Because you are parenting a child with a traumatic history, you become more likely to be the victim of an abuse investigation. It is a sad reality of foster parenting. These statistics from the National Foster Parent Association paint a bleak picture.
It is estimated that as of 1997 there was a 1 in 8 chance of having false abuse or neglect allegations made against foster and/or adoptive parents. This number is growing and in some areas of the nation has increased by as much as 400%.
Many people who do not live with emotionally disturbed children, do not understand what a day in the life is like, or why your parenting techniques vary so greatly from “normal” parenting styles. Sometimes the allegations come from the children themselves.
When you are reading profiles on a possible placement match, one of the things to look for is if the child has ever made false allegations before. If so, ask for detailed information.
- Against whom was the allegation made?
- What were the details of the allegation?
- How often has he or she made allegations?
- How were the allegations handled?
- What was the result?
There are ways to protect yourself, and things you should do if you ever find yourself in a position of having to defend yourself.
- If you are parenting a child who has a history of making false allegations, make sure that any professionals that you work with are aware of this. Teachers, doctors, day care providers, dentists, etc., are all mandated reporters. If a child tells them they are being abused, they are required by law to report it.
- You can give yourself an extra line of defense by letting these professionals know the child’s history ahead of time. If you have written documentation proving this, providing them with a copy will help you.
- If you find yourself in an investigation, keep a level head. It will be one of the most emotionally devastating days of your life, but be prepared.
- Call your attorney. If you have used an adoption attorney during the process, they should have knowledge of special needs children, and have probably come up against investigations before.
- Do not talk to an investigator without a witness present. Whether it’s another family member, an attorney, your partner, a neighbor, or friend. Have a third set of ears listening to the conversation. You will be emotional and can not rely on your memory during this time.
- Ask to audio tape or video tape the meeting. This will give you a full, and factual, account of what was said.
- Follow up any meetings with a letter. Give the date and time of the meeting, and who was involved, then list “this is what I heard you say,” along with a recap of your impressions of the meeting.
- Have any documentation that you may need handy. If you have been keeping a file on your child with lists of medications, doctors’ appointments, diagnosis, or history of false allegations, keep it in a place where you can easily get to it.
- Call your regular social worker. Even if your adoption has been finalized. A person with a knowledgeable history of your child will be very helpful.
- Have the investigator speak with any therapist that you are working with. A good therapist will be able to explain the complexities of parenting a special needs child.
- Be honest. Trying to hide things will only come back to haunt you.
- Do not sound defensive. You know what you are doing is to help your child. Just because it is not what you do with an emotionally healthy child, does not mean it is wrong.
This is a hard thing to go through. You have to prove that you did NOT do something. Keep your wits about you, and try not to panic. You will get through this.