Sex Abuse in Foster Care:
What Can Survivors Do Now

California’s child welfare system provides foster care, or 24-hour temporary state-supervised living arrangements designed to protect abused, neglected, and abandoned children. About 60,000 children are in foster care statewide, according to the University of California at Berkeley’s California Child Welfare Indicators Project (CCWIP).

The state’s Department of Social Services (CDSS) oversees 58 county child welfare agencies that administer this care and supervise children within this system. Although CDSS requires foster parents to be licensed and meet minimum safety, personal, and space requirements to house children, sexual abuse in foster care homes can and does happen.

Former foster children have sued for negligence and damages, as have former employees who say they were terminated after reporting others’ problematic and poor performance. This is where California foster care sexual abuse attorneys can help.

Former Foster Children Allege Abuse in the Foster Care System

It’s difficult to say exactly how many children are molested in foster care, in part because of the confidentiality of the foster care system. However, news reports provide some insight into abuse in the foster care system and how foster homes hide abuse. Here are a few recent cases:

  • Fresno County Department of Social Services 
    According to a lawsuit filed in February 2021, the Fresno County Department of Social Services placed a then-12-year-old child in the care of Alberto and Christine Rodriguez from November 2000 to April 2001, even though Alberto Rodriguez had previously been charged with sexual assault. The child, now an adult, accused Alberto Rodriguez of sexual abuse during that time. Records show that under a plea agreement, Alberto Rodriguez’s previous sexual assault charge was reduced to first-degree burglary with the intent to commit a sexual battery. He served two years in prison. However, the county agency and Valley Teen Ranch, a private foster family agency, failed to discover his criminal record and approved him as a foster parent, the lawyers for the alleged victim said. The Fresno County Department of Social Services declined to comment on the litigation.
  • Riverside County Department of Social Services
    A federal lawsuit filed in July 2021 accused a half-dozen Riverside County social workers and their supervisors of knowingly placing a “violent and sexually deviant boy” into five foster homes over a six-year period without informing any foster parents of his background. The lawsuit says he raped at least five boys while placed in foster care from 2009 to 2015. According to court records, David Stephen Jakubowski pleaded guilty in 2013 to five felony counts of child rape when he was 15 years old, admitting to assaulting his four foster brothers. At 16, social workers placed him in another foster home but did not inform the foster parent of his conviction. He was convicted as an adult of two counts of child rape in that home and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The Riverside County Department of Social Services declined to comment on the lawsuit. But Alandria Saifer, a psychologist in San Diego specializing in workplace culture, told The Mercury News that a lot of moving parts in an organization can contribute to communication breakdowns or lapses in judgment.
  • Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services
    Also in July 2021, a woman filed suit against the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), saying her foster father and two foster brothers sexually abused her when she was 13. When caseworkers interviewed her, the foster father and two brothers were nearby, which prevented her from reporting them, she said. The woman also alleged in court papers that she contracted a sexually transmitted disease and became pregnant because of the abuse. A worker arranged for her to have an abortion, the lawsuit says. DCFS issued a statement saying it could not comment on any pending litigation. The statement also noted its employees and contracted providers “are held to the highest standards to ensure that the public trust in our service is honored and maintained.”

Foster Homes Have Poor Oversight, Lawsuits and Records Show

Some social workers fail to monitor foster homes diligently because of a high caseload, a lack of training, or a lack of agency coordination, news reports say. In July 2021, a federal jury awarded Eric Bahra, a therapist and former San Bernardino County social worker, $2.5 million related to a 2016 whistleblower lawsuit.

Bahra had said in court papers that in 2013, he assisted the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in an investigation into whether a foster parent had sexually abused children. Two children reported that their foster father had sexually abused them. They also said he had taken naked photos of them, which he placed in an album with other children’s nude photos, according to court records.

Bahra checked Children and Family Services records, learning that social workers had placed 39 children in the same home since 2001, but he could find no prior complaints about the home, court records said.

Bahra also said in the lawsuit that by searching the child welfare system database, he discovered at least 19 other instances where social workers had placed children in foster homes with a known abuser. The database lacked a cross-checking system where workers could locate complaints against a foster parent before placing a child in the same home, the lawsuit said.

A month before Bahra filed the lawsuit, the San Bernardino County Grand Jury concluded its own investigation into the local Department of Children and Family Services. It found that the child welfare system was “rife with systemic failures,” including social workers reluctant to remove children from abusive homes, shoddy documentation, and a communication breakdown between social workers and law enforcement, The Sun reported.

Abuse in Foster Care: What Survivors Can Do Now

If you were abused in foster care, you need to understand your legal rights. You may be able to demand justice and seek compensation through California’s Child Victims Act. Enacted in January 2020, this law allows survivors of childhood sexual assault up until age 40 to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. It also allows adult survivors of any age to file a civil lawsuit within five years of discovering childhood sexual abuse. In addition, the law includes a “lookback window” that gives any victim, regardless of the statute of limitations, the right to pursue financial compensation through a civil lawsuit in the three years following the law’s January 2020 enactment.

If you have additional questions, a compassionate foster care abuse attorney at the Marcowitz Law Firm is here to explain your options during a confidential and free consultation. A foster care molestation attorney from our firm can meet with you over the phone or in person, whatever is most comfortable and convenient for you.

Contact A Compassionate Lawyer About Your Case

At The Marcowitz Law Firm, we offer confidential representation for individuals who were abused as a child in California. If you or a loved one has suffered from this form of abuse and wish to file a claim, we’re here to help explain your options and answer any questions. Please call us at (833) LAW.4040 or contact us online. The consultation is free.

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