Understanding Institutional Abuse

Institutional abuse is abuse or neglect that occurs while a child is in the care of an institution or by employees who are acting within the scope of an institution’s directives. Most often, institutional abuse goes unnoticed because they are popular or otherwise respected programs within a community and malevolent employees are able to use that respect and esteem as a cover for their ill-intentions. Examples of such institutions include:

  • Foster care homes and group homes
  • Runaway shelters and women and family shelters
  • Church programs and mission groups
  • Schools and afterschool programs
  • Teen and summer camps

It’s important to remember that an estimated 90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows. With institutional abuse, the abuser is often someone who has charge over the victim, such as a coach or teacher, and is thus able to exert their power and influence to take advantage of a child. It is an institution’s job to organize themselves in such a way to prevent this from happening. Common reasons why an institution may fail and allow or enable institutional abuse include:

  • Inadequate background checks and employee interviews
  • Abuse allegations that are only handled by internal investigations
  • Lack of or inadequate child protection policies
  • Lack of or inadequate staff and volunteer training procedures
  • Inadequate supervision of staff, volunteers, and children
  • A “closed” culture in which transparency and disclosure are discouraged

When institutions fail families and the children they are tasked with caring for, they can be held financially liable for those failings through a civil lawsuit. And they need to be held liable! Civil lawsuits are often the only way to get reticent institutions to change their policies by holding them financially accountable for those failed policies that irrevocably and disatriously altered the lives of the children in their care. Specific examples of institutional abuse cases our team at Booth Law has taken on and won include:

If you are unsure whether or not institutional abuse plays a role in your case or the case of someone you love, give our team a call.