Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES; Abused Children Awarded Millions THE CASE Three Who Were Sexually Assaulted in a Nassau Foster Home a Decade Ago Sued the Florida DCF. SETTLEMENT $2.9 Million to Pay for Therapy, Treatment

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES; Abused Children Awarded Millions THE CASE Three Who Were Sexually Assaulted in a Nassau Foster Home a Decade Ago Sued the Florida DCF. SETTLEMENT $2.9 Million to Pay for Therapy, Treatment

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

Conceding a settlement should have been reached long ago, the state has agreed to pay $2.9 million to three children sexually abused by older kids in a Nassau County foster home.

The agreement follows an appellate decision lawyers called unprecedented that gave the children the right to sue the Florida Department of Children and Families for placing them in a home where danger lurked.

The settlement encompasses both state and federal claims filed against the department and its employees. Under its terms, the money will go into a trust fund to pay for ongoing therapeutic care and treatment for the children, molested nearly a decade ago.

"This was a very tragic case of harm to children in a foster home. We wish it had never happened," said department spokesman John Harrell.

"It has taken way too long to reach a resolution. This settlement will help care for the needs of these children."

The agreement is scheduled to be presented to a Nassau County circuit judge this morning for approval. About a third of the settlement amount will pay attorney fees. It includes a $1.2 million state court settlement reached in December and a $1.7 million federal settlement announced Monday.

Lawyers for the children said the settlement was bolstered by a December ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. It said the children could sue on grounds that DCF was "deliberately indifferent" to the potential danger they faced when they were placed in the state-licensed foster home.

"This was the first written opinion by a federal appeals court upholding the right of children in foster care to sue for child-on-child sexual abuse," said attorney Howard Talenfeld, president of the foster care advocacy group Florida's Children First. …

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