Insight Magazine

12/24/02

New Study Suggests Risks Linked to Gay Foster Parenting

By Paul Cameron
Insight Magazine

In the summer of 2002, a Vermont newspaper carried an account of two foster fathers who had molested a 16-year-old boy in their charge. At the time, I was engaged in research on the subject of molestations by foster parents, so I placed a call to Tom Moore, deputy commissioner of Vermont's Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (DSRS). He told me that neither he nor his boss knew of any scientific evidence that homosexual foster parents were more apt to molest children than heterosexual foster parents.

Moore's boss, William Young, the commissioner, was quoted in the Rutland Herald as saying, "I don't know of any screening instrument [for sexual molestation]. Certainly, sexual preference doesn't have anything to do with it, or religious beliefs or socioeconomic status. It's so frustrating because there isn't a predictor."

The newspaper reporter who broke the story, as well as his editor, refused to tell me if the two molesters were known homosexuals, saying the newspaper never released information about the sexual orientation of those accused of crimes.

Increasingly frustrated, I asked Moore if Vermont DSRS had conducted research to determine the outcome of placements with homosexual foster parents. He told me that, because of concerns for privacy and confidentiality, the agency had not conducted follow-up investigations of such placements, nor were any contemplated. I finally concluded two things: (1) that these agencies, and the newspapers that cover them, could offer no scientific evidence to support their generalizations about homosexual foster parents; and (2) that policies had been instituted to protect homosexual molesters from exposure, both at the Rutland Herald and at the DSRS.

However, the district court faxed me the entire record of the charges and interviews with the police. The story these records told was instructive.

It turned out that the natural parents of the victim strenuously had objected to the placement of their son with two homosexuals. Yet -- since DSRS was certain that the sexual proclivities of foster parents were irrelevant -- the agency ignored the objection of the parents. Shortly after placement, the boy complained to the department that his new foster parents had asked him whether he had engaged in anal intercourse with his brother. DSRS caseworker David Stanley concluded that the complaining boy was lying -- that he had been encouraged to say this by his natural parents. Besides, the homosexual foster parents denied the charge.

So the boy stayed.

Two weeks later, the two men -- supposedly committed partners -- began sodomizing their foster son, sometimes singly, sometimes together. At this point, the boy pretended to acquiesce, then escaped while the two molesters were shopping, and went to the police.

Among other things, he told authorities that the foster fathers had given him a magazine containing pictures of scantily clothed men and told him to masturbate while looking at the pictures. They had been "prepping" him for what followed shortly. I was sickened by this tragedy, which clearly was avoidable. In addition, I was disturbed that Vermont DSRS could cite no scientific evidence to suggest that homosexuals were no more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.

Defenders of this policy have pointed out that the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has declared homosexuals "fit" to be foster parents. In fact, in 1987 the NASW passed a resolution decrying "resistance to using single parents, including lesbian and gay parents, as potential foster-care and adoptive resources."

Is NASW correct in claiming that homosexual foster parents are "as fit" to be foster parents as married heterosexual couples? No empirical evidence seems to exist to support such a claim. Yet, I have encountered it constantly in my dealings with departments of social services and other child-protective agencies around the country. Frustrated and suspicious, I decided to do my own research.

Since successful foster parents seldom make the newspapers -- and since child abusers sometimes do -- I decided to determine if newspaper reports of sexual abuse by foster parents indicated a difference in behavior between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

I used Academic Universe, which scans the complete texts of more than 50 regional and national newspapers, largely in the United States, but also including major publications in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Scanning all editions from 1989 through 2001, I read every news story that included the phrase "child molestation" -- a total of 5,492 items. As with the Rutland Herald, few of the stories actually identified the sexual orientation of the perpetrators. So, following the classification system used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I assumed that if the sexual behavior reported involved two males, the molesters were homosexual, and if the behavior involved people of the opposite sex, the molesters were heterosexual. What I found was highly significant, though not really surprising. I found 30 stories about molestation of foster children. In 22 of the cases, foster children were sexually abused by their foster parents. Five stories concerned the sexual misbehavior of foster parents but was not directly correlated to the foster children in their care. In three stories, foster caregivers -- but not foster parents -- in institutional settings molested their charges.

First, let's consider the reported cases involving sexual abuse of children in foster care. Of the 22 accounts, 15 (68 percent) involved homosexual molestation. (Summaries of all the reports are available at www.familyresearchinst.org.)

For example the Washington Post (March 2, 1989) reported that an unmarried man who had had boys placed in his home for 10 years was charged with engaging in sex with one of his foster sons (I counted this as a homosexual male perpetrator and one boy victim). The San Diego Tribune (Sept. 24, 2000) reported on an openly homosexual foster father whose live-in partner was a convicted homosexual child molester. Not only did the foster father rape his 11-year-old foster son, but offered him to others interested in sex with little boys. At least three took him up on the offer.

In five stories, five foster parents had engaged in other illicit sexual behavior involving children -- three homosexual males, one heterosexual male and one homosexual female. Three of the four homosexual foster parents already had a record of child molestation.

The Boston Globe (May 18, 1989) reported on an unmarried man who was caught in possession of illicit pictures of boys. Although he had been convicted of sexually molesting a boy in 1967 and given a suspended sentence, the Massachusetts Probation Department had used him as a foster father for "24 adolescent males during the past 12 years."

The 22 newspaper accounts of molestation or sexual impropriety of children in foster homes are of particular significance because they bear directly on the question of whether unmarried homosexuals are "as fit" to be foster parents as married heterosexuals. Consider the following analysis of the evidence:

Of the 23 perpetrators, 19 (83 percent) were men and four (17 percent) were women. Of the 32 foster children who were victimized, at least 12 (38 percent) were girls and 13 (41 percent) were boys. Newspaper accounts did not identify the sex of the other seven victims. Of the 28 victims of perpetrators whose sexual proclivities could be determined, nine (32 percent) were victimized by heterosexuals and 20 (71 percent) were victimized by homosexuals. (One was victimized by both a male and a female, hence the percentage in excess of 100.)

These 30 accounts of molestation involving foster programs suggest that homosexuals are considerably more likely than heterosexuals to molest children in their care. That generalization is even more credible when you consider the small proportion of homosexuals in society as a whole and the even smaller proportion involved in foster-care programs.

These news stories constitute only a fraction of child molestations by foster parents during the 13-year period covered by the search. Some never are detected. Some are detected but never reported. Some, like the case covered by the Rutland Herald, are reported only in smaller newspapers that Academic Universe does not scan. On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that this sample is biased against homosexuals. Indeed, a number of newspapers included in the scan have editorialized in favor of special protection for those who engage in homosexual acts. Among these are the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Boston Globe. Obviously, the findings of this computer search are sharply at variance with the oft-cited resolution of the NASW.

If the welfare of children is the most important consideration in foster placement -- as opposed to a homosexual's right to have access to children -- then this study suggests that the traditional prohibition against placing children in the hands of homosexuals is well-founded. Why would social workers charged with the protection of children fail to know about these records or, knowing about them, allow proven child molesters to serve as foster parents anyway? I suspect that the NASW and agencies specifically charged with providing foster care have been caught up in the rhetoric of the gay-rights revolution, and to justify advocating such a political agenda they claim that science is on their side. It isn't. They offer no empirical evidence to support their position.

My analysis of available evidence from press accounts addresses the issue of homosexual foster parents and suggests that the professionals are dead wrong. Yet if the past is any predictor of the future, these social revolutionaries will continue to place foster children in sexually charged households and go on claiming, like the state of Vermont, that they have no "screening instrument" to predict molestation. But they do. It's called sexual orientation.

Paul Cameron is chairman of the Family Research Institute, a think tank in Colorado Springs, Colo., exploring sexual social policy. He posts the database for his research at www.familyresearchinst.org.