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Severely Abused Foster Children Sue New York City Child Welfare Agencies After their Failure to Help Them
Date:4/30/2009

Now residing in Florida, special needs victims are abandoned again!

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., April 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ten former foster care children are filing a civil rights and negligence lawsuit in New York District Court against the City of New York Child Welfare Administration and four other agencies for failure to prevent ongoing, horrific abuse at the hands of a state-licensed foster parent.

Identified in the filing only by their initials, the 10 plaintiffs seek unspecified damages for up to 20 years of abuse and torture. Dating back to the 1980s, these special needs foster children were locked in cages, handcuffed or zip-tied together at night, abused physically, threatened with firearms, secreted from any public interaction, underfed and malnourished, and deprived of regular education, doctor or dental visits. One child's teeth were in such pain that the child banged her face on the garage floor until knocking her teeth out. Now adults, all suffer rickets and behavioral issues, and require costly, long-term educational, medical, psychological and sociological care.

Foster mother Judith Leekin's fraud included assuming four aliases - often using similar dates and documentation - to adopt a total of 22 children. At no point did New York Child Welfare officials verify the foster mother's false documentation, investigate her fitness as a caregiver, or document the children's care. Ultimately, she collected $1.68 million in payments meant for their care.

When she sensed New York officials finally were closing in, Leekin relocated with the 10 plaintiffs to Florida. Today, Leekin is serving a prison sentence for fraud. The plaintiffs, all of whom currently reside in Florida, are seeking a jury trial.

"This is a horrific failure of the child welfare system," said Howard Talenfeld, partner with Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, P.A., in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "These children endured a terrible tragedy, but one that could easily have been avoided if New York had followed procedures which would have positively identified that Judith Leekin used four phony aliases to adopt these 10 special needs children. Instead, the state allowed these children to be imprisoned by Mrs. Leekin who stole their childhoods, their education and any opportunity to have a family. Even today, the City of New York refuses to accept responsibility."

"These children suffered unspeakable trauma and now possess no life skills and face a lifetime of physical and emotional therapy," said Ted Babbitt, partner with Babbitt, Johnson, Osborne & Le Clainche, P.A., in West Palm Beach, Fla. "These amount to the most egregious injuries I've seen in 43 years of practicing law. The damages sought will not return the innocence of youth, but may help them avoid a nightmarish adulthood."

Also charged in the lawsuit are St. Joseph Services for Children Inc.; the Catholic Child Care Society of the Diocese of Brooklyn Inc.; Hearthshare Human Services Catholic Guardian Society of the Diocese of Brooklyn Inc.; and SCO Family of Services St. Christopher-Ottilie.

CONTACT: Julie Silver of Boardroom Communications, jsilver@boardroompr.com, 954-370-8999, or Julie cell 954-401-8985.


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SOURCE Boardroom Communications
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