Who We’re Fighting For
Imagine living in 28 places by the time you’re 16 — moving, on average, at least twice a year. Now imagine that this awful cycle began when you were only 5 years old, too young to make sense of the instability — or why your parents aren’t by your side.
This is just what happened to Sarah* after she entered foster care. When Children’s Rights learned of her case, Sarah had been in and out of institutions for six years. The state had never made the effort to find her a permanent family, even though she was available for adoption.
Right now, Children’s Rights’ docket includes approximately 35 named plaintiffs in four states — Arizona, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas. These young people represent thousands of children who are at risk of harm in state care. And while each child is unique, the injustices they endure can be all too common:
- Physical and sexual abuse. Children who are maltreated by their parents must be protected from further harm. This was not the case for Michelle. One foster mother beat her with a belt on her arms, legs, back and buttocks and encouraged a foster sibling to be physically aggressive toward her, saying Michelle “needed it.” Michelle disclosed that another foster mother choked her, but the state failed to properly investigate her allegations.
- Unnecessary Institutionalization. At just 5 years old, Zahara was placed in a high-security institution designed for children with severe mental health needs. She threatened to commit suicide while at the facility, and described the some six months that she spent there as the “worst time in [her] life.”
- Too many drugs. Children in foster care are prescribed powerful psychotropic medications at a rate much higher than kids overall. When Andrew entered foster care, he was prescribed psychotropic drugs – for the first time in his life – without even receiving a mental health assessment.
- Too few permanent homes. Even though Zeke’s mother was arrested for murder, he wasn’t made eligible for adoption for two years. Another boy, Bryce, said “I feel like I get tossed around like a bag of chips.” He has spent half his life being moved through foster homes, group homes, shelters and hospitals and does not expect to join a loving family.
- Severed family connections. Siblings Mark, Darcy, Aiden and Jane, aged 3-7, have a goal of reunification, but didn’t see their mother for the first four months they were in state care, and initially were placed 2 ½ hours from her home. Another child, 7-year-old Charles, has only had one visit with one of his two sisters, even though they are the only people with whom he has meaningful attachments.
- Too many caseworkers. Kendra had 11 caseworkers in only nine years. Tragically, she experienced at least 31 placement moves between the ages of 8 and 17. Low pay, a lack of training and outrageously high caseloads ensure excessive caseworker turnover in many states.
The kids Children’s Rights represents illustrate some of the tragic realities of foster care. When our skilled and compassionate attorneys file lawsuits on behalf of children in state care, we address these issues and more. Why? We consider it our moral imperative to ensure that kids in foster care are supported and protected. We hope you will join us in our fight to defend America’s abused and neglected children.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of minor children.