According to The Washington Post an Army major and his wife disciplined their three foster children over a span of several years by withholding food and water and assaulting them severely enough to cause broken bones, a federal indictment released Tuesday charged. The indictment stated that the alleged abuse was directed at the foster children and the Jacksons’ biological children allegedly were instructed to monitor the foster children and told that the disciplinary measures were meant to train the foster children to behave. The couple forbade their biological children from telling anyone about the abuse, and one child was punished after they discoverd the child told a family friend.
When abuse or neglect occurs in a family foster care setting it is especially tragic because these children have already experienced abuse/neglect while living in their parents home. McFadden states “It is ironic that children removed from their families for their ownprotection are often victims of further maltreatment”
“Abuse in Family Foster Homes: Characteristics of the Vulnerable Child” (McFadden & Ryan, 1999) further examiners the causes of foster care abuse and the characteristics of the child being abused.
Causes of foster care abuse
Foster parents take on a large amount of responsibility which far exceed those of normal parenting. They often encounter very stressful situations and for many lack the resources and support from community agencies and systems. This can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness, resulting in anger and rage. Families which are obviously abusive or inappropriate are excluded from fostering through the screening and homestudy which are part of the foster home licensure process. However, a shortage of foster homes acts as a counteracting force to efforts to maintain or improve standards. Licensing is a first line of defense in the prevention of fostercare abuse and it is very important to understand that not all foster care abuse occurs in inadequate families.
In truth, while some foster care abuse occurs in homes that should never have been licensed, many foster care abuse cases occur in the “best foster families”. A study showed that the highest incidence of maltreatment was from foster parents who had 5-6 years experience. These are families that have successfully raised their own children and have provided quality care to foster children with a variety of special needs. Because these families have shown an exceptional ability to parent, these are often the foster homes that state and government agencies want to put children in. These foster families are overworked with very difficulty and needy children . As tensions mount, work increases, and the child’s behavior escalates, the foster parent may ‘lose it’ with a foster child.
Characteristics of the abused child
Foster parent abuse episodes are usually attempts to control behavior which appears to the foster parents to be bizarre, dangerous, difficult or defiant.The perception of the behavior depends on the context of foster family rules, expectations or definitions of what is acceptable behavior. Foster children bring with them into a foster home many negative, harmful interaction patterns learned in their own family or other foster families.They will continue to reenact these patterns and may draw the foster family into the negative interaction. Without appropriate training, caseworker support or consultation, foster parents find the behaviors deliberate or inexplicable, or may find themselves entangled in a never ending cycle of a struggle for control. Although many foster children, by virtue of earlier life experience fall into a general high risk category for further maltreatment, there are certain variables which contribute additional degrees of risk.
The child who has experienced multiple placements is more likely to be maltreated. The child who is permanently in the states care is more likely to be abused than the child who is temporarily in the system. The child is at high risk who is awaiting adoption by his foster family, but some part of the process has been delayed.The child who was placed in care for reasons of parental maltreatment is higher risk than the child placed for other reasons. The foster child with special needs or handicapping conditions requires both extra parenting skills and extra resources for the foster family. The child who has been sexually abused or exploited is doubly at risk, both for being sexually victimized again and for being physically abused by foster parents who can not deal with the sexualized behaviors displayed by the child The adolescent, particularly one who has been previously abused, is also at highrisk.