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Children placed in American foster care homes get sexually assaulted, exposed to drugs, or harmed in other ways more often than states acknowledge, advocates say.

The assertion about foster care abuse doesn’t mean that all or even many foster parents are abusive. Most, like all parents, do the best they can to care for children. The “abusive minority” is large enough, however, to cause concern, according to Youth Today. Youth Today, based at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, covers issues in the youth services industry.


Arizona, Iowa, New Jersey, Washington State, and Georgia were among those where independent researchers, such as The Arizona Republic newspaper, found rates of foster care abuse to be higher than states had declared.

Foster care is when, for a period of time, a child lives with and is cared for by people who are not the child’s parents.

Children can be removed from the home in which they had been living with one or both parents if state investigators determine the child’s welfare is at stake because of violence, neglect, or drug use in the home, for example.

Foster care abuse can include children being separated from brothers and sisters, being bounced between foster care placements and never knowing when their lives will be uprooted next, according to the nonprofit group Children’s Rights in New York City.

On a given day, nearly 443,000 children are in foster care in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

In 2017, nearly 691,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.

On average, children spend two years in foster care in U.S. states, though stays can range from one month to five years or more.


According to Youth Today, one problem is that a state’s statistics on foster care abuse often are based on investigations done by the agencies that oversee foster care — agencies investigating themselves.

According to Youth Today:

  • One-third of foster children in Oregon and Washington State reported being abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home.
  • A study of New Jersey’s foster care system concluded that no assurances could be given that any foster child there is safe.
  • In metropolitan Atlanta, among children whose case goal was adoption, 34 percent had experienced abuse, neglect, or other harmful conditions.

An assertion made by those who monitor foster care systems is that, generally, children are better served when state investigators determine they should remain with their families instead of being placed in foster care.

The assumption is that if a child is removed from a home, the child will be safe and if a child is left at home, the child is at risk. Family preservation programs have a better record for safety than foster care, according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

In Illinois, when the state abandoned family preservation policies, five child-abuse deaths occurred in a single year. That’s one reason the state reversed course and re-emphasized family preservation.

University of Minnesota researchers found that children left in their own homes did better than those placed in foster care. One factor is that agency investigators fail to get to know parents properly.

Contact Deratany & Kosner in Chicago, Illinois today for help with cases of foster care abuse.

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