Another in a seemingly endless series of lawsuits involving allegations of abuse and neglect in foster care has been filed in California.
The lawsuit – filed on June 25 – alleges that two foster children, now 22 and 16 years old, were subjected to “ongoing, unrestrained, terror, torture, corporal punishment, physical and mental abuse and neglect” at the hands of their foster parents, Lisa Oates and Nawab Wilson.
According to the Civil Complaint, the 22-year-old woman was assigned to their care between 2007 and 2009, while the 16-year-old child was under their care between 2010 and 2011.
Oates and Wilson were allegedly uncertified to be foster parents, and managed by some means to operate seven uncertified facilities.
Among many other things, the suit charges that the foster parents demeaned and cursed their foster children, forcing them to clean house for several hours at a time. They were also forced to wear used or ill-fitting clothing in order to embarrass or humiliate them.
According to the civil complaint, Oates and Wilson also beat the children with belts, and forced them to walk or ride a bicycle for miles to and from a laundromat while carrying plastic bags of clothing.
The lawsuit targets Interim Care Foster Family Agency for failing to properly supervise the foster parents. It also claims that the agency bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal, state and county foster funds in “an illegal, abusive, violent, concealed, unconscionable, ‘kids for cash’ operation.”
THE PREVIOUS LAWSUIT
The lawsuit follows on the heels of a similar legal action filed last November. That legal action came to be known as the “San Bernardino County 8” case.
In that particular case, the complaint alleged that eight former foster children had been placed by Interim Care Foster Family Agency with Oates and Wilson at various times over a seven-year period.
Oates and Wilson allegedly shuffled the foster children through six facilities without so much as reporting a change in location or obtaining legally required new certifications.
According to November’s lawsuit, Interim Care Foster Family Agency provided no supervision over Oates and Wilson, while also failing to visit or inspect the new facilities.
“My old foster parents, they used to make special tools just to torture us, and I was under the age of 10 years old,” former foster child Isaiah Sais said during a news conference, reports Kim Baldonado of News4 Southern California.
Allegations against foster care providers by foster children are routinely swept under the carpet. As Garrett Therolf explained in a December 2014 article on the lawsuit:
The youths also contend that they disclosed the abuse to at least 15 so-called mandated reporters — police officers, school counselors, social workers and other professionals who are legally obliged to initiate an investigation if they suspect mistreatment. Although some of their complaints resulted in investigations, the youths allege that they were always interviewed by authorities with Oates present and recanted out of fear she would retaliate.
Both lawsuits seek undisclosed sums in excess of $25,000 for general damages, medical and incidental expenses, and other costs.
AUDITS NOTED PROBLEMS
Last year, state auditors examined the 2009 finances of San Bernardino County-based Interim Care, finding weak fiscal controls while disallowing $50,000 in spending.
The disputed expenditures included $21,912 in lease payments above the appraised fair market value for two properties, the state auditors found. One of these properties, described as a house with a dirt yard in Hesperia, cost Interim Care $2,400 per month. The state determined that the actual fair market rental was $1,036.
Signs of fraudulent financial activity may act as something of a red flag, suggesting that children are not being properly being taken care of in foster care facilities with such findings, however the connection is seldom made, and, when it is, it almost invariably appears as the result of 20/20 hindsight.
California State Auditor, Report Number: 2015-502. Follow-Up—California Department of Social Services: Although Making Progress, It Could Do More to Ensure the Protection and Appropriate Placement of Foster Children. July 7, 2015.
California State Auditor, Report Number: 2013-110. Child Welfare Services: The County Child Welfare Services Agencies We Reviewed Must Provide Better Protection for Abused and Neglected Children. April 8, 2014.
California State Auditor, Report Number: 2011-101.2. Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services: Management Instability Hampered Efforts to Better Protect Children. March 29, 2012.
California State Auditor, Report Number: 2011-101.1. Child Welfare Services: California Can and Must Provide Better Protection and Support for Abused and Neglected Children. October 27, 2011.
Kim Baldonado, “Lawsuit Claims ‘Kids for Cash’ Foster Care Abuse,” NBC4 News, Southern California, (Nov 6, 2014).
Garrett Therolf, “Private foster care troubles in California lead to new scrutiny,” Los Angeles Times, (June 20, 2014).
Garrett Therolf, “Former foster youths sue private agency, woman who took them in,” Los Angeles Times, (December 8, 2014).
Garrett Therolf, “California not investigating foster care complaints promptly,” Los Angeles Times, (Sept 12, 2014).