Children placed with criminal foster parents

2:54 min

Municipalities are placing young people in foster homes that do not provide for the children's basic needs, and in some cases, even place children in the homes of convicted criminals, Swedish Radio P4 Stockholm and the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) both reported Friday.

SvD turned up 51 cases last year in which police reports were filed listing foster homes (familjehem, in Swedish) as scenes of alleged crimes, including aggravated rape of a child and abuse.

In one case, SvD reports, a child was placed with a man who had been convicted of sexual assault and making threats, and who had been sentenced to serve time in prison. In another case, a child was placed with a man guilty of a shooting. And in yet another case, a child refugee had been placed with a woman with five convictions, and who had undergone a forensic investigation.

In several cases SvD looked into, municipalities had not checked out the families with whom children were to be placed, and the children wound up living with convicted criminals or people saddled with a lot of debt.

There are also cases in which foster parents are failing provide basic necessities for the children in their homes.

Swedish Radio P4 Stockholm met a boy, 15, who had fled from Afghanistan, and gave an almost Dickensian picture of his experience in foster care in Sweden.

"The fridge was most often empty. There was no meat, vegetables or fruit at home," he said.

Personnel at his after-school noticed that he was wearing the same beige trousers and tattered t-shirt for a month, the same clothes he received on the day he arrived in Sweden. He describes how he scoured the streets and trash cans for bottles and cans to recycle, so that he could buy food.

"I was ashamed and didn't know whether it was my fault that I was given so little food and no pocket money," the boy said.

He described his foster home as a form of detention, which gave him no support for entering society or learning Swedish.

P4 Stockholm has spoken to other young unaccompanied refugees, legal guardians, and host families, who have witnessed children being placed into inappopriate foster care.

SvD reports that according to the latest figures, which are from 2013, about 20,000 children and youth were placed in foster care that year. Each municipality has its own responsibility for recruiting and checking out potential foster homes. Municipalities must offer families training and ensure that they provide quality care and give the child a solid foundation from which to eventually enter adult life.

It is also getting more common for social services to rely on private companies to find foster families for them, but according to the law, social services is, itself, responsible for checking out each family and signing the contract.

"Social services has the ultimate responsibility and cannot turn it over to the private sphere," Titti Mattsson, a professor in public law at Lund University, told SvD.