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Postby Marina » Tue Dec 30, 2008 7:29 pm ... l?ITO=1490

Social services stole our children from us: Six-figure sum for parents wrongly accused of abuse

By Andy Dolan
Last updated at 2:02 AM on 23rd December 2008

A couple whose children were taken away for two years after a false accusation of sexual abuse have been awarded a six-figure compensation payout.

Tim and Gina Williams's three young children were placed in separate foster homes after social workers wrongly suspected them.

Their ordeal began in May 2004, when Mr Williams discovered a semi-naked 11-year- old boy on top of his daughter, Courtney, then five, following a neighbourhood paddling pool party.
Six-figure payout: Tim Williams and his wife Gina with their children (left to right) Ieuan, Courtney and Zara

He called police, but a medical examination resulted in social services stepping in, after a doctor claimed that the child had been the victim of abuse by an adult.

As a result, social services judged Mr and Mrs Williams could both pose a potential risk to Courtney and her siblings Zara and Ieuan.

In August 2004 the children were taken away.

Their parents were allowed just two 90-minute, supervised visits a week.

But two years ago, the family, from Newport, South Wales, were reunited after a judge exonerated the parents. The case collapsed a week before a final court hearing, after the family consulted a U.S. expert who found no suggestion of any sexual abuse.

A UK doctor agreed - and the original doctor who had examined Courtney then accepted their findings.

Newport council asked for the case to be dropped and the children were returned to their parents in September 2006.

The couple then began a compensation battle against Newport council and Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust.

And on Monday they were awarded an undisclosed sum in an agreed settlement at the High Court in Cardiff.

Afterwards their QC Robin Tolson said: 'The effect of what happened will continue to be felt for a long time. But at least this now marks the end of four years spent fighting for their children and their rights before the court.'

An initial report from the NHS Trust claiming that Courtney was being abused had been 'fundamentally flawed', their legal team said.

The family have previously spoken out to try to prevent other families from a similar fate. The parents said Zara, now 14, Ieuan, 11, and Courtney, nine, were like 'three little strangers' at times.

Zara had always been studious but was increasingly disruptive in class. Ieuan, who had had a sensitive, quiet inclination was often angry. And Courtney was too scared to sleep in case she woke to find her parents gone.

Mrs Williams, who waived her right to anonymity, said: 'None can bear to have us out of their sight because they think we won't come back. They believe they were taken into care because we didn't love or want them any more.'

Mr Williams, now 39, added: 'All three are extra clingy and constantly fight for our attention.

'If they don't see us at the school gates the moment the bell rings they freak out, so we have to get there ten minutes early and stand in exactly the same spot.

'But whenever we see the children angry or in tears, we have to remember that it's not their fault.

'They were ripped from us and still don't understand why.'

Under the settlement, the family are banned from commenting further on the case.

The NHS Trust said a serious case review had established that the doctor who examined the child had been working within her professional guidelines and no fault had been attached to her.

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Postby Marina » Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:53 pm ... 41025.html

Monday, Jan. 05, 2009

Appeals court renews Pa. couple's foster care suit

- The Associated Press

ERIE, Pa. — A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit filed by two former foster parents in northwestern Pennsylvania who say they weren't told a teenager placed in their home by child welfare agencies had a history of sexually abusing others.

Paul and Bonnie Bryan, of Cambridge Springs, say the 14-year-old boy abused another 9-year-old boy in their care in 2001.

The Bryans claim they lost their certification to become foster parents when they reported the abuse. They sued the Erie County Office of Children and Youth and several other agencies in 2003.

A federal judge dismissed the suit in 2006 saying they didn't state a claim covered by federal law, but the appeals court disagreed. A conference is set for Jan. 21 on the couple's amended lawsuit.

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Postby Marina » Mon Feb 16, 2009 8:17 pm ... 2520Region

Parents of girl killed in fire file lawsuit against CPS

Published: Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009 | Page 2B

The biological parents of a 4-year-old girl killed in a 2008 house fire apparently set by a Molotov cocktail have filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court against Child Protective Services.

Curtis Crenshaw and Anisha Hill charge in their lawsuit that CPS failed to properly monitor the foster care residence of their daughter Amariana Crenshaw. The girl died Jan. 11, 2008, in the fire in the 3400 block of Sweet Pea Way in South Natomas.

CPS officials declined to comment on the suit, filed by Roseville attorney Larry K. Eslinger, who could not be reached for comment. The action also names as a defendant the foster parent at the time of the girl's death, Tracy Dossman, who also could not be reached Friday.

No arrests have been made in the girl's death...

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Postby Marina » Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:46 pm ... xml&coll=8

Abuse case violated civil rights, says man

Friday, January 23, 2009
By Pete McCarthy
[email protected]

WOODBURY A man who once faced charges of abusing a foster child inside his Washington Township home has filed a lawsuit claiming the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office violated his civil rights.

The allegations stem from the 2006 arrest of Wilbert Johnson, who spent more than 20 days in jail after being charged with endangering the welfare of a child, only to see the case dismissed months later.

According to the lawsuit, the "arrest, detention and prosecution was unlawful and not the result of probable cause as defendants well knew that the allegations against the plaintiff ... were false and baseless."

Johnson claims multiple civil rights violations, including his Constitutional rights to due process, a fair and speedy trial, and to be free from illegal search and seizure.

Johnson, who now lives in Montgomery County, Pa., says he and his wife lawfully operated a foster home in Washington Township in February 2006.

At that time, the Washington Township Police Department began investigating claims made by an 8-year-old girl living at the home. The couple stopped accepting foster children from the state Division of Youth and Family Services once the claims were made, according to the lawsuit.

The prosecutor's office filed the complaint against Johnson in October 2006, alleging he tried to have the girl touch him inappropriately. The second-degree crime carried a maximum 10-year prison sentence if he was convicted. On Aug. 30, 2007, the charge was dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

"Regarding the matter of Wilbert Johnson, the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office has an obligation to protect juveniles and sought to do so in this case," said prosecutor's office spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld.

The prosecutor's office has yet to receive the lawsuit, which was filed in state Superior Court this week, according to Weisenfeld.

"Any further responses to Mr. Johnson's claims will be made in court," said Weisenfeld.

Johnson's attorney was out of the office Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit seeks in excess of $50,000 to cover the pain, suffering and humiliation allegedly suffered by Johnson during this ordeal.

Also named in the lawsuit was the county of Gloucester and unknown investigators involved in the case....

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Postby Marina » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:51 pm

Abused Boy's Father to Sue C.P.S., Union Backs Deputy in Question

By Preston Phillips
Story Published: Jan 23, 2009 at 2:33 AM EST

Story Updated: Jan 23, 2009 at 11:56 AM EST

Fresno, CA, USA (KSEE) -- While the brutal beating death of 10-year-old Seth Ireland continues to be investigated, the boy's father, Joe Hudson looks to file suit against Fresno County’s Child Protective Services.

At the same time, the Fresno Deputy Sheriff's Association is speaking out of behalf of one of the deputy who was working at the Fresno County Jail on December 26th.

According to reports, that's the day Seth’s mother and her boyfriend tried to drop Seth and his 7-year-old brother off with jail staff, but later decided against it.

This deputy was the last county employee to see Seth before he was severely beaten on December 29th.


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Postby Marina » Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:00 pm

CPS faces lawsuit in another child abuse case

By KSEE News
Story Published: Jan 23, 2009 at 10:30 PM EST

Story Updated: Jan 23, 2009 at 10:30 PM EST

KSEE 24 News has learned that Fresno County's Child Protective Services is facing a civil suit in federal court stemming from a case back in 2004. The suit claims a little girl was severely beaten by a woman that CPS helped establish as the girl's legal guardian, despite knowing the woman, Bertha Gonzales, had a history of abuse against her own children.

Attorney Steve Cornwell, who filed the suit on behalf of the girl, says CPS knew they could not get a court to directly appoint Gonzales the guardian of the girl, so they helped the girl's biological mother appoint Gonzales as the guardian. The little girl was beaten and suffered a broken leg, and then sustained another beating that left her with brain damage. Gonzales has since gone to prison for the beatings.

KSEE 24 News did not get a response from CPS when asked about the case.

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Postby Marina » Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:22 pm ... abuse_case

State to pay $2.9 million in Nassau foster care abuse case
Three children sexually assaulted in a foster home a decade ago sued the Florida DCF.

By Paul Pinkham Story updated at 8:36 AM on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

Conceding a settlement should have been reached long ago, the state has agreed to pay $2.9 million to three children sexually abused by older kids in a Nassau County foster home.

The agreement follows an appellate decision lawyers called unprecedented that gave the children the right to sue the Florida Department of Children and Families for placing them in a home where danger lurked. The settlement encompasses both state and federal claims filed against the department and its employees.

Under its terms, the money will go into a trust fund to pay for ongoing therapeutic care and treatment for the children, molested nearly a decade ago. “This was a very tragic case of harm to children in a foster home. We wish it had never happened,” said department spokesman John Harrell. “It has taken way too long to reach a resolution.

This settlement will help care for the needs of these children.” The agreement is scheduled to be presented to a Nassau County circuit judge this morning for approval. About a third of the settlement amount will pay attorney fees. It includes a $1.2 million state court settlement reached in December and a $1.7 million federal settlement announced Monday.

Lawyers for the children said the settlement was bolstered by a December ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. It said the children could sue on grounds that DCF was “deliberately indifferent” to the potential danger they faced when they were placed in the state-licensed foster home.

“This was the first written opinion by a federal appeals court upholding the right of children in foster care to sue for child-on-child sexual abuse,” said attorney Howard Talenfeld, president of the foster care advocacy group Florida’s Children First.

The children’s complaint says they were placed in a home where two known, sexually aggressive adolescents lived, ages 11 and 14. Both foster parents worked, leaving the siblings — then 3, 5 and 8 — at his mercy, said their Jacksonville attorney, Brian Cabrey. They were molested over a 10-month period in 1999 and 2000.

The 11-year-old had previously molested another foster child in the Nassau County home. That assault was reported to DCF’s abuse hotline, according to the lawsuit. “No background check was done on the setting before the children were left there,” Cabrey said. “And no plan was drafted or implemented to prevent the child-on-child abuse that eventually occurred.”

Lawyers for the former DCF workers had argued to the 11th Circuit that they were immune from liability because they didn’t know about the potential for abuse. But the court concluded, based on the 2005 lawsuit, that the workers showed “deliberate indifference” to the youngsters’ welfare. The case also exposed numerous record-keeping snafus, prompting an internal report by the department’s general counsel that blasted the Jacksonville office in December for destroying, misplacing and withholding records from the children’s lawyers.

Department attorney Robin Whipple-Hunter said at the time that improvements were being made. Cabrey said the mishandled documents were essential to protecting children in the foster care system and unnecessarily delayed resolution of the case. “Fortunately in this case we were finally able to get these three young children the help they so desperately need,” Cabrey said. The children have been adopted together.

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Postby Marina » Sat Mar 14, 2009 7:23 pm ... NTCAROUSEL

DYFS to pay abuse victim $600K

Girl molested by foster father in Mount Arlington

By Peggy Wright • Daily Record • February 25, 2009

The state Division of Youth and Family Services has agreed to a $600,000 settlement of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a now-17-year-old girl who admittedly was molested by her foster father in Mount Arlington a decade ago.

A civil trial was set to start this week in Superior Court, Morristown, on the lawsuit against DYFS and foster parents Lance and Jackie Olson. But the settlement -- under which DYFS did not admit any liability -- instead was reached late Monday, said attorney Jeffrey M. Advokat, who represents the victim and her natural mother. Lance William Olson, now 53 and living in Franklin Borough, Sussex County, with his wife, Jackie, had pleaded guilty to touching the girl on her genitals on two occasions between Nov. 1, 1998, and Dec. 31, 2000, when she was between the ages of 7 and 9. The furniture restorer was sentenced in July 2002 to five years at the state's Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Avenel and was released in June 2005.

DYFS spokeswoman Kate Bernyk said office policy is to decline comment on specific cases or litigation.

The lawsuit, filed in 2005, named the Olsons as defendants and also alleged that DYFS breached a duty to properly monitor the foster child's living arrangements with the couple. Lance Olson defaulted, or never responded to the lawsuit, while his wife retained attorney Jeffrey Patti and was prepared to defend herself.

"Mrs. Olson had no knowledge of any of these events," Patti said Tuesday. "I perceive it as there are two victims in the case -- the child and Jackie Olson."

Advokat said the settlement money is coming only from the state and that the case will be dismissed against the Olsons, who have no significant assets.

Advokat said the child lives with her natural mother in Morristown and is doing well and working. She disclosed the abuse to her mother when she was returned to her care.

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Postby Marina » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:48 pm ... ildren.txt

Abused children awarded millions

By Sian Perry, News-Leader

Three children sexually abused in a Fernandina Beach foster home nearly 10 years ago were awarded $2.9 million Monday in a settlement with the state Department of Children and Families.

The money will be placed in "special needs trusts" to pay for specialized counseling and education for the children, said Howard Talenfeld, their lawyer in a federal suit brought in the case. "We are very pleased (the state) was able to find the money to get the kids the treatment they will need for the rest of their lives."

The settlement was expected to be approved by Circuit Court Judge Brian Davis in a hearing Tuesday at the Nassau County Courthouse. It would resolve both the state and federal lawsuits in the case.

"We are hopeful and encouraged that the Florida Department of Children and Families will recognize that children in foster care should not be sexually assaulted," Talenfeld said of the agreement. "It sounds simple, but it's taken 10 years," he said.

"This was a very tragic case of harm to children in a foster home. We wish it had never happened," said John Harrell, DCF spokesperson. "We are glad that all parties have agreed to a settlement that can take care of the children's future needs and we hope they will recover."

The settlement Monday followed a federal appeals court ruling Dec. 15 that let stand a civil rights lawsuit filed in 2005 by the adoptive parents of the children - two girls and one boy now age 13, 15 and 17 - alleging their 14th amendment rights to physical safety were violated when three DCF workers placed them in a local home despite evidence another foster child there was a sexual predator and the parents lacked the ability to properly supervise them.

Two of the children lived at the home from March 1999 to May 2000. The third child lived there in January 1999, but even after moving was returned for unsupervised after-school care by the foster parents' adopted son and another foster child "both identified as sexually aggressive children," the suit said. The plaintiffs were 3, 5 and 8 at the time.

In its ruling the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta wrote, "... We conclude that Defendants knowingly subjected the children to a substantial risk of serious harm and exhibited deliberate indifference to the known risk: conduct already clearly established as unconstitutional." The workers and the state had argued they had "qualified immunity."

Talenfeld noted that the court's written ruling was the first ever published in a child-on-child sex abuse case and is precedent setting.

The case also led to a scathing DCF internal review that found the agency's lawyers stonewalled the children in their request for records, claiming they were "missing or nonexistent" when they were not.

Talenfeld said the children's team of lawyers is encouraged the settlement will lead to substantive changes in the state DCF system, and that they "will not dust this one under the rug."

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Postby Marina » Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:53 am ... 812805.txt

Father files lawsuit against Department of Social Services
Complaint alleges child abuse, false imprisonment and civil rights violations.

By Andrea J. Cook, Journal staff | Friday, February 27, 2009

A Rapid City man has accused the South Dakota Department of Social Services with child abuse, false imprisonment and civil rights violations.

Attorneys Patrick Duffy and Jeffrey Fransen filed the civil lawsuit in federal court in Pierre earlier this month on behalf of Steven Brandsted, a single parent. The department had not filed a response as of Thursday.

The complaint individually names five DSS employees, including department Secretary Deb Bowman, Candace Archer, Elizabeth Heidelberger, Cason Brown and Virgenia Wieseler. Thirty unidentified DSS employees also are included in the suit.

Brandsted is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for himself and his daughter, identified as A.B., for Department of Social Services' actions after his daughter told a friend at school that her father had spanked her.

According to the complaint, Brandsted spanked his fully clothed daughter on the buttocks with an open bare hand on April 28.

The day after learning of the spanking, A.B.'s friend reported the incident to school authorities.

Brandsted confirmed the spanking when he was interviewed by law enforcement authorities April 29.

The Department of Social Services took custody of A.B. on May 1, placing her in temporary foster care in Belle Fourche. She later was transferred to foster care in Rapid City.

The state retained custody of A.B. for 63 days. She was returned July 9.

One month after the child was taken from him, Brandsted was notified by mail that the allegations against him were unsubstantiated, according to Fransen.

Although Brandsted was never charged, the complaint alleges that Heidelberger prepared a false report for circuit court stating that returning the girl to her father's home would likely result in serious injury or emotional harm.

Fransen said Bransted is seeking a court judgment that children must be returned to their families as soon as DSS determines that no crime has been committed and that there is no danger to the children.

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Postby Marina » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:00 am ... 0/1002/rss

Parents sue county schools, DCS for interviewing child without consent

BY CHASITY GUNN • [email protected] • February 27, 2009

Two Murfreesboro parents are suing the Rutherford County Board of Education and the state Department of Children's Services for allegedly interviewing their daughter without their consent and thereby causing her "severe emotional harm."

According to the U.S. District Court complaint, a male kindergartner at Homer Pittard Campus School inappropriately touched the girl "with her consent" in November 2007. The parents, John and Glenda Oshop, met with principal Stan Baskin and kindergarten teacher Debbie Siegfried the next day about the incident.

Both parties agreed that the boy's actions were "nothing more than normal exploratory behavior," but inappropriate, the suit states.

"Basically, the parents believe they have the right to dictate how their child is being raised," said Brad Hornsby, an attorney who represents the parents.

The suit was filed on Jan. 20. The parents are requesting no more than $750,000 in damages. The complaint lists Director of Schools Harry Gill Jr., McCloud and each school board member as defendants.

A few weeks after the incident, a DCS employee told the parents to bring their daughter to the DCS facility for forensic testing, which the father "expressed reluctance" and eventually stated he didn't want his daughter to be interviewed, according to court documents.

The parents "were satisfied with the way this matter was being handled considering the sensitivity of their daughter and the potential harm to her if this incident was magnified."

DCS contacted the School Board to interview the child, and Baskin allowed DCS to do so "after Angel McCloud, the school board attorney, threatened to bring charges of obstruction of justice against him if he didn't not consent to the interview," the court documents state.

Baskin was told he couldn't contact the parents or tell them about the interview, according to court documents.

On Jan. 22, 2008, the girl was interviewed by DCS, and McCloud was aware that the parents were opposed to their daughter being interviewed.

"Basically, they think they know more than the parents," Hornsby said about the school system and DCS' alleged actions.

He said the parents didn't agree with DCS and school officials "taking their child out of class" and being interrogated by a group of adults.

Rutherford County Schools have not been served with the lawsuit, said James Evans, the district's spokesman. He said the district doesn't comment on ongoing litigation.

DCS has not received any court documents related to the case either, said Leigh Jones, chief of staff for the state attorney's office.

Hornsby expects the judge to set pre-trial conferences within the next 30 days or so.

According to the complaint, a jury trial has been requested.

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Postby Marina » Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:27 pm ... 67041.html

Suit seeks refund of child support
Mother stripped of her parental rights was ordered to pay when she shouldn't have.

By Mandy Locke
[email protected]
Posted: Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009

SMITHFIELD Locked in a filing cabinet in the Johnston County courthouse is a judge's order that would have spared Rebecca Jones about $19,000 in child support she has paid for children she couldn't rear.

Without her knowledge, a judge in 2001 took her parental rights. His ruling should've ended her duty to pay. The rule – no rights, no responsibility – has been state law since about 1969. Instead, $300 of Jones' monthly income was garnished for more than six years.

Now Jones, 36, wants it back. She also wants the state to fix a system she thinks is defrauding parents like her.

Jones' attorneys have filed a lawsuit in Johnston County, asking a judge to order the state to account for all parents who have paid child support despite having lost parental rights. They've also asked the judge to force the courts to open their files and list all parents stripped of their rights.

“This is about stopping a wrong,” said Ron Trimyer Jr., one of Jones' attorneys in Smithfield. The lawsuit targets the state Department of Health and Human Services, Johnston County, the private attorneys who represent the county's child support enforcement agency and the company hired to collect payments.

The defendants asked that the suit be dismissed, but Johnston County Judge Tom Lock ruled Friday to let it proceed.

Mark Payne, Johnston County attorney, agreed Jones shouldn't have been ordered to pay, but doesn't think the county was negligent. A spokesperson for the state Health and Human Services Department declined to comment.

Jones' lawsuit challenges a system that works mostly in private. Orders terminating a parent's rights are guarded so that even officials working for county child support enforcement agencies can't get them. That secrecy is designed to protect parents who have given up a child for adoption, as well as those who lose rights after investigations. A judge must grant permission to look at the records.

In addition, there is no central database or master list of parents stripped of their rights, state court and social services officials say.

Payne, the county attorney, said he thinks the state should create such a database.

Timothy Starling of Wayne County accumulated seven arrest orders for failure to pay child support. Trimyer, who also represents Starling, said Starling had insisted to child support enforcers he'd lost his parental rights and shouldn't owe – his child has been adopted. An officer told Starling that didn't matter, Trimyer said.

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Postby Marina » Sun Apr 12, 2009 8:52 am ... secase.txt

State to pay $2 million in abuse case

SALEM (AP) — The Oregon Department of Human Services has agreed to pay $2 million for the future care of twins allegedly abused by their foster parents to the point that they will need care for the rest of their lives.

According to a 2007 federal lawsuit, Kaylie and Jordan Collins were kept in cribs covered with chicken wire secured by duct tape in a darkened bedroom known as “the dungeon.’’

The lawsuit said the brother and sister often were without food, water or human touch. The boy, who had a shunt put into his head at birth to drain fluid, didn’t receive medical attention and hit his head against his crib to relieve the pressure. When police and child welfare workers rescued the twins from the Gresham foster home, he was nearly comatose.

Jordan, now 6 1/2, has brain damage, still wears a diaper and can’t talk. Kaylie can say 25 to 50 words. Both are in the bottom 1 percent developmentally of children their age.

The Oregonian said the twins are among about 100 Oregon foster children who are abused or neglected each year while under the supervision of the state, according to DHS. But few suits are filed because the children’s injured or dead children’s parents are often out of the picture.

“I don’t think many of these kids have a champion,’’ said Greg Kafoury, a prominent civil attorney in Portland. Kafoury said that without the threat of legal action, the state agency has little incentive to change.

Attorney David Paul sued on behalf of the twins’ adoptive mother in Michigan, seeking $12.8 million.

Paul said the twins, who were born prematurely in August 2002, arrived at the foster home of Gail and Marvin Thompson and stayed about three years.

The Thompsons, both in their 60s, had successfully fostered scores of children, the state says. Since March 2004, state policy has required caseworkers to have face-to-face contact with children at least once a month, but Paul said they often skipped visits, sometimes phoning instead.

Paul said that, according to police reports, the floor of the children’s room was covered in garbage and their sheets were saturated in dried excrement and urine. The windows of the room were blacked out.

One caseworker noted that while visiting the home, the children were brought into a common room where they squinted at the daylight. State workers also didn’t make sure the Thompsons were regularly taking Jordan to the neurologist, according to Paul.

Paul said the Thompsons were getting up to $90,000 a year tax-free for caring for up to six children at a time.

In 2004, Gov. Ted Kulongoski ordered DHS to explain what went wrong whenever a child dies or is seriously injured under state supervision or after abuse was reported. DHS has issued 16 such reports, but not one for Kaylie and Jordan Collins.

The child welfare division of DHS is understaffed by 19 percent and faces more cuts. The state would need to add 407 employees to adequately take care of the current caseload, according to a state analysis.

The neglect came to light after three 2005 Thanksgiving dinner guests including at least two relatives reported the Thompsons to authorities.

The Multnomah County district attorney’s office, citing privacy laws, declined to say why they didn’t prosecute.

Marvin Thompson, reached by phone, said the allegations are almost entirely false.

He said he and his wife didn’t keep the children in a darkened room, but covered the cribs with a mesh, not chicken wire, for the children’s safety.

But DHS said the Thompsons deceived child welfare workers. “The family went to elaborate lengths to hide the abuse, including having a fake nursery on display to deceive visitors and DHS caseworkers,’’ said Patty Wentz, a department spokeswoman.

The state is not admitting any wrongdoing. The caseworkers for the twins, Elisa Deserano and Tammy Stanfill, still work for the agency.

Wentz said caseworkers saw the children 39 times over three years but that it was not clear how many of those visits were in the home and not at a state office.

Wentz said her office has created new policies and clarified existing ones to require case workers to visit homes every two months and see children face to face at least once a month.

If the settlement is approved by a judge, Paul’s law firm will collect 33 percent of the $2 million for its two years of work and $500,000 will be immediately available for Kaylie and Jordan’s benefit.

The rest will go into a fund that is expected to grow to $4 million over the children’s lifetimes.

Paul said the twins are thriving in their new lives, on a farmhouse and land in Michigan.

Information from: The Oregonian,

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Postby Marina » Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:59 am ... 91675.html

Apr 22, 2009 4:17 pm US/Mountain
Parents Of Boy Who Starved To Death File Lawsuit

By Katie Oyan, AP Writer Reporting
Raj Chohan DENVER (AP) ―

The parents of a 7-year-old boy who starved to death in the care of his mother's ex-boyfriend have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the agencies that administer child-welfare services in Denver and Jefferson counties.

Christina Grafner and Joshua Norris filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Denver against the Department of Human Services in each county. Grafner and Norris are the biological parents of Chandler Grafner, who weighed 34 pounds when he died in May 2007.

Court records say Chandler starved to death after being locked in a closet for days without food or water in the home of Christina Grafner's ex-boyfriend Jon Phillips and his girlfriend, Sarah Berry.

A jury in August convicted Phillips of first-degree murder, fatal child abuse and evidence tampering in the boy's death, while Berry pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

The lawsuit alleges the Jefferson County DHS took Chandler from his mother against her will and placed him with Phillips and Berry, in Denver County, without adequately investigating whether they were fit foster parents.

The suit says the human services departments in both counties then failed in their responsibility to keep Chandler safe and monitor his well-being, including mishandling reports from the boy's school that he suffered abuse.

The agencies "had an affirmative duty to act on behalf of Chandler Grafner in the administration of Chandler Grafner's welfare, including preventing or remedying neglect, abuse or exploitation of Chandler Grafner, or preserving, rehabilitating or reuniting Chandler Grafner's biological family," the lawsuit says.

The departments weren't available for comment late Tuesday. The suit also names Margaret Booker, who headed investigation of child maltreatment and intake services for the Denver County DHS; and Mary Peagler, Denver County DHS case record supervisor.

Also listed as a plaintiff is Melissa R. Schwartz, a representative of Chandler's estate.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

A state inquiry following the deaths in 2007 of Chandler and 12 other children under human services care prompted several rule changes designed to correct flaws in the system.

The inquiry found that foster children whose parents move around the state are difficult to keep track of. The new rules included a requirement that social workers call other counties to confirm they have received a case being referred to them.

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Postby Marina » Fri May 08, 2009 6:43 pm ... cation=rss

DSHS settles foster-care case for $2 million
The state Department of Social and Health Services will pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by two women who claimed they suffered years of physical and sexual abuse as children in a foster home while DSHS looked the other way.

By Jim Brunner

Seattle Times staff reporter

The state Department of Social and Health Services will pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by two women who claimed they suffered years of physical and sexual abuse as children in a foster home while DSHS looked the other way.

The women, identified in court papers as A.K. and K.M., claimed they were abused beginning in the late 1980s at ages 5 and 6 after being placed in a Pierce County foster home.

In their lawsuit, filed in Pierce County Superior Court, A.K. claimed her foster father began raping her at age 6. When she was 8, she claimed, he ordered her to start showering with him and to walk around the house wearing only his wife's underwear. The lawsuit also alleged the couple subjected foster children to beatings and sadistic punishments, such as forcing the children to eat feces and vomit.

Thursday's settlement included no admission of wrongdoing by DSHS. Agency spokesman Steve Williams said the women's abuse claims were never proven. But, he added: "DSHS hopes the plaintiffs can use the settlement in ways that will help them live fulfilling and productive lives."

An attorney for the foster parents — who were never criminally charged — rejected the abuse claims in the lawsuit.

"The couple denied and continue to deny all allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse claimed by the plaintiffs," said the attorney, Sok-Khieng Lim, in an e-mailed statement. She added that the couple provided foster care for more than 20 years in Washington and Arizona — frequently taking on some of the most difficult children in the system — and they were "devastated" by the allegations.

The couple, who now live in England, were dismissed from the lawsuit after a $10,000 settlement earlier this year. The Seattle Times does not generally name individuals who have not been charged with a crime.

The attorneys for the women, now in their early 20s, said they'd discovered evidence in DSHS files that the agency had received multiple warnings of possible abuse over years, yet failed to act.

For example, one of A.K.'s teachers reported that the girl had seemed fearful of her foster dad and had complained that "her private parts hurt" — classic signs of possible abuse. No investigation occurred.

An elementary-school counselor reported hearing that A.K. was forced by her foster mother to eat loaves of frozen bread for several days in a row as a punishment for overeating at school.

A DSHS supervisor dismissed that as "a bizarre form of punishment" that did not rise to the level of neglect, according to court documents.

Another school counselor reported hearing that foster children in the home were sometimes forced to hit each other. If they didn't, the mother "will hit us in the mouth and knock our teeth out," one of the children said in a therapy session, according to court documents.

Despite such reports, DSHS did not launch an investigation and allowed the couple to move with the girls to Arizona in 1993.

Lincoln Beauregard, an attorney representing the women, said his clients hoped the settlement would lead other abused foster children to step forward.

"The most important thing to my clients is that the public knows what happened ... and that DSHS failed to do their job and continues to fail to do their job," he said.

Beauregard also said he was furious with what he considers a "perjured" declaration — filed by the state in a failed attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed — by the longtime DSHS caseworker for the children.

That caseworker, now retired, said in the sworn declaration that "at no point was there ever a suggestion of physical or sexual abuse," despite having been questioned that day in a deposition about reports of possible abuse in DSHS's own files.

The $2 million settlement is the latest of many to hit DSHS's supervision of foster homes in recent years.

In 2007, four siblings won a $6.2 million verdict after a jury found the state negligent for licensing an abusive Seattle foster mother. Last year, eight boys got an $11 million settlement from Seattle, Tacoma and DSHS for failing to stop sexual abuse by a foster father who also posted explicit pictures of the abuse on the Internet.

In 2004, DSHS agreed to make major changes to the foster-care system in response to a class-action lawsuit.

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Postby Marina » Sat May 09, 2009 6:54 pm ... ld_ab.html

Lawyer for alleged 5-year-old abuse victim files $820,000 suit vs. state

by Aimee Green, The Oregonian
Friday May 01, 2009, 5:29 PM

An attorney representing a 5-year-old boy who reported that he was molested while in state-certified foster care is suing the state for $820,000.

According to the suit filed on behalf of the boy, another 12-year-old foster child who was living in the Columbia County home sexually abused him. David Paul, an attorney for the 5-year-old boy said the younger boy told a counselor about the February 2008 abuse. He later was assessed by trained child-abuse experts.

"He just started becoming very shy and reclusive," said Paul, noting one sign of how the abuse affected the boy.

The boy has since returned to live with his mother, but he grows agitated when caseworkers from the Oregon Department of Human Services check on him, Paul said.

"He's terrified that DHS is going to take him back," Paul said. Paul said the boy has amassed $20,000 in medical bills, counseling and other costs so far. He will need treatment throughout his life, and will suffer a loss of earning capacity.

The suit, which was filed Thursday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, claims that DHS was negligent for failing to adequately screen the home and the risk other children in the home posed. The suit also claims the state is liable for the boy's abuse because it had custody of -- and under state law was liable for -- the alleged abuser.

It is unclear whether the 12-year-old boy has been charged with a crime.

A DHS spokeswoman said she wasn't aware of the suit, and couldn't comment.

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Postby Marina » Sat May 09, 2009 7:59 pm ... 4278.story

10 adopted kids suing over years of abuse by mom in 'house of horrors'

By Kate Santich | Sentinel Staff Writer
May 1, 2009

For more than 20 years, Judith Leekin lied to New York child-welfare workers so that she could adopt and abuse special-needs children, eventually moving the kids to Florida and subjecting them to "a house of horrors" while pocketing $1.68 million meant for their care.

Now, with Leekin sentenced to 20 years in prison, attorneys for 10 of those children are suing the city of New York and various child-welfare agencies, claiming that they failed to monitor the children and verify the most basic information, including Leekin's identity.

"This is the most horrific case of child abuse I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot," said Fort Lauderdale civil-rights attorney Howard Talenfeld, who is representing the plaintiffs. "For 20 years, those kids ... didn't go to school; they didn't go to a doctor; they didn't grow normally; they didn't have a life. They were tortured."

The suit, filed Thursday, seeks unspecified damages and says the plaintiffs will require "treatment for the rest of their lives due to severe psychological trauma." They are in their late teens and early 20s. One, who lived briefly in Orlando after Leekin's arrest, is now homeless, Talenfeld said.

According to the suit, the children were placed in Leekin's care from 1986 to 1994 under a variety of aliases and Social Security numbers. Of 22 children who came and went over the years, 10 were adopted "for the sole purpose of collecting the special-needs subsidies provided for their care."

The children were "chronically beaten, handcuffed, zip-tied" and kept locked in a basement or garage, the suit says. Several lost most of their teeth to decay and were near starvation when they were discovered.

Sharman Stein, a spokeswoman for the Administration for Children's Services in New York, said the city "intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit." She said her agency did "everything possible" to aid in Leekin's prosecution.

Leekin, now 64 and in prison for fraud and child abuse, was arrested in July 2007 after police found one of her malnourished children wandering around.

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Postby Marina » Fri May 22, 2009 9:35 pm ... 25884.html

Psychiatric hospital in Washington County pays $150,000 to settle suit alleging abuse, fraud

By Debra Erdley
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A private psychiatric hospital in Washington County paid $150,000 to settle a suit alleging it over-medicated and abused juveniles the state Department of Public Welfare sent there in 2005.

The settlement, negotiated by the Department of Justice, includes no admission of wrongdoing. It contains an agreement outlining standards of care and oversight at Southwood Psychiatric Hospital.

A federal prosecutor said the settlement should send a message to facilities that care for vulnerable children.

The suit was filed by Dr. Stefan Kruszewski, a Harrisburg-area psychiatrist who under state contract monitored private facilities for fraud and abuse from 2001 until his firing in 2003.

He charged that Southwood held juveniles who did not require hospitalization, prescribed and administered unnecessary medication to increase government reimbursements, and billed the government for care that was not provided.

Southwood, licensed as a school and hospital, houses as many as 132 boys ages 6 to 18 at four residential treatment facilities in Washington County. The complaint cited only the 76-bed residential campus in rural Prosperity.

In a written statement, Steven Quigley of Youth and Family Centered Services, Southwood's parent company, said changes to improve services at the facility were under way during settlement discussions. Youth and Family Centered Services operates programs in nine states.

Quigley said the agreement should make the Prosperity facility "a model program for similar providers," and that the changes exceed state standards. He said the facility underwent successful licensing reviews the past three years.

The suit, filed in 2005 under the federal False Claims Act, was made public last month only when the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia settled the case.

The False Claims Act allows individuals with evidence of fraud against the government to file suit under the false claims act. If the U.S. attorney intervenes, plaintiffs in such cases are eligible to collect a portion of proceeds. In this case, Kruszewski will receive $22,500 of the $150,000 payment; the rest will reimburse Medicaid.

Laurie Magid, the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, said the settlement should be a warning for facilities providing such services.

"Children and adolescents who temporarily live in psychiatric residential treatment facilities, often at a significant distance from home, are particularly vulnerable and need a safe environment and a quality of care that will effectively treat their underlying conditions and allow them to return home as soon as possible," Magid said in a written statement.

Kruszewski said he learned of problems at Southwood while reviewing records for the Welfare Department. His suit was an effort to "right some wrongs in the system," and filed after the state dismissed his warnings, he said.

"The state response was pathetic. ... DPW stymied virtually every and any attempt to investigate," Kruszewski said. "DPW had only a few nurses and a few administrative people trying to investigate hundreds of complaints. They didn't have the resources, the senior directive, nor the will to proceed."

He said he was fired in 2003 when he reported a pattern of rampant abuse in facilities housing Pennsylvania Medicaid recipients in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia. In 2007, the state paid Kruszewski $374,000 to settle a civil rights whistleblower suit that charged he was fired for speaking about his findings.

A spokeswoman for the Welfare Department said the agency was independently reviewing Southwood when federal authorities approached with an offer to pool resources because of Kruszewski's suit.

"The (Department of Justice) and the (Bureau of Program Integrity) were able to collaboratively share notes, on-site evidence and assessments to complete the investigation," said Stacey Witalec.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Hutchinson confirmed the state provided critical assistance when approached about the suit.

Kruszewski said Southwood's agreement to expand its clinical staff and improve oversight and monitoring was the most important result of his suit.

"I am satisfied with what's in place at Southwood at the present time ... at least what I know of their progress and agreements."

Southwood houses 35 patients for the state at a cost of $151 a day, according to the Welfare Department.

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Postby Marina » Sat May 23, 2009 7:24 pm ... 2954.shtml

Thursday, May 14, 2009 Story last updated at 5/14/2009 - 9:44 am

Jury awards sexually abused boy nearly $1M
Juneau Empire

ANCHORAGE - A jury has awarded nearly $1 million to a boy who was sexually abused for years, despite reports to the state Office of Children's Services.

The Anchorage jury decided the award Wednesday afternoon. However, it found that the state was only liable for 7 percent of the damages, or less than $70,000.

The boy's attorney says the rest of the judgment is to be paid by the boy's mother and the man convicted of abusing him. The lawyer, Christina Schleuss, tells the Anchorage Daily News neither has much money available.

State lawyers said any mistakes were minor, caseworkers made reasonable decisions and the fault for the abuse was with the other adults in the boy's life.

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Postby Marina » Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:09 pm ... 6/1002/rss

$901,000 awarded after toddler's death
By Sharahn D. Boykin • Staff Writer • September 16, 2009

SALISBURY -- A civil jury awarded $901,000 to the biological family of a toddler killed while in foster care.

The jury delivered the verdict Tuesday, one day after the child's family had dropped its wrongful death case against the state, in court, leaving the man accused of causing the child's death as the focus of the trial.
According to court records, the child's mother, Tasha Allen, was awarded $360,000; her father was awarded $240,000; and her grandmother was awarded $301,000.

In court, Edson Brown, a 47-year-old Salisbury man, was seated at the defense table again in connection with a case related to the death of 2-year-old Kyla Edwards. However, this time, Brown elected to represent himself during the civil proceedings.


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Postby Marina » Thu Nov 26, 2009 7:21 pm ... cation=rss

Abused girl gets $1.5 million settlement from state
A child who was sexually molested, burned with cigarettes and beaten with a spatula by her paternal grandparents will receive a $1.5 million settlement from two state agencies.

By Christine Clarridge

Seattle Times staff reporter

A child who was sexually molested, burned with cigarettes and beaten with a spatula by her paternal grandparents will receive a $1.5 million settlement from two state agencies.

Attorneys for the 14-year-old girl said the Department of Corrections (DOC) failed to supervise the girl's grandfather, a convicted child molester, and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) left the girl in the home despite "abundant" warnings about the care she was receiving.

"This is a case in which there was horrific abuse, and DSHS did have abundant notice that there were mistakes," said Lincoln Beauregard, one of the girl's attorneys, who released information about the settlement on Friday.

Beauregard, however, gave credit to the state's social-service agency for "stepping up to the plate instead of fighting a case where they knew they were wrong."

Steve Williams, a spokesman for DSHS said, "We regret the trauma the young girl suffered at the hands of her relative. We hope the settlement assists her as she completes her education and moves on to a full and productive life."

DOC spokeswoman Maria Peterson said, "The Department hopes this settlement will help reduce the pain of her experience and that it will offer her opportunities for a positive future."

According to the claim, the girl was placed in her paternal grandmother's home in Okanogan County when she was 2 months old.

The child's mother had encounters with the law that rendered her unable to care for her daughter, Beauregard said.

In 1999, the girl's grandfather was released from prison after being twice convicted on child-molestation charges, Beauregard said.

The grandfather's parole officer notified CPS about the danger he believed the grandfather would pose to the child, but the girl remained in her grandparents' home, Beauregard said.

Beauregard said DOC did not go far enough in its supervision.

According to the claim, the girl was sexually abused by her grandfather and physically abused by her grandmother repeatedly over many years.

Beauregard and co-counsel Crystal J. McDonald and Erik L. Bauer said the girl's head was slammed into a wall and that she was burned with cigarettes and beaten with spatulas. She was removed from the home in 2004. Beauregard said the child is living with her mother in Pierce County and is doing well.

Her attorneys report that about one-third of the settlement will be paid in attorneys' fees. A portion of the settlement will be used to procure counseling and tutoring for the child, Beauregard said.

"She's doing much better," he said. "One part of her life has now closed and she can move forward."

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Postby Marina » Thu Nov 26, 2009 7:36 pm

Lawsuit Claims DHS Negligent When Investigating Abuse
Posted: Nov 12, 2009 9:40 PM EST
Updated: Nov 13, 2009 9:28 AM EST

The 71-page report details abuse and neglect claims against DHS. More LinksRead The Child Welfare Expert's ReportBy Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is battling a federal class action lawsuit. Now there are new details about how they've handled the cases of the nine children named in that suit.

DHS has had K.T. in its care since she was five. A new report says she was not only shuttled in and out of seven foster homes and several shelters, but it indicates she may have been repeatedly exposed to sexual abuse.

The report says when K.T. was 6 years old, her foster mother told an OKDHS child welfare worker that she and her brother had "regressed" following a visit to her biological father.

The foster mother went on to say K.T. had a nightmare, and the 6-year-old was found "with a stuffed animal between her legs saying 'no daddy, no more.’"

Two days later, an investigator contacted K.T.'s therapist for some background information. It took 20 days before the investigator tried to talk to K.T. The report says, she didn't talk to him because she was afraid of being moved.

The investigator noted that K.T.'s "sexual acting out" seemed to have been "ignored in the early stages" and seemed constant the entire time she was in custody.

Two weeks later, the investigator talked to K.T.'s father, the person she visited, when she started acting out. He denied abusing the girl, blaming another person in K.T.'s home.

A week later - a full month and a half after the suspected abuse was first reported - the investigator got a copy of a report from K.T.'s therapist. It recommended K.T. and her brother continue family therapy with their father and increase overnight visits.

The report concludes that it's clear from K.T.'s sexualized behavior that she was "almost certainly sexually abused."

Not even two months later, there was another report that K.T. had been fondled, while at her father's home. That investigation took another six weeks. Once again no forensic interview was performed on K.T., and no abuse was found.

The lawyers suing the state says K.T.'s case proves DHS abuse investigations take too long and are not complete. According to K.T.'s file, she was never given a medical evaluation nor a forensic interview. ... 48_001.pdf

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