• Athena Ives

Hidden Foster Care

Professor Josh Gupta-Kagan, an Associate Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina, specializes in legal issues affecting children and families, especially child protection. He has been fighting for children’s rights and is extremely knowledgeable on issues regarding CPS and Foster Care. On numerous occasions he has voiced his concern about something he calls “Hidden Foster Care”, something he says has been practiced for decades (Gupta-Kagan, 2020). Before I get into what hidden foster care is, if you are at all concerned about Child Sex Trafficking in the United States, you need to understand what is taking place. Where are these kids coming from? According to global research, the most common attribute of sex trafficking in the US is supply comes from Foster Care. The FBI found that 60%-80% of sex trafficking victims comes from foster care and the average age of a female entering the sex industry around 12 years old (Gallucci, 2019). “Being in foster care was the perfect training for commercial sexual exploitation,” said a youth rescued from that abuse. Quoted in a report from the California Child Welfare Council, the child explained: “I was used to being moved without warning, without any say, not knowing where I was going or whether I was allowed to pack my clothes. After years in foster care, I didn’t think anyone would want to take care of me unless they were paid. So, when my pimp expected me to make money to support “the family,’” it made sense to me” (Kuykendall, 2019).

How do these children enter the Foster Care System? There are numerous reasons why ranging from the death of family to neglect. CPS (Child Protective Services) or DFCS (Department of Family and Child Services) are responsible for removing a child from their home and put into the care of the State through Foster Care. “CPS caseworkers continuously separate children from their parents at a monthly rate 300 times greater than the number of the separations at the Mexican border that took place in May 2018” (Redleaf, 2018).

“Hidden foster care takes place under the guise of “safety plans” or diversion programs, under which a child welfare agency tells a parent that unless the parent places his or her child with a friend or relative, the agency will remove that child and place the child into foster care. In addition to this coercion of the parents through the threat of removal, the agency often simultaneously tells the relative that unless the relative takes the child into his or her home and takes action to protect the child, often by seeking guardianship of the child through a family or probate court, the child will end up in foster care with strangers and the relative may have no access to the child as a result. The practice and language are a little different in each state, but the end result is the same: The child and the parent are separated, without court review or access to counsel and often without a plan for reunification. And because the foster care system was bypassed, the relative or friend who took custody of the child is left to care for the child without the supports and services that the child welfare system provides to support children who have experienced abuse and neglect and without assistance in navigating contact and reunification with the parent” (Schwartz, & Krebs, 2020).

Not only does it make money, the state is saving thousands of dollars by removing a child in this manner. When done in this manner, the state doesn’t have to pay monthly financial assistance to the guardian, there is no case manager to pay to make monthly visits, and when a child enters hidden foster care, they often shut the case avoiding the court fees and other social care worker costs.

According to Schwartz and Krebs (2020), COVID-19 has increased the use of hidden foster care. Properly removing a child requires a court hearing which is increasingly difficult during this time due to limited hearings and stay at home orders. Imagine the backlog that this pandemic has created! This is only going to get worse! Now consider the push to restrict at home visits to avoid exposure. More and more child welfare groups are going to encourage hidden foster care. While some welfare workers do have the best intentions to have a child with a relative instead of a stranger, bypassing the already broken system will lead to more issues. “Parents may not understand that hidden foster care often means that there will be no timelined plan, services, or assistance provided to reunify the parents and children. Caregivers may not understand that in bypassing the foster care system they will not receive full foster care payments nor assistance with child care or mental health services. Children also can lose the right to remain in their school or origin, to receive partial credits if they do have to transfer schools, as well as the right to extended foster care” (Schwartz & Krebs, 2020).

Now, think like a criminal. The USA is one of the number one consumers of child porn. This is a multi billion $$ industry. COVID-19 means there are no mandated reporters around kids. No social worker visits for foster care kids. Desperate parents out there trying to financially survive. A single mom is reported for leaving her child at home because she had to work and her childcare was closed due to COVID. She was reported by an anonymous source and because they wanted to maintain social distancing, CPS told her that the best option was to place that child with a relative. The only relative in the area was an uncle she hardly knew but she believed it would be better than with a stranger. The uncle was actually the one that reported, he was more than happy to take in his niece, and he is now making $ selling photos and videos of his niece online to child predators.

“This year, an estimated 18,000 American children will disappear, but their families will not be looking for them. Neighbors will not canvas the streets. Our Facebook feeds will not show their pictures. And after six months, the records of their existence may close entirely. This is the fate awaiting children who vanish while in the care and custody of America’s child-protection system. Some run to escape abuse. Some follow false promises of love and security. Still, others are kidnapped outright” (Olsen, 2019).

Withelma Pettigrew, a trafficked survivor from the foster system, testified to Congress “I spent, for the most part, the first 18 years of my life in the foster-care system. Seven of those years, I was a child being sexually trafficked on the streets, Internet, strip clubs, massage parlors ... Traffickers, pimps, exploiters have no fear of punishment because they rely on the lack of attention that occurs when these young people go missing” (Olsen, 2019). What happens when these children go missing? According to Olsen (2019), by law, they are required to report but many do not. Even though Arizona requires reporting, they are allowed to close a missing foster child case after six months!

While most people are so focused on Epstein, Maxwell, Elite Pedophile conspiracy theories, we are ignoring the children being recruited, kidnapped, being brutally and more frequently abused due to COVID-19 restrictions. Those hours you spent online reading about satanic baby eating ceremonies could have been spent researching what your child was doing online. You might find out that your 12-year-old child has been being groomed online and was sending bathing suit photos to a cute boy she went to school with who was actually a 40-year-old child sex trafficker. You might find out that your son’s friend was taken from his home and given to an uncle that was forcing him to perform sexual acts on video.

I know you care and have the best intentions! However, you could be helping more by doing some of these things:

· Talk to your kids! See what they are doing online

· Donate to groups that are gathering evidence on predators to put them away in prison: Thorn and Delivery Fund are doing incredible work in tracking these monsters online.

· Become a foster parent

· Talk to your kid’s friends and see how they are doing

· See what your local schools are doing to help fight the increase of severity in child abuse injuries

· Research your states foster care, missing children, and CPS laws

· Find organizations that provide schooling or job skills to foster kids that are about to age out of the system

· We are a melting pot of culture. Research other countries views on child brides, sex with children, etc.

· Research the USA and the major issues we are having with Child Brides

· Look into missing foster kid cases and share their photos all over social media

· Share stories of amazing foster parents


Federal Bureau of Investigation (2017). Uniform Crime Report. 2017 Crime in the United States. Retrieved from https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/clearances

Gallucci, J. (2019). Fortune. Human Trafficking is an Epidemic in the U.S. It’s Also Big Business. Retrieved from https://fortune.com/2019/04/14/human-sex-trafficking-us-slavery/

Kuykendall, A. (2019). The Stream. New Report Shows Why Foster Care Often Leads to Sex Trafficking. Retrieved from https://stream.org/new-report-shows-why-foster-care-often-leads-to-sex-trafficking/

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) (2019). Child Sexual Abuse Material. Retrieved from http://www.missingkids.org/theissues/csam

Olsen, D. (2019). AZ Central. How can Social Services Lose 18,000 Children and not Look for Them? Retrieved from https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2019/01/31/sex-trafficking-victims-children-state-care-missing/2730139002/

Praetorius, D. (2011). Los Angeles Times. 1,000 California Foster Care Homes Match Sex Offender Addresses: Report. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/foster-homes-sex-offenders_n_1037490

RAINN (2019). Statistics. The Criminal Justice System Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system

Redleaf, D. (2018). Cato Unbound a Journal of Debate. When the Child Protective Services System Gets Child Removal Wrong. Retrieved from https://www.cato-unbound.org/2018/11/09/diane-redleaf/when-child-protective-services-system-gets-child-removal-wrong

Schwartz, A & Krebs, C. (2020). American Bar Association. The Risk of Hidden Foster Care during COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/childrens-rights/articles/2020/the-risk-of-hidden-foster-care-during-covid19/