How Dangerous is Foster Care?
Foster care is promoted by the child protection industry as a safe refuge for children from the dangers of abusive parents. Graduates of foster care however, suggest that it is even more abusive than natural parents. So how abusive is foster care? Examination of most official statistics on the matter is futile, because it includes vague and subjective categories such as verbal abuse. Statistics in these areas measure the prejudices of the reporters more than the behavior of parents. An exception is deaths. There is no room for interpretation in defining whether a child is dead or alive.
The Children's Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. It published an annual report available online giving summary statistics of child protection throughout the United States. The reports for 1999 and 2000 contained a table giving the number of child maltreatment fatalities and the number of foster care fatalities by state. The two tables follow below.
TABLE 4-1: CHILD MALTREATMENT FATALITIES, 1999 SDC
|STATE||Child Population||Fatalities||Fatalities per 100,000 Children||Fatalities in Foster Care||Percentage of Fatalities that Occurred in Foster Care|
|District of Columbia||95,290||5||5.25||0||0.0%|
Note. The rate of fatalities per 100,000 children, 1.6, is based on the child population of only those States that provided fatality data. This rate was applied to the total U.S. population to get the national estimate of 1,133 (this estimate corrects a misprint in the printed version of the document). These deaths are those that were reported to CPS agencies and, in some instances, might have included deaths identified by other agencies such as coroners' offices or fatality review boards.
Child Maltreatment 2000
Table 5-3 Child Fatalities in Foster Care, 2000
|State||Total Fatalities||CPS Reported Child Fatalities in Foster Care||Child Fatalities in Foster Care (Agency File)||Total Child Fatalities in Foster Care||Percent of Child Fatalities that Occurred in Foster Care|
|District of Columbia||5||0||0||0.0|
Percentage of fatalities that occurred in foster care is based on total fatalities in States that reported on fatalities in foster care.
This table compares the number of fatalities associated with foster care to all child fatalities. The first column lists all of the States by name and the second lists the total number of fatalities. The third column reports the number of child fatalities from foster care according to CPS and the fourth reports child fatalities from other agencies for a grand total of foster care deaths in the fifth column. The last column gives a percentage of fatalities that occurred in foster care as compared to the total number of fatalities. Among the 45 States reporting, the percentage of fatalities in foster care was calculated to be 2.7 percent.
These tables reveal an embarrassing fact for child protectors. While the foster care population of the United States is about 0.7% of the child population, the proportion of fatalities in foster care was 2.1% in 1999 and 2.7% in 2000. Restated, foster care is three or four times as hazardous as parental care. The bureau dealt with this problem in later years by lumping foster care deaths and other deaths into a single category, preventing the comparison of the two.
There is an even greater problem with the tables — falsification.
The tables report no deaths in foster care for Oregon in the year 2000, but the press reported two. On July 13, 2000 four-year-old Andres E Sargos was baked to death in his foster parent's car in Warm Springs Oregon. On August 7, 2000 Travis C Adams of Salem Oregon wandered away from his foster parents into a creek, where he was found dead the next day.
Massachusetts reported no deaths in the ACS report, but the press reported one. Kelly M Hancock ran away from her foster home in Massachusetts and was found stabbed to death on July 18, 2000. Also, Russian baby Zachary Higier was killed by his adoptive mother in Braintree Massachusetts on August 15, 2000.
Florida reported no deaths in 2000, but the press reported three cases. On February 4, 2000 twelve-year-old Michael Wiltsie, who had been in and out of state care for the preceding five years, was held in a restraint at Camp E-Kel-Etu near Silver Springs Florida and died the next day. Thirteen-year-old Cynteria Phillips ran away from a foster home in Miami Florida and was raped and murdered on August 14, 2000. On September 25, 2000 James Curtis, who intended to adopt three-year-old Alex Boucher, instead smothered him to death with a pillow in New Port Richey Florida.
Georgia reported no deaths for 2000, but on January 26, 2000 nineteen-month-old Ariel Shaw died while in custody of child protectors in Bibb County Georgia.
Experience from other areas shows that only a small portion of foster care deaths are reported in the press. We have demonstrated here with the meager press reports available that four of the fifty states filed false reports. How many reports could be shown to be false with complete data?
Starting from a different perspective, a report on Michigan foster care, Richard Wexler shows that official statistics are incorrect because some foster children are not counted at all, and the official reports have numbers with errors in addition. His two blog entries are copied as phantom children.