(Made possible by the generous support of the Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation, the Sirus Fund, our individual donors and previous funding from the New York Community Trust.)
The Child Sexual Abuse Evaluation and Education Project serves individual children in foster care who have been the victims of sexual abuse, as well as undertaking initiatives designed to benefit this entire group of historically unseen and underserved children. In addition, the project provides the treatment referrals and follow-up services necessary to promote our young clients' safety and recovery. Our ultimate objective is to educate the young people, foster parents and staff at every foster care agency in the State of New York regarding issues of child sexual abuse.
The number of children in foster care who are the victims of sexual abuse is alarming. In our experience advocating for children in foster care since 1984, we have found that the overwhelming majority of staff responsible for children in foster care do not have the information, skills or training necessary to respond to the needs of sexually abused and abusing children. As a result, agencies are often not able to provide proper intervention for these children. In fact, agency clinicians repeatedly ask Lawyers For Children to provide them with treatment information and resources.
Once in foster care, sexually abused children are particularly vulnerable to repeated incidents of abuse. Many factors within the foster care system contribute to their increased risk, such as multiple transfers, rapid staff turnover, and lack of appropriate treatment and clinical services.
To compound matters, there is a lack of information available to enable foster parents to recognize and respond to behavioral symptoms of child sexual abuse. Even worse, foster parents are often not informed that a child placed in their care has a history of sexual abuse. As a result, they may unknowingly respond to such symptoms in ways that exacerbate the child's trauma and undermine his or her recovery. Multiple foster care placements and even psychiatric hospitalization become almost inevitable.
Each year, our Project Director works with our staff attorneys and social workers on behalf of hundreds of individual children who have been the victims of child sexual abuse, to ensure that children in care receive the services necessary to recover from past abuse and prevent re-victimization. For example:
Five-year-old Amanda* was placed in foster care after tearfully disclosing to her teacher that her stepfather was sexually abusing her. Unfortunately, her foster parents were never informed of or trained to address the issues that might arise due to Amanda’s traumatic history of abuse and, frustrated by her outbursts of anger and self destructive behavior, they demanded that Amanda be removed from their home. When LFC was assigned to represent Amanda, LFC’s attorney and social worker immediately consulted with the director of LFC’s Child Sexual Abuse Evaluation & Education project, who referred Amanda to a program specializing in the treatment of child sexual abuse. Then, the LFC team went to court and obtained an order transferring Amanda to a therapeutic foster home where she would receive specialized treatment and support. Amanda’s new foster parents have given her the love, attention and consistency that she needs in order to reclaim her childhood. They hope to adopt Amanda this spring.
Lawyers For Children has also written, published and distributed approximately 5,000 copies of our groundbreaking Handbook for young victims of sexual abuse, You Are Not Alone. We have also distributed our up-to-date treatment and services Resource Directory to Family Court judges.
Click Here for a more detailed description of our work.
* In order to protect the privacy of our clients, all children’s names referenced on this website are fictitious.