Lawsuit Alleges Foster Children Abuse
Canadian Couple Suing Family Support Services of North Florida
POSTED: Tuesday, March 29, 2011
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Canadian couple said the details about their adoptive children’s care before they became their legal guardians are horrific.
The couple is suing Family Support Services of North Florida, alleging the adoption agency never told him the real background of the two Jacksonville children.
The adoptive parents said their two children were physically, sexually and mentally abused while in foster care.
“Yeah, I am angry. I am very angry,” Andrew Dolan, the children’s adoptive father, said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “I’m angry, disappointed.”
Video: Lawsuit Filed Over Abuse
According to the lawsuit, the siblings, who are now 8 and 6, were shuttled from one foster home to another, five in all.
During that time, they suffered disturbing abuse ranging from being yelled at or beaten, being denied food and being forced to commit sex acts with adults or one another, the couple said their adopted children told them.
Dolan said that if he had it to do again, he and his wife would have never adopted the two children from Jacksonville and taken them to live in Canada.
“My wife and I have saved these children’s life, as far as I am concerned,” Dolan said. “We’ve taken them out of a system that did nothing for them and treated them terribly.”
“The years since have been hell,” the Dolans’ attorney, Brian Cabrey, said of how the adoptive parents feel. “The things that have been disclosed, the things they learned what their children have been through while in foster care in the state of Florida is nothing short of nauseating. They are egregious. They are among the worst allegations I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot.”
The family said they will never give the children back, but they believe the state should pay more for the children’s medical and psychiatric care. The parents already receive $900 a month from the state, but they said the bills are much more, and that’s why they are suing.
“(Family Support Services) saw us coming and dropped this bombshell on us and did not tell us anything about it,” Dolan said. “And not until we got (the children) back to Canada, then months later the bombshell started to blow up, and this is what we are left with.”
Jim Adams, the head of Family Support Services of North Florida, said in a phone interview that he can’t believe the allegations and what happened to the children.
“Whoever covered it up should be prosecuted and should be held civilly liable,” Adams said. “Ultimately, I am responsible for every employee who works for me. If one of our employees covered up anything, it’s just as vengeful as the attorney engaged in this case.”
Family Support Services is investigating, along with the Florida Department of Children and Families.
“It boggles my mind that the children were taken away from their birth mother for neglect, put into a foster care system that then exposed them to physical, mental and sexual abuse over a number of years,” Dolan said. “You have to wonder if they would not be better outside the system.”
The Department of Children and Families said the allegations are a concern if they are true. DCF said the family has not been cooperative and only made the claims when seeking more money.
DCF said it has notified the abuse hotline, the state attorney’s office and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office about the accusations.
DCF did say other children in the foster home had been interviewed and there were no reports of abuse with them.
The suit was filed on Tuesday. No court date has been set. The family’s attorney says the agency is the only one named in the suit but others might be added at a later date.
Copyright 2011 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
This article is not right on so many many levels. First are our children only worth 5,000,000 dollars? Is this the 30 pieces of silver conscienous money because DCF always fails the children? And why is Our Kids Inc not held to the same accountablity as DCF. They after all are the outsource agent for killing children. They are the ones who received, 100,000,000 dollars to steal children from the state and federal government. Yes, your tax dollars at work. If this bill passes more children will die, and be abused and once again no one is held responsible. Time to say enough!
By MARGIE MENZEL
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Published: Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 11:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 11:40 p.m.
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TALLAHASSEE | A measure that would cap damages for pain and suffering by children in Florida’s child welfare system was approved by a House committee Wednesday after impassioned testimony from both supporters and critics.
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Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, the House sponsor, told the Health and Human Services Access subcommittee that HB 1019 would reduce “frivolous” lawsuits against agencies with state contracts to provide foster care and adoption services.
That in turn would allow the contractors to put more money toward serving children and less toward liability insurance or lawyers’ fees, said Shawn Salamida, the CEO of Partnership for Strong Families, the lead community-based care organization for 13 Northeast Florida counties.
“I’d rather take that money and hire two new caseworkers,” said Salamida.
Mike Watkins, CEO of another contractor, Big Bend Community Based Care, Inc., said his agency’s liability insurance had just been cancelled. The carrier, Watkins said, had told him to expect a 100 percent increase in premiums – and that that was low compared to hikes faced by other CBCs.
“This is probably the greatest threat to community-based care,” said Watkins.
“This is a crisis,” said Plakon, adding that the Children’s Home Society of Florida had recently received notice that its liability insurance would not be renewed.
But opponents said the measure would hurt child victims still more. They invoked the recent tragedy of Nubia and Victor Barahona, the ten-year-old twins who were victims of one of the worst-ever child abuse cases in state history. Nubia Barahona’s decomposing body was found in the back of her adoptive father’s truck on Feb. 14, even as her brother Victor convulsed from toxic chemicals in the passenger seat. He is recovering from severe burns in therapeutic foster care.
“This is really an attempt, truly, to provide legal protection for those who harm children to an extraordinary degree,” said Christina Spudeas, director of the advocacy group Florida’s Children First.
“There are kids in (foster) care that are beaten, that are raped, that are beaten and raped again, that are burned over half their bodies, that are unsupervised and left to fall in and almost drown in a pool — that require long-term, lifetime care … extensive surgeries … and mental-health help to recover,” she said.
The report of an independent panel last week charged Florida’s child welfare system with “fatal ineptitude” in the Barahona case.
“The medical bills that Victor has incurred to date are well in excess of several hundred thousand dollars already,” said Gary Farmer of the Florida Justice Association, which represents the trial bar and opposes Plakon’s bill.
“And we haven’t even talked about the emotional distress that little boy will live with all his life,” Farmer said. “Under this bill, there would be insufficient insurance to cover those lawsuits.”
Plakon’s bill would cap awards for pain and suffering at between $200,000 and $1 million and lower the amount of liability insurance the agencies must carry from $1 million to $500,000.
Economic damages would be capped at $2 million. The measure would also protect the Florida Department of Children and Families, which has sovereign immunity, from lawsuits against its subcontractors, which don’t.
“There’s been an issue of late of multiple parties being listed in these lawsuits trying to sort of drag DCF back into the equation,” Plakon said, “when all they did was, in good faith, appoint that contract to that community-based care agency.”
Salamida said his agency had had no lawsuits during its first four years, but in the last two years has had three, with a possible fourth lawsuit “on deck.”
“Sometimes it’s confusing who does what within our system,” Salamida said. “So what we’re seeing is that when something tragic or bad happens to a child, everyone that’s attached to the case gets named. And the process of going through and sorting out who did what is very time-consuming and costly.”
Farmer also pointed to a supporter of the bill, Our Kids, Inc., the community-based care organization in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties that handled Nubia and Victor Barahona’s adoptions. Farmer said Our Kids had gross revenues of $101 million in 2008, while its CEO, Frances Allegra, earns more than $200,000 with bonuses. Half a dozen other members of the agency’s executive team have salaries hovering around $100,000, Farmer said.
Allegra responded with a statement.
“We are a private, non-profit tasked with running one of the largest, most complex systems in Florida. Our board of community business leaders demand high performance and expect excellence,” she said. “Our responsibilities were previously performed by a state employee with a benefits package offering significantly more paid time off, better health benefits and a pension. In addition, we execute our duties, that were previously a state function, using significantly less staff. In return, we expect high performance.”
Our Kids would be protected under Plakon’s bill, which cleared the committee on an 11-4 vote.
This is the Standard Method of Operation with CPS- They Lie Falsify and cover up Now because of Andrea Fleary two children are harmed
This article just came over my alerts for the Palm Beach Post. This office needs to be investigated from the top down. The corruption, lies, falisfing of records and cover ups is the norm in all offices all over the country. This is the tip of the iceberg. It is time to stop the murder of our children. Ms.Fleary should be criminally charged for her part in the death of Nubia and the near death of Victor. It is past time to take back our children
By Ana M. Valdes Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 5:14 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted: 5:08 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
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The state child abuse investigator currently under fire for not following up on an allegation that twins Victor and Nubia Barahona were being tied and confined to a bathroom by their adoptive parents was given a final notice for a similar mishandling of a case last year, according to state Department of Children and Families documents released this afternoon.
Andrea Fleary, who was placed under paid administrative leave Feb. 17, two days after the twins were found in West Palm Beach – Nubia’s dead body in the back of the truck and Victor seizing and covered in toxic chemicals – was given a final conseling notice Feb. 15 of last year, for failing to find a home for a child removed from his or her biological family by the 24 hour deadline established by DCF.
“Your neglect placed this child at risk of additional harm,” wrote Kevin Ramos, a DCF child protective investigator supervisor. “Further, you interviewed the child without law enforcement present. Even more disturbing, you failed to document notification with the Child Protection Team.”
Fleary refused to sign the notice, according to DCF documents.
Last year’s reprimand, however, was not the first time Fleary was called out by the agency for her performance.
In 2003, the department issued her first final counseling notice for taking 11 days to interview the person who reported the abuse of six children. The notice also said Fleary failed to find shelter for one of the children, despite a knowing that the child was living with the mother even though a court order denied the mother custody. Some of the children were also allowed to visit with their maternal grandmother without proper authorization.
In 1992, Fleary was also given a written reprimand for punching a colleague in the face.
DCF officials are now looking into whether Andrea Fleary did enough to find the 10-year-old Barahona twins before Nubia was found dead in a truck owned by her adoptive father, Jorge Barahona, and Victor was hospitalized with life-threatening burns.
The 48-year-old investigator gave a brief explanation about how she handled the case at a court hearing two days after the twins were found in Palm Beach County.
She said she had visited the Barahona home in western Miami-Dade County Feb. 10, when the abuse allegation was reported to DCF’s abuse hotline.
After Flearly failed to locate the twins or their father, she visited the home a second time the next day, but she did not find the children again. When the judge asked why she had not tried to locate other relatives or contact the reporter of the abuse, Fleary said it was 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night, and that she was not allowed to work weekends.
Since then, DCF is investigating Fleary’s actions. Officials will not comment on whether Fleary violated any steps in the abuse investigation at the Barahona home.