What Can a Lawyer Do to Help Victims of Foster Care Abuse?
Foster care concerns programs operated by the states to provide temporary homes for children who have been abandoned, who have yet to be adopted or whose parents are unable to provide them with a safe and nurturing environment. Many children who have been neglected or abused, physically or sexually, are taken from their parents and placed in foster care.
A foster care placement is intended to be temporary while providing a safe and supportive environment for the child. In some cases, however, the home becomes a source of mental, sexual and physical abuse. This can occur from inadequate screening of foster parents, an overwhelmed foster care system and poor monitoring of children while in a foster care setting.
If a foster child has been abused by a foster parent or while in their care, an attorney can help prove that abuse has taken place and that the agency that placed the child as well as the foster parents may be legally liable.
Examples of Foster Care Abuse
Children in foster care often have developmental or emotional issues since they may have been abused while in the care of their birth parents or guardians so it is often difficult to determine what if any further emotional harm has been done while in foster care. In other cases, the fact of being detached from a relationship, no matter how dysfunctional, can produce emotional problems.
Signs of physical abuse or sexual abuse can be easier to detect:
Some states do require an ongoing history of abuse since a single incident may not arise to the level of legal liability. Depending on the state, you may have to demonstrate a finding of disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health, loss of or impairment of a bodily function, excessive corporal punishment or substantial risk of serious injury before you have an actionable claim.
What an Attorney Can Do
Child welfare agencies or similar placement departments are supposed to monitor foster care placements. If you or a loved one were abused while in foster care, an attorney can request that an investigation be done and that you or the child be promptly examined by a physician to determine the full extent of the injuries and the causes.
Foster parents and staff may be inexperienced and poorly trained, if at all. Older workers may be indifferent to the needs of the foster child or may have bypassed record-keeping requirements or simply ignored them. An attorney can obtain the records of the child’s placement, which should include documentation of the foster home’s credentials, record of complaints and training of the parents or staff. The foster home’s records can be examined to see if prescribed medications and other needs are being met.
Since foster homes must be licensed, an attorney can review the standards to determine if the parents met them. For instance, no one who has been convicted of a crime of violence or a crime against a child may become licensed. Some states require annual training that a parent may have falsified.
In other cases, the placement agency may have ignored complaints. The placement agency, regardless if it was a state organization or an adoption agency, as well as case workers are liable if they placed the child with foster parent whom they knew or suspected to be a child abuser. State agencies must review child placement records of any private child welfare agency placements, usually twice per year.
Statute of Limitations
There may be a statute of limitations on bringing abuse lawsuits and short notice requirements under a state’s tort claims act that governs injury claims against the state or its political subdivisions. Failure to meet a deadline could endanger your right to compensation or compensation for the abused child. In some states, you can bring a civil claim years after the abuse but you should consult with an attorney if your case qualifies.
The neglect of foster care children is tragic. Hiring an attorney can help bring accountability to the foster care system as well as compensating you or the abused child.