Foster care group in court over whistleblower suit

from: zoniereport.com

November 3, 2008
Adam Klawonn

TUCSON — A former caseworker for a local nonprofit claims she was wrongfully terminated after sounding the alarm that child abuse may have occurred at one of the agency’s foster care homes.

Traci Costanzo is suing the Devereux Foundation in Pima County Superior Court for allegedly letting her go following discussions she had with state authorities that may have embarrassed the agency.

The Devereux Foundation is a 96-year-old nonprofit based in Pennsylvania that took in almost $350,000 in revenues last year, according to federal tax records.

In her seven-page complaint, Costanzo says she worked for the agency for almost nine years. During that time, she did not have any negative feedback from her supervisors.

In July 2007, Costanzo took a three-week vacation. When she returned, she visited one of the foster homes that the agency used.

“During that visit,” the complaint claims, “[Costanzo] learned that there were allegations of abuse perpetrated on two of the children in the Devereaux contract home. [Costanzo{ further learned that the [state] Child Protective Services was not informed as to the allegations of abuse that occured in the Devereux home.”

Costanzo claims she did her due diligence next by reporting the incident to her supervisor, who had been monitoring the home in her absence. She claims she repeatedly took her claims that Devereux mishandled the case to the top, asking the agency’s brass to file the report with CPS.

On Oct. 1, 2007, she was terminated effective immediately due to “reorganzation of the department,” the complaint states.

Now she is seeking punitive and compensatory damages from the Devereux Foundation. Tucson lawyer Charles R. Hamm is representing Costanzo.

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