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DCF hid abuse from mom, girl's suit says

By Associated Press
Published August 10, 2003

ORLANDO - An 8-year-old girl has sued the Florida Department of Children & Families for not disclosing to her adoptive mother that she had been sexually abused by an older sister, even though the agency was aware of the allegations.

The lawsuit filed this month in Orange County seeks at least $50,000 from the child welfare agency and continues to raise questions about how the department handles cases involving the state's most vulnerable residents.

The adoptive mother wasn't told that the girl's older sister had sexually molested the girl before the two siblings came to stay at the woman's Orlando house in December 2000. The woman allowed the girl, who was then 5, to share a room with her older sister, then 10.

The woman first learned of the abuse when the agency faxed her a report four months after the children were placed in her home. The woman eventually adopted the girl and an older brother.

The children's biological mother was a prostitute and a crack cocaine addict, and the older sister had been sexually abused.

"The child has a right to be kept safe," said Karen Gievers, the girl's Tallahassee lawyer. "You've got to tell the adoptive parent what the department knows. But they routinely seem to withhold information that's required by state and federal law."

DCF spokesman Bob Brooks said it is the agency's policy to inform the family of a child's history, but he did not explain why it was not done in this case.

[Last modified August 10, 2003, 02:02:50]

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