INDIANAPOLIS — A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of nine foster children that accuses the Indiana Department of Child Services of “failing in its most fundamental duty as custodian — keeping foster children safe and healthy.”
Named as defendants in the lawsuit in addition to DCS are Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and DCS Director Eric Miller.
The lawsuit argues that DCS becomes responsible for children’s safety once taking abused or neglected children into state care. But by “failing” to keep foster children “safe and healthy,” the lawsuit argues that “the very system that was designed to protect foster children often compounds their trauma and causes lifelong harm.”
“By failing to provide the children in its custody with reasonable care and safety, Indiana violates those children’s rights,” the lawsuit argues.
The lawsuit broke down some of the ways the defendants reportedly failed in their responsibility as follows:
- Failure to keep children safe in foster care
- Failure to recruit and retain an adequate number of caseworkers
- Failure to recruit and retain an adequate number of foster homes
- Failure to provide timely and appropriate medical treatment
- Failure to implement measures necessary to ensure permanency within a resonable period of time
- Failure to implement measures necessary to ensure placement stability
- Failure to maintain and update medical records and failure to provide full and accurate medical information to foster parents
- Failure to maintain an adequate diversity of placements to permit children with disabilities to reside in the most integrated, least restrictive, and most family-like environment
In one example listed in the lawsuit, a foster child who was taken from his mother’s home in 2018 was found to have self-destructive and suicidal behavior. The child acted out in school, struggled to make friends and was terrified of being reunited with his mother.
The child was diagnosed with serious depression and ADD. A doctor said the child needed mental health treatment and should attend therapy sessions for his sexual trauma.
But the lawsuit says the boy was moved back into his mother’s home in June 2021. The mother did not follow the recommendations and the boy didn’t go to counseling or therapy. Instead, he began missing school, failing classes and was suspended for behavioral problems including being sexually inappropriate with other students.
In March, DCS received a report claiming his mother was abusing him.
In another account included in the lawsuit, a girl who was raped by her stepfather was put into the care of her grandmother. The lawsuit claims DCS placed the child in the grandmother’s care even though DCS “knew that this placement was unsafe” and knew that the grandmother sold pain meds to friends for money to buy gas and food.
“DCS knew that the grandmother was overmedicating and unable to properly supervise the girls,” the lawsuit said. “DCS had no record of a signed safety plan to mitigate safety concerns.”
The lawsuit goes on to reveal that the girl ended up being sexually abused again during this placement, this time by a neighbor.
“Despite recorded indications by DCS that the grandmother likely knew of [the girl’s] ongoing abuse and was accepting food and other goods from the neighbor, DCS did not take steps to intervene to protect [her],” the lawsuit claims.
The girl was eventually removed from her grandmother’s house but wasn’t sent to therapy until six months later. The lawsuit says that the girl then kept being moved to different therapists and never “remained long enough to establish (the girl’s) trust.”
The girl ultimately was returned to her grandmother’s care where she remains. The lawsuit claims DCS’s “permanency goal” for the girl is to have her adopted by the grandmother.
These are but two of several examples included within the lawsuit. In addition to the nine foster children represented in the lawsuit, the class action lawsuit also claims to represent 11,000 children in DCS’s care.
When asked for a statement in relation to the lawsuit, officials with DCS said that they do not have a statement. The governor’s office said it did not comment on pending litigation.
Read the full lawsuit below: