Monday, January 28, 2013

Dealing with Sexualized Behavior in Foster Kids: Part 3 Evaluating Incoming Foster Kids

by John and Diane.
Sexual issues with foster children are an important issue to be aware of when working in foster care.  That is one of the reasons we wanted to cover it here on our blog. 
I have had a lot of experience with kids with sexual trauma and abuse history in my years working with foster kids, but as I sat down to try to write this blog post, I knew I was in trouble.
I started to try to write down some of the red flags that I watch for when a child is being placed into my home.   

 I wanted to talk about all the questions I would ask the caseworker and the children to figure out where the child is in there “sexual age” and what the child’s sexual experiences were.  I wanted to give foster parents a way to know what they were getting into before they ran into trouble with a child predator in their home.   (Yes, I know that sounds harsh, as children are victims first, but they can and will become predators to other kids in your home if you are unaware of their behaviors.) 
As I reflected on it I realized I couldn’t do it. There is no way to know until the child is in your home. Sure, sometimes it's clear…but most often times, you simply can’t see the red flags or the signs that a child will display sexually inappropriate or aggressive behavior until after they are in your home.
I know some of you may hate what I am about to say, but for your safety and your family’s safety you must treat new children in your foster home as if they have a big red flag on their back. 
Caseworkers do have some information on the kids they bring to you. Just remember this one thing.  The caseworker never lived with that child and many times they just met the children themselves. The only thing the caseworker knows is what they have been told from either the child’s parents, friends of the family or the school.
She does not, I will repeat, she does not know if what she is telling you is true.  There is a lot of pressure on them to find the child a safe home. 
Let me share a story with you from my own experiences, early on. (gender of the child and specific details may be different to protect the privacy of the family.) 
I once had a boy, who was a good boy, I thought.  There were just discipline problems that I had to deal with. He just needed a strong family, rules and love.  I could do that. 
Well, I never thought I would be asking a child what the word “hump,” meant, but this boy, who was very young, would push a child down on the ground and “hump” him or her.  He would do this when he was fighting others kids or even sometimes in play.
Big red flag here.  I was told that there had been abuse in the home against his mother, but not the children. Although there may have been some hitting of the child by the Dad, but nothing sexual.  
Now this child had ADHD and had a lot of problems in school with listening to his teacher and he was mean to animals.  I do find this in a lot of children I work with in foster care.  This was all I knew about the child when he came to me. 
When I heard about this behavior,  I asked him why he did this, and how he knew the word “hump.” 
He told me he watched his dog do it and his parents told him what the dogs were doing along with the word, and it was ok. 
 He said they would laugh at the dogs “doing it.” This is another red flag.  “If it was good for the dog it should be good for him to do it,” at least that is what he was thinking.  It would make his Dad happy and laugh.  In the boy’s mind, this is a good thing.   So I told him “no, that is wrong and yes, animals do this to have babies.”
So I punished him for what he did at school and hoped this was the last I heard about it.
 Then he started the same humping behavior again at home.   Even towards my daughters, who were a lot older then he was. .  Wow that floored me!  He was doing this to my girls, at my home?  You could say I was mad! I am human! 
I started to ask questions of him. He said he had seen his parents doing this and his dad would tell him to do it to other kids. Wow. My eyes were opened.  Help! What do I do?
 Well I talk about dealing with problems like this in other blog stories.  But you can see I was trying to help a child and give him a safe/loving home but he gave me an unsafe home in return. 
Thank God My girls were older and know how to handle it but if not, who knows how far he could have pushed them.
 And yes, other foster children have pushed my girls farther then they would have gone if the child were not in my home. I was not told until later, after my girls had grown up and left home.
 All kids who come to your home have Red Flags.  So if you don’t see them at first, that does not mean they are not there. Wait and watch the children in your home.  You have to be the one who says, “this child is safe” because of who he or she is in your home through their actions.  
I will be going through some easy to spot red flags in part 4 of the series. 
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