“Children are our most valuable resource.”
– Herbert Hoover
1475 Centrepark Boulevard, Suite 275
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Phone: 844-4KIDLAW (4543529); 754-888-KIDS (5437)
More than 15 years ago, The Florida Department of Children & Families first initiated privatization in West Palm Beach, FL by awarding the contract to Child & Family Connections. This contract was terminated in 2012 after serious placement shortages for children, system-wide sexual abuse, and other failures that caused DCF to award it to ChildNet, Inc. (Read more in the Palm Beach Post) For more than 20 years, attorneys at Justice for Kids have filed and favorably resolved many lawsuits to improve the lives of children who were in the child protection system in Palm Beach County. On a positive note, West Palm Beach is home to Florida’s Children First, The Children’s Services Council and Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County’s Juvenile Law Project, which has been studied by the University of Chicago Chapin Hall as one of the nation’s premier models of representing children in foster care.
- Governor Scott Signs $5 Million Claims Bill for Child Sexually Abused by Foster Boy Living in the Home C.M.H. v. Florida Department of Children & Families (Palm Beach).On Friday, March 23, 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed CS/HB 6509, a claims bill that directs the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to pay more than a $5 million judgment awarded by a Florida jury to C.M.H., a victim of sexual abuse by a child in foster care. This marks the largest known recovery in Florida at the time for one child who was emotionally and sexually abused against a governmental defendant, DCF. Read more here
- Law Firm for Eight Abused Former Foster Care Children Settles With NYC, Child Care Agencies for $26 Million. Eight developmentally disabled foster care children who were placed in what one judge called a “house of horrors” foster home have settled with New York state adoption and child welfare agencies and their state-contracted providers for $17.5 million. The settlement brings the total paid by the defendants to more than $26 million. The 2014 New York settlement follows a $9.7 million settlement in 2013 for two of the plaintiffs in what became known as the Leekin case. It was so named for Judith Leekin, the New York foster mother who took on 22 foster kids and pocketed $1.68 million in adoption subsidies. She went on to live a lavish lifestyle while keeping the kids locked up, underfed and uneducated. Leekin was sentenced to an initial 11-year prison sentence for fraud. “This was a horrifying case of failed oversight by state agencies and their providers contracted to protect the needs of society’s most vulnerable,” said Howard Talenfeld, the foster care, child abuse and disabled persons attorney who represented the plaintiffs. “Although the settlement cannot replace the family these kids, who now are adults, should have had,” he continued, “the money from the settlement will ensure the plaintiffs have a safety net protecting them for the rest of their lives.” The case stems as far back as the 1980s, when Leekin systematically took what eventually were 22 foster children into her New York home. Leekin created at least four fictitious identities to adopt the disabled children. She imprisoned the kids, some of whom were profoundly mentally disabled, in cages or with handcuffs and zip-ties. She physically abused, threatened and starved them and denied them any outside interaction, education or even medical care. When Leekin sensed New York officials were on to her in 1998, she moved to Florida with 10 of the children. Her fraud was discovered in 2007 when she reportedly tried to abandon an 18-year-old foster child at a local Publix Super Market. Attorneys for the children fought a long and arduous federal court battle. They claimed that officials in New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and its contracted care providers failed to properly screen Leekin and uncover her rouse. Through the case, the plaintiffs’ attorneys overcame unfavorable court rulings. In the end, the plaintiffs prevailed in the legal system, but they still suffer medical and behavioral issues. All require expensive, long-term educational, medical, psychological and sociological care and treatment. “As children, they suffered the most horrific abuse and neglect that has followed them into adulthood. They have no life skills and need assistance with the most basic care,” Talenfeld said. “This settlement won’t give them back their childhood, but it will help them with the years ahead.” Read more below:
- Settlement in Civil Rights Suit. This civil rights lawsuit involved a claim by a foster child pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 in federal court in Palm Beach County and for negligence against various Florida Department of Children & Families employees and a private mental health crisis stabilization unit for violating the due process rights of a foster child who was confined for almost one year in a crisis stabilization unit because there were no appropriate placements for discharge. The Plaintiff settled this lawsuit against the private agency for an undisclosed amount and the DCF and its employees for $1.6 million.
- Foster Child’s History of Behavior Misrepresented. Two Palm Beach County, FL parents adopted a foster child who was represented on the adoption registry to be a great student and athlete, but the child welfare agencies omitted to advise them that he was violent, had extraordinary mental health diagnoses and a criminal background. This boy destroyed more than $100,000 of the parents’ property. This case settled for an undisclosed amount that was placed in a special needs trust for the child’s life.
- Lawsuit for Failure To Protect Foster Child From Sexual Abuse and Child-On-Child Sexual Abuse. Florida child abuse attorneys filed suit in Palm Beach County, FL on behalf of a foster child against private child welfare providers and an emergency shelter for failure to protect the child from sexual abuse and child-on-child sexual abuse. The 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 suit against that agency’s insurance broker for failure to procure the statutorily required insurance coverage. That case also resolved for an undisclosed amount.
- Lawsuit for Failure To Protect Child From Sexual Assault By Male Shelter Employee. Florida child abuse attorneys resolved a case on behalf of 16-year-old girl against a private agency that owned and operated an emergency shelter in Palm Beach County, FL for failure to protect the child from sexual assault by a male shelter employee. The case resolved pre-suit for an undisclosed amount. Read more below