State to pay $4 million to former Hernando foster children


The Associated Press

Published: August 4, 2009

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Florida will pay $4 million to two children who had been starved and abused by a Hernando County couple who had taken them in as foster children.

The Department of Children and Families has agreed to pay $700,000 to John Joseph Edwards Jr. and $3.275 million to his sister. Their foster parents, Lori and Arthur “Tommy” Allain, in 2006 were sentenced to 25 years in prison for child abuse and neglect.

DCF Secretary George Sheldon called the case horrific and said the state had failed to remove the children from the home. The money will be placed in a trust fund for Edwards, 19, and his 15-year-old sister.

Because the case settles a federal lawsuit, it did not need legislative claims approval.

Father Follows Son In Suing DCF

By KYLE MARTIN

Hernando Today

Published: November 26, 2008

BROOKSVILLE – John Joseph Edwards is using a 2007 appeals court decision as the basis for a lawsuit that claims the Department of Children and Families violated his civil rights.

If the name sounds familiar, here’s why: His son, John Edwards Jr., is also suing DCF, its private arm, Kids Central Inc., and the same caseworker, Cathy Kelly, as his father.

Edwards Jr.’s claim stems from the years he and his half-sister were allegedly abused and starved by their foster parents, Arthur and Lori Allain. The Allains are one year into a quarter-century prison sentence for aggravated child abuse.

Edwards Jr. wants a nine-figure sum in compensation from the state for allegedly allowing the abuse – which his lawyer likens to a Nazi concentration camp – to go unchecked.

A message left for both the Edwards’ attorney in Sebring, Gary Gossett, was not returned Tuesday.

The father’s case, filed Nov. 14, is related, but has completely different grounds.

The source of contention stems from 2002, when Edwards’ parental rights to his son were terminated. Several years later, Edwards read in the newspaper that his son had been allegedly abused by his foster parents.

“Concerned for the welfare” of his child, Edwards filed a court motion claiming that his son was “wrongfully restrained” by DCF, according to an appeal.

He challenged DCF in child custody court, claiming that the agency did not do a thorough job trying to locate him before terminating his rights. DCF argued that they publicized a notification through the newspaper, along with searching driver’s license records and the phone book.

The DCF employee assigned to the case added that Edwards is a common name and that any further search would be “a waste of my time,” according to court records.

Judge Richard Tombrink disagreed, calling DCF’s attempt “woefully lacking” in his written opinion. He adds: “Due process of law should never be disregarded in favor of expediency.”

He continued: “Throwing up one’s hand due to a common name and a lack of detail when the outcome involves the termination of parental rights … strains the conscience.”

The appeals court concluded that parental rights are protected under the Constitution and should not be terminated in a “perfunctory fashion.” However, because its review is based on whether there was “abuse of discretion,” they found no error with DCF.

DCF Spokeswoman Elizabeth Arenas said in an e-mail Tuesday that the department “does recognize that this was a terrible situation.” She added that DCF has learned from the case and that measures have been taken to ensure it does not happen again.

Reporter Kyle Martin can be reached at 352-544-5271 or kmartin@hernandotoday.com.

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About yvonnemason

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by Lulu.com October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
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