Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Anyone talking about child welfare who wants you to believe the number discussed below can’t be trusted

That’s because independent researchers report vastly higher rates of abuse in foster care than shown in the figures used by foster-care apologists - figures that involve agencies investigating themselves. 

Suppose, hypothetically, you could gather 400 former foster children in a room.  Then suppose you asked them this question: During the last full year you were in foster care, how many of you were abused or neglected?

Who seriously believes that, in that scenario, only one of those former foster children would raise her or his hand?

Right.  Probably no one.

And yet twice in just the past couple of days, a version of that claim has turned up.  No, I’m not going to link to it, any more than I would spread claims from Donald Trump’s tweets.

But in both cases, the authors seriously suggested we believe that only one-quarter-of-one percent of foster children are abused each year – one in 400.

They didn’t pull this number out of a hat.  But they did something just as unreliable. They cited the average that states report to the federal government.  But these official figures represent the state investigating whether there is abuse in homes and institutions to which the state itself forced the child to live in the first place.  That creates a clear incentive to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and write no evil in the case file.  The fact that finding abuse also means finding a new placement for the child creates still another perverse incentive.

And, of course, agencies usually are investigating allegations of abuse in foster care while the children are still in the foster home or institution.  This is likely to produce results about as reliable as a POW video in which the prisoners assure the Red Cross they’re being well treated.

All that helps explain why, when independent researchers examine case records and question foster care alumni – who can speak more freely -- their studies keep finding abuse in one-quarter to one-third of foster homes.  The record for group homes and institutions is even worse.  You’ll find the details here – including discussion of why even these figures probably are underestimates.

This, of course, is in addition to all those studies that directly compare outcomes for foster children to comparably-maltreated children left in their own homes – studies that keep finding that the children left in their own homes do better.

And it isn’t just those of us in the Vast Family Preservation Conspiracy who know the one-in-400 figure is absurd.  Even Marcia Lowry, who founded the group that so arrogantly calls itself Children’s Rights, and who is no friend of family preservation, said this to the Philadelphia Daily News:

I've been doing this work for a long time and represented thousands and thousands of foster children, both in class-action lawsuits and individually, and I have almost never seen a child, boy or girl, who has been in foster care for any length of time who has not been sexually abused in some way, whether it is child-on-child or not. [Emphasis added.]
The information about the real rate of abuse in foster care, and the limits of official figures, is so basic that anyone who works in child welfare or writes about it really ought to know it.

The claim that only one-quarter-of-one-percent of foster children are abused in foster care each year should be right up there with "cigarettes don't cause cancer" and "we don't know if human activity contributes to climate change" on any list of assertions so absurd that those making them don't deserve to be taken seriously.

And, indeed no one who suggests that the one-quarter-of-one-percent figure is valid should be taken seriously in any child welfare debate. They should be ignored.

If they seriously believe that figure they should be ignored because they’re naïve. If they know better but use the figure anyway, they should be ignored for being disingenuous.