Foster Care Abuse Ruling Goes Against State Workers

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Foster care workers can be held liable if the children they place in foster homes are sexually abused by other children in the home who were known perpetrators or victims of sexual abuse, a federal appellate court has ruled.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, involves a case in which three children - who were 8, 5 and 3 at the time - were repeatedly molested in 1999 and 2000 by older children in a Florida foster home. The suit alleged that even after a documented case of child-on-child sexual abuse occurred in the same house in July 1999 nothing was done to protect the younger children. 

According to the suit, the younger children originally were placed in the house even though it was licensed for only two children and had three living there.  Of those three, two boys were known to be "sexually aggressive." And, the suit alleged, the Florida Department of Children and Family knew that younger children in the home were often left in the care of those same "sexually aggressive" youths.

The suit alleges that the younger children were abused by those two sexually aggressive youths.

The federal appellate court ruled that the foster care workers should have known not to place the young children - who had allegedly been sexually abused by their biological parents - in the home.  By doing so, the court said, they violated the children's 14th amendment right "to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm while in state custody."

"Defendants knew that sexual abuse victims ... were more likely to be re-victimized and more likely to perpetrate similar offenses," the court wrote in reference to the older boys. "Despite this knowledge, no defendant - despite his or her authority to act - took steps to secure" the safety of the children they had placed in the foster home.

The appeals court's ruling turned on the issue of immunity.  The plaintiffs had sought to file an amended complaint of their federal district court case and, in response, the state had asked for a dismissal, claiming the three child welfare workers named in the suit - a social worker, a licensing counselor and a licensing supervisor - had qualified immunity. The district court ruled against the state and the appellate court upheld that ruling.

Howard Talenfeld, an attorney for the victims, believes the case is the first to establish a foster child's right to be protected from sexual abuse by other children in the foster care system when workers know they are placing the children in harm's way.

"The message is that front line workers and officials need to be vigilant ... to ensure that they're not placing other children in care at risk of sexual assault," Talenfeld said.

Marty Guggenheim, president of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said there have been other successful lawsuits for such foster-care abuse, but added: "This case is very important because it clarifies that agencies owe a duty of care not to endanger their wards."

A spokesman for the Florida DCF said the department had taken several precautionary steps since this case to make sure that children are protected from sexual abuse while in the foster care system.  Those steps include more thorough assessments and background checks on everyone, including children, living in a foster home, and not placing younger children in homes where older children have been victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse.

However, the department spokesman said  that the Florida DCF has no way of knowing whether those precautionary steps are working because the department does not track child-on-child sexual abuse within the system - a practice that Talenfeld said is endemic in foster care systems nationwide.

After the federal appellate court issued its decision on Dec. 15, the matter involving the three children,  including a still-pending state court action for negligence, was settled through mediation for $2.925 million, according to Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, a Florida law firm that represents the children. The state case, filed separately around the same time as the federal case, will be closed when the damage settlement in the federal case is approved by the federal district court judge. 


  • CPSSucks

    Child Protective Services is and has been a criminal organization, employing the dregs of society, not to mention abusive monsters such as Sally Scofield (who murdered her foster child, Logan Marr, by asphyxiation). The word is getting out, and these monsters will all be facing their Nuremberg. Too many have aided and abetted them in their crimes: physicians, judges, lawyers, expert witnesses, and so on. CPS perpetrates more crimes against children and families than any other agency in history. They are a brutal, unjust gang of thugs, who operate similar to the Gestapo, except the Gestapo was never a worldwide operation, and it was not in operation for decades, and it was not funded by our tax dollars or supported by mainstream media all over the world, as CPS is by and large now. The tide is turning, and those who aided and abetted will not be forgotten.

  • Lilathe

    Immunity should never be given to any caseworker. They should be held to higher standards than the parents. After all they are taking the children away from their God given parents and saying they can do a better job. They need to do a better job. Many children are taken for “neglectful supervision” and then placed in homes with monsters. Little Crystal Martinez was taken for “neglectful supervision” then placed with adoptive parents that beat and starved her to death after years of abuse.
    Caseworkers are supposed to help children, not lock them up in torture chambers thousands of times worse than the homes they came out of in the first place.

  • Lawdoll

    CPS needs to be held accountable for the deaths of the children they fail to protect as well. How many more children have to die because CPS fails to do their job and protect them. From experience I know that these social workers will lie, forge documents, falisfy records, commit perjury.

    It seems to me that they remove children from perfectly good homes because the parents question their authority or some other believed slight and leave the children who are being abuse in the home to suffer and die.

    The laws need to change to make these departments and their illegal activities punishable by criminal charges. For more on my story visit my blog at

  • Valerie

    Ditto on what everyone has said – AND Thank God the courts are starting to protect the rights of children in foster care – however, what about the foster care parents…they are equally to blame for what happened in their home…they should be held accountable for leaving the younger children in the care of the two older boys, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING! And has their license to be foster care providers been pulled…are they still able to take kids into their home and not have good judgement on supervision and care? What a disgusting and preventable case! Thank goodness we have attorneys out there who care enough to take these cases and push on on behalf of justice and what is right and good! God Bles them, and God Bless those children…let’s hope they are placed somewhere now not just safe, but where they can start to be loved appropriately, cared for and begin to develop trust in humanity so they can have eventually a chance at a happy life….

  • Delphine

    Unfortunately, many of the policies and procedures used to manage CPS was approved and encouraged by the voting public. Privacy laws prevent CPS worker’s from receiving information in certain cases and from using certain information known. It is not as simple as one might think. Foster homes are scarce due to the low pay to caretakers. We want top notch care with minimal funds. Some say they should do it out of a desire to help a child. That desire does not keep the lights on and clothes on their backs – that takes money. When funds are scarce people and agencies begin to skimp to make ends meet. A large group home is paid up to $7,000 a month for a child while a foster family agency is paid up to $1,700 a month for a child; and, a foster home, $700 a month for a child. Clothing allowances to foster homes are approximately $400 a year. No one can properly care for children with this amount type of funding to foster homes. The funds are to be used for daycare, shelter, food, clothing, sports, special events. Daycare alone is more than the monthly amount given to foster parents. Better pay would generate better caretakers and workers. Workers that are over loaded with cases and unrealistic deadlines which must be completed for funding to the programs. CPS and licensing workers should not alone be held liable for a bureaucratic fiasco of a system that law makers and the voting public generated. It is all of our responsibility to care for and provide for America’s neglected children. We approve assistance in the tangible markets of America. Are vehicles, stocks and bonds more important than our children. What about univeral daycare to assist with supervision and change in policies that would allow workers to document, access and share information. Until we look at the big picture and take responsibility, this cycle will not end.

  • Lawdoll

    I beg to differ Delphine, parents support their children on less then what the foster parents get paid a month…..They get more a month per child then I receive in 2 months for 2 children from child support. If I can make so can these foster parents. Furthermore, the laws that apply to CPS were not voted on by the american people but laws that the legislature of different states put into place. Apparently,CPS cannot even follow the simple ones that state how long they have to investigate a report of abuse, for example NC state law says that they have no more than 24 hours for abuse and 72 hours for neglect…yet in regards to our report it took them over 2 months to even go to the home, where the child lived.

    And please don’t give me excuses about their policies, because they are just that “their policies they come up with those on their own and can’t even follow them.

    As for the privacy laws that keep CPS from investigating abuse, I do not see any…not any more, they can talk to your doctor, the school anyone they wish, but on the other hand, CPS uses Privacy to cover their asses…they use the law to hide their wrong doings by stating that the case file is closed to the public, all this does is enable them to break the law, policies, and whatever else they are trying to hide, and do so without any type of accountability for their actions.

  • Fern

    Even Nancy Grace, in her book “Objection” wrote that DYFS workers in NJ should have been criminally charged for what they allowed to happen with the starving Jackson teens.

    Originally the Prosecutor lodged criminal charges against the caseworkers and supervisors involved in allowing the boys to slowly starve.

    Additionally, in a Philadelphia case, none of the children involved in the Danielle Kelly? case could identify the caseworker who supposedly visited the teens home 2x a week. This teen, too was miserably FAILED BY the SYSTEM PAID TO SAFEGUARD HER.

    The only way CPS will change is if the agencies are sued.

    Is it possible that CPS is completely rife with corruption? may take on cases of chidren or teens mistreated in foster care.

  • fostermomfl

    First let me say that I don’t know what state you are in if you are getting $700 a month to take care of a foster child. That certainly isn’t the case here in Florida. We get about half of that and that has to cover everything needed for that child, including allowances. I am glad that case workers are supposedly going to be held liable for their action , but I really don’t see that happening. As far as the foster parents , you have to realize that foster parents are not always given all of the information about a child. They may not have known that they were sexual predators. If they did know this they NEVER should have taken the other child into their home , much less left him alone with these boys. In that case they should be held accountable also. You should all realize that being a foster parent isn’t as black and white as you would make it seem. There are alot of gray areas too, and the foster parents usually have very little information given to them about these kids they take in. Yes , we learn more about them the longer they are in our homes , but generally you don’t get much information when they call asking you to take a child. As far as being a foster parent for the money I can assure you that isn’t the case! That’s quite funny actually. When you factor in everything that goes into taking care of these kids , I can tell you that the money recieved doesn’t come close to the money that goes out each month. You have to realize that most of these children need alot more care, supervision , doctors appts. and therapy than most other children who are not in care. Most of these kids suffer from PTSD, RAD, ADHD , and alot of other things that make them much more difficult to parent than other children. While most foster parents would love to be able to foster these kids without any finacial reimbursement , for most of us we just cannot afford to do that. If any of you are interested in learning more about being foster parents and what that REALLY means , I urge you to get in contact with your nearest agency, go to orientation and find out what it takes to be a foster parent…….

  • Sparky Harlan

    In February 2009 in San Jose, CA three children ages 10, 11, and 12 were removed from their foster home and arrested for molesting their younger sibling. Although these kids had been removed from their home for sexual abuse no services were provided to them. When removed from the foster home they were placed in juvenile hall for five days before another foster home was found. It took a newspaper story here locally to break the story before outrage surfaced on locking up such young children who were victims themselves. How about going after probation for further victimizing the kids?

  • Proud and STRONG Mom

    I have been dealing w/ the CPS for over 15 years. They removed my children for absolutely no good reason. I think b/c my sons were both on SSI and my daughter was about to be qualified on it. I yelled and screamed, and not proud of it, BUT that is what I did nothing else. I love my children, i was divorcing their dad and went though a stressful time. I am a good mom and back then just the same. CPS took my children and thank god I have my sons back who are now 19 and 20, but my daughter, 18 is STILL in the system they are “deciding” to let her go or not. She has been abused, molested and raped by this system AND by the parents who adopted her after they severed my rights to her. According to the documents in her file, the adoptive father had ONLY counseling to go to…no CHARGES for criminal activity? She is on 6 different meds and yet, she is strong and semi-stable and just wants to come home to her family, the one that loves her and always has. CPS is ONLY for making MONEY…they get $3-4000 per month per child (or possibly even more) that is removed from the home, they pay the foster parents peanuts, yet the top dogs in CPS are making over SIX FIGURES or MORE a year…GREED at the expense of our most vulnerable population in America…HOW CAN WE CONTINUE TOP LET THIS HAPPEN????
    I despise CPS and they are not here to protect our children…if they were then we would not have the population we have in jail and prisons…it a vicious cycle and they KNOW IT…it is disgusting and very very very sad for their kids that go through it…and the families that have to suffer at the expense of CPS…SHAME ON THEM…

  • amos mccormick

    the child protective services should be held to the highest laws inthe land if they brake one of the laws they should have to spend time in a federal prison just like theyt did the crime themselves and the person that did it should have there right to house the childeren taken away the foster system is very corupt in the way they handle things and should obey the federal laws of this nation this is coming from a former foster child in the state of oklahoma

  • VickieJ

    to the few foster parents that posted in here, Do you think it is fair to have the children put in foster care when their are family members that would take them and love them and do all this for no monthly check or free medical? Cps does not even try to contact family and if they do, they already have a plan to keep them out of the childs life also, because they want to get the bonus for adopting them out or keeping them in foster care.Our family is in this situation right now. My son and girlfriend are in oregon, they had a baby, he is newborn. Yes they have been in trouble with the law. They are adults, they can take care of themselves this child cannot, Thats where the family needs to be a part of it. We are willing to do that, but cps has not contacted us, and we can not get any answers on our end, other then they can not devulge any info. Let me tell you what this is about, #1 they are in a small one horse town where everyone is related to each other in some form or fashion.#2 The sheriff is married to the cps worker on the case, he has been heard making statements about he needed to buy a baby.#3 The cousin of birth mom is married to a cop.#4 There is yet another cousin of birth mom that is the jailer. They all stand in line to have this baby placed in there homes. Both parents have agreed that if they lose this battle they want the child to placed with us. It has fallen on deaf ears of cps. We are not rich we can not afford an attorney to fight them, we all know how cps works that, they drag you down till they have you bankrupt.They have no doubt had this all planned out as soon as they knew the birth mom was pregnant, they have had them jumping through their hoops right on up till the baby was born. To no avail. Sheriff wants to buy a baby, well he found out he could get one for free and his wife is part of it being a cps agent. Now I ask you foster parents, what is your take on this. We are imediate family not cousins. Like it or not when you become foster parents you are a part of the dirty dealings of cps. You may not know it but you are. less foster homes would force cps to put children with family. Our case here is so unreal, but you can belive that I am telling you the truth. This baby if placed in our family unit would have all the love and support and would be showered with eveything he could possibly need. Yes cps are the devils of our society this day and time. The children are their pawns as in chess game, lets move it here so we can win and be revel in our glory at what we have done. Now we need an attorney pro bono! But we all know there is no hope in that. So now we will wake up everyday, and it will be like having someone send you a bouquet of FOR-GET-ME-NOTS every day of our lives. Because we can not just forget about this baby. Our hearts and souls have been ripped out, all for the way cps claims they love the little children.

  • memawcallie

    This is my first time posting here and I have a lot to say……being the first time this will be a test

  • Sharon Robertson

    I feel that the system are giving parents to options give up your parental rights or give up your child. you have to literally give your incontrollable teen to the streets or to DCFS.  its a shame how DCFS is doing, but weas a nation is the ones helping this people. A car note and a sub sandwich is what they are really in the CPS system and foster care system for.

  • Carrie Anne Stone

    The system is flawed it is always been flawed I am a victim of the system. They put you at homes knowing that you’ve been molested already where you get molested they put you in group homes where the girls molest you and the staff even and nobody protects us. Everybody else gets Financial retribution but what do I get a tough life.