For years we've been keeping an eye on Florida’s foster care system, a system where kids can too easily get lost in the paperwork.
A system in need of better oversight.
We’re learning about a new case against Lutheran Services and a division of Eckerd Kids. We have chosen not to make the names public to protect the family.
A family in Clearwater claims they had no idea the young boy they were taking in had an "extensive history of sexually acting out,” per the lawsuit filed.
They claim that boy molested their two other foster children.
Now, they're blaming the agencies involved for not telling them that the child needed certain safety plans to be around other kids.
The agencies listed on the lawsuit include:
- Lutheran Services Florida
- Eckerd Youth Alternatives
- Eckerd Community Alternatives
- Jewish Family and Community Services
- Directions for Mental Health
Under Florida law, agencies must tell families about a child's entire history.
Two months ago, we spoke with a local teenage girl named Jeidilii Pascual.
At age 6, she, along with her two sisters, were placed with foster families, after her parents were deported to Mexica. It's been 12 years, but she still remembers vividly the abuse from her foster family.
“I remember we didn't eat anything. There would be days we slept with hunger. There was a certain weight we never passed because we wouldn't eat every day like a normal child,” says Pascual.
if she was ever put back in foster care, prospective parents would have to know about her history of abuse, as we mentioned it's the law.
If it's true that these agencies didn't tell the parents in Clearwater that their foster child had an "extensive history of sexually acting out,” then they're breaking the law.
Nicole Moore has been an adoption attorney in Florida for 13 years.
She is constantly reviewing state agencies placing children in homes to make sure they have fully disclosed everything about the child.
“Almost in a manner to which it would scare an adoptive family, but you'd rather know the good, the bad and the ugly about this child before they take the child in the home, and if it's not a good fit then that's future damage to the child of getting removed and placed somewhere else,” says Moore.
Moore says employees working for the Department of Children and Families have a high number of cases and a high turnover rate.
Top that with a large number of children in the foster program and information can fall through the cracks.
“The old case worker might know X-Y-Z and the new case workers comes in and knows nothing because she's been handed 100 cases on her first day,” she says.
Her advice to parents wanting to adopt or foster, Moore suggests using a private adoption company.
She says state agencies like DCF have fewer consequences if they get information wrong, but private companies can get their license revoked.
The agencies in the lawsuit have declined to comment, saying "we do not comment on pending litigation."
One thing you should know, Private Adoptions typically cost thousands of dollars.
Whereas, adoption through the state has little to no costs associated with it.