achieved a positive outcome – they were adopted, reunified with a parent, or had a legal guardianship (see Table 6).
Table 6. Case Outcomes as of March 2010 For 90% of the children there was more than one reason for DFCS involvement in their lives. The most common reasons were: neglect (55%), parental substance abuse (42%), inadequate housing (30%), physical abuse (26%) and abandonment (26%). Parental substance abuse was the most frequently observed primary reason, followed by child neglect. One third of the children (36%) had previously been removed from their home by DFCS. Number Percent 162 19 11 11 6 4 76% 9% 5% 5% 3% 2% Still in DFCS care Emancipation Reunification Reside with relative Guardianship Adoption Case transferred The abuses suffered by the children of this study were overwhelming. They often involved the drug addiction or mental illness of parents; 10% of children were removed from homes where both drugs and mental illness were cited. Two-year-old Jim was born to a 17-year-old methamphetamine addict who had also been removed from her mother by DFCS. Born to an HIV- infected mother, Johnnie weighed three pounds at birth, testing positive for cocaine, hepatitis B, and diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. Mom lost custody of Johnnie when he was sixteen months old. By the age of seventeen, he had been moved 27 times and spent the majority of his life in mental health facilities. 0% 1
Nearly one in three (29%) children had been a victim of sexual assault, primarily by parents and family members. Two year old Annie was picked up at her foster home by her father who raped and then returned her; he was not prosecuted according to the file and interviews. Sue and Tom were raped by their parents, who forced the children to perform sex acts on them and each other. The parents, half-siblings who share the same father, were sexually molested and beaten by their own parents. One sibling group reported their mother’s entire family would get together in a hotel room with all their kids and have sex with the children. Jerome, who had been molested by his brother, drew a volcano when asked during a treatment session to draw what he felt like on the inside.
The negative effects of sexual abuse permeate into adulthood. Traumatic sexualization can lead to hypersexual or sexual avoidance behaviors. The feelings of intense guilt can manifest as substance abuse, self-mutilation and suicidal gestures. Feelings of betrayal often manifest as anger, borderline functioning and manipulation. Finally, feelings of powerlessness may manifest as either aggressive or vulnerable behaviors including aggression, the exploitation of others, avoidance, phobias, sleep problems, eating disorders and re-victimization4.
The impact of abusive and difficult home lives is well researched. Cold case children have experienced numerous life traumas referred to as “adverse childhood events,” traumas proven to be significantly associated with later life dysfunction. Such traumas include verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, separated or divorced parents, a physically abused mother, living with an alcoholic or drug addict, living with a mentally ill family member, and living with a family member who went to prison. These traumas increase the chances of later problematic behavior, risky sexual practices, substance abuse, heart disease, and early death5. Already 38% of