Foster Care Sex Abuse

For many children, the foster care system represents a refuge, a place of safety away from past traumas. However, this system, meant to protect, can sometimes become a ground for further abuse, including sexual exploitation.

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, we recognize the complex and deeply disturbing nature of sexual abuse within foster care. Our firm is dedicated to shining a light on this issue, providing a voice for the voiceless, and advocating for those who have endured unthinkable harm in a system that was supposed to protect them.

Our Firm’s Role in Advocating for Foster Care Abuse Survivors

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, our commitment to the welfare of children extends to those in the foster care system. We offer comprehensive legal support to survivors, guiding them through the complex process of seeking justice.

When you hire us to represent you on your journey toward justice, we will begin by meeting with you and learning more about your story. Our attorneys listen to you and will take the time to go through your legal options with you. If you wish to pursue a lawsuit, we will gather detailed evidence that involves speaking with witnesses, reviewing relevant documents, and consulting with experts. This ensures we have a solid foundation to build a compelling case on your behalf.

Understanding the intricacies of the foster care system is critical in these cases. Our legal team is well-versed in the laws and regulations governing foster care in California. This allows us to navigate the system and challenge its shortcomings effectively. We are adept at identifying instances where the system has failed in its duty to protect children and are committed to holding these institutions accountable.

Our attorneys have had considerable success fighting for foster care sexual abuse survivors in California. One of our most notable cases included two separate settlements totaling $2 million that we obtained on behalf of 2 children who were sexually molested by an unsupervised counselor employed by the state’s largest foster care providers.

The Scope of Sexual Abuse in Foster Care

As of recent data, there are over 60,000 children in the foster care system in California. Sadly, many children in California’s foster care system become victims of sexual abuse. The very nature of the foster care system, with its frequent relocations and various caregivers, can create an environment where abuse goes unnoticed or unreported. The statistics are alarming – studies indicate that children in foster care are at a higher risk of sexual abuse compared to their peers in the general population.

Research conducted by Johns Hopkins University revealed that the likelihood of children in foster care experiencing sexual abuse is four times higher compared to their peers not in foster care. Additionally, the study found that children residing in group homes are subjected to a sexual abuse rate that is 28 times higher than that of other children.

Sexual Abuse in the California Private Foster Care Network

California's private foster care network, which annually receives over $400 million in funding, faces significant scrutiny and concern for endangering children in its care. Despite initial intentions for it to be a safer alternative to the state-run system, recent investigations have cast a worrying light on its operations and safety standards.

California has issued over 5,300 waivers allowing individuals with criminal convictions to become foster parents under the supervision of Foster Family Agencies. This practice raises serious questions about the vetting process and the safety of children in these homes.

In one recent year, the OFCO received 1.391 formal complaints against foster parents and foster care agencies in California. This staggering number of complaints has shed light on the lack of oversight in the already existing system.

Children in homes run by private agencies were found to be about 33% more likely to suffer serious physical, emotional, or sexual abuse compared to those in state-supervised foster family homes. This statistic is particularly alarming and suggests systemic issues within the private foster care system that need to be addressed.

Why Does Sexual Abuse in Foster Care Occur?

When a foster child suffers abuse, the entire system may be called into question. The foster care system itself has limited resources in California, which can result in children being placed in less-than-ideal situations. This increases the risk of sexual abuse occurring. Several factors contribute to the increased risk of sexual abuse in foster care:

Frequent Moves & Instability

Frequent moves and unstable placements leave children feeling insecure and emotionally vulnerable, making them easier targets for predators. Children in California’s foster care system experience frequent placement changes. For instance, children who are in foster care for 24 months or longer, 15% experienced five or more placements, and 44% experienced three or more placements. Frequent changes can contribute to a sense of instability and vulnerability, which may increase the risk of abuse, including sexual abuse.

Lack of Oversight

Background checks need to be conducted on potential foster caregivers. These checks are designed to identify any history of abusive behavior or other red flags that might indicate a risk to children. However, the thoroughness and effectiveness of these background checks can vary significantly. In some cases, they may fail to uncover past behaviors or incidents that would disqualify an individual from becoming a foster parent.

The foster care system often faces pressure to find placements for children quickly. This urgency can sometimes lead to shortcuts in the vetting process. As a result, individuals who are not suitable to be caregivers might be approved. This rush can particularly impact children's quality of care and supervision.

Isolation and Lack of Advocacy

Children in foster care often lack a consistent, supportive adult presence in their lives, leaving them without a trusted person to whom they can report abuse. They might fear not being believed, or they may not even recognize that what they are experiencing is abuse due to a lack of guidance and open communication with a supportive adult.

The absence of a consistent, supportive adult presence can lead to feelings of isolation and vulnerability in children. They may struggle with attachment issues, low self-esteem, and difficulty in trusting adults, all of which can be compounded by previous experiences of abuse or neglect. This also makes them vulnerable targets for predators and abusers.

Who Can Be Held Accountable for Foster Care Sexual Abuse

When a child is placed in multiple homes in a year, this increases the likelihood of abuse occurring. Whether the abuse is committed by a member of the child’s foster family, a neighbor, a program worker, or another party, survivors can hold them accountable.

Direct Abusers

The primary responsibility for sexual abuse lies with the individuals who directly perpetrate these acts, including:

  • Foster parents or adults residing in the foster home.
  • Other children or adolescents living in the same foster home.
  • Employees at group homes or residential care facilities.
  • Other persons who gain access to foster children through the system.
Foster Care Agencies and State Entities

These organizations must ensure the safety and well-being of children in their care. When they fail to do so, they can face liability. They’re responsible for having policies in place that prevent predators from harming children, including:

  • Conducting comprehensive background checks on potential foster parents and staff.
  • Regular monitoring and oversight of foster homes and facilities.
  • Prompt investigation and response to any allegations of abuse or neglect.
  • Ensuring proper reporting of suspected or confirmed cases of abuse.
  • Adequate hiring and training of social workers and other relevant staff.
Mandated Reporters

Certain professionals are legally obligated to report any suspected or known child abuse or neglect. Failure to fulfill this duty can result in liability. Mandated reporters include:

  • Healthcare professionals
  • School personnel, including teachers and administrators
  • Athletic coaches
  • Daycare and camp staff
  • Social workers and law enforcement officials
  • Clergy members

In cases where foster care is a state-run program, there may be specific legal considerations regarding immunity and the timeframe for filing claims. Victims and their families are advised to seek counsel from attorneys experienced in foster care sexual abuse. These legal experts can navigate the system's complexities and guide survivors through seeking justice and compensation.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit After Foster Care Sexual Abuse

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard we can help survivors of foster care sexual abuse bring civil lawsuits against their abusers and the program and system that failed them. This includes claims related to:

  • Lack of training in social workers
  • Negligent hiring
  • Lack of supervision or improper monitoring
  • Inadequate screening of foster families and caregivers
  • Ignoring signs of abuse and complaints of abuse
  • Falsifying reports or covering up abuse

By filing a sexual abuse lawsuit, our attorneys can help you seek justice, hold responsible parties accountable, and contribute to the prevention of future abuse. Through this lawsuit, you can obtain financial compensation for the harm you suffered. This compensation might cover a range of areas, including:

  • Physical and emotional pain
  • Psychological trauma
  • Costs incurred for medical or mental health treatment, both past and future
  • Other damages directly resulting from the abuse

Legal representation in these cases is crucial and can be provided to both minors, through their parents or guardians, and adults who experienced abuse in childhood. Recent legislative changes, such as California's AB 218, have expanded opportunities for adult survivors to file civil claims for abuse that occurred in their childhood, even when previous statutes of limitations would have barred these claims. Under California law, survivors of childhood sexual abuse have until the age of 40, or within five years of the discovery of the abuse, to file a civil lawsuit.

Take a Stand with Us

If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse in foster care, we urge you to come forward. The path to healing begins with the courage to speak up. Start by calling our law firm.

By contacting our law firm, you are seeking legal representation and taking a stand for your rights and dignity. Our team is committed to providing a safe and understanding environment where your story is heard and respected. We understand the sensitive nature of these cases and assure you of our utmost discretion and confidentiality.

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, we are ready to stand with you, fight for your rights, and help you reclaim your power. Contact us today for a confidential consultation and take the first step towards justice and healing.

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