them in this regard.
The police will require evidence of the abuse. This may be physical if the abuse has occurred recently. It will also be psychological. This means that the victim must be assessed by a psychologist, as their report will be vital.
The police will need to conduct interviews and other research to gather evidence.
Challenges faced by survivors
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing victims of sexual abuse in foster care is their sense of safety. As vulnerable children, they will undoubtedly find it challenging to feel entirely safe. Once their newfound stability and security in a foster home are betrayed by a sexual abuser, they will find it difficult to feel that they are not likely to become a victim again.
As they develop through life, survivors will find relationships a challenge, especially those that are intimate. They may also tend towards violence and even sexual dysfunction.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse in foster care is a harsh reality, although it isn’t often highlighted. Statistics show that there is quite a high percentage of children in foster care who are sexually abused. It’s quite shocking to know that, of these, only about a third report the incidents.
This is why it’s vital that there is a greater awareness of the possibility of sexual abuse of children in foster care. The system needs to pay more attention to the choice of foster parents, and members of the public need to advocate for awareness campaigns.