Abigail Hessing

Publication Date



child abuse, sexual violence, mental health, children




Foster care is a long-running and relatively commonplace system in the US: however, in 2019 there were an estimated 400,000 children in foster care, leaving the system overwhelmed and at its peak capacity. Of those children, it is estimated that up to 40% of them had experienced some type of abuse within the system. Looking at sexual abuse specifically, vulnerable children are often targeted by sexual predators, and when grouped together in a system underequipped to provide adequate protection, foster care children can become easily accessible targets for sexual abuse. Caretakers who are undersupported and households that are overfilled create lapses in care, where the majority of sexual abuse can occur. The misidentification of warning signs from guardians and caretakers exacerbates the issue. The lasting effects of sexual abuse for children in foster care have critical implications for their futures, including heightened risk factors for teen pregnancy, drug use, and mental health disorders. Programs created by government agencies and nonprofits have a variety of approaches to attack this issue, but the majority require involvement from community leaders and adults to do additional labor in supporting their foster youth.