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Professor who claimed 10-year-olds could consent to sexual abuse was allowed to interview LGBT+ children in foster care

Lily Wakefield January 13, 2021
Colombia University professor Theo Sandfort, who has published multiple works on paedophilia

Colombia University professor Theo Sandfort, who has published multiple works on paedophilia. (YouTube/ eNCA)

New York City Children’s Services has cut ties with Theo Sandfort, the author of a landmark study on LGBT+ youth in foster care after his decades-old paedophilia research resurfaced.

In 2015, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) commissioned Columbia University professor Theo Sandfort to design a study looking at the proportion of LGBT+ youth in the New York City foster system.

The landmark study, which was conducted in 2019 and published in November 2020, showed that more than one in three children in foster care were LGBT+.

But recently, according to The Imprint, troubling research conducted by Sandfort between 1979 and the early 1990s has resurfaced.

In multiple books and articles, the professor insisted that children as young as 10 year old could take part in “consensual” sexual relationships with adults decades older than them, and that they should not always be described as “victims”.

He has published many disturbing works on paedophilia, including “Pedophile Relationships in the Netherlands: Alternative Lifestyle for Children?”, “Boys On Their Contacts with Men: A Study of Sexually Expressed Friendships” and “Male Intergenerational Intimacy: Historical, Socio-Psychological, and Legal Perspectives”.

ACS has now cut all ties with Theo Sandfort, although it stands by his research on LGBT+ youth in the foster system, which prompted a Children’s Services action plan to support queer kids in care.

ACS spokesperson Marisa Kaufman told PinkNews in a statement: “The City of New York has zero tolerance for pedophilia.

“The health, safety, and well-being of children is our top priority, and those who endanger children are contrary to the values of our city.

“Our work with Dr Sandfort began through an agreement with Columbia University over five years ago and current ACS leadership was not aware of these previous writings until after the survey findings were released.

“ACS has severed all ties with Dr Sandfort. ACS stands by the findings of the LGBT+ study and we are committed to implementing our action plan.

“We have reviewed and strengthened our vetting process for engaging researchers and consultants working on research projects with ACS.”

But foster care advocates have been questioning how ACS worked with Sandfort for five years and allowed him to interview children in foster care without knowing about his previous work. His paedophilia research is viewable with a simple internet search.

Theo Sandfort ‘should never have been working with kids’, says youth worker.

Mary Keane, former executive director of foster youth support organisation You Gotta Believe, said: “He should never have been working with any kids under any official banner, but kids in care are just that much more vulnerable.”

She and other advocates expressed hope the author’s past work does not distract from the serious concerns of LGBTQ youth revealed by the survey, and the need to get those young people more resources and emotional support.

Lead counsel for the non-profit Children’s Rights, Christina Wilson Remlin, added: “Paedophilia is a danger to children.

“Child welfare agencies must enforce strict standards to keep those associated with it away from children.

“If Theo Sandfort has authored articles arguing for the acceptance of pedophilia, he should not have been hired by ACS to lead or participate in any survey of foster youth.”

Sandfort told The Imprint: “I have never advocated for adult-child sexual interactions, and I have never promoted or participated in such activities.”

Sandfort and the New York City Children’s Services have been contacted for further comment.

More: columbia university, New York City, paedophilia, Theo Sandfort

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