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Lawsuit alleges sexual assaults in foster care

By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 2, 2002

A woman in her 20s says in a lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted during the 1990s by staff members at the Children's Home in Tampa and at a mental health facility in Manatee County.

The woman, who is not named in the lawsuit except in a pseudonym, says the assaults occurred while she was a girl in foster care.

The lawsuit blames the state's Department of Children and Families for placing the girl in facilities with poorly trained, sometimes abusive staff.

"This young woman has been through hell while in the custody of the state of Florida's foster care system," said Karen Gievers, the Tallahassee-based attorney for the woman who filed suit.

Gievers said her client spent years in foster care, beginning when she was younger than 5.

The lawsuit says the girl was "subjected to multiple acts of sexual abuse by staff of the children's home." It says the Children's Home and DCF "were aware of the problems with the criminal acts of staff, the inadequate training and the proper supervision."

Officials at both the Children's Home and DCF said they had not yet seen the lawsuit, which was filed Friday and had not yet been delivered to either organization. "We will not comment until we see the lawsuit," said DCF spokeswoman Shawnna Donovan.

Gievers said she had not yet been able to determine if the sexual assaults alleged in the lawsuit had led to criminal charges.

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