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Keeping Secrets, Part 2

10:41 PM, Sep 13, 2012   |    comments
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FLORIDA --  Adopting a child should be one of the happiest days in a family's life. But some Florida families say it ended up being one of the worst.

Now they're left with a heartbreaking decision: live with the child that's destroying their lives, or try to give them back.

"In the beginning it was hard, it was really really hard," said Kelly McCabe.

For months Kelly McCabe struggled to pull herself out of bed.

When her 4 year old adopted son told her his 11 year old adopted brother had been sexually abusing him for months, she was floored.

"It was scary because I didn't know when he became the victim, because they lied, they lied about everything," she said.

McCabe is an attorney, a former prosecutor, who did her homework before adopting the boys.

She says she poured over their paperwork the adoption agency in Tampa provided, but nothing and no one told her about her older son's long and documented history of sexually abusing other kids in his foster home.

"They purposefully took records out, there's the evaluations, psychological evaluations that I obtained after this all came out," she said.

McCabe has since filed a lawsuit against the adoption agency in Tampa, and similar lawsuits are being filed all over the state.

There is a different adoption agency in every county in Florida that contracts with the Department of Children and Families to help foster children find forever families.

Brian Cabry is an attorney in Jacksonville who has filed dozens of similar lawsuits here in the city.

"I have seen families go bankrupt. Lose their entire life savings, exhaust all of their insurance options, push their marriage to or beyond the brink," said Cabry.

He says families come to him destroyed.

They feel like they were lied to because they didn't know the history of the children they adopted.

"People who generally had no clue. Because nothing was told to them, the disclosure was not made. To me, that's the great shame, that's the reprehensible part. Because it should be rare. And it's not rare anymore," said Cabry.

Cabry says lawsuits over disclosure in foster care adoptions have cost the state millions.

Taxpayers are on the hook for the settlements, which force the state to pay for the care of severely disturbed children- either in their adoptive homes, or in foster care if the families give them back.

Family Support Services is the adoption agency in Jacksonville.

They are not the agency the McCabes used, but they are currently defending several lawsuits from parents.

"I think what happens sometimes is that they're so excited to adopt, that they're hearing the information, you're giving them the information, but they are focused on this is their last step," said Adoption Supervisor, Michelle Weisheit.

She says the agency works hard to make sure adoptive parents know everything they can provide about the children they're taking in to their homes.

"The supervisor must sign off that we have provided the information that we said we did. And there is a statewide form that DCF puts out, that every adoptive parent has to sign, agreeing that they've received the information," she said.

She says many times the case workers just don't know complete histories on kids who have been bounced around from foster home to foster home.

"There are situations where there is no silver bullet. Because there are years where these children were not in our care, that we don't know what happened to them. But we do the best to care for them every day as if they are our own," she said.

 And they are caring for hundreds of children in foster care who are waiting for the forever families they so desperately want.

"They always say they don't have enough families, and they need good families for these kids, and you want to know because you destroy us, you're not honest with us," said McCabe.

 

First Coast News

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