Friday, October 14, 2011

Lawsuits Against Department Of Children And Families In Florida Again

BROOKSVILLE — The much-publicized story of the Allains ended in March 2006 when the Weeki Wachee couple were convicted of nearly starving a 10-year-old foster girl.
But the repercussions from that troubling case continue today as those injured seek accountability and compensation.
John J. Edwards Jr., another foster child adopted by Lori and Arthur "Tommy" Allain, filed an amended civil lawsuit Nov. 18 that alleges negligence against his adoptive parents; the state Department of Children and Families; adoption nonprofit Kids Central; and his caseworker, Cathy Kelly.
His biological father, John J. Edwards, filed a similar lawsuit this month, seeking financial damages against DCF and three employees who he claims wrongfully terminated his parental rights, which allowed the Allains to take custody of his son.


For those involved — particularly the state agencies named in the court documents — the lawsuit reopens healing wounds.
Sebring attorney Gary Gossett Jr. represents both Edwardses.
In a letter to DCF about the latest lawsuit, he described his client's situation: "His caregivers starved his half-sister almost to death and forced (the younger Edwards) to suffer a horrible environment reminiscent of a Nazi death camp."
Gossett said the cases are the natural extension of previous court findings. He disputed that it's a quest for money.

"This is about vindication more than anything," he said. The elder Edwards' case "has truly not been about money. It's about the state's agents running over people."
• • •
The Allain saga first exploded into the public realm in May 2004 when John Edwards Jr., then 14, ran away from the Allain home and the allegations of abuse and neglect unfolded.
Edwards — found by sheriff's deputies wandering the streets — said he had been punched in the chest for sneaking food to his half-sister.
Authorities discovered the girl weighed just 29 pounds at age 10, putting her "at risk of imminent death."
Her foster parents refused to give her food because she seemed to have an eating disorder and would vomit after meals. They kept her locked in a room with only a paint bucket to use as a toilet, authorities said at the time.

On June 18, 2004, the Allains were arrested and charged with child abuse and child neglect.
The arrests shed light on an incredible back story, dating to June 2000, when the children were taken from their biological mother and placed by DCF in the care of the Allains, who knew the mother.
Despite numerous red flags, the state granted the couple full custody in April 2002 after they terminated the parental rights of the children's mother.
An independent review conducted after the arrests found DCF ignored numerous allegations of abuse and other warning signs, allowing Edwards and his half-sister to endure a pattern of "torture and starvation."
It took the courts two years to rule on the case, in part because the Allains went on the lam ahead of their trial. In the end, they were convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the abuse with an additional five years for failing to appear in court.
The girl has since been adopted by a family in South Florida.


• • •
The report, released in August 2005, serves an important role in the new lawsuits. It points the finger directly at the state. DCF officials have acknowledged wrongdoing and made numerous policy changes.
But the report's author, Circuit Judge Scott Bernstein of Miami, put the most blame on the adoptive parents.
"The Allains, not DCF, are responsible for torturing these children," he wrote. "The difficult question for DCF in this case is how the Allains got away with it for so long."
Bill D'Aiuto, the DCF administrator for the circuit that includes Hernando County, said he could not comment directly about the lawsuit. But he acknowledged the agency's substandard work.
"Certainly, this was a terrible case and caused us to go back and do a thorough review," he said. "We also want to recognize that we have learned from this, and we are moving forward."
The younger Edwards' 13-page lawsuit lists 11 counts. The first four aim directly at the Allains, accusing them of negligence, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, battery and false imprisonment.
The document also charges that DCF, Kids Central and the caseworker "negligently failed to protect (Edwards) from abuse and neglect."
Gossett said Edwards, who turns 19 on Saturday, is living on and off with his father in Sebring. He said his client is still dealing with the torment endured in this case and is seeking hundreds of millions as a settlement.

The biological father's lawsuit is an extension of this case.
Soon after his son's case went public, the elder Edwards challenged why his parental rights were terminated without his knowledge. He argued that DCF didn't do enough to locate him, and the trial court agreed, saying it was "unfathomable" that a more diligent search wasn't performed.
The case bounced through the court system for years with an appellate court deciding in March 2007 in Edwards' favor.
"For almost three years, (Edwards) has battled for that right against a recalcitrant Department of Children and Families, which has interposed a pointless procedural hurdle and frivolous defenses," wrote District Judge Vincent Torpy in the appellate decision.
The father's civil lawsuit, filed Nov. 14, alleges that DCF "significantly violated the civil rights of the plaintiff, herein causing him deprivation, companionship and parental rights of his son." In particular, it attacks Richard Robbins Jr., the social services employee in charge of notifying Edwards about the termination.
It seeks damages from DCF; Kelly, the caseworker; Robbins; and Diane Ubele, the department's attorney, in excess of $15,000, but does not list a total figure.
Gossett said the case is about accountability. The financial award should be incentive to DCF to change its ways.
"It's the last chapter," he said.
John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Copyright 2008 St. Petersburg Times
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11 comments:

  1. I need to know if there is an attorney that I can get a hold of to fight a similar situation against the state of florida , Kids Central, and the worker Yolanda Leahmon

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    1. Hi my name is Dan Moore I'm having the same problem and I'd like to know how DCF worker can lie in there reports and committee perjury and then come take your children

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  2. My husband and I also need to know if there are any attorneys out there willing to go against fl dcf and kids central. These Nazis need to be held accountable for their abuses of power and disgusting abuses against children and good families.

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  3. My husband and I also need to know if there are any attorneys out there willing to go against fl dcf and kids central. These Nazis need to be held accountable for their abuses of power and disgusting abuses against children and good families.

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  4. I, too, need to find an attorney who is willing to fight DCF. They took my granddaughter without any reason. Just removed her from her parents. They are not on drugs and were not negligent in any way. I want to sue DCF.

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  5. So many kids have been abused in foster care and never received a dime. I knew they had to be white, the only reason they are getting paid. The state should pay all children abused in foster care.

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  6. So many kids have been abused in foster care and never received a dime. I knew they had to be white, the only reason they are getting paid. The state should pay all children abused in foster care.

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  7. It was wondering if I could use this write-up on my other website, I will link it back to your website though.Great Thanks.
    http://www.ashisuncoast.com/

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  8. I want to know how dcf thinks ok for mother to throw her 16 yr old daughter out.
    Why cause I allowed her to stay in my home,thinking they would come and help her, telling me that I have to evict this child to get out of my house. Cause she claimed she pay me rent.
    Also dcf worker told her and my 17 yr old grandaughter ok to smoke weed and drink as long as not around the baby.

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    1. DCF worker to me because I'm the stepfather and I've been there there entire lives there real fathers are drug addicts and in jail at this present time I have no rights to tell them anything or there even grounded how is that

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  9. Please, I need help. I have a very lengthy story.

    My current husband is the only father figure that my daughter has ever known. In October 2006 false allegations of sexual and physical abuse of my daughter were made against my husband by a former law enforcement officer (also a family member). My daughter was removed immediately from our home. We fought allegation after allegation for nine months. Finally we got in touch with the Attorney Generals office. This prompted an investigation into our case. It was found that proper protocol was not followed and that my daughter had wrongly been removed from our care. The case was completely dropped with no case plan, charges filed, etc. The caseworker was less than 24 months from retirement. She was forced to resign into early retirement in lieu of termination.
    My daughter is severe ADHD with Oppositional Defiance Disorder and a recent diagnosis of Bipolar 1 disorder. She is now seventeen years old and has been Baker Acted three times. She has been in counseling since the case in 2006.
    In the eleven years since the first case DCF has been in our home five or six different times all stemming from her mental health.
    The last time my daughter was Baker Acted, DCF was contacted. The day after her being admitted to the facility DCF showed up on my door step. The worker had already met with and had a lengthy conversation with my ex-husband. The case worker wanted to place my daughter with her father. A father that she has not seen since she was four months old. I was obviously very upset and gave her a copy of the ten page investigative report of my ex-husbands arrest. Later that night she told me that she felt that my daughter would not be safe with my ex-husband and that she could be released from the mental facility into my care. The next morning the mental facility contacted me because my ex-husband was there wanting my daughter released into his care. I explained the situation. I was told by staff that my daughter was highly upset and would not be allowed to come home that day. When I visited my daughter she told me that her biological father was allowed a thirty minute visit with her per DCF.
    Shortly afterwards my I received notice that my ex-husband hired an attorney and was suing me for full custody. There was no way possible for me to pay for an attorney. I fought him Pro se. I began with getting the reports from DCF. To my surprise the case was in the reports from 2006. There was nothing in the reports about it being unfounded. The paperwork simply states that there has been some unresolved question of abuse.
    Every time DCF has been in my home over the past eleven years they always divert back to the case in 2006. This leaves a biased impression on the case workers. I honestly believe that my daughter suffers from PTSD stemming from being removed from our home in 2006 and this has greatly affected her mental being that has resulted in her being Baker acted three times.
    DCF showed up on my doorstep once again saying that they are concerned for my daughter's safety over some made up accusations that my daughter got in a fight with at school. The report clearly states that my daughter denied the allegations of abuse.
    It has reached the point that my husband and I feel that we are being harassed by DCF. I don't know which way to turn because we cannot afford an attorney and don't even know if we stand a chance. Someone please help me.

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