Why do Allegations Occur in Resource Families?
Unfortunately, abuse or neglect, while minimal (less than 1% ) does occur in resource families. Since agency personnel can’t monitor homes at all times, when a child, parent, school or community person suggests that something happening in the home is not clear, an allegation begins. Here are some typical reasons that allegations occur:
Resource parents have a stricter standard of care. The laws and rules governing what is expected of us with our children-in-care surpass what is expected of us with our biological children. Sometimes, we forget and simply do something that is not allowed. For example, leaving a visiting relative who might have issues that would show up on a background check supervising our children-in-care while we go grocery shopping is not allowed. If an unexpected problem occurs, there may be an allegation.
Mandated reporting means that a child going to school with bruises from a fall or running into a door, might get reported to the child welfare system. Children-in- care may be very visible to people in the community who, in good faith, may misjudge a situation and make a report in situations where no maltreatment has occurred.
Retention rate of foster families is low and training on the issues is inadequate. Insufficient training and experience on how to best meet the complicated needs of traumatized children can lead to limited understanding and skill on the part of foster parents, and, consequently, inappropriate responses to difficult behavior of the child. The ongoing need to help families be aware of the reality of allegations goes beyond training and workshops. As one trainer said, “I always thought in the back of my mind that if an allegation was made, the parent had done something wrong – until it happened to me!”
Stress in parenting children-in-care is high. Caring for children with histories of trauma can be stressful. A big load, without adequate support, is often placed on the family. The struggle to fulfill all of the needs of the children and the mandates of the agency may lead to using a technique that is viewed as abuse. For example, if children are fighting and you break up the fight by restraining one child, that child may then complain that you have abused them.
What is expected from the resource parent is not clear. Because there are over 200 agencies that supervise resource parents in Ohio, the interpretation of how a family is to react to a certain situation that is based on a rule is often cloudy and unclear. Agencies have different interpretations of what foster parents can do under the Normalcy Law.
The need for care is so great that a good home becomes overloaded with a number of children who are difficult to manage. Families may take on a larger group of children than they have the resources to support. The need to keep siblings together, the lack of training on working with previous sibling roles, the trauma present in each child and the lack of adequate outside support may bring the family to a point of not providing adequate care.
Children-in-Care or Primary Families may think it is a way for children to get back home. Remember that many children come into care because their family was faced with an allegation. The Primary Parents know the system and how to use this as a technique for removal, thinking that the child may then be returned to them or that they are getting the child out of a dangerous situation.
Children may have difficulties distinguishing, to others, the caregivers who may have abused them. An effort to talk about past abuse may be interpreted as abuse that is occurring in the present with the current foster parents. This may happen at a counseling session or as a child has moved on to an adoptive home.
Children may report abuse because of their trauma. Children, due to past abuse, may feel threatened by a well-intended resource parent’s behavior. A child who has been sexually abused may be uncomfortable with normal expressions of affection in the resource family. A child may misinterpret the caregiver’s actions.
Child Welfare Agencies are often concerned about ending up on the front page of a news story. Agencies with responsibility for the care or custody of children may be more likely to file complaints on borderline situations out of concern for liability and the risk of negative public perception if they do not report.
When can you expect an Allegation?
Any time. Resource parents have found themselves with an allegation during their first week of care and others have cared for children for twenty years without an allegation. On the average, if you foster for five years you have a 50% chance of having to deal with an allegation.
If a poor match between child family and resource family has been made. Making ill- advised placements where the match between the child’s needs and the parents’ capacities and resources are poor leads to stress that may mean the use of a parenting method that raises an allegation.
Too many children are in the home. When the number of children in the home is higher than the parent has the ability to know what is happening in each corner of the home, incidents are more likely to happen that lead to an allegation.
Case Worker is absent from regular home contact. The case worker staying on top of the style and general management of the home will help the parent recognize signs of child behaviors that may lead to an allegation.
The Resource Family lives in Isolation. Being a part of parent support groups, having neighbors that visit regularly, and having regular outings with understanding family members provides the perspectives of additional people who can see and look out for signs of behaviors that may get out of control.