CFSA – CPS: D.C. settles for $10 million in foster care abuse case


Henri Cauvin of the Washington Post reports that: “An abusive foster mother nearly cost Rafael Pearson his life, and now the District has agreed to pay $10 million for placing him with the troubled woman, whose beatings left the boy with massive brain damage.

Rafael was just a few days old when he was taken from his drug-addicted mother and placed in the foster home in fall 2005. Beaten and shaken by his foster mother, the baby suffered catastrophic brain damage. He was on life support for days, not expected to survive. More than five years later, he remains profoundly disabled. He can sense light and shadows and movement but otherwise his vision is extremely limited.

“The settlement, to be paid out in three installments, beginning with a $5 million payment this month, is one of the largest the District has ever agreed to.

“He ended up with Tanya Jenkins, a new foster parent who was unemployed and lived in Southeast Washington with her 2-year-old son and her boyfriend. Earlier that year, another infant had been placed with Jenkins, but she had sent the child back after five weeks, saying she had health problems that made it difficult to care for the small child.

“Despite the red flag, the Child and Family Services Agency came to Jenkins five months later when they needed a home for Raffy. Jenkins agreed but said she didn’t have the money to care for the child and would need CFSA to rush the assistance that is routinely provided to help with costs such as additional food.

“It was another harrowing episode in the annals of the District’s beleaguered child welfare system, and when they filed suit, Pearson’s attorneys, Sidney Schupak and Michelle A. Parfitt of Ashcraft & Gerel, planned to put the entire system on trial.

“Instead, the District agreed to pay one of the largest settlements in its history, as well as $2 million in attorneys’ fees.

Robert J. Spagnoletti, who was the District’s attorney general under Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), said a settlement as large as the one in this case had never crossed his desk. “It’s a very big settlement,” but not necessarily unreasonable, said Spagnoletti, now a partner at Schertler & Onorato.

Patrick M. Regan, a leading plaintiffs attorney in the District, called the settlement a “significant” sum of money, but said the amount had to be viewed in the context of the needs the child and his family will face over a lifetime. “It’s fair,” Regan said.

“D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, who was involved in the settlement negotiations, did not return a call today seeking comment.

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