Today’s Investigative Special Report – October 30, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “Are Foster Care Children And Parents At Risk When Dealing With Children Who Are Sexual Assault Victims?”

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc
Length of stay in U.S. foster care
Length of stay in U.S. foster care (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Forensic Expert – Senior Author
Too often foster care parents accept children into their homes which child protective services have little to no information about who these children are. Further, there hasn’t been sufficient time to perform a complete and thorough background about the historical make-up of the children. A significant aspect of understanding, who these children are, comes from the information law enforcement and child protective services are able to obtain in a short period.
Therefore, for foster care parents who are willing to bring children into their home it is sometimes like rolling the dice.  The reasons are simple: One, children who have been sexually assaulted rarely tell others that they were assaulted; two, specifically disclosing the information that they were sexually assaulted to strangers (foster care parents) who have the power to make decisions about their well-being.  These children live in fear for at least the first 72 hours which provides them the time to adapt to their new environment and the people who live 
The stories are numerous about a child who is sexually assaulted by her father, removed from her home, and placed in a foster care home where there are younger children. After a period of time one of the children comes forward and discloses to their foster care mother that the newly placed child sexually assaulted her and her siblings. Sometimes the sexual assaults involve the foster care parent’s biological children.
So what went wrong? Did the criminal justice system fail to assess and investigate the child they were required by law to place into foster care? Whose responsibility is it to make sure that the child they removed from the unsafe environment, did not, and then become a sexual predator as well.  Then given the opportunity may sexually assault the child’s peers or younger children in the foster care home.
14020 PATH North Dakota Foster Care
14020 PATH North Dakota Foster Care (Photo credit: bsabarnowl)
Does the criminal justice system create more child monsters and child sexual assault victims? The answer seems complex, but if you examine and explore how the child protective service system works, the answers will become apparent. Caseworkers who identify a child sexual assault victim is required to remove the child from her home and place her in a safe home where she will be free from any sexual assaults. The problem which often occurs is the child needs to only fear themselves, as they don’t understand what a normal life style is and after a period of time they sexually assault their peers or children in the foster home.
This cyclical criminal justice foster care structure is perpetuated by a system where the checks and balances are fraught with holes, failures, excuses, and a need to follow-up in having the foster children psychologically and physiologically examined. The system knows that for the most part the foster child became a victim of an individual who had authority over them e.g. their father, step-father, and, etc., and for some unknown reason the mother or father of the child decided not to protect the child, resulting in the child’s removal and placement into foster care.
This is commonly seen where the mother doesn’t believe her daughter for whatever reason(s) and will not ask the father to leave the house. The criminal justice system has no other choice but to intervene and remove the child from an environment where she is no longer safe; she needs to be protected from the alleged perpetrator.
The problem the criminal justice system faces is in the foster care program the protocols and procedures for children who are placed into the foster care system (due to time constraints) there is minimal emphasis on having the child evaluated (prior to placement) to ascertain if the child may be a danger to their peers or children in the foster care home.
Most counseling and therapy for the foster care child is developed by the child protective service caseworker with the assistance of the foster care parents. The program allegedly surrounds the needs of the child and upon being placed into the foster care system begins the counseling and therapy process. However, all of this takes time and the child may not understand that sexually touching another child is not appropriate.
A policy should be developed and instituted that when a child is a sexual assault victim and she/he is placed in a foster care home where children of the same age or younger are already present, than an immediate ‘danger assessment’ needs to take place. The theme should always be if other children are present their safety needs to be the number one priority, under any and all circumstances. Failure to abide by this policy and process should bring major consequences for anyone in the criminal justice system who has the responsibility of placing children into an environment where other children are put at risk.
Becoming a foster care parent can be intense as the background which is performed on the individuals is productive, complete, thorough, and etc. Decades ago the applying foster care parent could be a foster care parent by simply putting down in the application they had never been arrested. This application was too simple and allowed pedophiles to enter the system. After some explosive and extensive media coverage of foster care parents sexually assaulting their foster children, allowing 
English: Orange Grove House.
English: Orange Grove House. "Where Children Grow and Blossom". A Foster care agency headquarters. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
sexual assaults to occur in the home due to the lack of supervision, neglect and inhumane issues, new applications and approval protocols and procedures were put into place. Still there will be applicants who will slip through the cracks; no system however stringent will be perfect.
The reality of the foster care system is things don’t always work out in the manner they should. The problems which are many may include the false allegations made by a foster child that one of the parents allegedly sexually assaulted them. Once the allegations have been investigated and the parent is exonerated of the criminal charges, the one time foster care parent will not return to this profession. This is unfortunate as the program needs experienced, educated, and trained foster care parents.
Examining statistics in the foster care system provides a different analysis and clear understanding of what the foster care system is all about. In an article written by Donna Gillespie Foster (2000) titled, “Fostering the sexually abused child” states, “My family fostered for seventeen years and at least 60% of the children were sexually abused. Some of the social workers knew this up front and shared this information with me. Others didn't know, and I only found out through the behaviors of the children and things they said.”
Gillespie’s article is disturbing in that depending on who the social worker was she would decide to tell her which child was sexually assaulted and which child wasn’t. Failure to advise the foster care parent that the child they are placing in their home had been sexually assaulted is like putting a stick of dynamite into her coat pocket as she walks into the foster care placement.
There are three reasons why foster care parents need to know why a child has been sexually assaulted. They are:
1.      If a child has been sexually assaulted then their behavior may include sexually acting out towards adults or children in the home. Further, the child may have emotional, mental, and physical issues that the foster parent can’t deal with if they have no knowledge that the child was assaulted or neglected.
2.      If a child has been sexually assaulted she may create a cycle of sexual assaults where she either sexually assaults peers or the younger children in the home. Her manipulative ways may be threatening not only to the other children in the home, but to the foster care parents. A well-meaning foster care parent may be manipulated into doing something for the child that he/she would generally not do.
3.      If a child has been sexually assaulted she may become a victim of one of the foster care parents who would generally not have sexually assaulted a child, but the child in her presentation attempts to be sexual towards the parent and in return the parent sexually assaults the child. The child may fall victim to other sexual assault child victims in the home for a multitude of reasons. The child may believe that sexually touching amongst the other children is socially acceptable and is unable to draw boundaries which are appropriate or inappropriate. The child may become aggressive and prey upon the weaker child, especially those children who are placed into the home for similar reasons and are emotionally and mentally imbalanced from being sexual assault victims.
There is no doubt that the foster care system struggles in the manner in which it is structured, organized, and operated. The foster care system has been established for decades and over the years the programs and the people who work within the guidelines, protocols, procedures, and
English: View of exterior of Forestdale, a fos...
English: View of exterior of Forestdale, a foster care agency in Queens, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 policies have had to learn how to make changes when needed and necessary.
Credit should be given to the criminal justice system which works hand in hand with the foster care programs. There needs to be continual support for those who want to be foster care parents and those who already are, support and praise should be given to them on a daily basis. Law enforcement officials, child protective service case workers, counselors, therapists, medical personnel, and others who make the foster care program function are brave, courageous and deserve everyone’s support.
No system is ever going to work perfectly. In the foster parent care system children for the most part are given the opportunity to live in an environment which is safe and free from violence, mental and emotional abuse, and inconsistency of someone who cares and loves them. Sometimes children who were severely sexually assaulted may in return sexually assault their peers and younger children in the foster care home. Steps need to be taken to reduce re-victimizing a child who is in the home because she/he was sexually assaulted and needed a safe haven from being sexually assaulted.
Psychological assessments need to be performed as soon as possible of children who are victims of sexual assaults. There will always be children who are placed in a foster care home for other reasons than sexual assaults. However, this child may need attention until she/he is assessed as if they were a victim of sexual assaults then they may become the perpetrator. In any and all foster care situations it is important that children are protected and live in a safe environment.

Lawrence W. Daly
Kent, WA

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