A friend representing a 16-year-old Lexington County boy who said he was sexually abused in foster care at a Christian shelter four years ago is suing the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), the shelter, and three employees who allegedly allowed the abuse to continue.
The friend filed two personal injury lawsuits on behalf of the 16-year-old — referred to as K.T. in legal documents — in both the Lexington County Court of Common Pleas and the U.S. District of South Carolina-Columbia Division on Feb. 28.
The friend is suing SCDSS and Lavonda Gladney, who supervised the K.T.’s caseworker, in county court, while also suing K.T.’s caseworker Danielle Kelley, Miracle Hill Ministries foster shelter, and the shelter’s director Rodney Johnson.
According to the lawsuits, K.T. was sexually abused by teenagers while he was at the Miracle Hill Boy’s Shelter in Greenville from 2015 to 2016. The lawsuit not only places blame on the individual employees responsible for the child’s case, but it claims that SCDSS “does not take child-on-child sexual abuse seriously.”
Miracle Hill Ministries is South Carolina’s largest foster care provider, which received around $600,000 in state funding in 2018, the Greenville News reported. Miracle Hill is most known for its widely scrutinized policy that doesn’t allow LGBTQ and non-Christian couples to be foster parents.
K.T. was taken into emergency protective custody in September 2015 when he was 11 years old, according to the lawsuit. His caseworker Danielle Kelley placed him “in a cottage on the Miracle Hill campus” where he live with roommates who were years older than him.
K.T. lived at the Miracle Hill Boys’ Shelter from September 2015 through January 2016, when he was released back to his mother, according to the lawsuit. The shelter is “a group home located in Greenville for boys and young men ages 11-21,” according to its website.
During this time, K.T. was sexually assaulted multiple times by his roommates, according to the lawsuits.
“Staff members were supposed to be supervising the residents, but they were in the staff rooms watching Netflix with their headphones on and not supervising the boys,” the lawsuits said.
K.T. reported the sexual assaults to Miracle Hill staff members, including Rodney Johnson, the director of the facility, according to the lawsuits.
He also told his SCDSS caseworker Kelley “that other residents were touching him during the night in a way that made him feel uncomfortable,” the lawsuits said.
The lawsuits stated that no one at SCDSS or Miracle Hill “did anything to protect (K.T.) from being further abused.”
“They simply told (K.T.) that they would ‘look into it,'” the lawsuits said.
After he told his social worker, the sexual assaults continued, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said that “child-on-child sex happens fairly often in group homes in South Carolina, especially those, like Miracle Hill, that do not require twenty-four hour awake supervision.” It said SCDSS doesn’t require round-the-clock supervision in low-management homes “despite knowing the danger to these children.”
The lawsuit continued, accusing SCDSS of not properly handling sexual abuse cases like this one.
“SCDSS does not take child-on-child sexual abuse seriously,” the lawsuit said. “They do not track it, do not consider it a reportable event, and sometime characterize it merely as immature childish behavior.”
The abuse accuses SCDSS of grossly negligent placement under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act. Gladney, Kelley and Johnson are accused of violating K.T.’s 14th Amendment rights to a safe and secure placement. Miracle Hill and Rodney Johnson are being accused of negligence under the South Carolina Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act.
Attorney Heather Stone of Abbeville is representing the 16-year-old through his friend in both of the lawsuits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].