Long Beach Foster Care Lawyers
Are you a parent fighting for your children after an overheated Long Beach DCFS worker had them removed from your home? Or are you a foster parent who is committed to the long-term care of the child who was placed with you and would like to look into adopting? A well-informed Long Beach foster care lawyer will advise and represent you with skill and great care for your unique situation.
What If I Am Facing Allegations of Abuse or Neglect in Long Beach?
In numerous cases, allegations of domestic violence, compromised mental health, or substance abuse can end up with your biological, adopted or foster children being torn away from your home, and parents are burdened with the task of proving that the claims are false (instead of the state having to prove they are true).
When children are removed from your home, the emotional toll it takes on both you and them can be devastating. You should get a Long Beach foster care lawyer to help you focus on solutions.
Is Foster Care the Same as Dependency?
Not really, but they are related to each other. When a minor child is taken away from their home and placed in the government’s care to protect them from the alleged harm they were subject to in their home, the child is considered a dependent. This is another way to say that they are being placed into the foster care system.
What Legal Rights do Long Beach Foster Parents Have?
In 1997 the United States Congress passed the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act to recognize the foster parents’ rights. This act of congress gives foster parents the right to be heard in California Family Court proceedings regarding the information they believe will help the courts to make good decisions regarding the foster child’s best interests.
This law covers both foster parents and relatives who are taking care of children.
You need an experienced foster care lawyer who knows how to apply foster parents’ rights in the court system and help you establish eligibility to file for the de facto parent status that elevates your parenting position during your child’s dependency court proceedings to legal prospective adoptive parent status.
What Happens When A Child In The System is a Victim of Abuse?
Nearly 55,000 kids in California were listed “in the system” in 2018. Some of them were in foster care; while others were living with family. Of these, some had run away from home, and some were missing entirely. What they all have in common is that they are no longer living in the home of their biological parents, because they were removed for one reason or another.
Sadly, these children in the system tend to be overlooked. This makes them perfect prey for sexual abusers. Indeed, sexual abuse is common plight for kids in the system.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau (Administration on Children, Youth and Families, and the Administration for Children and Families) distributes an annual report. They review and analyze data regarding reports of child abuse and mistreatment and reports to child protective services agencies in every state. For example, in 2017, the data showed that 7.5 million children were referred to CPS agencies, and that 8.6% of all these referrals involved sexual abuse.
Why Does Sexual Abuse Disproportionately Happen to Foster Kids?
In general, sexual abuse and assault frequently go unreported. Unfortunately, this is especially true for children, who sometimes are led to believe that great harm will come to them or their families if they speak up about what is happening to them. For kids in the system, however, the numbers of reports can be even lower.
Foster kids – especially the ones who are not being raised in the home of a relative – face unique challenges. In some circumstances, they get bounced from home to home. When this happens, they don’t have the luxury of time to develop close, trusting relationships with other kids or with authority figures, including foster parents. They don’t know who they can confide in. They might have been abused, sexually or otherwise, in an earlier placement, with no report made. Some of them internalize that trauma as a normal part of their lives that they have to accept. They might sometimes feel they will not be believed if they come forward.
Also bear in mind that some children are in the system in the first place precisely because they were victimized. By telling the truth about what happened, kids may think that they are the ones who messed up their families and that they deserve to be punished. They may believe that being abused again is a just punishment for the harm they think they caused.
Child Protective Services in California: A Numbers Game
The sad fact is that foster care and Child Protective Services is a numbers game – and the children are the ones who are losing . A 2017 report from the Children’s Bureau revealed that the state of California:
- Employed a CPS workforce of 4,963 people. These are the people who do intakes, screening, investigation, and alternative responses.
- Dealt with 400,187 referrals of alleged abuse or maltreatment of some sort.
- Fielded 365,921 referrals that resulted in an investigation or “alternative response”
- Identified 3,497 children who are sexually abused.
The numbers can tell you quickly that there are not enough workers and too many cases. This leads to one outstanding and overwhelming problem: California takes much, much too long to help children in crisis. In fact, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that, in 2017, the state failed to complete 78 out of every 100 investigations in a timely fashion.
In some situations, investigations took more than a year to complete, the report said. These problems apparently arose either because officials didn’t follow procedures or because they had not been properly trained to deal with the complaints.
How Can I Detect If a Foster Child is a Victim of Sexual Abuse?
It is a bitter reality that identifying signs of sexual abuse in foster children may prove more difficult than it would with children beeing brought up in one home. The disruption that comes along with being forced to move from home to home, on top of the uncertainties that many children face regarding their futures and their families, can cause children to act out in different ways. If you yourself are fostering a child, or if you are connected with a child in a professional capacity (i.e., as a teacher, coach, or counselor), you may notice:
- Aversion to being touched in any way
- Depressive or suicidal thoughts or behaviors (i.e., drug abuse, cutting, etc.)
- Mimicing of the sex acts with their toys or with other children
- Aggression of a sexual nature
- Compulsive or excessive masturbating
- Regressive behaviors (i.e., using “baby talk,” having bathroom accidents, throwing tantrums, etc.)
- Aggressive and/or possessive behavior towards personal items
- Changes in their personal care habits, including bathing
- Dressing to hide his or her body or, conversely dressing in an overly provocative way
If you notice any of these signs, don’t ever ignore them. If you speak to your child and determine that abuse is happening, call your Long Beach foster care lawyer immediately to help protect you and your child.
California’s Child Protective Services is charged with the task of keeping children safe, and intervene in cases where children may be abused or neglected in some manner. This system is part of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). In cases where a foster child has been sexually abused or assaulted, it is possible that both groups could legally be held accountable for damages in your case. CPS and CDSS can also be held legally accountable for failing to remove a child who is at-risk.
Some Forms of CPS Negligence in Long Beach
Negligence by the public agencies who are supposed to look out for the interests of children can come in many forms:
- Failing to report claims
- Taking too long to respond to claims
- Neglecting to follow-up on claims
- Neglecting to properly log claims and reports into the system
- Neglecting to investigate credible claims of abuse
- Neglecting to involve law enforcement
- Neglecting to conduct background investigations on foster homes and individual foster parents
- Breaching confidentiality laws when it comes to reports of abuse
A reputable Long Beach foster care lawyer can help you handle agency negligence claims in the court system as well.