Sexually Abused In The Foster Care System

In 2014, there were over 400,000 children in the United States living in foster care, reports the Children’s Bureau, a program by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These children often have a difficult life, having to move from temporary home to temporary home. To make matters worse, each of them has a significant chance of sexual abuse at the hands of those responsible for their care.

No child should face such abuse. Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. is here to help children and the family members of children who were sexually abused in the foster care system. Call us today for help: 954-524-2820.

How can I recognize child sexual abuse?

There are no set rules about what behaviors might signal child sexual abuse. It can be especially difficult to determine whether a foster child has experienced sexual abuse. Some of the signs to look for include:

  • Inability to sleep
  • Age inappropriate bed wetting
  • Sexual aggression towards younger children
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Overly reclusive

There are many long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse. Victims tend to experience depression, body issues, eating disorders, stress, and anxiety. They may be self-destructive and also suffer from nightmares and feelings of disorientation. Building successful relationships can also be difficult.

What are some examples of child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse occurs when an adult engages in sexual behavior with a minor. This abuse can include both touching and non-touching actions.

Touching:

  • Groping and fondling
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Forcing child to engage in sexual activity

Non-touching:

  • Exposing oneself to a child
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Forcing a child to watch or hear sexual acts
  • Sexual pictures or comments
  • Child pornography (e.g., taking or distributing photos, etc.)

Child sexual abuse can also happen at the hands of another child, either another foster child or the foster parent’s biological child.

If you faced any of the abuse listed above, you may have a strong case against the abuser and other parties in the foster care system.

Who is liable for child sexual abuse in the foster care system?

The person committing the acts of abuse is clearly responsible for the harm caused to the child. However, s/he is not the only ones responsible. Others involved in the foster care system may also be partially to blame for what occurred. Potential defendants in a child sexual abuse civil suit include:

  • Foster parents (may also be liable for abuse perpetrated by foster children in their care)
  • Foster care agencies
  • Agency staff members
  • Social workers/caseworkers

One common issue among foster care workers is negligent placement. In some cases, agencies receive money each time they place a child with a foster family. If the agency needs to remove the child from the home, the agency could lose the money it received. Because of this, agencies may be motivated to quickly place children without fully evaluating the family and keep them there even if there are reports of abuse. Due to the number of children in the system, agencies may not even be able to monitor the homes for abuse, leaving many children in dangerous situations.

Some common examples of agency negligence include:

  • Failure to perform thorough background checks on foster families
  • Failure to adequately train foster family
  • Failure to provide the foster family with adequate resources
  • Failure to conduct background checks on all agency staff members
  • Failure to closely monitor foster parents and visit foster children
  • Failure to investigate child abuse claims

Filing a Civil Suit for Child Abuse

Foster families and workers may face criminal charges for their abusive and negligent actions. However, the abuse victim and a guardian (if applicable) may also file suit in civil court for damages.

In your civil suit, you may list battery, assault, negligent hiring, negligence, and various other causes of action. Each cause of action requires you to prove certain elements. For example, to prove battery you will need to show that the defendant made intentional and harmful or offensive contact with you. You do not need to have experienced physical harm to prove a battery occurred.

Generally, in most sexual abuse cases, you will need to prove that it was more likely than not that sexual abuse occurred at the hands of the defendant or that child abuse more likely than not occurred as a result of the defendants’ negligence.

If you can establish abuse or negligence to the court’s satisfaction, you will be entitled to damages. These damages can cover everything from medical expenses to pain and suffering. In cases of child sexual abuse, non-economic damages for emotional trauma and mental anguish will likely be significant.

Sexually Abused Children are Entitled to Compensation — We Can Help

It is easy for many people to overlook the signs of sexual abuse among foster care children. These children are vulnerable and do not have many adults they can trust to care for them. The foster care system has its share of problems including understaffing, low budgets, and lack of training. As a result, some children are forced to stay in homes where they face neglect and abuse.

The attorneys at Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. can help you take legal action to protect and support these innocent children or yourself if you are the victim of abuse.

While nothing can erase these horrific instances of abuse, financial support can help you move forward. Our sexual abuse and child molestation attorneys have a genuine desire to protect the rights of child abuse victims and will do whatever they can to assist you.

For more information on child sexual abuse cases, call 954-524-2820.