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About usFaculty of Behavioural and Social SciencesPedOnResearchFoster Care Research Centre GroningenProjects'Historical sexual abuse' of children in foster care

Results and publications

No studies in the Netherlands have been conducted thus far and there are but a few studies published in the international literature.

The foster care agencies reported incidents, going back to 1991. Little written material on these incidents and how they were followed-up by foster care services was available, however. Notwithstanding this lack of relevant information, the substantial number of reports to the committee makes clear that the issue merits our attention.

We analyzed the content of 145 reports of victims about sexual abuse in a foster family between 1945 and 2008. Results showed that abuse often was very severe and intrusive, started early and could last for many years. Most perpetrators were foster fathers. It was very difficult for foster children to escape abuse, many had nobody to turn to and ‘survived’ in isolation. Children who were giving signs to professionals (e.g., guardians) often were not believed or not listened to. Since the eighties, more victims could report to police or judicial authorities and reports were taken more seriously. Girls, young children (below 12), foster children with a history of sexual abuse and foster children who were frequently removed in care were more at risk for sexual abuse in their foster family. Both the victim reports and interviews showed that the abuse was having a deep and life-long impact.

The study the Samson committee contracted us to undertake, showed that the foster care system in the Netherlands has to take measures to safeguard foster children and that foster parents and professionals should be prepared better to the placement of a vulnerable foster child, in particular when the child has a history of sexual abuse previous to placement. Project Iris and Project-BOP both focus on this target group of children in foster care.


Dekker, J.J.H., & Grietens, H. (2015). Sexual abuse in Dutch child protection, 1945-2010. In J. Sköld & S. Swain (Eds.), Apologies and the legacy of abuse of children ‘in care’. International perspectives (pp. 106-113). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Grietens, H. (2012). Seksueel misbruik van kinderen in de pleegzorg. Deelrapportage bij deelonderzoek 4 van de commissie Samson: Aard en omvang van seksueel misbruik in de jeugdzorg in de periode 1945-2007. Den Haag: Commissie Samson.

Grietens, H. (2014). Seksueel misbruik van pleegkinderen in de periode 1945-2010: Een kwalitatieve inhoudsanalyse van meldingen bij de commissie-Samson. Kind en Adolescent , 35, 123-134.

Last modified:05 April 2019 11.18 a.m.
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