Allegations of Emotional Abuse against Foster Carers

December 20, 2016

Foster carers may find themselves attempting to maintain a very delicate balance in attempting to raise children in their care, but also teach them what is and what is not acceptable behaviour. The difficulty is that some behaviour may be perceived by foster children, or indeed by their families and friends, to be questionable. It is in this respect that foster carers are vulnerable to allegations of emotional abuse of their foster children.

The defence team at Tuckers Solicitors have amassed considerable knowledge and experience of assisting client foster carers to defend against allegations and charges for emotional abuse. We understand that the role of being a foster carer, and attempting to raise children that may have their own set of very complex and challenging needs, is incredibly difficult. It is this reality of being a foster carer that can lead to potentially spurious allegations of emotional abuse being made. If you have been accused of emotionally abusing children in your care, contact our team today.

How is emotional abuse defined?

Emotional abuse is generally deemed, together with sexual and physical abuse, to be a form of domestic violence under UK law. The definition of emotional abuse in the context of children is a wide one, deliberately designed to catch conduct that is often difficult to identify. A child will be found to be suffering from emotional abuse where there is evidence that they have been persistently mistreated, to such an extent so as to have a severe and persistent, negative impact on their emotional development. The UK Government has previously issued guidance on the meaning of emotional abuse in reference to children, highlighting that behaviour that causes a child to feel inadequate, or a failure to give them an opportunity to express their opinion could attract legal sanction.

The definition of emotional abuse can be misinterpreted, and there is a particular risk of this in the context of foster caring. Foster carers, as part of their duties, must raise children in a way that has their best interests at heart and protects them from harm. Furthermore, they are also charged with teaching them respect for boundaries and how to behave in society in instances where their parents/ families are unable to do so.  This may at times involve certain actions e.g. raising one’s voice, or dealing with a child that could limit their ability to make their views known. The danger however, is that these activities, could give rise to allegations of abuse.

How can you reduce the likelihood of allegations being made?

There are a variety of situations that can make it easier for allegations of emotional abuse to be made against foster carers, and it is almost impossible to prevent them from being made, particularly where a family or birth parents are dissatisfied that their child being placed with a foster family:

  • Birth parents may look for any opportunity to upset a fostering arrangement, which could involve making allegations that their child is the subject of emotional abuse;
  • A child may themselves be resentful of having been removed from their birth parents, and may attempt to respond to being disciplined by alleging that this is tantamount to emotional abuse; and
  • Extended family members may disagree with what they discover in terms of the way that a foster parent is raising a relation of theirs, and allege that such conduct is illegal.

Regardless as to the origins of a suspicion of emotional abuse, the police and prosecutors will react in the same manner. There will be a full and thorough investigation. The punishment for a finding of subjecting a child to emotional abuse is a significant one: where there is a finding of subjecting a child to domestic violence – which emotional abuse is characterised as – then there may be a period of imprisonment issued. Further, it is likely that a foster carer will never be able to look after children again if found guilty of domestic violence. Taken together, the consequences for being investigated, let alone being convicted of emotionally abusing a child are significant, and can have a disastrous impact on an accused.

The ease with which allegations of emotional abuse against a child can be raised, together with the heavy penalty for a finding that it was committed make for a dangerous mixture. The mere suspicion of any form of domestic abuse by foster carers can be harmful to their continuing ability to care for foster children, and could also result in a breakdown in relations between them, their families and neighbours. It is imperative that foster carers instruct specialist lawyers to defend them as soon as possible, where they are made the subject of an investigation or are charged with emotionally abusing a child.

Contact Tuckers Solicitors – leading defence lawyers in emotional abuse cases

Tuckers Solicitors is a leading law firm providing representation and advisory services across all areas of UK criminal law. Our specialist team are among the leaders in their field, and have developed considerable experience and knowledge of defending foster carer clients alleged to have subjected children to emotional abuse. Our long history of working with clients that act as foster carers grants us considerable insight into the difficulties of raising a child as a foster carer. We use this knowledge and our familiarity with the approach of the police and prosecution services, to subject allegations of emotional abuse to rigorous testing. We enjoy strong relationships with social services, and routinely make use of their and other specialist reports to construct a defence for our clients. Furthermore, our experience of acting in the criminal courts has allowed our team to develop specialist advocacy skills, and we fiercely defend our clients’ interests when necessary.

We make it a point of testing the strength of a prosecutor’s case, with a view to ensuring that all of our clients receive a full defence from lawyers that understand the position that they are in. If you have been charged, or are under investigation for having committed emotional abuse against a child in your care, contact our team today.