Sexual Abuse Common in Foster Care

After reading a horrid news story about an 11-year-old Philadelphia girl who was repeatedly raped by an older foster brother, I began scouring records and state governmental agencies to glean stats on sexual abuse in foster homes across the country.

The most recent clinical studies I found were from 2005 — but many national adoption experts say that young kids are in jeopardy all over America  when they are placed in foster care. My family is seriously considering adopting a foster daughter through Los Angeles County in the future (for those of you just tuning in) and so this subject affects me deeply.

This in from adoption blogger Sharon: “Most of the girls that I deal with have been raped and molested in the foster homes that they were in,” said independent child advocate and blogger Sharon McGinley. An advocate for kids aging out of foster care, she says the system is broken, and that the people from group homes and kids caught in foster care situations are afraid that reporting this level of widespread sexual abuse in foster homes would jeopardize their federal funding.

If that’s not bad enough, early abuses may harm the overall health of that woman for the rest of her life: Women who were repeatedly sexually abused as girls have a 62 percent higher risk of heart problems  later in life compared with women who were not abused, U.S. researchers said on Sunday at the American Heart Association symposium.

Compared to women who weren’t molested or raped as children or teens, women who reported:

* Repeated episodes of forced sex in childhood or adolescence had a 62 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease as adults.
* Severe physical abuse in childhood or adolescence was associated with a 45 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events.

“The single biggest factor explaining the link between severe child abuse and adult cardiovascular disease was the tendency of abused girls to have gained more weight throughout adolescence and into adulthood,” said Janet Rich-Edwards, Sc.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study.

The team analyzed data from a study of more than 67,000 nurses. Nine percent of these women had reported severe physical abuse and 11 percent reported being raped in their childhood or adolescence.The team found that repeated episodes of forced sex in childhood or adolescence translated into a 62 percent higher risk of heart attacks and strokes later in life. Much of the increased risk was related to coping strategies such as overeating alcoholism and drug abuse.

Physical abuse also took a toll. Women who had been beaten in their youth had a 45 percent higher risk of heart trouble. Mild to moderate physical or sexual abuse was not associated with increased risk.

Stay tuned for more indignation!

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Back To The Adoption Diaries, by Nicole Dorsey-Straff
  1. by Terri

    On December 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I grew up in the 80’s in Michigan’s foster care system. I was placed because my mother was dying of cancer, and remained in their care after her death because my father was a drunk and could not care for me. I was never in trouble; I never ran away, did drugs, drank or did anything that may have caused trouble. I was only in “temporary care” and that meant I could only be in a temporary home and thus moved every 90 days or less, this was my life for 7 ½ years.
    Foster kids are used, manipulated and abused. I can attest to this first hand. We were the cleaning and lawn service for the foster parents and their extended family. If we refused we were labeled as problematic and the police were called and we were toted off to a detention center or jail and then into some horrific new setting.
    As a foster child you are automatically stigmatized as a troubled teen. So by default you’re a trouble maker, a liar, and are not to be taken seriously. When the kids go to their social worker and tell of the abuse suffered at the hands of foster parents, it’s automatically disregarded as a lie simply because a “foster kid” has made the accusation. I do not believe it has anything to do with funding, I cannot even begin to tell you the horrific things I have seen, and seen reported that were brushed under the carpet simply because a “foster kid” made the report. I can’t even recall a single instance of abuse ever being investigated even though the kids constantly told of the horrors they were suffering.
    While my mother was dying of cancer, and my father was an abusive drunk, I can honestly say I have never suffered abuse like I did at the hands of those who were supposed to “protect” me. Pedophiles, rapists, and child abusers hide behind the foster care veil, when in fact they are abusing the kids in ways most cannot even imagine.
    I was in foster care for 7 ½ years, in a total of 23 foster / group / shelter home placements, I was held locked in the sheriff’s office twice because they did not have a place for me to go during the holidays and I could not go home as most kids did. Out of 23 placements, I did not witness abuse at, nor was I abused at 2 of them. When you look at it from that perspective those are staggering numbers.