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Handling the Media Coverage of Child Abuse Cases

Foster Parenting Tips for High Profile Child Abuse Cases


Child abuse cases are often heavily covered on the evening news. Foster parents are often called to work with children that come from these very headlines and situations. It's important for foster parents to keep children from seeing this media coverage and to remember confidentiality when working with these types of child abuse cases. This can be a challenge, as the media coverage is almost constant when the child first comes into foster care.

Quick Tips When Fostering High Profile Child Abuse Cases

  • No local TV. Stick to videos or programs shown on non-local stations. This is to prevent the child from seeing their case splashed across the televisiton screen. This may include photos of their birth parents, or other siblings.

  • Maintain confidentiality. Remember not to tell anyone that you are fostering the children that are being discussed on the news. While it may be tempting to share what you know and to let others know that the children are safe with you - don't. The kids need their privacy and it may be a security issue for your family and the children.

  • No local radio. When I was in this situation a few years ago, managing television ws easier than the radio in the car. The DJ's seemed to love talking about my foster children's situation and really bash the birth family. We stuck to conversation in the vehicle or CD's to avoid hearing such talk.

  • Manage computer time. If the foster child is old enough to be on the computer, it may be necessary to keep them from that source of news too or at least manage the sites they are on. Social networking sites would not be a good idea as family and friends will more than likely discussing the case online.

  • Maintain awesome documentation. Keep documentation on what the child shares as the child freely talks about the birth home and whatever occurred at home. Remember to not question children on their injuries. Just listen, do not prod for more information, a well meaning foster parent may ask leading questions and unintentionally damage an investigation and child abuse case.

    Again - do not ask. Do not push for more information. Just write down what the child says - exactly. Include what you said in response. Note times, dates, and what activity prompted the conversation.

  • Be open to numerous phone calls from investigators and social workers. Give any documentation you've been keeping to those working the case.

  • Be ready for intense interviews of the children and the grief that may follow. As the shock wears off - be prepared to manage grief, sadness, and anger. These feelings may be triggered by interviews, visitation, or a TV or radio news clip.

  • Don't forget about your own feelings. When a small child describes abuse or fears, or matter-of-fact explains how a sibling was killed, it's important not to break-down. Save that for later. When you're alone. The child really needs your strength at this time. Make sure to take care of your own needs too during this time.

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