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Wrongful Death of Children in Foster Care

August 4, 2016  ·  By HM&M

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At Hurley, McKenna, & Mertz, we are well aware of the trauma that accompanies the wrongful death of children in foster care, as we have both experience and success with such cases. A recent article in the University of La Verne Law Review authored by Daniel Pollack and Gary L. Popham, Jr. illustrates the severity of the cases involving wrongful death of foster children (Pollack and Popham, LaVerne Law Review, Vol 31:1). Please feel free to e-mail for a pdf copy of the article.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that an estimated 1,460 children died from abuse or neglect during the fiscal year 2005. This shockingly large number is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to foster care issues. However, it is difficult to generalize a problem such as wrongful death of foster children since state laws regarding who can bring suit and what damages may be sought vary from state to state. Furthermore, while the goal of foster care is to “provide a stable, nurturing, and non-institutionalized environment” for children who have been removed from their biological parents, the system of foster care has proven to be notoriously hard to monitor adequately. Sadly, sixty percent of children who enter foster care do so as a result of abuse or neglect from their biological parents. For some of these children, the abuse and neglect only continues.

Evelyn Pesante was the biological mother of four-year-old Angelica who was killed while in foster care. Ms. Pesante brought a wrongful death suit seeking damages for pain and suffering. Angelica and her half-brothers were removed from Ms. Pesante’s care as a result of neglect and placed in foster homes. While in foster care, Angelica was severely injured by her foster parent’s thirteen-year-old, 180-pound son, who tackled the four-year-old, causing her to lacerate and rupture a liver. After receiving no medical care and essentially bleeding to death internally, Angelica became disoriented and fell down the stairs in the home, causing her death. This is only one case, but the article describes many other cases that are just as disheartening.

Such irresponsible foster care is a nationwide problem. As a Chicago personal injury attorney who has argued a similar case in Illinois, I am outraged that abuse and neglect are a continuous problem in foster care situations. For many of these children, abuse and neglect is all they have ever known, something we simply cannot tolerate.

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