LAS VEGAS (CN) - Clark County's child welfare system shows "deliberate indifference to the health and safety of the children it is obligated to protect," 13 foster kids say in a federal class action. The National Center for Youth Law's 80-page complaint demands sweeping changes in the county's foster care system, and damages for the children.
It complains of physical, sexual and psychological abuse by foster parents, and neglect and indifference from caseworkers and other officials.
"Defendants' child welfare system routinely fails in its legal obligations, duties and responsibilities to foster children," the complaint states. "Although defendants have long been aware of these failures, in many instances their proposed solutions have been ineffective, and in many cases they have taken no action at all."
In one example, plaintiffs say a baby girl and her older brother were taken from their home and put into a foster home, where the little girl was locked in a closet and her brother was beaten for trying to help her.
When doctors got to the girl, she was dehydrated and had bruises on her forehead, cuts on her legs and a "diaper rash so severe that her buttocks were ulcerated and bleeding."
Another girl was bounced around 40 foster care settings in the 15 years she's been in the system, and was even returned to an aunt's home despite the girl's having reported abuse and neglect there.
One 12-year-old, deaf since birth, endured sexual, physical and emotional abuse by his parents and grandparents before being placed in the foster care system. "Despite knowing his impairments, defendants have failed to place [the boy] in homes able to meet his special needs," the lawsuit states.
More than 10 studies in the past 7 years have documented the department's failure to protect children from abuse in the foster care system, the complaint states.
A similar suit brought by the National Center for Youth Law in 2006 was dismissed after failing to get class-action status.
Plaintiffs want state and county agencies to put together plans that educate foster parents how to care for children and to appoint representatives for children in court, as required by state and federal law. They also want early intervention services provided to the county's foster children.
Listed as defendants are the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Director Michael Wilden; Diane Comeaux, administrator of the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services; Clark County Manager Virginia Clementine; and Tom Morton, director of the Clark County Department of Family Services.
The lawsuit was filed by Bruno Wolfenzon.