Foster Care Neglect, Abuse and Mistreatment Cases
Children are easy victims. But of all children, perhaps none are as vulnerable as foster children. Fear prevents them from complaining about abuse or mistreatment. Abusive adults, or sexual predators, can easily physically, and psychologically, overpower them. Neglectful foster parents can negligently allow harm to befall them.
While almost all foster parents are loving, giving, generous people who should be commended for the charitable social service they provide, it is indisputable that some foster parents abuse, mistreat, neglect or mishandle their foster children. When that happens, the foster child, through a parent or legal guardian, has a right to sue the foster parents for physical, mental or emotional injuries they suffer. But the responsibility for the harm may not stop there. Sometimes the County and its agencies (such as the Department of Social Services or the Department of Child Protective Services) that placed the child in the foster home may be held liable.
Make no mistake; cases against New York counties and their agencies are not easy. The county agencies responsible for foster placement, such as departments of social services, are cloaked in thick legal armor protecting them from lawsuits by foster children and their parents. For example, countless cases in New York have held that the County, or its agencies’, decision to remove or not to remove a child from its parents is “discretionary”, and even if turns out to be clearly the wrong decision, and even if the decision is made with utter disregard for the child’s welfare, generally the law does not allow the parents, or the child, to sue the County or its agency for the harm done.
However, placement and removal of the foster child in a foster home is a different matter. Once the child has been removed from the parent, the child is in the County’s care. The County is then charged, by Statute, with a duty to (1) place the child in a safe foster home (Social Services Law § 398[g] ), (2) to supervise the children while in foster homes (Social Services Law § 398[h]), and (3) to remove the child from the foster home when necessary to protect the child (Social Services Law § 400). If the County, or its agents, act negligently in any of these areas, or they negligently fail to investigate, supervise or monitor the foster placement, they can be sued, along with the foster parents, for the harm caused to the foster children.
Common examples of successful cases against the County for foster child abuse are: Where the abused foster child was placed in the foster home of a foster parent who had a history of abusing children which the County overlooked before placing the child there. Or where the County knew or, with reasonable inquiry should have known, that the child was being mistreated or abused in the foster home but failed to remove the child from the foster home.
If you are the parent or guardian of a foster child who has been abused or mistreated or been injured due to foster parent neglect or negligence, CONTACT US for a free consultation with an experienced Auburn, New York child abuse attorney who can inform you of the legal steps you need to protect the foster child’s rights.