If you or someone you know was harmed in foster care, you may have a potential lawsuit. If a child was taken from a good home for little or no reason and the parents of a child did not receive a trial, RepresentYou is a lawyer referral service that may be able to help people find a lawyer to sue. RepresentYou is a State Bar certified lawyer referral service we can help people find lawyers with a minimum of 20 years of experience in dealing with child services lawsuits. Our lawyers also carry malpractice insurance and have no disciplinary action from any bar association. If you want to get your child out of foster care, RepresentYou may be able to connect you to an attorney that might help you.
Our lawyers may be able to work on a contingency fee basis, a contingency fee can mean you don’t pay unless you win. This means that suing child protective services for harming your child can cost you nothing until the case is resolved in your favor.
Below is a very in depth look into problems with the foster care system, if you or your family has been a victim of this system and a child was taken from a good home and put into foster care, please contact us to see if we can help represent you and try to help you receive compensation for the harm that may have been caused to you.
A Critical Look At The Foster Care System:
How Widespread a Problem?
One of the most comprehensive surveys of abuse in foster care was conducted in conjunction with a Baltimore lawsuit. Trudy Festinger, head of the Department of Research at the New York University School of Social Work, determined that over 28 per cent of the children in state care had been abused while in the system.
Reviewed cases depicted “a pattern of physical, sexual and emotional abuses” inflicted upon children in the custody of the Baltimore Department.
Cases reviewed as the trial progressed revealed children who had suffered continuous sexual and physical abuse or neglect in foster homes known to be inadequate by the Department. Cases included that of sexual abuse of young girls by their foster fathers, and that of a young girl who contracted gonorrhea of the throat as a result of sexual abuse in an unlicenced foster home.
In Louisiana, a study conducted in conjunction with a civil suit found that 21 percent of abuse or neglect cases involved foster homes.
In another Louisiana case, one in which thousands of pages of evidence were reviewed, and extensive testimony and depositions were taken, it was discovered that hundreds of foster children had been shipped out of the state to Texas.
Stephen Berzon of the Children’s Defense Fund explained the shocking findings of the court before a Congressional subcommitte, saying: “children were physically abused, handcuffed, beaten, chained, and tied up, kept in cages, and overdrugged with psychotropic medication for institutional convenience.”
In Missouri, a 1981 study found that 57 percent of the sample children were placed in foster care settings that put them “at the very least at a high risk of abuse or neglect.”
A later report issued in 1987 found that 25 percent of the children in the Missouri sample group had been victims of “abuse or inappropriate punishment.”
Children’s Rights Project attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry described the findings of the Missouri review before the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families:
The most troubling result of the Kansas City review was the level of abuse, undetected or unreported, in foster homes. 25% of the children in the sample were the subject of abuse or inappropriate punishment. 88% of those reports were not properly investigated.
A recent class action lawsuit filed on behalf of foster children in the State of Arizona serves well to indicate the extent of sexual abuse of children in state care.
The suit alleges that over 500 of an estimated 4,000 foster children, a figure representing at least 12.5 percent of the state’s foster care population, have been sexually abused while in state care.
The action also charged that “the acts and omissions of Defendants were done in bad faith, with malice, intent or deliberate indifference to and/or reckless disregard for the health, safety and rights of the Plaintiffs.”
But the problems associated with foster placements in Arizona are not limited to sexual abuse. During a recent two year period, one foster child died on average every seven and a half weeks in the state of Arizona. Four of them were reported as having been “viciously beaten to death” by their foster parents.
The sexual abuse of children in government custody would appear to be a particularly widespread problem.
In Maryland, a 1992 study found that substantiated allegations of sexual abuse in foster care are four times higher than that found among the general population.
In Kentucky, sex abuse in foster care was “all over the newspapers,” according to department head Larry Michalczyk.
The former Commissioner explained that within a few years of time, his state saw a child die while in residential placement, a lawsuit filed against a DSS staff member on behalf of a foster child, and legislative inquiries into its child protection system.
Kentucky would prove to be a problematic state, as case reviewers would find that only 55 percent of the children in the state’s care had the legally mandated case plans.
Perhaps the most significant indicator of the true extent of sexual abuse in foster care was a survey of alumni of what was described as an “exemplary” and “model” program in the Pacific Northwest, argues University professor Richard Wexler.
“In this lavishly-funded program caseloads were kept low and both workers and foster parents got special training. This was not ordinary foster care, this was Cadillac Foster Care,” he explained.
In this “exemplary” program, 24 percent of the girls responding to a survey said they were victims of actual or attempted sexual abuse in the one home in which they had stayed the longest. Significantly, they were not even asked about the other foster homes in which they had stayed.
The Children’s Rights Project has initiated a number of successful civil suits against foster care and child welfare systems. One such landmark suit was brought against the Illinois foster care system. Attorney Benjamin Wolf instituted the legal action after concluding that the states foster care system functioned as “a laboratory experiment to produce the sexual abuse of children.”
Yet by many accounts, the sexual abuse of children in the state’s care has increased along with the increase in placements, successful lawsuits notwithstanding. Even Patrick Murphy, the outspoken Cook County Public Guardian, admits that sexual abuse of children in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has probably increased.
System wide Abuses
According to an Associated Press investigation, in nearly half the states, cases take years to come to completion as agencies repeatedly fail to investigate abuse reports in a timely fashion, find permanent homes for children, or even keep track of those children under their care and custody.
For various reasons, ranging from failure to provide adequate supervision and oversight of workers, to failure to provide safe child care facilities, 22 states and the District of Columbia have been ruled inadequate by the courts and now operate under some form of judicial supervision.
But the reader should not be reassured that such problems are isolated only to those states which have been successfully litigated against. As Children’s Rights Project attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry explained to a Congressional subcommittee: “We have turned down requests from a number of other states to institute additional lawsuits, solely because of a lack of resources.”
A 1986 survey conducted by the National Foster Care Education Project found that foster children were 10 times more likely to be abused than children among the general population. A follow-up study in 1990 by the same group produced similar results.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Children’s Rights Project similarly estimates that a child in the care of the state is ten times more likely to be abused than one in the care of his parents.
In a legal action brought by the Children’s Rights Project against the District of Columbia child welfare system, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that:
because of the appalling manner in which the system is managed, children remain subject to continuing abuse and neglect at the hands of heartless parents and guardians, even after the DHS has received reports of their predicaments. The court also found that youngsters who have been taken into the custody of the District’s foster-care system languish in inappropriate placements, with scarce hope of returning to their families or being adopted.
The Court also found that the agency entrusted with the care of children “has consistently evaded numerous responsibilities placed on it by local and federal statutes.” Among the deficiencies cited was “failure to provide services to families to prevent the placement of children in foster care.”
Frustrated by the lack of progress after years of litigation, child advocates succeeded in placing the District of Columbia child welfare system into full receivership in 1995, making it the first such system in the nation to come under the direct control of the Court.
In a Pennsylvania case, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit wrote in a 1994 decision: “It is a matter of common knowledge (and it is not disputed here) that in recent years the system run by DHS and overseen by DPW has repeatedly failed to fulfill its mandates, and unfortunately has often jeopardized the welfare of the children in its care.”
The original complaint, filed by the Children’s Rights Project on April 4, 1990, alleged that systemic deficiencies prevent the Pennsylvania department from performing needed services, and that it consistently violates the due process rights of both parents and children:
Specifically, plaintiffs claim that these amendments confer the right not to be deprived of a family relationship; the right not to be harmed while in state custody; the right to placement in the least restrictive, most appropriate placement; the right to medical and psychiatric treatment; the right to care consistent with competent professional judgment; and the right not to be deprived of liberty or property interests without due process of law.
One of the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania suit was “Tara M.” on whose behalf the ACLU charged the city of Philadelphia with neglect. Human Services Commissioner Joan Reeves guaranteed the young girl an adoptive home with specially trained parents.
In August of 1996, Tara M. would make the headlines once again, as her new foster parents were sentenced for “one of the most appalling cases of child abuse” Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn E. Temin said she had ever heard.
Nine-year-old Tara has had three skin grafts and wears a protective stocking in recovery from burns over more than half her body. Police said the foster parents punished the girl by stripping her, forcing her into the bathtub and dousing her with buckets of scalding water. This was the very best of care the city could provide for Tara, a girl who had already endured years of physical and sexual abuse in the several foster homes into which she had been placed over the years.
The Children’s Rights Project has also been involved in suits against child welfare systems in the states of Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana and New Mexico, and the cities of Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Milwaukee, and New York City.
Says Children’s Rights Project attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry: “There are a lot of injuries, a lot of abuse. The most significant thing is the psychological death of so many of these kids. Kids are being destroyed every day, destroyed by a government-funded system set out to help them.”
In California, as of 1989 Los Angeles County alone had paid $18 million in settlements to children who had been abused while in its custody.
One such case involved a nine-year-old boy who weighed only 28 lbs., and who could hardly speak after the suicides of his parents. County social workers failed to visit him in his foster home for four months.
During that time, he was beaten, sodomized, burned on his genitals and nearly drowned by his foster parents. He became a spastic paraplegic. By 1990 the state was threatening to take over Los Angeles County’s child welfare system.
The California-based Little Hoover Commission, in examining the functioning of the foster care system determined: “That children can come to harm–and even die–while supposedly under the protection of foster care is not in dispute.” Some cases cited by the Commission included:
A foster mother arrested in Los Angeles on charges of beating to death her 23-month-old foster son, allegedly over toilet training problems.
A Los Angeles woman arrested for the attempted murder of a 19-month-old foster child who she said fell from a jungle gym. Doctors believed the severe head injuries, which may result in blindness, could only have come from abuse.
A Sacramento woman who was injured in a car accident who voluntarily placed her daughter in a foster care facility. During a tantrum by the child, an employee of the facility wrapped her in a blanket and squatted on her. She was later discovered dead.
Do You Need A Foster Care Lawyer?
If your child was take from you for no reason, you did not receive a a trial or a fair trial and you or your child has suffered as a result of “the system” you maybe entitled to money damages. RepresentYou may help to refer you to a lawyer who has experience fighting for families who were separated by child services and helping get your child out of foster care. Our lawyers have a minimum of 20 years of experience, no disciplinary action from the state bar. As a parent you have a right to be properly represented and you have a right to fight for your own children.
In many cases families use DCFS child services is an important tool to protect children however, children can wrongfully be taken by child services. As a parent you trust child protective services as resource to protect children and families. DCFS can be an important tool for child protection when the Department of Children and Families (DCFS) does not preform their duties in caring for children. RepresentYou is here to help, our lawyers are very experienced in dealing with department of children and families and any type of negligence or wrongdoing they have caused to children or their families.