Foster Care Law

Foster Care Abuse

Although the foster care system attempts to place children in safer, more stable environments, abuse is unfortunately present in this system. Foster care abuse may consist of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and mental or emotional abuse.

Child welfare agencies and law enforcement take these allegations seriously, as children often fear retaliation from reporting, feel they have no adult they can trust, or do not think anyone will believe them. Foster care abuse allegations may lead to criminal charges which can have substantial legal implications for the foster parents or guardians accused.

Signs of Abuse and Reporting Requirements

The abuse a child in foster care may endure may take a number of forms. Some indications or signs a child you know may be suffering from foster case abuse are:

  • Changes in mood or lashing out
  • Anxiety
  • Bed-wetting
  • Poor hygiene including dental health
  • Poor grades or truancy
  • Broken bones
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Scrapes
  • Headaches
  • Nightmares

If you fear a child you know is suffering from neglect or abuse in their foster care placement, you can report the abuse to the police or child welfare services. Depending on your profession, you may be a mandated reporter required to report any suspected child neglect or abuse. Some states also require anyone who is suspicious of a child being abused to report it to the proper authorities.

Typically, you may be asked to give the child's name, age, and description of the injuries or symptoms along with the location of the foster home or family and any information you know related to the possible abuse. If you have questions about reporting and taking steps to protect a child, speaking with an attorney that handles foster care abuse cases may help guide you through this process.

Foster Care Abuse Allegations

Whether the allegations are true or false, foster care abuse allegations should be taken seriously. Reports of abuse may come from mandated reporters like medical staff, school personnel, or case workers along with other family members or friends. Occasionally, accusations are falsely made by a parent or family member if custody is in dispute or as an attempt to have the child taken out of the foster care system.

Investigations of Foster Care Abuse

Often foster children do not feel comfortable or safe reporting abuse, so any indication of abuse is taken seriously and investigated. Child welfare agencies alongside law enforcement conduct investigations to see if the report of abuse is substantiated or false. These investigations can be extensive, consisting of interviewing foster parents or guardians, foster home staff, doctors or teachers, or other people who may interact with the child.

Intervention and Removal

If the investigation proves the allegation to be true, the next steps of intervention and possibly removal will depend on the situation. In instances like a foster parent forgetting to put a seat belt on a child, the intervention may consist of parenting classes or meeting with a social worker to remedy the issue.

However, if the abused or neglected child is in danger, the child will most often be removed from the foster care placement and moved to a new one. For foster parents or kinship arrangements, this may result in criminal charges along with the state deeming they are unfit to foster children again. For staff members in a foster home, criminal charges may also be brought as well as being prohibited from working in any childcare facilities or similar employment again.

All reports of abuse in the foster care system are recorded in a central registry, whether substantiated or not, to allow child welfare professionals to track any possible patterns and help give children safe placements. It is crucial to understand foster care abuse allegations are very serious and may lead to criminal charges. If you have been charged with abuse as a foster parent, then you may wish to consult with an attorney who has experience defending against child welfare agencies to help you better understand your rights and your situation.