Posts Tagged ‘foster care’

Last year in Texas, there were 58,644 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect. That’s one child victimized every 9 minutes!

60% of these victims were 6 years old or younger!

If these statistics aren’t sobering enough, 48,795 children were in Texas’ child protection system – a system that in December 2015, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled it failed to protect the children in its care – ultimately violating their constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. 

The 2016 Department of Family & Protective Services Data Book revealed that 222 children died due to abuse or neglect! If that many pets were killed from abuse, every news outlet across the country would be reporting on it! But when a child dies from abuse there is rarely more than a blip on the news outlets! 

In 2017 New Hampshire’s nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, was named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the state and the Division for Children, Youth & Families for the alleged sexual assaults on two young girls while in DCYF care.

Bedford attorney Rus Rilee sued the state, Easter Seals of New Hampshire and CASA NH on behalf of the adoptive parents of two girls, J.B. and N.B., who were “horrifically” sexually assaulted by their biological parents while the DCYF, CASA and Easter Seals were supposed to be supervising the case, according to the lawsuit. 

The biological parents are serving life prison sentences after they were convicted of assaulting the girls during unsupervised visits arranged by the DCYF and CASA, and videotaping the assaults. The girls were ages 4 and 18 months at the time. 

But Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson ruled that the judicial immunity that protects a judge from legal action extends to CASA-NH, because its volunteers act as an arm of the court by advocating for the interests of abused children. Abramson explained that CASA’s role in recruiting, training and supervising volunteers, known as “guardians ad litem,” entitles the organization to the same immunity protections. Attorney Rus Rilee, who represents the children’s grandparents, appealed Abramson’s decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 

In May of 2018 the state had agreed to pay $6.75 million to settle a suit brought by the grandparents of two young girls who were sexually abused by their parents while under the supervision of New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families. 

Under the settlement, each child will receive $3.125 million and their grandparents, who have adopted the girls, will receive $500,000. The money will come from the state’s general fund and be released as soon as Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson officially signs off on the deal, said Rus Rilee, the attorney representing the family. “They’re not doing well.” Rilee said. “They need serious treatment. And now they’re going to be able to afford it.” 

CASA volunteers, mostly middle class and overwhelmingly white, march into the homes of people who are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately people of color. Then they pass judgment on the families and recommend whether they should get their children back. Judges routinely rubber-stamp their recommendations. The demographic information, and the information about judges’ behavior, can be found in the most comprehensive study ever done of CASA – a study commissioned by the National CASA Association itself.

But that wasn’t all the study found. As Youth Today reported at the time, the study “delivers some surprisingly damning numbers”:

  • The study found that CASA’s only real accomplishments were to prolong the time children languished in foster care and reduce the chance that the child will be placed with relatives.
  • The study found no evidence that having a CASA on the case does anything to improve child safety—so all that extra foster care is for nothing. 
  • The study found that when a CASA is assigned to a child who is black, the CASA spends, on average, significantly less time on the case. The study also found that CASAs don’t spend as much time on cases as the organization’s public relations may lead people to believe.

CASA volunteers reported spending an average of only 4.3 hours per month on cases involving white children, and 2.67 hours per month on cases involving black children.

No matter how desperately they try to spin the findings, the problem is built into the CASA model itself. So they need a better model.

CASAs still can perform a useful service as mentors to foster children and in advocating for services. But children need a real voice in court, a lawyer with a mandate to fight for what is best for the child, and not what’s most convenient for the courts.

I have experienced this myself when CPS placed our grandson in our care. Over a period of months, a CASA worker only visited us one time—and even then, only spent a few minutes talking to us long enough to sign some papers—and never even spoke to our grandson!

DHHS was even worse. Although our grandson’s pediatrician, the pediatrician’s phycologist, and our grandson’s former therapist all agreed that he needed further therapy, DHHS refused to allow us to take him to therapy. We even offered to pay for his therapy ourselves, but they still refused. Their reason? Our grandson had already graduated six weeks of family and group therapy and therefore did not need more therapy.

I don’t believe these are isolated cases.

When children enter the long-term care of the state, there is a general perception that they’ve been saved, and no further help for them is needed. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The sad reality is that kids languishing in foster care means a lifetime of damage and trauma; and they tend to experience bleak outcomes such as homelessness, incarceration, mental health illnesses and attachment and abandonment issues.

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” If this quote is to be believed, where does that leave us?

When most people think of the homeless, they think of the mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics that would rather live off of the money they beg for on the street than to get a real job. But there is a large part that makes up a much darker side of the homeless community: Homeless youth. 

Homelessness among young people is a serious issue. Homeless youth in our communities are individuals who lack parental, foster or institutional care. They are the ones who have become invisible to most and an irritation to some.The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse, and death. It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide. 

Common Reasons Why Youth Become Homeless:

Family problems: Many youths run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the parents cannot afford to care for them.

Transitions from foster care: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets.

Abuse in Foster Care

When there is suspicion of abuse or neglect in the home, child welfare services may intervene and the child can be removed from the family and be placed into protective services and eventually into foster care. Unfortunately, many of these children end up being abused and neglected in the foster homes that were supposed to be a safe haven for them. As a result, homeless youth often become frustrated and rather than continuing to endure the abuse, they resign themselves to a life on the streets alone. 

According to a report issued by Julie Rogers, the inspector general of Nebraska Child Welfare, At least 50 Nebraska children, some as young as 4 years old, had suffered sexual abuse while in the state’s care or after being placed in an adoptive or guardianship home from July 2013 through October 2016. All of the cases were reported to the state’s child abuse hotline and all were substantiated, either by the courts or by child welfare officials. Few details were released on the cases. According to another report issued by Rogers, sexual abuse and suicidal behavior among children in the care of the state increased again last year. There were 45 reports of child sexual abuse during 2017-18.

During the same 2017-18 period, there were two suicides and 52 suicide attempts involving youths whose care falls under the state umbrella. The previous year, there had been one suicide and 45 suicide attempts. The 52 attempts involved 49 youths, three of whom made multiple attempts. 

Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes. These young people often flee abuse at home or in foster care, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours after leaving home. And the average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen. 

These children often grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes where love and affection are absent. Instead of protection, many times these children receive brutal treatment. Their self-esteem is beaten to the point of feeling unworthy of any respect or fair treatment. They are insulted, humiliated, threatened, yelled at and isolated. They endure repeated sexual abuse—sometimes from several perpetrators. All of these factors may contribute to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional problems which lead them to start using drugs as a way to cope. 

28% of youth living on the street and 10% of those in shelters engage in what is often referred to as “survival sex”. (Exchanging sex for money, food, drugs or a place to stay) Most of these children come from horrific living conditions. They find themselves vulnerable, desperate, and in need of surviving. They require basic needs like food and shelter; therefore, they give into survival sex. 

The situation for these youth is dire. But there is help available for homeless youth in our community. The Youth Emergency Services (YES) has a shelter that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with youth workers, counselors and homeless youth advocates. The shelter is available to youth ages 16 to 20.

Youth seeking shelter services are screened to ensure appropriate placement and safety of the residents. The emergency shelter is a family-style residence with separate sleeping areas for male and female clients. Youth share meals, television and computer privileges, and recreation and laundry facilities in a community area.

A trained staff of counselors, advocates and youth workers spends individual, focused time with residents to help them work through the problems they face. YES exists to help these youth turn their lives around. You can find out more about YES volunteer opportunities and ways to to help at: https://www.yesomaha.org 

We need to change our mindset and preconceived ideas about these helpless children that lead us to make erroneous conclusions. Many of us may have looked the other way and denied ourselves the opportunity to help. It may be that the assumptions made in regards to the homeless youth are what is preventing us from aiding and reaching out to them. If we did, perhaps there would not be over one million of our youth living on the streets each year in the United States.

 

Parents, with their children in tow, have been coming in droves to our borders seeking a better life for their children and families. Many of the parents brought their children on the long and dangerous trek because they hoped that America would have more pity on those with children. Most were escaping the gang violence and poverty in their own country, so it’s easy to understand why a loving parent would put their children through so much for a chance for a better life.

Actually, it’s not much different than when the Pilgrims made their dangerous trip to the “New World” to escape the tyranny of the King of England. Or the new settlers on the frontier. They also brought their children with them on their dangerous journey. And people consider them heroic.

Americans already upset at the images of thousands of children being separated from their parents and being housed in cages, were even more shocked and outraged at the recent death of a seven year old immigrant who died while in custody of Border Security officers. Many were incensed at some of the politicians who casted the blame for this little girl’s death on her parents. 

But where is the outrage at the thousands of American children who are abused and killed every year—Many by their own parents? The American Society For The Positive Care For Children States that 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect in 2016. That same year there was also 4.1 million child maltreatment referral reports received. And 143,866 children were placed in foster care. 78.0% of child fatalities involve at least one parent. 70.0% of child fatalities are under the age of 3. And nearly 50% of children who die from child abuse are under one year old! ( https://americanspcc.org/adverse-childhood-experiences/ )

Our Broken Foster Care System

Many of the immigrant children were placed in for-profit foster care facilities across the nation. Children placed in a for-profit foster care system are dying at alarming rates, but the deaths are not being investigated! And autopsies are not even being attached to the now-closed case files, a two-year investigation has found. (https://theintercept.com/2017/10/18/foster-care-children-deaths-mentor-network/) The report cited news accounts of children placed in homes with individuals who had been convicted of kidnapping and other serious crimes, with foster-parents who had substance abuse problems, and in homes where caretakers had previously failed foster care placements. What is most shocking is that between 50-60% of maltreatment fatalities are not recorded on death certificates!

Child Sexual Abuse: The silent Epidemic

Roughly 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will experience sexual abuse. It is a sad fact that children are the most vulnerable among us and also the least equipped to advocate for themselves. Because of the #MeToo movement more and more survivors of sexual violence and sexual harassment are coming forward to share their stories. But for the most part, the focus of #MeToo has been on adult victims of workplace sexual misconduct. This has to change! Almost 60,000 children are sexually abused every year. Over 90% knew their perpetrator very well—A step-parent, relative, or caregiver. 

It is time for the women and men of #MeToo to advocate for children as ardently as they do for adults. Removing stigma is key, and encouraging survivors to disclose their own experiences will help others feel safe enough to come forward. We must disrupt the silence, because silence benefits only perpetrators, never victims.

 

Consequences For the Victims

  • Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
  • Abused teens are more likely to engage in sexual risk taking behaviors, putting them at greater risk for STDs.
  • About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
  • In at least one study, about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
  • The financial cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States is estimated at $585 billion! 

Children living through abuse, violence and other traumatic events unnecessarily suffer the ill effects for the rest of their lives. These life-altering events are called Adverse Childhood Experiences. (ACEs) Positive parenting and protecting our children from harm prevents the harmful effects of ACEs. Children who are nurtured and supported throughout childhood are more likely to thrive and develop into happy, healthy, and productive adults. 

Each state has its own requirements for reporting abuse. Some states require that every adult who suspects abuse makes a report. Other states very clearly define which persons and professions are required to make reports. It is important to know the reporting laws in your state. (You do not have to be certain that abuse has occurred to make a report). In Nebraska, everyone is a mandatory reporter. This means that not only physicians, medical institutions, nurses, school employees and  social workers are mandated to report abuse, but any person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect is required by law to make a report to the CPS Hotline and/or Law Enforcement. (Nebraska Revised Statute 28-711)

I strongly suggest that non-professional people contact local Law Enforcement. Recently, an Omaha elementary teacher was convicted of sexually abusing at least 7 young children on school grounds. One was a 7 year old girl! That same week an Omaha assistant principal was convicted of having sex with a 15 year old girl and her younger sister! Both were accused of sexually abusing children in other states. And neither schools reported to police. It was only reported to police after the parents found out. And they reported it.

Why is it only when things like this happen that people become shocked and outraged and speak out against the perpetrators? This is happening every day in some child’s home—by someone they trust!

I was even more shocked when I heard an Omaha police spokesperson say that “hopefully these children will get over it soon.”

Get over it? Their innocence and childhood has been destroyed, and you think they will get over it? It will take years and years of therapy and support before they will be able to live with it. But they will never get over it.

If you have a child you must be diligent to protect them from sexual predators—from without and from within. 

“Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are essential to prevent child maltreatment and to assure that children reach their full potential.” – CDC