Longform

Fostering Sexual Abuse

Page 10 of 10

The only data come from CPS ombudsman Greta Mang. She says her office has looked into two complaints about sex abuse in foster care in the past year. One complaint was found by the police to be "consensual" between two boys. The other involved children being sexually abused at a group home. Mang says CPS acted swiftly to remove the children.

But not every sex-abuse case is referred to the ombudsman.
Rosenberg, of Children's Action Alliance, says the only way to measure whether foster kids are now safer is to "duplicate" the 1994 National Center Study, which looked at all files for children in foster care on one day.

Nevertheless, assistant attorney general Wolfinger, who defends the state in the cases brought by foster kids who say they were abused under CPS's watch, says the "injunctive relief" requested in the Bogutz case--namely, that the court order CPS to appropriately place and monitor foster kids--is legally unnecessary.

Wolfinger's boss, Attorney General Napolitano, says: "I don't want to wait for a court injunction . . . to force us to do something."

But she also adds: "If there are systemic changes that need to be made, our obligation is to help identify those and then work with CPS to see that it happens."

Stephanie and Brittany
Stephanie and Brittany sit in a booth at Applebee's, their favorite restaurant, eating hamburgers and fries.

Stephanie is now 14 and her little sister is 12. Both girls go to private schools. Both have had intensive therapy. Both have vivid recollections of Hubert, their unresponsive foster mother, Lucy, and the sex abuse.

"Even today," says Brittany, "if our mom does our hair in the bathroom, we get sick. That comes from what Hubert did to us in the bathroom.

"I don't remember what Hubert looks like. But I remember the things he did. . . . I used to think it was my fault for going in there, for going into the bathroom when he asked me. . . . I don't even know how many times he did it. . . . What he did wasn't right, and he knew it, and I don't know if he even feels bad about it."

"The state should feel bad," interrupts Stephanie. "If they had checked on us, they could have stopped it."

The girls have their own ideas about how to keep children safe in foster homes.

"The caseworkers should be more like our mom and dad [the Jacksons] who have a gut feeling what's right," says Stephanie.

"Caseworkers should have a key to the foster homes so they can do surprise visits," she adds. "There should be hidden cameras to check on children. They should have a little phone only kids knew about so they could call for help."

"There should be undercover foster kids like in the FBI," says Brittany. "And when foster parents are arrested, no one should blow the cover of the FBI foster kids."

"Someday," says Brittany, "I will write a book. It will be called 'Behind Closed Doors.'"

Stephanie looks over at her kid sister.
"I kinda think the universe will get back at Hubert," she says.

Contact Terry Greene Sterling at 602-229-8437, or online at [email protected]

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Terry Greene Sterling