Lawsuit: Abuse claims overlooked
Ex-state employee takes court action
Post staff report
A former state social worker has filed a whistle blower lawsuit against two of her former supervisors with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, alleging they pressured her to overlook allegations of abuse in foster homes that were trying to adopt special-needs children.
The pressure was applied because the cabinet was under the gun to approve more adoptions so it wouldn't lose federal subsidies, the suit says.
The suit was filed Jan. 14 in U.S. District Court in Covington by Pat Moore of Elsmere, who, the suit said, was forced to resign as Northern Kentucky Health and Family Services Office Permanency Team supervisor when she refused to comply with her superiors' orders to keep quiet about abuse claims and allow the adoptions of special-needs children to proceed.
Moore asks for unspecified actual and punitive damages, lost wages and reinstatement to her job. She alleges, among other things, that her civil rights were violated when she was forced out in retaliation for voicing concerns about abuse at foster homes under consideration for adoption placements.
In the 17-page complaint, Moore details three cases that she contends demonstrate how her rights were violated by agency administrators in the last quarter of 2004.
Among them was one in December in which, the suit says, she filed a custody report with Campbell County Family Court after she was ordered to go ahead with an adoption at a home that she said had been the subject of numerous complaints over a two-year period, including allegations of drug abuse and child molestation.
Moore alleges that her supervisors were enraged by her actions and that her immediate supervisor at the cabinet's Northern Kentucky regional office in Covington, Karen Bremenkamp, committed an "ethical breach" when she phoned Campbell County Family Court Judge Michael D. Foellger in the midst of his supervision of the case and urged him to dismiss the action.
Foellger ordered the children removed from the home after reviewing the files and the report of a court-appointed child advocate, finding probable cause for abuse and neglect in the foster home. "At that point, because she reported it to the judge, she started getting retaliation at work," said Shane Sidebottom, the Covington attorney representing Moore in the suit.
That included supervisors verbally abusing her and claiming that she falsified case plans and, finally, forcing her to resign Dec. 27, the suit said.
All the alleged actions are violations of Kentucky's Whistle Blower statute, the complaint contends.
The suit claims that Moore had an exemplary work record before she started clashing with her supervisors over what she considered inappropriate adoption placements.
Sidebottom said the children Moore was trying to protect have physical and/or emotional problems that make them "the most fragile" in the state's custody.
"These are the ones they have a hard time adopting out," he said.
The state receives $4,000 in federal money for each adoption it completes, and $6,000 for each adoption of a special-needs child, according to the suit.
Gil Lawson, spokesman for the cabinet, said Monday he could not comment because he was unaware of the suit.