Bill to pay DCF settlement to couple who adopted sexually abused boys fails

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, April 25, 2008

Soon after Debbie and Jorge adopted three boys who had been raped and beaten in Palm Beach County foster care, they bought the children miniature horses.

They hoped the pets would help teach the brothers to care for living things. And a few months ago, when the youngest boy called from out of state to ask how the horses were eating, Debbie thought she may have succeeded. He seemed to miss them.

But not long afterward, Debbie came home to find some of the horses convulsing, and most already dead. Her son, now 13, had slipped rat poison into their food.

That has been Debbie and Jorge's life since 1998, when they adopted the boys without knowing they had been abused for years in state foster care. Both gave up their chosen careers to raise their severely troubled sons, who have set fires in their home and have hidden knives outside their bedroom windows.

But it will be at least another year before they get their promised compensation from the state.

The Department of Children and Families settled with the parents for $10 million in October and is now paying for the boys' therapy at specialized residential treatment programs outside of Florida. But any payment of more than $100,000 requires approval from lawmakers. And a claims bill for the full amount (SB 66) died in the legislature this session.

Debbie and Jorge say they understand the state's budget crisis, but the money is critical to help boys who have already killed animals and threatened to kill Debbie.

Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, sponsored the family's claims bill and is in line to take over as Senate president next year if he is reelected. This session, he pushed legislators to approve payments for Marissa Amora, another Palm Beach County child, who won a $26.8 million jury verdict after DCF failed her too.

Atwater said Friday that he will work to win relief for the three brothers.

"We will get it done," Atwater said. "I can tell you that, regrettably, it will not be this year. But the day will come."

Debbie and Jorge were a school principal and youth minister living in Boynton Beach when they approached DCF about adopting from foster care more than a decade ago. The couple already had one adopted son, and they said they were open to children with learning disabilities or other problems.

The only thing they said they couldn't handle was a child who had been sexually abused.

DCF's adoption workers didn't know that the three boys were being molested in their foster home when they introduced them to the couple. The department failed to provide other records that showed the boys had reported abuse in another foster home, where they said they were caged when they misbehaved.

Former foster father Hector Rosa was sentenced to life in prison for molesting the three boys and an 11-year-old girl.

Debbie and Jorge closed on the adoption in 1998, when the boys were 3, 5 and 6 years old.

Soon after the adoption, the couple discovered how severe the boys' abuse had been.

The couple said they had looked forward to a jury trial in their suit against DCF, but they agreed to settle because the state promised immediate treatment for the boys. Though relieved that the boys are now in treatment programs, they say the family is still under enormous financial and emotional strain.

Jorge said he is optimistic that Atwater and other state leaders will come through with the money next year.

"I believe he cares for our family, and it's encouraging for us," Jorge said.


what is your take on this?

the behaviors list are what get parents running for attachment therapy

what are your thought?

should the adoptive parents get paid that much?

should the money have gone to the kids? do you really think they are in any kind of treatment?

State agreed to pay for care of adopted boys


Former Boynton Beach couple who adopted abused boys says state let them down

Kathleen Chapman
The Palm Beach Post
April 6, 2009

Eleven years after adopting three brothers who were raped, caged and starved in foster care, a Florida couple is still waiting for help from the state.

Debbie and Jorge were working as a school principal and a youth minister in Boynton Beach when they adopted the boys, unaware that they had been horrifically abused.

The Department of Children & Families admitted in court documents that it hid the boys' histories from the family. But for years, state officials said there was nothing they could do to help as the boys molested other children, killed the family's pets and tried to poison Debbie.

DCF settled the case in 2007, five years after the parents filed suit. DCF leaders apologized for years of stalling and inaction, and promised to pay the full cost of the boys' therapy at nationally known programs through Medicaid.

In exchange for the parents' agreement to forgo a jury trial in the civil suit, DCF leaders said they would support a bill in the Florida Legislature that would give the family $1 million per year over 10 years.

But in March, Debbie and Jorge, who now live in High Springs, outside of Gainesville, got a letter from an attorney for one of the programs treating the boys, saying that the state had not paid on time. The parents are now threatened with lawsuits and pestered by collection agents for the state's unpaid bills. As of mid-March, four programs were owed about $185,000 by the state of Florida, Jorge said, and one program said it would have to ask their son to leave if the bill wasn't paid.

After being contacted last week by The Palm Beach Post, DCF Secretary George Sheldon said that he would follow through on the agency's commitment to the family.

"I think we have a moral obligation to make this family whole," he said.

Sheldon said Friday afternoon that he identified $1 million in the agency's operating budget for the family, and will ask state legislators for authorization to spend it. In the meantime, he said, he will work with the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees Medicaid payments, to ensure that bill collectors are not coming after the family.

"Frankly, with everything they have endured they should not have to be dealing with this," Sheldon said.

The three brothers were taken into foster care in 1994, when they were 2, 1 and a baby. They were sent to a shelter, then to a foster home where the mother locked them in a cage in the back yard when they misbehaved. DCF had a hard time finding someone to take all three boys together, and settled on Hector Rosa of Palm Springs.

Day care workers said the boys seemed to be starving. And when a social worker went to check on the brothers at Rosa's home, one of the boys held onto her, begging her not to leave him with Rosa.

DCF matched the boys with Debbie and Jorge, who were thinking about adoption and agreed to meet the boys on an overnight visit. When the boys came over to dinner from the Rosa home, they were so gaunt that "they looked like little prisoners of war," Debbie said. The little boys stuffed spaghetti into their mouths with both hands, she said.

Debbie and Jorge said they couldn't let the boys go back to Rosa's home, and allowed them to stay. After the adoption closed, they found out that Rosa had held the boys down to molest them nearly every night. He was sentenced in 2000 to life in prison without parole.

Debbie gave up her job as a school principal to raise the boys, who needed constant supervision. More recently, Jorge lost his job as an office manager because the couple needed to travel so often to participate in therapy sessions with the boys.

They worry about money, and said they don't know what will happen if the claims bill isn't approved. Their oldest turns 18 in February, meaning that he will no longer be eligible for state aid through Medicaid.

Their fate now hinges on House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, who spoke with the family Friday, and Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, who sponsored the claims bill on their behalf last year.

Their staffs warn that the state budget has never been tighter and they can't make any promises.

my take

My thoughts are the adoptive parents should get paid for this, after all they legally are the parents of the boys and as such responsible for the care they need. Unless the adoption is being dissolved treatment centers will look at the adoptive parents to pay the bills.

The article above makes clear that when the state doesn't live up to their promises these parents are screwed. Beyond the cost of treatment of the boys, I think these parents should be compensated by the State of Florida too, because they were being  misinformed when taking in these boys. Only when the state has to pay for their deeds will they change their ways.

but there are 1000s of these parents out there

I was lied to about how badly my son was abused in foster care and prior to care.... I was told he had not been sexually abused. The effects of the sexual abuse he did suffer in foster care and while with his birth mom are the behaviors he struggles with the most...

they, being a sib group from foster care would have qualified for adoption subsidy.... they would have already had access to any treatment social services has out there for any of the kids in foster care or adopted from foster care...

why should they get more money?

Money, money, money

Personally, I'm really sick of the word "money", especially when it's used in relation to child placement and adoption.

Back when I was adopted (late 1960's), mothers were not allowed to keep their babies because of money.   Babies were sold to strangers because it made lots of money.  People bought babies because they HAD money.  Back then, people got what their money could afford.  You want a healthy white baby?  It'll cost you. 

From what I understand, adoption from foster care really didn't become a big promoted option until the late 1970's-early 80's.  If memory serves me right, that's also the time Politically Correctness became the new-found language of our society.   It was no longer admirable to keep within your class and race.  No, in order to prove your open-minded intelligence, you had to do something for those "beneath" you.   Truth be told, I didn't know dirt about foster care until we started the PPL pages; once I started reading more about adoption through foster care I began to see more clearly how money operates as the great motivator within the child placement industry.  Folks, the system is not nearly as altruistic as you'd all like to believe it is.  Never has been.

While I am slowly beginning to see and believe there are MANY good decent people fostering and adopting children, and doing really great fabulous things for children who NEED protective love and care, I also see how money still drives and motivates certain people to do things that have NOTHING at all to do with a child's sense of well-being or safety.  I don't think the general public is even REMOTELY aware of the types of things taking place behind closed doors because money can be made.  To think money has NOTHING to do with the care a child is given is to be grossly naive, and to think lies are not being told or sold within the child placement system only proves just how gullible some people want to be.

"Not knowing" (about a child's past) is a poor excuse to be angry and sue the state.  Frankly, I think it should be ASSUMED all 200-300,000 children placed in care each year (in the US)* are being badly treated.  If not by the first parents, then by those associated or related to social services, itself.  I think it's far better to assume the absolute worst than presume all is fine and dandy (and in good working order) once a child in taken into the system. 

There are far too many questionable actions and events taking place between consenting/agreeing adults; there are far too many hands hurting the lives of those who have no choice but accept all that is <cough, cough> "given" to them.  There are far too many people touching the lives of children because they are it for the love of something else, like money and opportunity.  There are far too many bad things happening to children to think adoption itself can be the answer that solves the problem SO MANY PEOPLE ARE FACING.

The question was asked if the A.parent or the kids should get settlement money.  Again, the almight dollar is supposed to solve problems that should have been prevented, in the first place.  Does taking more money into the private home make things better?   I don't know if a few million dollars can make my nightmares and hang-ups go away.  I don't know if there are therapists who can undo the damage social services do to a person.  I don't know a lot of things.   I do know if I was awarded a huge cash settlement, I would never have to work a day in my life and I could buy all sorts of things that may or may not make me feel happy.  I do know if nothing is done to stop, or even LESSEN the corruption within the child placement industry, we're all going to be seeing things get far worse before they get better.  So does a big settlement really benefit the whole scheme of things?  Not really.



*(approx 23,000 in the UK)

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