Determinations of ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ are arbitrary, capricious and cruel.
They complained of empty pantries and padlocked refrigerators, of children who lived in rodent-ridden homes and ate cereal crawling with ants. One caller described a girl’s face and body covered in sores, dripping fluid down her arms that stuck to her clothes. Another caller alleged that a group home staff member gave a gay foster child literature that called for the execution of homosexuals.
“Like everything else in child welfare, determinations of ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ are arbitrary, capricious and cruel,” said Richard Wexler, executive director for the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
There is no federal standard for what constitutes abuse, leaving each state to craft its own criteria. Narrow definitions can lower the number of abuse investigations, Wexler said.
As USA TODAY’s six-part series revealed, state lawmakers rewrote rules in 2014 to make it easier to seize children from their parents, but they had no plan for where to house the growing numbers. As a result, caseworkers placed kids in dangerously overcrowded homes and with foster parents who later faced civil or criminal charges of sexual assault and torture. Nearly 200 boys and girls were sent to live with foster parents on whom the state had some evidence that abuse had occurred.
USA TODAY requested foster…