On the High Rates of Abuse in Foster Care: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.” *
On The High Rate of Abuse in Foster Care: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics *
By Joshua Allen
The Business of Child Abuse
Article first published as <a href=’http://technorati.com/politics/article/on-the-high-rates-of-abuse/‘>On the High Rates of Abuse in Foster Care: “Lies, Damn lies, and Statistics.” on Technorati.
Foster Care is full of statistics – statistics which are used to prove just about anything. Unfortunately, many programs and ideas the author supports are backed by statistical methods and ‘facts,’ which are flawed and manipulative.
This is a tricky issue. For example, what happens when flawed statistics are used towards a greater good? Means justifying the end and all that…
The author is in favor of providing tax money so foster care, or more accurately, transitional living will be extended to abused and neglected teens until the age of 21 so they are “not thrown out in the street.” As the new laws supporters like to point out. http://www.cafosteringconnections.org/
Yet supporters fail to note there was always an option for the teens in California to stay in foster care up to 21 if their social worker requested an exemption, and importantly, if the teen cooperated by not using drugs, going to college or trade school and/or held a job. And this outcome is not especially rare.
Many teens refuse to do this, or don’t want to live under the restrictions present in a foster home and chose instead to leave the system. Many teens that are homeless have run away from numerous foster homes. Do not MISUNDERSTAND, this new law for additional funds for transitional housing is a wonderful thing! Those teens who want fewer restrictions while continuing to be aided by the system now have more options. It is a very good thing.
Another manipulated statistic is when we discuss the dubious rate of child abuse in foster care. Often this is done with the legitimate goal of encouraging greater supervision and regulation of foster parents, discouraging the government from placing abused children into foster care to begin with, or to be the catalyst towards the creation of further regulations to protect children.
Under these circumstances, the only loser may be truth or clarity, as opposed to the usual victim, the abused and neglected child.
Is this so bad? Hasn’t a ‘greater good’ been served? Or are we beginning to slip down the slope?
Accepted as fact by many, the statistic that children in foster care are abused at a much higher rate than the regular population is repeated so often as to be a cliché. Some even contend foster children are abused at a much higher rate than had these children remained in their abusive home. I don’t believe it.
So let us examine this “high rate” of abuse within foster care. We won’t quote statistics here because we contend that currently used stats and methodology are flawed, but conveniently so. And here is why.
Many agency foster homes in Los Angeles are visited, scrutinized, and examined almost weekly by a bevy of individuals that includes agency social workers, investigators, CSW’s, and other mandated reporters. All these monthly visits and examinations by mandated reporters will certainly drive up the number of allegations and statistics that we read about.
Think about it. How many allegations would be found if every home in Los Angeles was scrutinized weekly? I’d imagine mandated reporters would find a lot of stuff worth reporting. (It is important to note that not all foster homes are scrutinized weekly, especially county homes)
And it doesn’t end here. Let’s add birth parents. Birth parents make allegations against foster homes so often it is hard for a thoughtful investigator to separate the vindictive falsehood from the truth.
As witnessed by the author, a substantiated allegation which counts towards foster care abuse statistics, can include leaving a 16-year-old in the house alone for a couple of hours, driving a foster child without auto insurance, tying a scarf across the arms of a high-chair like a seat belt,(to protect the toddler from jumping out) and swatting an unruly foster child a single time on the rear. Uhh, by the way, don’t do these things – bad, very bad…
Do NOT MISUNDERSTAND my point and I cannot qualify this enough.
No apology for abuse in foster homes. Abuses occur, sometimes horrible abuses. But when you add the fatuous with the legitimate you get an inflated number that is not a true indication, and it is a number frequently manipulated.
Often, the agenda but not the methodology is one I agree with!
The same holds true for the Family Preservation program. There are stats on both sides of the issue. Rather then detaining children in foster care, Family Preservation seeks to keep the family intact through counseling and other beneficial case management options. But how does one measure outcomes? This is one way. http://www.nccpr.org/reports/01SAFETY.pdf A selective glance shows a bevy of stats demonstrating superior outcomes.
However, as practiced in Los Angeles, Family Preservation consists of contract “para professionals,” visiting at ‘risk homes,’ a couple times a month, counseling the family and providing referrals that are often ineffective. As suggested by one writer, it is indeed a “meager effort.” And since many of these at risk children wouldn’t have been detained in the first place, how does one begin to measure outcomes in a non biased way?
The question therefore is not if Family Preservation is a good idea, but rather, is it being properly implemented here in Los Angeles County? Is this money well spent? A wise program needs more than good intentions, especially with non-profits-for- profit circling like sharks to a wounded child.
Foster care is a lonely and a horrible experience despite good work and nurturing from workers and loving foster parents who really get very little credit but do some of the most important work we can think of.
So just a request; don’t lie to us. Please.