Irrational and de-humanizing practices cause further damage to foster children.
(Atlanta, Georgia, November 24, 2003) – A new report released today based on the in-depth review of the record of five foster children finds that the state foster care system in Fulton and DeKalb Counties harms children in its care because of substantial, irrational, and often de-humanizing practices. The study of children’s case files was conducted by Cathy R. Smith, a former high ranking official at the department of children’s services in Tennessee, at the request of lawyers for all 3,000 foster children in Fulton and DeKalb Counties in connection with the federal civil rights lawsuit, Kenny A. v. Perdue. The Kenny A. lawsuit was filed in May of 2002 by the national child advocacy group Children’s Rights, who later teamed up with the Atlanta law firm of Bondurant, Mixon & Elmore LLP. The lawsuit seeks to stop ongoing violations of children’s rights and to ensure that DFCS provides proper protection and care for the 3,000 foster children in state custody in Fulton and DeKalb counties.
“These foster children came into state custody because they were considered abused and neglected. The DFCS records for these children indicate a failure of titanic proportions to meet the agency’s basic responsibilities to care for these children,” concluded Ms. Smith. “DFCS was aware of their mistakes and failed to correct them.”
“This report presents heartbreaking stories of real suffering by innocent children at the hands of the state,” said Ira Lustbader, Associate Director at Children’s Rights. “We are spending a great deal of taxpayer money on a system that harms children in this way.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF REPORT:
· Kenny A. came into foster care as a healthy, normal infant. In the three years since, DFCS has shuffled him from foster home to foster home for no apparent reason and has yet to arrange his adoption. As a result, he is developing emotional and behavioral problems.
· Kara B., at age 11, was placed by DFCS at the DeKalb shelter with a near complete lack of supervision. After running away from the shelter and living on the street for several months, she showed up on a stranger’s doorstep scared, hungry, and wearing only a T-shirt. DFCS returned her to the same shelter she had run from. They later placed her at a residential facility where she was sexually assaulted by a staff member. Kara has moved among 11 different foster care settings in four years.
· Phelicia D. entered DFCS custody at age 10 as a victim of child prostitution. She did not receive any type of treatment until two years later and did not receive treatment for sexual victimization until three years later. She spent Christmas 2001 in a psychiatric hospital.
· Tanya F. is a mentally retarded 16-year-old girl who in ten years of state custody has gone from group homes to shelters to foster homes. She has also lived on the street as a victim or prostitution with DFCS knowledge. While in state custody she became pregnant. She delivered her baby the day after Christmas alone at the hospital with no one from DFCS to offer support.
· Briana H. is a 15-year-old girl with an IQ of 50 who was hospitalized for suicidal behavior. She pleaded not to be sent back to the shelter where DFCS had placed her or she would kill herself. DFCS returned her to the shelter, where she was sexually assaulted by another resident and had her arm sprained by a staff member. DFCS subjected Briana to the humiliation of being dropped off at school with no shoes on. She was also left at school until late in the evening because no one from DFCS came to pick her up.
“These cases contain evidence that we will present to the court that go well beyond mere numbers,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, Executive Director of Children’s Rights. “They show real life and human consequences of a dysfunctional foster care system.”
In addition to the maltreatment and deterioration these children suffered while in state custody, Ms. Smith found that:
*DFCS frequently made unreasonable and irrational decisions regarding the children’s placement and long-term planning.
*DFCS regularly failed to make sure that children attended necessary appointments with doctors, dentists, and therapists.
*DFCS often failed to make sure that children were attending school and receiving special education services if required.
*Case worker turnover was so frequent that one child said, “I change my case managers like I change my clothes.”
*Case workers rarely received supervision and frequently failed to document key case activities and decisions in the children’s records.
“Ms. Smith has meticulously documented the harms these children have endured in public custody,” said Dondurant and Mixson’s Jeffrey O. Bramlett, co-lead counsel in the Kenny A. lawsuit. “I wish I could say these were five atypical cases, but the overwhelming evidence we’ve developed shows otherwise. This failed and broken system, like the children it serves, cries out for immediate attention.”
Children’s Rights works throughout the United States in partnership with national and local experts, advocates and government officials to document the needs of children in the care of child welfare systems. Children’s Rights helps develop realistic solutions and, where necessary, uses the power of litigation to ensure that reform takes place. Sponsored Links