A friend representing a 12-year-old Lexington County boy, who said he was sexually abused in foster care in 2015, is suing the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) and the Columbia, South Carolina children’s shelter where the abuse allegedly occurred.
The friend filed a personal injury lawsuit against SCDSS and Palmetto Place Children and Youth Services on April 14 in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas.
The child, who will be referred to as John Doe in this story to protect his privacy, was taken into emergency protective custody by SCDSS when he was 5 years old in 2014, according to the lawsuit.
He was placed in the care of Palmetto Place in Columbia, South Carolina in 2015 when he was 6 years old, according to the lawsuit.
While he was living at Palmetto Place, John Doe was “sexually assaulted many times by older boys in the home,” the lawsuit claims.
John Doe told a staff member at Palmetto Place about the sexual assaults and the staff member told SCDSS, according to the lawsuit.
However, “no one did anything” to protect him from being sexually assaulted again, the lawsuit claims.
According to the lawsuit, officials at both SCDSS and Palmetto Place knew John Doe had been sexually assaulted and was at risk for further abuse, but they failed to protect him and the sexual abuse continued.
John Doe was sexually assaulted several more times until he was moved to a private foster home in 2016, according to the lawsuit.
He was adopted on July 9, 2019, but is still dealing with the trauma from the sexual abuse, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims Palmetto Place failed to provide a sufficient amount of employees to keep children safe.
Abbeville, South Carolina attorney Heather Hite Stone is representing John Doe in the lawsuit.
This is at least the second lawsuit against Palmetto Place in the last year. In another lawsuit filed in May, a foster child said she was sexually assaulted by a state-contracted cab driver while living at Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter.
Last year, a separate lawsuit was filed against SCDSS claiming an 11-year-old was sexually abused by teenagers while living at Miracle Hill Ministries foster shelter.
Recently, SCDSS failures have been exposed in national spotlight after the death of 3-year-old Victoria Rose Smith. Smith was allegedly murdered by her foster parents Ariel and Jerry Robinson while in the custody of SCDSS. The Robinsons were charged with homicide by child abuse on January 19 — the day they were scheduled to adopt Victoria Rose Smith.
Since Victoria Rose Smith’s death, more than 42,000 people have signed a petition asking state lawmakers to reform SCDSS.
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