Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation Project

Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation Project

This project is partially funded by a generous grant from the New York Bar Foundation.

The Challenge:

While the number of sexually abused children in the general population is concerning, the number of children in foster care who are the victims of sexual abuse is truly alarming. Some children were abused prior to entering foster care, while others suffer sexual abuse while in a foster care placement. Sexual abuse can have a particularly damaging effect on a child’s ability to learn, grow and develop healthy relationships, all of which can have devastating consequences for that child later in life.

Once in foster care, sexually abused children are particularly vulnerable to repeated incidents of abuse. Many factors within the foster care system contribute to their increased risk, such as multiple transfers, rapid staff turnover, disruption of school and community safety nets, and lack of appropriate treatment and clinical services. To compound matters, many attorneys, child protective specialists, agency workers and foster parents do not have the information, skills or training necessary to respond to the needs of sexually abused children.

LFC’s Response:

Lawyers For Children’s Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation Project provides sexually abused children in foster care with expert, interdisciplinary representation that specifically addresses their particular needs. Our clients are interviewed with skill and sensitivity by an attorney and a social worker who are both specially trained in child sexual abuse issues.

We approach our clients with an understanding of their developmental needs, the avoidance of leading and suggestive questioning, the normalization of the emotions and symptoms common to the experience of sexual abuse, and the ability to sensitively explore and evaluate complex issues.  

We develop trusting relationships with each child, providing a safe space where their experiences of trauma and its ongoing effects are validated, thus empowering and giving our clients voice throughout the legal process. Our specialized knowledge informs each step of our case strategy and development, from examining evidence to preparing our clients to testify in court.

The project offers trauma-informed education, guidance and information to the individuals and systems that impact our client’s lives, including foster parents and family members, agency and child protective workers, and attorneys and judges. The project team maintains a list of existing resources for these clients and provides resource information to other stakeholders when appropriate.

Each year, our project attorney and social worker also consult with our own staff attorneys and social workers on behalf of hundreds of individual children who have been sexually abused.

By providing our clients with high quality services and compassionate representation, children who have experienced sexual abuse have the chance to become settled in safe, loving and permanent homes that will assist in their recoveries and help prevent future victimization.

Maritza"When Maritza was 13, she revealed to her school counselor that her stepfather was sexually abusing her."

Read Maritza's Success Story

In order to preserve client confidentiality, names and other details have been changed. Volunteer models appear in all photographs that depict LFC clients. Photographs courtesy Ben Fink Shapiro Studio and Jasmin Ortiz.