Friday, February 10, 2012

The High Cost of Foster Care Abuse

FLUSHING, NY, February 09, 2012

More than 500,000 children in the U.S. reside in some form of foster care. Within one year of their initial placement, at least 15 percent of them will experience neglect, abuse, or other harmful conditions. Six times as many children die in foster care than in the general population. Children in placement are also far more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than other children. In group homes, where many of the residents abuse each other, there is more than ten times the rate of physical abuse and 28 times the rate of sexual abuse as in the general population. And these are just the reported cases. Since foster care agencies cannot always be relied upon to police themselves, the actual rates are likely to be much higher.

Lawsuits are a necessary consequence of foster care abuse. Often, they provide the only means for victims to seek monetary compensation for grievous harm. They are also instrumental in publicizing these tragedies, forcing state and private foster care providers to account for their actions and, hopefully, rectify them. Here is a sampling of recent foster care abuse lawsuits:

A Florida mother accused state and local child care providers of failing to protect her son from sexual abuse. Placed at age 10, the child was moved to 11 different foster homes in an 18 month period and twice attempted suicide.

Three young Maryland men filed suit against an agency that had notice of a sexually abusing foster father but failed to take action. The agency specialized in placements for children and adolescents with mental disabilities as well as brain and spinal cord injuries.

A lawsuit on behalf of a young girl repeatedly raped in foster care over a period of ten months was filed in Philadelphia. The rapist, who was not supposed to be residing in the home, was the foster mother's teen-aged son.

Lawyers in Colorado sued agency social workers on behalf of three boys placed in an adoptive home. Although the adoptive parents knew the boys had been abused in their biological home, social workers failed to warn them of just how heinous and extensive the abuse had been. The children engaged in incestuous acts with each other, necessitating strenuous efforts on the part of the adoptive parents to prevent the abuse. Ultimately, the strain of caring for the children caused the adoptive parents to divorce.

The payout for such lawsuits can be quite substantial. New Jersey has spent $51.7 million in 317 lawsuits brought on behalf of abused foster children dating as far back as 1996. Since 2005, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) has paid out more than $3.4 million in civil lawsuit settlements. In a recently settled class action lawsuit involving foster care abuse, Oklahoma DHS spent $7 million in outside attorney fees in defense of the lawsuit, with $2 million more set aside for future costs. Additional class action lawsuits are pending on behalf of thousands of foster children in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Texas. Even when such cases do not result in monetary awards to the original plaintiffs, attorney fees can run well into the millions.

Foster care abuse exacts an enormous toll in emotional, psychological and physical damage. Lawsuits filed on behalf of these injured children, while essential, are prohibitively expensive for state and local governments. In a better world, all those tens of millions would be spent on preventing the very problems that put children in foster care in the first place. Sometimes, the price for the harm that results from the remedy is just too high.

Written by Ruth C. Stern on behalf of Orlow, Orlow & Orlow, New York Personal Injury Lawyers located at 7118 Main Street, Flushing, NY 11367

Phone: 212-203-4053

1 comment:

  1. Foster care abuse rate is high. So we are trying to decrease foster care abuse rate. I think this post has high educative value.
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