Tragically, children who are taken from their parents because of abuse or neglect may also be injured while in the custody of the Florida Department of Children & Families and in the care of the lead community care agencies, shelters, foster homes, group homes, and residential treatment facilities that are supposed to protect them. Sometimes they are sexually abused by their foster parents and caretakers. Sometimes their physical and emotional injuries and traumas are far greater than the injury caused by their original neglect or abuse. At Justice for Kids, we fight to obtain the resources these children may need for their care and treatment for a lifetime.
Law Firm for Eight Abused Former Foster Care Children Settle With NYC, Child Care Agencies for $26 Million. Attorneys representing eight developmentally disabled foster children who were placed in what one judge called a “house of horrors” foster home settled with New York state adoption and child welfare agencies and their state-contracted providers in 2014 for $26 million. Read more here
Firm Sues Florida Dept. of Children & Families, Settles Negligence Case for $14.26 Million. Child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld filed a civil rights complaint in federal court on behalf of 19 children against nine Florida Department of Children and Families employees who were responsible for the children’s adoption and/or investigations of the abuse allegations. The children were allowed to be adopted and lived in various locations with their between Orlando, FL and Gainesville, FL, even though there had been a prior verified abuse report against the mother. The children were victims of bizarre punishments and beatings throughout their childhood. The State of Florida settled all of the Plaintiffs’ claims, including a negligence claim in Alachua County against DCF, for a total of $14.26 million. Click here to read the case
Unreported Child-On-Child Sexual Abuse Leads to Confidential Settlement for Two Developmentally Disabled Boys. When the two developmentally disabled, minor boys were placed in the first of a series of group homes, their nightmares only began. Once in the homes, both were repeatedly physically, emotionally and sexually abused by other children and staff. Despite staff witnessing the abuse, it was not documented or reported to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Furthermore, plaintiff’s attorneys later learned that the staff members were engaged in personal relationships with supervisors who discouraged reporting of the abuse. Such relationships were prohibited by the homes and would have been plainly apparent to executives with the homes. Over the course of several years, the boys were transferred to new homes, and sometimes the homes changed ownership, but they were often overseen by the same group of supervisors. Defendants were aware of the ongoing child-on-child sexual abuse between the residents of the group home in which the plaintiffs resided, as well as the assaults by staff, yet failed to take any action to protect or adequately supervise the children or document the abuse. When reports were investigated, the staff claimed the boys’ developmental disabilities prevented them from giving clear accounts of what might have happened. Further, staff and management at one group home attempted to impede a Department of Children and Families investigation. One supervisor, a former Department of Children and Families investigator, even used his knowledge of the investigatory process to further harm the victims and damage their testimonies. The damage from the abuse was dramatic. One boy reported “being scared, hurt, and mad that these things happened,” and of having “bad dreams, fear of being safe, and at times…sleeping with a knife under his bed.”
Civil Rights Claims for Horrific Child Abuse. In 2003, one year old Latiana Hamilton was drowned in a bath tub and her three year old brother was horribly abused by their foster mother, Lena Cumberbatch, with a belt and ironing cord. Justice for Kids attorney Howard Talenfeld was instrumental in filing civil rights complaints for her and her brother, paving the way for many other children to recover for their injuries. Substantial recoveries were made on behalf of these children. Read Full Article Ray v. Foltz, 370 F.3rd1079 (11 Cir. 2004); followed by
Private Community-Based Lead Agency and Subcontractor Fail to Protect Foster Child from Physical and Emotional Harm in Group Home. Child abuse attorneys Howard Talenfeld and Stacie Schmerling represented a former foster child in a case in Miami-Dade County, FL against a private community-based lead agency and its subcontractor for failing to protect the child from physical and emotional harm in a group home when he was the victim of a “cockfight” encouraged by a group home employee. The dependency judge criticized the Florida Department of Children and Families, its former lead community-based agency in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, and its subcontractors for operating a system of care which “deprives children and families of needed services” and “allows for lack of accountability, with each ‘entity’ pointing the finger at one another when the ball is dropped.” The case resolved for an undisclosed amount.
Florida Child Abuse Attorneys File Suit in Palm Beach County on Behalf of Foster Child Against Private Child Welfare Providers and Emergency Shelter for Failure to Protect Child from Sexual Abuse and Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse. This case resolved for an undisclosed amount. One of the defendants did not have the minimum amount of insurance required by statute governing privatization of foster care and related services. Justice for Kids attorneys then filed a lawsuit against that agency’s insurance broker for failure to procure the statutorily required insurance coverage. That case also resolved for an undisclosed amount.
Negligence and Wrongful Adoption Lawsuit for Failure to Disclose Children’s Sexual Abuse Histories and Sexual Behaviors to Adoptive Parents. This lawsuit was filed in Hillsborough County, FL against private child welfare agencies for failure to disclose children’s sexual abuse histories and sexual behaviors to adoptive parents resulting in a lack of safety plan and child-on-child sexual abuse. The claim against the three agencies responsible resolved for undisclosed amounts.
Case Involving Prior Knowledge That Led to a Dangerousness Placement. A vulnerable 9-year-old child who was removed from his family was placed in a children’s shelter in Naples, FL where he was sexually assaulted by a 16-year-old residing at the same shelter who had a previous history of severe violence and sexual aggressiveness. The shelter and the case management agency were sued for damages because of their prior knowledge of the dangerousness of this placement. The Florida Department of Children & Families and the lead community-based agency were sued because of their prior knowledge that there were insufficient foster homes and therapeutic foster homes and a placement gridlock in this region and the private agencies over-reliance on dangerous placements at the shelter. This case settled for undisclosed sums paid by all defendants that were placed in a trust to treat the young victim throughout his life.
Lawsuit Against Residential Therapeutic Group Home for Failure to Protect Foster Child from Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse. Child abuse attorneys filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County, FL against a residential therapeutic group home for failure to protect the foster child from child-on-child sexual abuse, resulting in a thirteen-year-old foster child getting pregnant at the facility and giving birth to a child when she was only fourteen years old herself. The case sought damages for sexual abuse and emotional trauma and settled for an undisclosed amount.
Private Agency Places Foster Child With Known Pedophile. After a foster boy was placed in the Broward County, FL foster home of a pedophile by a private agency that failed to locate prior arrest records and police reports that should have prevented the licensure of the home, Justice for Kids attorneys settled this case for undisclosed amounts that were placed in a guardianship and special needs trust.