The shortage of foster homes in most states and the problematic issues in foster care point to a serious need of our institutions for more effective and caring approach to child protective services.  KARA does not fault the people doing the work.  They are doing what they can with the training and resources available.


Fixing the problems this article brings to light will require an informed and involved community and government.  click here to find out how to make this happen.

Two things in the news recently shined a bright light on how cruel and misguided the foster system can be.  This Star Tribune piece by Chris Serres about MN State Law making things worse for foster children is just one community failure that hurts abused children making their odds for early pregnancy, school failure and life in the justice system more likely.

HIs article describes Nathanial Hurse, a 69 year-old long-time social worker stepping forward to foster his grandchild and being refused by the State because of a 40 year old burglary conviction.

The other article is about the Supreme Court deciding if cities can influence agencies refusing to serve gay couples adopting state ward children.

If the Supreme Court decides that adoption agencies can refuse gay couples adoption rights, we will see a whole new population of teen aged state ward children on their way to leading dysfunctional lives.  80% is the statistic that has been around for a very long time and i don’t see how it can improve with our current disregard for the humanity required for meaningful foster case.

Removing gay couples from the pool of foster care at a time when children are pouring into child protective services accomplishes two very negative things.  Thing one; KARA has researched and written on the condition of foster care in America for almost twenty years and believe that no state can claim to have enough qualified and caring foster homes for their abused and neglected children.  Teens in the system have always had trouble finding caring forever homes.

My decades in child protection have repeatedly surprised me with how committed gay couples have been to adopting hard to adopt children and how they identify with the rejection and trauma that make life for a child almost impossible.

There may be no better home for state ward children when it comes to adults who “get” what this kids is thinking and how that child feels.

The Supreme Court in this poisonous political atmosphere may very well deny state ward children the right to a caring home.

One of my last cases as a volunteer CASA guardian ad litem some years ago, was a single father refused custody of his four children because he could not afford daycare.

Imagine your baby or child or grandchild removed because of awful things that have been done to them.

Half of my caseload children were sexually abused.  No child in my caseload had escaped long periods of violence, trauma or neglect.

Adjusting to foster care is not easy and many children never do.

Sleep is fitful and waking up you are anxious, frightened and sad and you feel very much alone in the world.

Foster child data for school, crime and making it is not positive.  80% of children aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.

State Ward children have been through immense pain and suffering and their behaviors often reflect the trauma and violence that has happened to them.

About one third of foster children are treated with Prozac like drugs that make them feel slow and stupid and different.

It hurts to watch my community makes questionable decisions and provides marginal resources to children that have suffered so much.

We want children to get what they need to become productive members of our community but are failing them in many ways.

Not unrelated, it should be remembered, that in 2001, Hennepin County MN arrested 44% of its adult Black men.  There were no duplicate arrests, and 58% of those men went on to be arrested for a second crime within 2 years.  Racial disparity in child protection is about the same as it is in education and crime in MN.

There are ten states that place foster children in juvenile detention centers because there are not safe foster homes or other adequate facilities for them.  What’s it like being placed in a jail like setting just because you came from a toxic birth home?

Montana is not the only state to shut down a licensed child care facility for foster children.  Every state has the problem.  The Great Falls Tribune news in Montana today of “egregarious, chronic and persistent child abuse and neglect by this licensed child care facility is just the tip of the iceberg.  Anyone from Montana reading this should contact their State Representative and complain that the DHS hearings should NOT be kept confidential and closed to the public.

We are paying for these facilities to do terrible things to these children and we need to know what has been done if we are to change this.

This core problem within child protection systems is common; no transparency or accountability until someone dies or the violence to children becomes horrific and unhideable. 

Only when the community becomes aware of the depth and scope of the problems tortured children are forced to live with, will a workable model of treatment (ACES) and more care and better resources become available.  Until then, these stories will be the norm.

Minnesota recently closed two facilities and the reporting here gives a snapshot of child protection and foster care group home failures over a 30 day period in our communities.  The shortage of foster care families and qualified / regulated group homes have led to horrific stories in every state.  Florida’s privatized group homes have been prostituting 13 year old girls for years.

US: Top Stories of 2019: A Youth-Led Effort to Prevent Homelessness for Teens in Foster Care
Chronicle of Social Change – December 30, 2019
Research on youth aging out of the foster care system shows a staggering number of them will experience bouts of homelessness as they shift from state supervision to the sometimes scary independence of adulthood. This year, a group led by current and former foster youths helped craft and implement a new federal policy to help address this problem. The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities (FSHO) Coalition – which includes youth-led ACTION Ohio and the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare – convinced Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson to free up millions of existing dollars for a targeted voucher that can be used by aging out foster youths to quickly access public housing.

What’s it like to be traumatized and abused enough to become a State Ward child passed through the courts to live in a hellish atmosphere of beatings, 16 mile walks of punishment (sometimes at night, sometimes without shoes (allegedly), and all kinds of physical and psychological abuse by staff?

A 13 year old boy in my CASA guardian ad Litem caseload was made to stand outside on a ten degree winter evening in his shorts and T shirt.

The group home staffer told the boy he could come back in when he was ready to apologize.  Alex, (my caseload child) was on multiple psychotropic medications, the victim of years of horrific abuse at the hands of his father (tied to a bed, left alone for days at a time without food or water, routinely raped and covered in bruises all over his body when I first met him).

Alex chose to walk home instead.  It took him all night and he almost froze to death.  Alex tried to kill himself multiple times while I was his guardian ad Litem.  A very young girl in my caseload found the path to sex with paying men minutes from the group home she was placed in.  That problem seems to be common.  How do you unteach sexual behavior to a very young child that has been repeatedly used and found sex to be a normal part of his or her childhood?

The United States is the only nation in the world to not have ratified the United Nation’s Rights of the Child Treaty. 

This allows parents to withhold medical treatment from their children for treatable illness and accident (children die because of it).

Having the rights of pets and women of the early 1900’s means that you are property of your parents and have no voice in your own well-being.  It can be argued that in some states, some judges will allow more child protection than other states.  Woe to at risk children in Louisiana, Mississippi and a dozen other bottom of the charts states.  Kids in some third world countries have a better chance of a good life than they do.

  • More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year.
  • After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
  • Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
  • There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.
  • 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
  • The percentage of children who age out of the foster care system and still suffer from the direct effects of PTSD: 25%.
  • Tens of thousands of children in the foster care system were taken away from their parents after extreme abuse.
  • 8% of the total child population of the United States is represented by reports of abuse that are given to authorities in the United States annually.
  • In 2015, more than 20,000 young people — whom states failed to reunite with their families or place in permanent homes.


How Widespread a Problem?

A New York University Survey determined that over 28% of the children in foster care had been abused while in the system. The cases noted were frightening. Louisiana a study indicated that 21% of abuse and neglect cases involved foster homes. Hundreds of Louisiana foster children were shipped to Texas.

Stephen Berzon of the Children’s Defense Fund explained the shocking findings of the court before a Congressional subcommitte, saying: “children were physically abused, handcuffed, beaten, chained, and tied up, kept in cages, and overdrugged with psychotropic medication for institutional convenience.”

The rest of this report is terrifying. Many states have decades long histories of ignoring the physical violence and overt sexual abuse of very young children. This report names names, dates, and places.

California paid $18 million to children that were abused while in its custody. This is a frightening story.

I agree with Children’s Rights Project attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry: “There are a lot of injuries, a lot of abuse. The most significant thing is the psychological death of so many of these kids. Kids are being destroyed every day, destroyed by a government-funded system set out to help them.”

Each state must look hard at the outcomes it wants to achieve. Recent studies show that 80% of children aging out of foster care are leading dysfunctional lives

There is an institutional violence done to children when the system is too busy, too under-trained, or under-resourced to include family members.


One of the most comprehensive surveys of abuse in foster care was conducted in conjunction with a Baltimore lawsuit. Trudy Festinger, head of the Department of Research at the New York University School of Social Work, determined that over 28 per cent of the children in state care had been abused while in the system.

Reviewed cases depicted “a pattern of physical, sexual and emotional abuses” inflicted upon children in the custody of the Baltimore Department.

Cases reviewed as the trial progressed revealed children who had suffered continuous sexual and physical abuse or neglect in foster homes known to be inadequate by the Department. Cases included that of sexual abuse of young girls by their foster fathers, and that of a young girl who contracted gonorrhea of the throat as a result of sexual abuse in an unlicenced foster home.[1]

In Louisiana, a study conducted in conjunction with a civil suit found that 21 percent of abuse or neglect cases involved foster homes.[2]

In another Louisiana case, one in which thousands of pages of evidence were reviewed, and extensive testimony and depositions were taken, it was discovered that hundreds of foster children had been shipped out of the state to Texas.

Stephen Berzon of the Children’s Defense Fund explained the shocking findings of the court before a Congressional subcommittee, saying: “children were physically abused, handcuffed, beaten, chained, and tied up, kept in cages, and overdrugged with psychotropic medication for institutional convenience.”[3]

In Missouri, a 1981 study found that 57 percent of the sample children were placed in foster care settings that put them “at the very least at a high risk of abuse or neglect.”[4]

A later report issued in 1987 found that 25 percent of the children in the Missouri sample group had been victims of “abuse or inappropriate punishment.”

Children’s Rights Project attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry described the findings of the Missouri review before the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families:

The most troubling result of the Kansas City review was the level of abuse, undetected or unreported, in foster homes. 25% of the children in the sample were the subject of abuse or inappropriate punishment. 88% of those reports were not properly investigated.[5]

A recent class action lawsuit filed on behalf of foster children in the State of Arizona serves well to indicate the extent of sexual abuse of children in state care.

The suit alleges that over 500 of an estimated 4,000 foster children, a figure representing at least 12.5 percent of the state’s foster care population, have been sexually abused while in state care.

The action also charged that “the acts and omissions of Defendants were done in bad faith, with malice, intent or deliberate indifference to and/or reckless disregard for the health, safety and rights of the Plaintiffs.”[6]

But the problems associated with foster placements in Arizona are not limited to sexual abuse. During a recent two year period, one foster child died on average every seven and a half weeks in the state of Arizona. Four of them were reported as having been “viciously beaten to death” by their foster parents.[7]

The sexual abuse of children in government custody would appear to be a particularly widespread problem.

In Maryland, a 1992 study found that substantiated allegations of sexual abuse in foster care are four times higher than that found among the general population.[8]

In Kentucky, sex abuse in foster care was “all over the newspapers,” according to department head Larry Michalczyk.

The former Commissioner explained that within a few years of time, his state saw a child die while in residential placement, a lawsuit filed against a DSS staff member on behalf of a foster child, and legislative inquiries into its child protection system.[9]

Kentucky would prove to be a problematic state, as case reviewers would find that only 55 percent of the children in the state’s care had the legally mandated case plans.[10]

Perhaps the most significant indicator of the true extent of sexual abuse in foster care was a survey of alumni of what was described as an “exemplary” and “model” program in the Pacific Northwest, argues University professor Richard Wexler.

“In this lavishly-funded program caseloads were kept low and both workers and foster parents got special training. This was not ordinary foster care, this was Cadillac Foster Care,” he explained.

In this “exemplary” program, 24 percent of the girls responding to a survey said they were victims of actual or attempted sexual abuse in the one home in which they had stayed the longest. Significantly, they were not even asked about the other foster homes in which they had stayed.[11]

The Children’s Rights Project has initiated a number of successful civil suits against foster care and child welfare systems. One such landmark suit was brought against the Illinois foster care system. Attorney Benjamin Wolf instituted the legal action after concluding that the states foster care system functioned as “a laboratory experiment to produce the sexual abuse of children.”[12]

Yet by many accounts, the sexual abuse of children in the state’s care has increased along with the increase in placements, successful lawsuits notwithstanding. Even Patrick Murphy, the outspoken Cook County Public Guardian, admits that sexual abuse of children in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has probably increased.[13]

According to an Associated Press investigation, in nearly half the states, cases take years to come to completion as agencies repeatedly fail to investigate abuse reports in a timely fashion, find permanent homes for children, or even keep track of those children under their care and custody.[14]

For various reasons, ranging from failure to provide adequate supervision and oversight of workers, to failure to provide safe child care facilities, 22 states and the District of Columbia have been ruled inadequate by the courts and now operate under some form of judicial supervision.[15]

But the reader should not be reassured that such problems are isolated only to those states which have been successfully litigated against. As Children’s Rights Project attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry explained to a Congressional subcommittee: “We have turned down requests from a number of other states to institute additional lawsuits, solely because of a lack of resources.”[16]

A 1986 survey conducted by the National Foster Care Education Project found that foster children were 10 times more likely to be abused than children among the general population. A follow-up study in 1990 by the same group produced similar results.[17]

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Children’s Rights Project similarly estimates that a child in the care of the state is ten times more likely to be abused than one in the care of his parents.[18]

In a legal action brought by the Children’s Rights Project against the District of Columbia child welfare system, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that:

because of the appalling manner in which the system is managed, children remain subject to continuing abuse and neglect at the hands of heartless parents and guardians, even after the DHS has received reports of their predicaments. The court also found that youngsters who have been taken into the custody of the District’s foster-care system languish in inappropriate placements, with scarce hope of returning to their families or being adopted.
The Court also found that the agency entrusted with the care of children “has consistently evaded numerous responsibilities placed on it by local and federal statutes.” Among the deficiencies cited was “failure to provide services to families to prevent the placement of children in foster care.”[19]

Frustrated by the lack of progress after years of litigation, child advocates succeeded in placing the District of Columbia child welfare system into full receivership in 1995, making it the first such system in the nation to come under the direct control of the Court.[20]

In a Pennsylvania case, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit wrote in a 1994 decision: “It is a matter of common knowledge (and it is not disputed here) that in recent years the system run by DHS and overseen by DPW has repeatedly failed to fulfill its mandates, and unfortunately has often jeopardized the welfare of the children in its care.”

The original complaint, filed by the Children’s Rights Project on April 4, 1990, alleged that systemic deficiencies prevent the Pennsylvania department from performing needed services, and that it consistently violates the due process rights of both parents and children:

Specifically, plaintiffs claim that these amendments confer the right not to be deprived of a family relationship; the right not to be harmed while in state custody; the right to placement in the least restrictive, most appropriate placement; the right to medical and psychiatric treatment; the right to care consistent with competent professional judgment; and the right not to be deprived of liberty or property interests without due process of law.[21]
One of the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania suit was “Tara M.” on whose behalf the ACLU charged the city of Philadelphia with neglect. Human Services Commissioner Joan Reeves guaranteed the young girl an adoptive home with specially trained parents.

In August of 1996, Tara M. would make the headlines once again, as her new foster parents were sentenced for “one of the most appalling cases of child abuse” Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn E. Temin said she had ever heard.

Nine-year-old Tara has had three skin grafts and wears a protective stocking in recovery from burns over more than half her body. Police said the foster parents punished the girl by stripping her, forcing her into the bathtub and dousing her with buckets of scalding water. This was the very best of care the city could provide for Tara, a girl who had already endured years of physical and sexual abuse in the several foster homes into which she had been placed over the years.[22]

The Children’s Rights Project has also been involved in suits against child welfare systems in the states of Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana and New Mexico, and the cities of Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Milwaukee, and New York City.[23]

Says Children’s Rights Project attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry: “There are a lot of injuries, a lot of abuse. The most significant thing is the psychological death of so many of these kids. Kids are being destroyed every day, destroyed by a government-funded system set out to help them.”[24]

In California, as of 1989 Los Angeles County alone had paid $18 million in settlements to children who had been abused while in its custody.

One such case involved a nine-year-old boy who weighed only 28 lbs., and who could hardly speak after the suicides of his parents. County social workers failed to visit him in his foster home for four months.

During that time, he was beaten, sodomized, burned on his genitals and nearly drowned by his foster parents. He became a spastic paraplegic. By 1990 the state was threatening to take over Los Angeles County’s child welfare system.[25]

The California-based Little Hoover Commission, in examining the functioning of the foster care system determined: “That children can come to harm–and even die–while supposedly under the protection of foster care is not in dispute.” Some cases cited by the Commission included:

A foster mother arrested in Los Angeles on charges of beating to death her 23-month-old foster son, allegedly over toilet training problems.
A Los Angeles woman arrested for the attempted murder of a 19-month-old foster child who she said fell from a jungle gym. Doctors believed the severe head injuries, which may result in blindness, could only have come from abuse.
A Sacramento woman who was injured in a car accident who voluntarily placed her daughter in a foster care facility. During a tantrum by the child, an employee of the facility wrapped her in a blanket and squatted on her. She was later discovered dead.[26]

Child welfare departments are rarely forthcoming with information about the actual extent of harm that comes to children in their care. It is largely through audits and casereadings associated with legal actions that the actual extent of abuses in the foster care system come to light.

The reasons for this may not be as complex as they are often made to appear.

Child welfare officials who have managed to entrench themselves in lifetime civil service positions in the more desirable nooks and crannies of the child welfare system have a vested interest to protect, and those who run public bureaucracies have devised their own “rationalized myths” to protect their interests, argues sociologist John Hagedorn.

The myths of “doing good” benefit those who are advantaged by existing institutional arrangements. Even as politicians are constantly criticizing “bureaucracy” and “bureaucrats,” they approve millions of dollars worth of public funds to keep the bureaucracies running. As Hagedorn succinctly explains:

It’s simply too risky for bureaucrats to admit that their agency may not be “doing good.” The erosion of that myth may lead someone to investigate them or even propose cutting their budgets.[27]
But if there is one thing that is riskier for bureaucrats than admitting that their system may not be doing good, it is that it is doing far more harm than good.

Thus we find situations such as that in which the California Department’s legal division discovered a “secret room” in the Los Angeles Department containing 15 filing cabinets holding approximately 3,000 case files on foster care facilities that had problems which were not reported to the state.

In one case, ten foster children slept on the floor of a garage, while ten more were crammed into an upstairs bedroom. Three had been abused, one with a fractured skull and two broken limbs. Yet the home was not closed until months after the conditions were discovered.[28]

Thus we find caseworkers in a Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services office running files relating to a botched investigation through a paper-shredder.[29]

Thus we find a New York City caseworker indicating as “unfounded” the repeated rapes of a young girl in institutional care, notwithstanding the testimony of credible witnesses.[30]

Thus we find an agency administrator in Oklahoma quietly dismissing two agency employees accused of the sexual abuse of foster children without so much as a blot on their records.[31]

Thus we find what was described as a “whitewash of wrongdoing” in an edited audit of a child welfare office in Utah, and death threats made against the rare brave legislator who dared to push for the public release of the unexpurgated document.[32]

Thus we find a report of system-wide abuses at the Columbus-Maryville “shelter” in Illinois suppressed by Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy.[33]

With the high rate of multiple placements that most foster children endure, the possibility that they may experience overt physical or sexual abuse becomes an increasing certainty with each move. Yet even those children who are not subjected to overt physical or sexual abuse in state care often endure conditions tantamount to abuse.

Due to the overuse of foster care, the high number of children in custody often results in children being placed on a bed-available basis.[34]

The number of conventional foster homes in the public sector has dropped from 125,000 in 1988 to 100,000 today–and the “exodus continues,” says Gordon Evans, information director for the National Foster Parent Association in Houston.

Evans notes that the average number of children per home is 3.7–up from about 1.4 in 1983–and he estimates that “tens of thousands” care for six, seven, and eight youngsters at a time.[35]

Because of the shortage of conventional foster homes, and due in no small measure to the unwillingness of child welfare agencies to provide meaningful services to families, children continue to be shuttled off to institutional or residential placements on a bed-available basis.

Julie and her twin brother Juan were two such children. They were placed with their grandmother who tried to obtain needed services for them. The agency neglected to provide services, instead shuttling them in and out of five placements in which they often failed to receive proper medical care for their health problems.

The agency then sent Julie and Juan, at the age of two, to an institution for adolescent boys. When their grandmother visited them she discovered that Julie had been physically abused. The twins were then placed with a foster mother who again abused them, while failing to provide proper medical care.

Juan, after suffering a great deal of pain, died at age 3 before he could be returned to his grandmother. Julie’s condition worsened after her brother’s death, and she died at age four. The advocacy group Children’s Rights sued the city of New York for damages, and a jury awarded $87,500 to Julie’s estate. Her surviving sister plans to use the money to attend college.[36]

Julie and Juan’s story is in many respects typical. Because of the shortage of conventional foster homes due to the high number of children being unnecessarily placed in care, children often have labels assigned arbitrarily for purposes of placement.

Children may end up in a place like the Hegeman Diagnostic Center in Brooklyn, where a twelve-year-old girl who had been raped in a foster home was brought–only to be sexually abused by other girls at the center.

“We believe that assaults, sexual and otherwise, occur daily at the center,” said Karen Freedman of Lawyers for Children.[37]

Or they may wind up in a private residential treatment center like Indian Oaks in Manteno, Illinois, on the grounds of what used to be the state mental institution.

“Indian Oaks occupies one building, but the rest is desolate, empty, broken buildings,” says Peter Schmiedel, supervising attorney of the Special Litigations Team in the Office of the Public Guardian. “It’s something out of a bad, eerie movie.”

Says Schmiedel: “If ever you want to see something terrible, go to the DCFS intake shelter at Columbus-Maryville. Go downstairs where they keep the teenagers. The place used to be a morgue. It’s a room without windows, crowded, wall-to-wall beds.”

These beds were created in response to DCFS saying they need more beds, adds Schmiedel. “It’s market-driven forces, children as industry.”

Part of Schmiedel’s job is to go through unusual incident reports. “We must get two or three hundred a week,” he says, some of which include serious reports of physical and sexual abuse in treatment centers and foster homes. “It’s frightening–we don’t know which cases are the most serious.”

“You see what some parents do to their kids, but then you see what happens to kids who are removed from their homes and put into foster homes… I mean, the stories are grotesque.”[38]

Or consider the plight of those foster wards locked in detention in the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center Facility–maintained in small locked cells alongside alleged juvenile offenders who are themselves awaiting adjudication of their cases. A grand jury found the conditions endured by these children to be far worse than that endured by adult criminals in the County prison.[39]

Even for those fortunate enough not to find themselves warehoused in glorified prisons, mental hospitals or congregate care facilities, overcrowding, medical and educational neglect are still the norm for many of the nation’s foster children.

A 1993 action filed in Utah is in many ways typical. The National Center for Youth Law filed the class-action on behalf of about 1,400 children in foster care and another 10,000 alleged to have been abused and neglected.

The action charged that the state failed to provide adequately trained caseworkers, medical treatment and education to children in its care, that it used unlicensed foster homes and homes that did not meet federal standards. It also alleged that children bounce around in the system and languish in foster care. A subsequent legislative audit largely confirmed the allegations.[40]

By 1994, the Utah legislature approved what the Governor called a “SWAT Team approach” to handling the system wide deficiencies in its foster care and child protective services programs.[41]

By 1995 it had established “Judicial M*A*S*H units,” courtrooms with temporary judges to handle the backlog of hundreds of children waiting for rulings on their cases.[42]

Also typical of recent actions is a Youth Law Center suit in California which accused Eloise Anderson, director of the Department of Social Services, of refusing to carry out state and federal laws which require audits of county child welfare programs.

Among the deficiencies cited in the lawsuit: “children in California’s child welfare system have been subjected to inadequate supervision, substandard conditions and inadequate health care and education.”[43]

On a national level, the General Accounting Office recently examined the issue of whether the nation’s foster children were being adequately serviced with respect to their health care needs. The GAO found that:

despite foster care agency regulations requiring comprehensive routine health care, an estimated 12 percent of young foster children receive no routine health care, 34 percent receive no immunizations, and 32 percent have some identified health needs that are not met
an estimated 78 percent of young foster children are at high risk for human immunodeficiency virus as a result of parental drug abuse, yet only about 9 percent of foster children are tested for HIV
young foster children placed with relatives receive fewer health-related services than children placed with nonrelative foster parents, possibly since relative caregivers receive less monitoring and assistance from caseworkers
that the Department of Health and Human Services has not designated any technical assistance to assist states with health-related programs for foster children and does not audit states’ compliance with health-related safeguards for foster children.[44]
As for the educational needs of children in state care, the situation is equally as distressing.

Miami attorney Karen Gievers, former President of the Florida Bar Association, filed a lawsuit in 1996, alleging that while 73 percent of Florida children among the general population graduate from high school or get an equivalent diploma, less than half of the state’s foster children do.[45]

In 1995, a suit was filed in Florida against its Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. The suit sought to shut down the Department, forcing HRS to stop taking children into foster care until it could better aid the 9,300 children already under its supervision. According to Howard Davidson, director of the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law:

You could carbon-copy the lawsuit filed in Florida in every state. . . We have a child welfare system that’s near collapse.[46]
Even for those children who are not necessarily subjected to overt physical or sexual while in state care, life in state care often fails to provide them with permanence or stability.

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation reports that most foster care placements bear no resemblence to the ideal short term stay on the way to family reunification. Rather, “the devastating norm for foster children is multiple moves, extended stays, and no stable family ties.”[47]

Or, as Bruce Boyer, supervising attorney for the Children and Family Justice Center of Northwestern Law School notes, “there are a set of harms that follow a kid in foster care even if they are treated as well as the foster care system is capable of treating children. For those kinds of harms there is no mechanism for holding decision makers accountable; the only one who suffers is the child.”[48]

The most tragic aspect of all this is that most of the children subjected to the abuses of foster care don’t need to be there. And, it is largely because the system is flooded with so many children that don’t belong in care that these abuses continue to mount.

The situation is perhaps best summarized by a California based Santa Clara County Grand Jury report. “The Grand Jury did not see clear and convincing evidence that the foster care system operates with the best interest of the child in mind. It did find that the interest of the child often took a back seat to the interest of others.[49]

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  1. Drastic conditions require drastic measures. It is obvious that the charming idea of helping children acquire a normal family life is not a viable option. Reincorporate Orphanges. A system overlooked by a government facility would have less chance at abuse.
    Private homes are not working.

  2. During the twelve years I spent in child protection as a guardian ad-Litem, I worked with many caring and capable foster parents. This is a big issue that needs a good deal of discussion & I don’t expect that any single answer is going to solve it.

  3. My husband and I are currently foster/adopt parents to a 2 1/2 year old boy in Los Angeles(he’s from the LA County foster care system – DCFS). Before 1 1/2 years old, he has been in 4 foster homes before ours, one of which he was abused. We had him for almost one year. His birth mother rarely makes her weekly visitations with him, and yet she wants custody of him. He is allergic to dairy and egg products, and I suspect he has Crohn’s disease, yet the LA Children’s Court wants to reunify him with his birth mother, who has been a drug addict for 18 years. This child is the 11th child of hers; she has lost custody of all her other kids. Definitely the foster care system is very, very broken!

    We adopted our 8 year old girl from the LA County foster care system – DCFS several years ago. She was found abandoned at 1 ½ years old by her mother. It took us with DCFS 3 years to get matched with her, and 2 years to finalize the adoption; a total of 5 years! Even foreign adoptions don’t usually take this long!!! Totally discourages anyone to be a foster/adopt parent with the LA County foster care system!

    Not to mention that in 2009, 17 foster children deaths occurred within the Los Angeles Dept. of Children and Family Services, despite the fact that some foster parents have spoken up about the dangers of returning children to their parents/legal caregivers.

    It’s too bad that there so many wonderful foster kids waiting to be adopted in Los Angeles, CA, yet the foster care system makes it hard for a foster/adopt parent to adopt! It’s ok to be a foster parent, but not to adopt! These kids deserve a permanent, loving home that they can call their parents Mom and/or Dad. One foster care system lawyer commented that it isn’t a big deal that our little boy is in a foster home; she said, at least he’s not dying. But obviously she doesn’t get it that the longer a child is in a foster home, the more it will kill his/her spirit and self-esteem. Every child should feel a sense of love, security, and belonging in a family.

  4. first of all I have to say thank you to Teresa Kropp and her husband for not only being foster parents but for adopting them to. I live in Oregon and I have been in foster care for awhile now and I was placed in two different homes. The first home wasn’t right for me and i was then placed in with the family I am with now. In my mind my foster parents are mom and dad to me and I love them for all the time they spent making me feel like I was finally home.I think that the system is messed up and needs a lot of work but I don’t think that we should resort to Reincorporate Orphanages that’s just as bad as being unsure if the home your in now will be the last home you will be in or if you will be moved on to the next home for what ever reason.There are amazing homes out there for youth and I think that the way that the foster parents are picked needs to be changed and possible foster parents need to be looked at more carefully when being considered. I am sorry I cant say more because honestly I could go on for hours but I have to go please comment back I would like to know what you think about what I said.

  5. Dear Tiffany, In a perfect world there would be no need for fosters, welfare, a social system or orphanages. Even with good chances, good people do bad things sometimes and we must deal with the affects. Children left behind should be given a chance, a good chance, the best possible. Orphanages under strict guidelines with adoption initiatives is one possiblity to the failing foster care system. We all want that perfect love. Even with wonderful parents, we don’t always get it. I am sorry. Life is not fair. But believe in yourself. Be happy inside. Know that there are many praying for miracles in all our lives, especially the lives of America’s children. God gave us suffering for a reason. I know that. Suffering teaches us to help others, to reach out and make a difference. I believe you also know this, in your tender young heart.

  6. Dear Tiffany,
    I am so happy that you are in a good place. I wish more people would become foster parents, and I agree with you completely about needing to look closer at those who are foster parents. I am a Guardian ad Litem and had a case where the children were being abused and nobody had listened to the children bc as my own supervisor said, “children in the system manipulate.” That is as ridiculous as saying that everyone with green eyes is greedy! I pushed forward and the woman lost her license and the children were moved.
    God bless you Tiffany!

  7. i grew up under the “care”of the state of florida,and let me say that it hasen’t been easy until jus a few months ago,that i have started talking to my wife(just married) about the sex abuse i had to indure from caregivers that were supposed to “take care”of us,instead of us “taking care” of them (sexually)….i am wondering if this has some play on why i cant keep relationships or jobs?its even affected my sex life with my wife since i have started to talk with her about it ? im actually very mad about this…..and it seems to be getting worse as i get older because it haunts me everyday of my life.its something that dosent go away…the way i see it,they basically got away with it and that makes me even more mad! cant they be held responsible for this?

  8. Republishing a report with information from 1986, 1988, 1992, 1995 is good for historical information or to incite comment. Can the person publishing this report cite any new reports or is the best that can be done? Where are the references cited at the end of most paragraphs? I agree, from personal experience, there were many unqualified workers in the child care system 15 or 20 years ago. I don’t believe that is the case today. And yes, there is a high turnover rate in both foster care workers and foster parents. I do believe that there is a serious problem with kids transitioning out of the foster care system at 18 years of age. What happens to them and are there any long term studies of how they merge into society? This is an area that needs to be addressed. A 20 year old report is good to show a starting point, but where are we now?

  9. Jeff- I’m so sorry for what you suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to be caring for you. It was wrong. I have prayed for you back in April and I am still praying for you. I was abused physically and sexually as a child and then at age 16 my mom gave me away when the man she wanted didn’t want children. It was then that I was raped 3 times. The only way I could make sense of it back then was to compare it to one of those animal kingdom shows where it portrays the herd together eating in a group and then the predator comes and they all begin to run but there is always one at the back, the one that is slow and has nobody to watch over it and that is the one that is always taken down. I was like that one. Once my mom gave me away the ‘predators’ knew that I was easy prey, as I had nobody watching over me.
    My brother was 42 when he confided to me that he had been sexually used by 5 others as a young boy. He told me he was suicidal but I didn’t know what to do. I was so messed up from hiding my own suffering. It is exhausting to have to always pretend you are okay when deep inside you know that you’re not. He committed suicide just two weeks after we talked.
    The one thing that I wish I had said to him is that it was wrong and he didn’t deserve that. I realize now it is also the one thing that I wish somebody had said to me. Most people just don’t know how to handle it so they say either the wrong thing or nothing at all. Silence speaks volumes though and it is usually intrepreted as not caring.
    I’m so glad you are able to talk to your wife. That is huge! I kept all of mine secret for 33 years. My husband now has a better understanding of why I am the way I am.
    You said it seems to be getting worse as you age rather than getting better which disproves the old adage that time heals all wounds. That is simply not true.
    Please seek help such as a support group. Knowing that you are not alone and having others who understand goes a long way in healing.
    I used to think that God hated me but now I know that He ached for me. God didn’t fail me. My family did.
    I have now gone into prisons and shared my story and trust me, I never in a million years ever thougth I would talk about it to anyone, and certainly not strangers!
    One day I wrote down something that I believe was from God for me and it has now come true.
    “I will take your mess and build a nest and broken birds will flock there to be nurtured.”
    I do want to caution you by letting you know that many people I reached out to only further hurt me. They simply don’t get it and although it could be said that many of them could have used a heart transplant, most just didn’t understand and couldn’t cope with my level of hurt and they couldn’t give what they don’t have.
    So please, if you get hurt more before finding the right voices to help you, don’t you dare give up and climb back inside yourself. For me, I got mad when I realized that there are millions of us out there and I wanted to treat them the way I wish I had been treated when I showed my wounds. Wound sharing is a sacred thing and I will continue to pray for you to be strengthened.
    I have a blog where I posted my story. ( It took 12 years to write! I once heard someone say that getting free from our pain hurts for a while, but staying in our pain hurts forever. Bless you on your journey and please keep me informed as to how you are.
    There is a Bible verse that I really love, you can find it in the book of Ezekiel chapter 16 and it goes like this-“on the day you were born you were unwanted…cast into an open field and left to die..but I passed by and I saw you kicking helplessly about in your own blood and I said LIVE!”
    And that is my prayer for you.

  10. wanda ,thank you for the beautiful words and most importantly your prayers. i know that prayer works miracles. thank you

  11. @Donna -You can google the word Guardian ad Litem along with the name of the city and state that you are in to learn more about being one. It is a court appointed volunteer that advocates for abused/neglected children who have been removed from their home and placed into foster care or a group home. I have done it for 5 years and it has been one of the hardest most wonderful things I have ever done! You can certainly make a tremendous difference by offering just a few hours a month.

    @Jeff- I am doing well. I hope you are too! Don’t forget the website I told you where I wrote down my life story. There is also a way to contact me through that site if you are in need of personal prayer or support. Thank you for your prayers for me and my husband.

  12. Veronica, I’m sorry that your daughter has been hurt. I know that you too must ache since, as a parent who loves her child, I know that when they suffer, mama suffers too! Is this something that you have just discovered?

  13. Just an update on our now 3 year old foster son: Turns out his birth mother has had 2 more babies younger than him(her 12th and 13th kid) who are now in another foster home, and which she is fighting custody for. The last 6 months, our foster son’s social worker was suppose to serve the legal papers to our foster son’s birth parents, which she has not done…so in Children’s Court in LA, his case gets delayed. Meanwhile, on March 13th of this year, it will be 2 years since we had him in our home. He has been in and out of Children’s Hospital LA seeing specialists on why he’s failure to thrive: he’s the size of a small 2 year old. He can only get an appt once every 2 1/2 months. I have been taking him to a homeopathic doctor weekly, who has actually helped him with what turns out to be severe food allergies that’s causing his daily diarrhea. We pay out of our own pocket for this doctor. Meanwhile, as foster parents we are constantly bombarded with paperwork to fill out, home inspections, phone calls at our workplace — yet they do nothing about our son’s medical and educational issues(his social worker waited 10 months after being asked numerous times to get him Regional Center services — she waits until after he turns 3 to get him this, which is by law too late, and so he has to go thru the school district to get special ed), his lack of having a birth certificate, and no progress in court in terms of being permanently adopted by us. This is why many of my friends have chosen private adoption or going overseas because they see how we are treated by the LA County Foster Care system. What a big mess the LA DCFS is!!! Foster parents have no rights in the court system; despite having filled out defacto parent forms, and serving all the lawyers involved — our son’s case is given only 5 mins in court(I’ve seen this 3x in court) — the judge claimed that he never got the form, even though it was stamped as received by the county clerk. I’ve basically have decided to write a letter to CA ombudsman for foster care, and well as to my local congressman about his case — either our son’s social worker needs to do her job, or I will seek to have her removed and replaced by another social worker who cares and will do something for our son.

  14. Teresa, wow and thank God for foster moms like you! Keep fighting for the rights of your child and don’t let anything cause you to give up. You are making a difference just by continuing to stand rather than throwing your hands up in despair and giving up. One of the foster moms to the child that I am a guardian of has voiced the same complaints as you write about concerning the health care of her foster child. She has kept pushing and finally got through and the child got the needed testing to determine what was causing her severe skin outbreaks. Turns out it was severe food allergies. She feels that the doctors and nurses have now labeled her as a b-word, but she says it is worth it just knowing that the child is finally being helped.
    Your childs failure to thrive and daily diarehha sounds like it could be celiac disease. There is a wasting away of the child when that is present. Usually the child appears to have no behind whatsoever, he is so skinny! It is caused by an allergy to gluten that is present in wheat and other grains. My own child is allergic to wheat so I know all about the frustration of finding the right food for him. I have some recipes and also some brands that are good if you are interested. It was a headache to find what tastes good among all that tastes like cardboard but I have saved the list to help others. My son tested allergic to 94 out of 96 foods!
    Hang in there and God bless you. I pray for more like you to rise up and be a help.

  15. Hi Wanda,

    My son is allergic to wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, and many types of fruits and vegetables — I have a specific list of brand name foods that he can eat and can’t eat. He can eat mostly rice based, and some corn and oat based foods. Very challenging! But I’ve noticed that when he’s eating the right foods, he no longer has diarrhea, and his temperament and behavior is very pleasant. Plus he’s gained a pound so far.
    Thanks for your words of encouragement! Sometimes it seems like a long and lonely road being a foster parent, but when I look into the eyes of my foster son, I see that I’m his only hope to have a safe, happy, and healthy future, and not to give up on him, no matter what.

  16. Hi Everyone,

    This is a followup to the lengthy foster/adoption process of my 4 year old foster son, who has severe food allergies.

    After contacting the Director of the Los Angeles DCFS on getting his adoption process speeded up, I got the usual “Here’s some phone numbers; call these people to get some help”. In May of this year, I emailed our Board of Supervisor, Mike Antonovich, about my situation, and pleaded with him if he can do something about the stalled adoption process. (BTW, the Board of Supervisors in LA oversees the DCFS, which had about 4 Directors quit or have gotten fired). 3 weeks later, I received phone calls from two DCFS Regional Administrators, saying that they were taking over the case. They got a call from Mike’s office, asking why this adoption is taking so long. After this happened, the process went a lot faster; at one point, the DCFS health nurse tried to postpone the adoption process because we didn’t do what she wanted us to do — send our son to see a Failure to Thrive expert at Children’s Hospital LA — by this time, he’s already seeing two specialists at that Hospital. I called one of the DCFS Regional Administrators, and gave his assistant an earful. The next day, the adoption process was no longer postponed, and today my husband and I were in Children’s Court with our son: his adoption is FINALIZED as of today. Woo-Hoo! He’s now ours! After 2 years and 7 months of non-stop nonsense from the DCFS, we were able to get some justice!

  17. I was in one foster home for 17 yrs from 1973 – 1990.
    I was 2 when I brought in & 19 when I walked out.
    It was “foster” anything, it was just my home, my life.
    It may not have been perfect, but then again no life is.
    But all things considered, it sure beat the alternative.
    I was given a stable roof, 3 meals/day++, education, &
    my relationship with God.
    I know people who were raised w/ their bio families &
    they dont all have those things.
    I am grateful for the chance to be the best me I can be.

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