The Growing Business of Foster Care Services and the Rise of Foster Care Abuse

May 13, 2013

By Emily B. Marks

Late last week, a Glenside couple was accused of beating their 12 year-old foster child. The foster child and the couple’s three adopted children were removed from the home and the matter is being investigated. But unfortunately, physical and sexual abuse of foster children is not uncommon, and is frequently reported in the news. I represent children who have been abused in the foster care system and on too many occasions the abuse could have been prevented with simply more oversight and accountability on behalf of the placement agency.

Historically, abused and neglected children were cared for by philanthropic agencies and private families. Through social reform, the state took primary control over the child welfare system and today, public agencies are now contracting out foster care services to private for-profit provider agencies. With the for-profit placement agency comes more concerns about accountability and oversight.

Foster care services must be closely monitored to protect against abuse of children and the misuse of funds. More thought must be given to where foster care children are placed. The backgrounds of the foster care family and other children in the home must be thoroughly investigated before placement. In one such case, an Erie County jury awarded $8.7 million dollars to a former foster care child who, at 9 years old, was repeatedly raped by a 14-year-old foster child who had a known past history of sexual offense. The child offender should never have been placed with other children.

My partner, Nadeem Bezar, and I represented a newborn who was horribly injured while in foster care. The infant was dropped on his head by his foster care family’s minor daughter and suffered catastrophic injuries. Our investigation revealed that the placement agency should not have approved this foster family to care for our client. An infant with limitless possibilities will now need a lifetime of dependent care. We were able to successfully secure a large settlement which will cover this child’s needs the rest of his life.

The goal of the foster care system should be the protection and care of the children, not a quick profit.