Disclaimer: Most cases result in a lower recovery. Results may not be typical and reflect awards before deduction for attorneys’ fees and expenses. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result.
The 2012 settlement for an undisclosed sum against the Florida Department of Children and Families and various private providers settled a horrific wrongful adoption, negligence and civil rights case. But the abused child’s pain lives on.
Representing the plaintiffs, child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld argued that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to and neglected the child’s essential needs after he was rescued by state child protection agents from horrific physical abuse at the hands of his biological parents.
Instead of receiving ongoing care for the well-documented, yet treatable mental health conditions he suffered from, including reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), he was denied his constitutionally protected rights to appropriate care while in state custody. Moreover, he was also subjected to further physical and emotional abuse.
As a result, as the boy grew older he was extremely dysfunctional and showed signs of aggression and behavior management problems. Despite this, his diagnosis was deliberately ignored and appropriate care was denied to him dozens of times. As he grew older, his mental health condition and outbursts worsened. He bit, struck and kicked adults, attacked a police officer, and stabbed and choked fellow students. He was involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital under the Baker Act.
Counseling and play therapy were tried and failed. He was placed on Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine. He soon was suffering auditory hallucinations and was Baker Acted again for attacking his adoptive parents. In all, he was Baker Acted six times in three months – almost a dozen times in all. Overwhelmed by his outbursts, he was recommended for out-of-home care.
Over the next four years, violence and threats against others continued. He admitted that he couldn’t control his rage, even against himself – continued. He continued to be Baker Acted, yet no increase in mental health services was implemented and no change was made to place the boy in an appropriate residential setting.
The defendant assumed the boy’s care in 2004. The provider failed to provide care, disregarded associated risks, and removed the label of him as a suspected child-on-child sexual abuser. He had, according to their records, “no behavioral issues.” He soon was arrested for criminal mischief.
In 2006, the defendant matched the boy with the plaintiffs – a family with other young children and with no training or experience in handling children with such severe special needs. His significant special needs were not fully disclosed prior to the new adoptive parents prior to his being adoption being finalized. The child struggled in school, and his behavioral issues soon became apparent to the family. He stole from them, amassed illegal weapons, ran away repeatedly, and was expelled from school. The family exhausted their savings trying to help the boy, even spending their two biological children’s college savings. Meanwhile, the defendant did nothing to help.
The boy eventually had to be placed in residential care to ensure the safety of everyone in the home, including the child himself.
Faced with a lawsuit that presented the boy’s growing psychological outbursts and violence and the repeated opportunities to help which were ignored by the defendant, the defendant entered into a confidential settlement with the plaintiffs in 2012.