Foster Needs More Care in its System

May 4, 2020

The city of Mountain View, California, sits between the Santa Cruz mountains and the San Francisco Bay in the heart of the Silicon Valley. It is home to several national and international corporations and various successful small businesses, and it touts itself as one of the best places to live in California’s Bay Area. While it may be impossible to refute its location or debate the success of its business industry, the assertion that Mountain View is one of the best places to live is an opinion that all residents may not share.

John Hardy Jackson is a former resident of Mountain View. His home was a foster care home that was licensed by the Giarretto Institute, a private foster family organization. Jackson was usually at home with several foster children between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day. Jackson, however, was not the loving father-figure that many foster children seek to have. He was a monster.

In December 1995, one of the children in Jackson’s care was an 11-year-old boy. Between 1995 and 1999, Jackson subjected the boy to over 600 acts of sexual abuse. While the young man will always remember what happened to him, justice has been served against Jackson for the vile acts he committed against several children and against the foster family organization that continually placed children in Jackson’s care. In 2010, a civil jury found that the Giarretto Institute was negligent and liable for 75% of the abuse Jackson had inflicted on the young boy. The $30 million judgment issued against the foster agency is one of the largest verdicts for a sex abuse case in California history. Four years before the civil case, Jackson was sentenced to 220 years in prison for the sexual abuse he committed against children in his care.

The primary purpose of the foster care system is to protect children who have already been abused, abandoned, or neglected. Unfortunately, some foster children come to realize that foster care is not a “better” living arrangement—it is simply the same abusive living arrangement in a different home. A 2000 random sample study obtained from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services database revealed that sexual abuse is more than twice as likely to occur in a specialized foster home than it is to occur in a family or relative foster home. In 2013, fewer than 1% of all children in California were foster children yet over half of the children recovered in FBI sex trafficking raids that year were from the foster care system. Overall, foster children are ten times more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with both biological parents.

What is just as troubling—if not even more so concerning—is the obstacle presented with the presence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home mandates and shelter-in-place orders may be convenient for healthy introverts, but for some children, it is horrifying reality. Children survivors of sexual abuse who are now forced to stay inside with their abusers are completely vulnerable. While social distancing is needed to fight the spread of the coronavirus, staying at home is, unfortunately, a major problem for abused children.

The qualified attorneys at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis, and Overholtz PLLC represent survivors of sexual abuse. Please contact us for more information.

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Child Maltreatment in Foster Care : A Study of Retrospective Reporting Executive Summary
Sex trafficking sting highlights vulnerability of foster children
The Foster Care System and Its Victims: Part 2
Child Sexual Abuse Statistics