Today’s Verdict: Holding Foster Care Agencies Responsible For Injuries and Abuse


by David P. Lesch, Esq. 


The Suffolk County foster care father who was accused last week of sexually abusing children in his care for years will certainly find a jail cell waiting.  And the agency that had been placing those children in the home will certainly be held accountable.


But as an attorney with the difficult task of holding those responsible for injuries my clients have suffered, I continually struggle with finding monies for children who are injured while under the care of New York’s Foster Care System.   You would be remiss if you were to believe that a child placed in a foster home has many options for recovery in the event that child is injured through negligence or worse, sexual abuse.


Let me give you an example.  A child decides to use the bathroom in a foster care home.  He is only 3 years old. He  wakes up in the middle of the night and goes to the only bathroom available.  When washing his hands, he immediately feels the scalding hot water and screams in agony.  A foster care parent rushes in and takes child to a nearby hospital where skin grafts will take over his life for the better part of the year.  Now, who is responsible?  The foster parent who knew that there was a problem with the hot water heater yet did nothing about it?  Absolutely.


But what about the foster care agency that was monitoring the home?   Maybe, maybe not.  One party clearly has insurance:  the agency.  The foster care parents almost never do.  Homeowners insurance is not mandatory.  Now, if the foster care parents never notified the agency that the hot water heater was malfunctioning, the case against the agency is not a slam dunk.  A lot of discovery is needed to shift at least of portion of the blame to the agency.  I have such a case and it has not been easy.  But what about the little boy?  Why isn’t “Homeowner Insurance” mandatory?  And it seems that the courts routinely find in favor of the foster care placement agency.  Why?  Because it’s in the public interest to make sure foster care parents are eager to take on children who need a home and that the private placement agency stays in business.  Yes, I said private agency.  That means “for-profit”.


Something needs to be done to guarantee a fund for children injured when in the foster care system.  I am an advocate for requiring mandatory insurance coverage by foster parents.  Otherwise, change the law so that foster care agencies may be held responsible for the actions of the foster parents. In addition, legislative action should be take to enable foster care agencies to bring a third party action themselves against negligent foster care parents.   These actions will surely put the burden on the for-profit private agency to make sure insurance is available to cover those injured in a foster home.  I see too many cases with too little chance for a recovery for those injured in the foster care system.  It’s time to take care of those who truly need the protection.


Todays Verdict_David LeschDavid P. Lesch is an attorney and host of ‘Today’s Verdict with David Lesch‘ on Bronxnet. Today”s Verdict airs Tuesday nights at 6:30pm, Cablevision channel 67, Fios channel 33. On Facebook and Twitter @DavidLesch.

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