State-Sponsored Predators
So the Child Welfare League of America, which is to children what a nursing home association is to the elderly, claims that fewer than 1 percent of foster children are sexually abused ("Fostering Sexual Abuse," Terry Greene Sterling, July 1). How, then, does CWLA explain what happened when alumni of what is said to be an exemplary foster-care program in the Pacific Northwest were asked if they had been molested? Twenty-four percent of the girls said they had been victims of actual or attempted sexual abuse in the one foster home they had been in the most--they were not even asked about the others. And how does CWLA explain the Baltimore study that found the rate of substantiated sexual abuse in foster homes four times higher than the rate in the general population?

Abuse in foster care won't make it into an official case record unless the child has the courage to come forward and the caseworker refuses to look the other way--so when it comes to measuring the extent of such abuse, cases that make the official record should be considered a floor, not a ceiling.

In contrast, real family preservation programs that rigorously follow the model established by the first such program, Homebuilders in Washington State, are not just more humane than foster care, they are safer than foster care. But such programs are smeared when the label "family preservation" is slapped onto any attempt to leave any child in any home under any circumstances. And it's been a very effective smear campaign. Though your article says Arizona is committed to family preservation, the state's foster-care population has soared by 60 percent since 1993. And the more crowded the system becomes, the greater the likelihood for abuse.

Along with the campaign against family preservation has come an effort to stereotype it as, if not a vast right-wing conspiracy, at least a "conservative creed." For the record, our organization was founded by a former member of the national board of the ACLU. Our board members include a former legal director for the Children's Defense Fund, and former Legal Services Corporation attorneys. Most people who support real family preservation don't care if it's liberal or conservative--we just know that for many children it works--and foster care doesn't.

We also know that while reforms such as monthly visits by caseworkers will help, the only real way to reform foster care is to have less of it.

Richard Wexler,
Washington director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

I almost came to tears after reading the horrible ordeal these children suffered in their young lives. How can anyone look into the eyes of an innocent child and strip away their innocence? I feel for both the children who were molested and for the children (molesters) who were obviously exposed to that type of lifestyle themselves. It's a vicious cycle. We see how it corrupts lives and we see how no one seems "to know anything." We need more "guardian angels" in the CPS system to protect them and preserve their right of innocence. Thank you.

Denise Paz
via Internet

I am a Child Protective Services caseworker. I found it very unfortunate that you did not research any of the success stories in CPS (yes, they are out there). It never ceases to amaze me that journalists continue to focus on the negative and write with bias that only breeds ignorance to the people who read the articles. If you want to uncover information that the general public never sees, why don't you write about some of the effective work CPS workers do to advocate for abused and neglected children in state care?

Name withheld by request

I found your article very troubling, mainly because it seems to show a common desire by CPS to protect itself, rather than a real desire to protect the kids who are supposedly entrusted to their care.

It seems the only time most government agencies really look at their own behavior is when we look at it first, otherwise they tend to do a lot of sweeping under the rug. Anyway, thanks for taking the time and effort to investigate. It made me remember the days when 60 Minutes was actually an investigative reporting series and not a movie-star review.

Steven Fitzpatrick
via Internet

Thank you for providing a balanced article about foster care and DES.
I find it interesting that there are lawsuits against case managers and CPS which will ultimately be settled with tax dollars that could be used to adequately fund CPS and foster care and possibly prevent some of these atrocities. Why not prosecute the foster parents, who are responsible for the care of children placed in their homes? Or even the biological parents whose failure to provide an adequate home resulted in an out-of-home placement?

I seriously doubt that a monthly visit, as opposed to an every other month or every three month visit, is going to uncover abuse within the home. Case managers do not conduct medical exams or even investigations during routine home visits. Children are more likely to disclose abuse to a teacher, counselor or other adult who sees that child on a daily or weekly basis.

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