Child on child sex abuse in foster home

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Child on child sex abuse in foster home

Postby Marina » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:51 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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