Following a seven-day trial led by the Justice for Kids Team, a jury awarded $13.5 million to a family that suffered harm after the adoption agency Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) failed to warn them about psychological problems that make their adopted son unsafe to be around their daughters, one of whom was later molested. The $13.5 million dollar verdict against JFCS validated claims by the boy’s adoptive parents that the nonprofit failed to convey how risky it would be to place the boy in their home. “They cannot escape accountability,” attorney Justin Grosz told jurors during final arguments for the seven-day trial, which centered on whether Jewish Family staff failed before adoption to alert the couple to behavioral problems that could last a lifetime.
JFCS did not disclose the boy’s “significant” mental health diagnoses and behavioral issues during the adoption process, which included information that the boy had been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility where physicians found him to be a danger to himself and others and that the boy’s lifelong mental health issues carried the risk of extreme physical and sexually reactive behavior. The concern was enough to create a Safety Contract at his last foster home – requiring that he never be placed in a room with younger children. Yet the organization implied the child’s only diagnoses were Autism and ADHD, and it did not disclose that he had been committed to a psychiatric facility. The adoptive parents had three younger daughters (who were all under 5 years old at the time), and despite knowing that, the organization did not disclose the Safety Contract information before his adoption. Following the adoption, the boy’s behaviors worsened, including self-harm, threats to harm the adoptive dad, fire-starting, and the sexual abuse of one of the daughters. Subsequently, professionals determined it was no longer safe for him to live with his adoptive family, and he will need constant supervision to ensure his safety and the safety of those around him.
Read more in this news coverage of the trial below.
Florida Times Union newspaper – Jacksonville family awarded $12.5 million for adoption that led to molestation
First Coast News TV – Family wins $13.5M settlement in adoption case tried in Duval County
Action News Jax TV – Jacksonville family said mental health, behavioral issues left out in negligent adoption case