The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Self-Reported Experience of Maltreatment in Care By Foster Youth Making the Transition to Adulthood

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 10:45 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Mark E. Courtney, PhD, Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Purpose: Children and youth removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect may continue to be at-risk for maltreatment under state custody (McFadden & Ryan, 1991; Hobbs, Hobbs & Wynne, 1999). Information about maltreatment of children in out-of-home care is limited. Knowledge about maltreatment rates of foster children in placement is largely based on official reporting data (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011) but limited data from other sources suggest that official data may understate the magnitude of the problem (Bolton, Laner & Gai, 1981; McFadden & Ryan, 1986; Spender & Knudsen, 1992; Hobbs et al., 1999; Poertner, Bussey & Fluke, 1999). Trauma experienced while in care may be an added risk facing youth making the transition to adulthood from state care.

This presentation describes self-reported rates of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect among a sample of youth making the transition to adulthood from foster care. OLS, logit, and negative binomial regression analyses are used to explore the relationships between youths’ gender, race, maltreatment prior to care, placement history, closeness to family members, and their experience of distinct forms of maltreatment.

Methods: Self-report data on maltreatment while in care come from wave 2 interviews from the Midwest Study (n = 603; mean age = 19 years old). Youth responded to questions about whether out-of-home caregivers had ever subjected them to nine forms of neglect (e.g., “Did your caregiver ever ignore a serious illness or injury?”), seven forms of physical abuse (e.g., Did your caregiver ever beat you up, hitting/kicking you repeatedly?”), and/or seven forms of sexual abuse (e.g., “Did your caregiver ever engage in unwanted touching of your sexual parts?”). Data on regression covariates come from baseline interviews conducted at age 17-18.

Results: Self-reported maltreatment while in care was more common than generally reported by official sources, with 29.6% of males (n = 82) and 34.1% of females (n = 111) reporting neglect, 19.5% of males (n = 54) and 25.4% of females (n = 83) reporting physical abuse, and 7.9% of males (n = 22) and 15.3% of females (n = 50) reporting sexual abuse. Regression findings indicate that females were more likely than males to be neglected (p < .05) and sexually abused (p < .001) and Whites were less likely than Blacks to be neglected (p < .05).  Placement instability increased the risk of neglect (p < .001) and physical abuse (p < .001). Physical abuse prior to care increased physical abuse while in care (p < .001) and neglect prior to care increased neglect while in care (p < .001).

Implications: Given the magnitude of self-reported maltreatment experienced by older adolescents in care, child welfare agencies should explore strategies for routinely collecting such data from youth. Further research on this topic is needed. Efforts to prevent maltreatment in care should focus on youth with more extensive maltreatment histories prior to care and those with unstable placement histories.