BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A foster child has filed a lawsuit against his foster parent and child welfare providers, Kids in Distress Inc., and ChildNet, Inc., alleging that he was sexually abused by his foster parent and that the private child welfare agencies did not conduct the proper background checks prior to the fostering.
The child, only identified as R.S., said his foster father, John Michael McGuigan, who had a history of child molestation, sexually abused him.
According to Howard Talenfeld, the Fort Lauderdale child abuse attorney representing R.S, at the age of 49 and unmarried, McGuigan requested to receive a foster care license in May 2008, but incomplete background checks weren't performed.
McGuigan has been arrested on charges of cocaine possession and investigated for lewd and lascivious acts after a minor male reported that McGuigan had shown him pornographic pictures of a child and asked him to perform sex acts.
"Required, common-sense precautions that would have protected this child from this accused child molester weren't taken," Talenfeld said. "Mandatory requests to local law enforcement agencies would have revealed Mr. McGuigan was a threat to children he came in contact with. It's not comprehensible that Kids In Distress would place this boy and other children in Mr. McGuigan's care. This is another example of the state's failed experiment in child protection privatization."
Among foster children McGuigan has had in his care was a 7-year-old Margate boy, Gabriel Myers. Myers hung himself in the home of another foster family in 2009.
"Gabriel's deteriorating condition and McGuigan's parenting were ‘red flags' that should have alerted Kids In Distress and ChildNet that there was something wrong in the home," Talenfeld said.
Myers' death prompted an investigation that ended in recommendation of systematic improvements in Florida's foster care system.
According to Talenfeld, after a report that was made through the Florida Abuse Hotline that a former foster child of McGuigan's was sexually abused, R.S. was removed from the home.
A subsequent report received by the Department of Children and Families through the hotline disclosed allegations that R.S. had also been sexually abused by McGuigan.
The lawsuit alleges negligence by Kids In Distress, Inc. and ChildNet, Inc., for failing to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all children in the state who are cared for by family foster homes in Broward County, as well as battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress by McGuigan.
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