Friday, October 01, 2010

Sexual Abuse in Foster Care

Have you ever wondered about the rate of sexual abuse experienced by foster care survivors?
  • As many as 75 percent of all children in foster care, upon leaving the system, will have experienced sexual abuse. 
  • 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.
  • Foster children who suffer sexual abuse tend to be those who live with those caregivers who have the least verbal contact with child-welfare workers. 

Benedict, M., Zuravin, S., Brandt, D. and Abbey, H. (1994). Types and frequency of child maltreatment by family foster care providers in an urban population. Child Abuse & Neglect,18 (7): 577-585.
Child Welfare League of America. (2003). Child maltreatment in foster care: CWLA best practice guidelines. CWLA, Inc.: Washington, D.C.
Poertner, J., Bussey, M., & Fluke, J. (1999). How safe are out-of-home placements? Children and Youth Services Review, 21(7): 549-563.
Rosenthal, J., Motz J., Edmondson, D., and Groze, V. (1991). A descriptive study of abuse and neglect in out-of-home placement. Child Abuse and Neglect 15(1): 47-49.
Tittle, G., Poertner, J., Garnier, P. Child maltreatment in out-of-home care: What do we know now? Accessed online at:
Zuravin, S., Benedict, M., and Somerfield, M. (1993). Child maltreatment in family foster care. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 63(4): 589-596.

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Very true, and terribly sad. I saw this article last night, so the topic was already on my mind. This is unacceptable and has to change.
Lisa, that is just unacceptable! What are the reasons for this? I have read that when a child is sexually abused once they are more likely to suffer the same abuse latter in other situations. I wonder if that “set up” plays a role in the cycle…

What can we do to prevent this?
The statistics are simply horrifying. As a Guardian ad Litem, it makes me fearful of what happens to a child if I recommend termination of parental rights. After all, I may be consigning a child to a life in care.

Sunday, the sad fact is that since so many of the kids in foster care are seeking any form of affection and bondedness, they are easily mistreated by anyone vile enough to take advantage of a child who is emotionally and psychologically so vulnerable. And it can set up a cycle of abuse, especially for a child who is not high functioning. One of my current cases involves a 17 year old girl who seeks affection from any male. She was abused in her family and not high enough functioning to know that she doesn't have to gain affection or caring that way. :(
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