Foster care abuse alleged

Foster care abuse alleged

Two brothers claim in a lawsuit that the state failed to stop their sexual and physical abuse.

Published October 13, 2004

PINELLAS PARK – The two brothers grew up in separate foster homes, but both say they were abused again and again – physically and sexually – while in foster care in Hillsborough County.One brother said he was sodomized in three different homes. The other claimed he was also raped and forced to sit in his urine for hours or kept outside without food or water.

Both brothers, Jesus de la Cruz and Sue F. Flores, claim in a lawsuit against the state Department of Children and Families filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court Tuesday that they told caseworkers about the abuse. But either nothing was done or they were moved to another bad situation year after year, the suit says.

Jesus de la Cruz, now 24 and out of foster care for six years, stood in his lawyer’s conference room Tuesday and held up a poster board picture of himself as a toddler when he was placed into the foster system. Cruz, reeling from the loss of his premature 5-month-old daughter a few days ago, said he wanted to come forward to help other children.

“This has been going on for a long time, … and I don’t want it to happen to any more children,” he said. “They didn’t look out for my safety. They weren’t protecting me.”

A number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of children who suffered abuse or neglect in the foster care system over the years. But they typically take years to litigate and many are dismissed because of a lack of evidence.

“With these sort of lawsuits there are procedural hurdles that often prevent the court from getting to the substance of the issue, which is, that while the state had these children, they allowed them to get hurt,” said Gerard Glynn, executive director of the statewide children’s advocacy group, Florida’s Children First, in Orlando. “And the question is, should they be allowed to be made whole? … The state does everything in its power to avoid addressing that question.”

DCF spokesman Andy Ritter said the agency had not yet received the brothers’ lawsuit, but department policy prevented him from commenting on it anyway. He said the department has a zero tolerance policy for any abuse in foster care homes.

Asked if anything had changed at the agency since de la Cruz, the youngest brother, left the foster care system six years ago, Ritter said a department representative now visits all 29,284 children in the foster care system once a month.

Joseph H. Saunders, attorney for de la Cruz and Flores, said the brothers’ case files are full of their claims of abuse but show little action on the part of the state to either investigate their plight or check into their foster families.

“The failings of the department resulted from a lack of funding and inadequate staffing of the department,” said Saunders, a Pinellas Park attorney who has also handled some cases on behalf of victims alleging abuse by priests.

Though lawsuits over abuse in the foster care system are difficult to win, some cases have resulted in judgments. Still, there is a statutory $100,000 cap on the state’s liability. Any judgment above that must be approved by the Legislature in a special spending bill.

Some cases have been won by filing a federal civil rights lawsuit. One 16-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by her foster father in Miami-Dade County beginning when she was 8 years old won a $650,000 settlement this way, said Karen Gievers, her Tallahassee attorney and president of Children’s Advocacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up to educate about children’s needs.

De la Cruz, who is now disabled from a car accident, was first placed into a foster care home when he was about 3 years old because his mother, who had six children, was an alcoholic who left them unsupervised and without food, the lawsuit says.

In his second foster care home when he was 7, he claims he was sodomized and his sister was raped by another older son of the family.

In all, he was moved about a dozen times to foster homes in Brandon, Tampa and Plant City and sexually abused by different people when he was 10 and 14. De la Cruz’s sister, who was placed with him, is not part of the lawsuit, and he said he had not seen her in some time.

The other brother, Flores, now 32, was placed in 16 different foster homes. He was not present at the news conference in Saunders’ office Tuesday. But he claims he was sexually abused beginning when he was 9. He said he informed his counselor, but no one believed him, the lawsuit says.

De la Cruz said he also faced disbelief on the part of his caseworkers. They continued to write reports that indicated the abuse was unfounded.

“I was very afraid and I couldn’t trust nobody,” said de la Cruz, who attended Sickles High School in northwest Hillsborough County. “I felt no one believed me, No. 1 because I was a boy.”

He said he had not sought criminal charges against any of the people he claims abused him, but Saunders said he might do so in the future.

He said the abuse has scarred him emotionally and made him question his sexuality, “whether I was going to be gay.”

“I had a lot of anger and I took a lot of therapy,” he said. “If it weren’t for therapy, I’d probably be one of them (an abuser).”

[Last modified October 13, 2004, 00:37:14]


Epidemic Of Police Brutality & Harassment
Sweeps America & UK

An epidemic of violence and harassment is sweeping the country. Police are being trained that the general public are the enemy and that they can engage in outright brutality without recourse. Taser deaths are skyrocketing because the police have been ordered to use “pain compliance”, otherwise known as torture, to subdue and oppress the citizenry. Police are also increasingly completely unaware of the laws they are supposed to enforce and have resolved to invent offences out of thin air as an excuse to harass people. It is time for police to remember that their duty is to protect the general public from criminals and not act as enforcers for a tyrannical police state.

Please post your police brutality stories, links and video to our Prison Planet Forum and we will include the best material here.


School Security Guards Beat Teen over Cake Spill

MyFox Los Angeles
Friday, September 28, 2007

Palmdale — It all started with a piece of birthday cake, but it ended up with a high school girl being beaten and expelled. The incident, which occurred last week at Knight High School in Palmdale, was caught on a cell phone camera. Michael Brownlee was live in Palmdale with what the girl and her mother plan to do now.


Students, Parents Protest Treatment of Student by Security Guard

Palmdale — A walkout is planned for this morning by some students at Knight High School in Palmdale. They are protesting what they call an “unprovoked assault” on two students by a security guard. The incident apparently left a 15-year-old girl with a broken wrist. Some students and the girl’s parents want the guard fired. SideBar


The police later arrested the girl who had her wrist broken, her mother for complaining about it and even arrested the kid who filmed the incident and his sister! Completely out of control thuggery, intimidation, framed arrests and false charges across the board.


Missouri: Police Threaten, Detain Motorist for Parking After Hours
A motorist who refused to discuss his personal business with a St. George, Missouri police officer was threatened with arrest last Friday. Brett Darrow, 20, no stranger to unconventional encounters with police, caught a St. George Police Sergeant named Kenline stating that he had the power to invent charges that would put Darrow behind bars.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.344958&w=425&h=350&fv=%26rel%3D0%26]

Child welfare officer jailed (ACCOUNTABILITY!!!!)

this is what i like to see – this case is a couple years old, but its a good leader to what needs to keep happening – accountability!!!

The Pinellas sheriff’s employee lied about checking on children and filed false overtime claims, detectives say.

Published December 10, 2004

Megan Gallagher faces felony charges of grand theft and falsifying records.

LARGO – Pinellas County sheriff’s detectives arrested one of their investigators Thursday, alleging that in a least two dozen cases she failed to visit homes where child abuse had been reported, then wrote fake reports.

Megan Gallagher, 25, also submitted bogus overtime slips for hours she never worked, sheriff’s officials said. She was booked into the Pinellas County Jail Thursday on felony charges of grand theft and falsifying records.

Gallagher, who has worked for the agency since March 2002, was placed on paid administrative leave.

After learning of one case of deceit, supervisors in the Sheriff’s Office’s child protection division found 26 cases where Gallagher falsified documents this year, according to officials. In most of them, she made no visits to families where children were reported to be in danger, said Capt. George Steffen, the division’s commander.

None of those children suffered injuries because of Gallagher’s no-shows, though two children later were removed from a home Gallagher failed to visit, Steffen said.

“It was very disturbing and we acted as quickly as we could,” Steffen said. “This is extremely egregious on her part.”

Steffen said the work of his 77 investigators is important and can save children from harm or neglect. The possibility that Gallagher wasn’t doing that work is alarming, he said.

“If you’re not making contact as you’re required to and they are tasked to do on a daily basis, obviously you’re going to leave children at risk,” Steffen said. “And we were fortunate in all these cases that nothing serious occurred.”

The 26 cases Gallagher is accused of falsifying all occurred this year, though officials intend to look back even further, Steffen said.

He said he couldn’t rule out that there are more cases in previous years, and that children may have been harmed if there was more deceit.

“We are going to go back further,” he said. “It could be growing.”

This marks the third time this year that a child-protection investigator with the Sheriff’s Office has been arrested.

Two other child protection investigators were arrested in August on charges they submitted false overtime slips, though neither was accused of skipping family visits.

Both of those investigators resigned, then entered pretrial intervention programs that could result in criminal charges being dismissed, court records show.

Division supervisors tightened up on overtime procedures and began reviewing spikes in overtime, but found no other people abusing the system. Gallagher’s time slips were not reviewed at that time because she filed for it sporadically, Steffen said.

Sheriff’s officials said the overtime in question this year amounted to about $2,000.

A fellow investigator became concerned during a visit with a family that Gallagher had supposedly visited earlier this year, officials say. When questioned by the second investigator, the family said Gallagher had never called or visited their home. A report filled out by Gallagher said she had.

“This family said they didn’t even know anyone by the name of Gallagher, had never seen her or been contacted by her,” Steffen said. “Of course, this raised a red flag. The information was practically totally fabricated.”

Steffen said he assigned four investigators to meet with the families that Gallagher had failed to visit. Of the 160 or so cases she was assigned in the first eight months of this year, she did not visit 26, sheriff’s officials said.

Officials said they did not know what Gallagher was doing when she said she was visiting with at-risk families.

Steffen said Gallagher used similar descriptions in most of the reports she is accused of falsifying, including often saying that dishes were piled high in the sink. Steffen said supervisors have been reminded to be vigilant when reviewing investigators’ work and to look for such repetitive descriptions.

In 1999, the Sheriff Office replaced the state’s Department of Children and Families in investigating child abuse cases.

Steffen said there are no plans for changes in management practices and said the accusations against Gallagher are not reflective of the division.

“Most of our people are honest,” he said.

[Last modified December 11, 2004, 19:12:00]

With woman missing, a mother worries

A Seminole woman hasn’t been seen since a court appearance Feb. 6, when she appeared to be pregnant.

Published April 18, 2006

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]

Linda Steenberge, 61, holds a photograph of her missing daughter, Melissa Steenberge Pound, 34. The photo, which is about 2 years old, shows Pound with her nephew Thomas Ford and a daughter, Joanna Pound. Steenberge says Pound has suffered from depression.


In 2004, Spirit,
a wolf-dog hybrid,
mauled one of Pound’s daughters.


Melissa Steenberge Pound, a 34-year-old Seminole woman with a history of depression, was expecting to give birth to a baby two months ago.

But she has disappeared, possibly with her infant child, and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office wants help finding her. So does her mother, who is worried about their safety.

“I just want to know that she’s all right,” Linda Steenberge said.

It is the second traumatic event for the family in as many years.

In 2004, Melissa’s then-2-week-old daughter, Susanna, was mauled by Spirit, a wolf-dog hybrid owned by a relative. That event generated wide local publicity and focused attention on the question of whether wolf hybrids should be allowed to live in urban and suburban areas. Spirit was soon put to sleep.

In the latest case, Steenberge said Gregory Steven Pound, father of Melissa’s children, was jailed for failing to provide information about her.

Public records indicate Pound is being held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail on a charge of contempt of court, but Pinellas sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Bordner said he had no information on why.

Steenberge said her daughter and Pound consider themselves husband and wife, but are not legally married.

Steenberge is especially concerned about her daughter because she has suffered from postpartum depression.

“I think she’s … in depression to where she doesn’t know where she is,” Steenberge said.

It has happened before. Steenberge said her daughter, after giving birth in the past, became completely disoriented and “she didn’t know who she was.” She said her daughter did not take her normally prescribed anti-depression medication during her pregnancy.

It’s not clear whether Melissa has the baby with her.

She was last seen in a Feb. 6 court appearance, but Steenberge said she seemed to still be pregnant then.

Bordner declined to say whether detectives had checked local hospitals to see if Melissa had given birth. But even if she has, it might not have been at a hospital. Steenberge said her daughter previously had her babies at home.

Melissa last telephoned relatives on Feb. 9 and 11, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

After the dog bite two years ago, child welfare workers took the Pounds’ four children away and placed them with their grandparents, Steenberge and her husband, in Largo. Since then, the youngest child’s facial scars have almost completely healed, but she may have suffered some brain damage from the attack, Steenberge said.

Melissa has been working on a plan with foster care workers designed to help her prove she could safely regain the custody of the children, who are 6, 4, 2 and 20 months. Now, she has not been in contact with the kids for two months, and Steenberge said that’s unlike her.

The oldest child has started to notice her mother’s absence and recently said, “I hate my life,” Steenberge said. When she asked why, the girl said, “Because Mom’s not coming to visit and because Mom’s not calling me.”

Melissa Pound of 9166 Sunrise Drive in Seminole is described as a white woman, 5 feet 5 inches tall, about 120 pounds, with blue eyes and shoulder-length brown hair.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information to call Detective Ed Judy at (727) 582-6200.

[Last modified April 18, 2006, 01:48:05]

Missing mom may have feared losing son

The woman’s husband says she was afraid the state would take away their newborn like they did with their other kids.

Published April 24, 2006

Gregory Pound sat in the Pinellas County Jail for a month for failing to reveal where his wife and baby son had gone, even though he insists he doesn’t know the answer.

But he says he knows this much: Melissa vanished because she feared child welfare workers would take their son, Moses, away from her, like their four other children.

His family, Pound says, is being persecuted by the government.

“She had to flee for her life and the life of her child,” said Gregory Pound, 50, in a telephone interview from jail last week. On Saturday, he was released from jail.

Two years ago, a dog owned by Gregory Pound’s sister, Diane, bit the couple’s newborn, in a case that generated extensive local news coverage. It was widely reported that the dog was a wolf hybrid, though Diane Pound denied that in an interview last week.

After that incident in 2004, child welfare workers removed the rest of the Pounds’ children. The parents have not been able to regain custody. It’s why the Pounds believe their new baby, born in early February, might be taken away also, Gregory said.

Officials with the Safe Children Coalition, which coordinates foster care and other services for Pinellas and Pasco counties under a contract with the state Department of Children and Families, said they cannot discuss individual cases because of confidentiality laws.

But they stressed that in cases like these, a system of checks and balances is designed to give parents legal representation and the right to appeal. Judges, not just case workers from various agencies, review key decisions such as whether children should be removed from home or reunited with parents. They also said parents with children in foster care do not always lose custody of their newborns; several factors go into that decision.

After the Pounds’ children were removed, they were placed with Melissa’s mother, an arrangement that is essentially a form of foster care.

On Feb. 4, Gregory says, Melissa gave birth to their new child. She suggested the name Moses, because she thought it was appropriate. The biblical baby Moses also was sent on a journey – downriver in a basket of papyrus – to escape the persecution of the pharaoh.

Last Monday, the Sheriff’s Office said Melissa, 34, had disappeared and that “detectives are concerned about (her) well-being and the condition of the newborn.”

A spokesman said no Amber Alert had been issued for the baby because it was not clear there had been an abduction; the child was with his mother.

Melissa’s mother, Linda Steenberge, said at the time that Melissa had previously suffered from postpartum depression and that “I think she’s … in depression to where she doesn’t know where she is.”

But Gregory and various friends and family members dispute that, saying her disappearance was planned.

“It was a calculated event, saying, “We’ve got to do this for their safety, for the opportunity for the mother and baby to bond,”‘ said family friend Gene Greeson.

Gregory Pound, a tree trimmer from Largo, says a judge jailed him after case workers accused him of knowing where his wife went and refusing to disclose it. He denied that.

Melissa’s disappearance could damage or delay her chances of regaining custody of the four children she has not seen in about two months.

“You don’t want to lose four trying to save one,” Greeson said.

But at the same time, Greeson said, when you follow Christian principles, “you do what you believe is right, not what you believe is going to best work.”

The Pounds’ pastor, Bruce Bendt of Grace & Peace Fellowship in Tampa, agreed. “We have to take a stand for those things that we know to be right.”

Bendt said Gregory and Melissa Pound were married in a church in West Virginia in 1999, although they did not get a marriage license for reasons related to their religious beliefs. Case workers are supposed to evaluate parents like the Pounds and determine what they need to safely regain custody of their children. They prepare a list of tasks called a case plan.

Gregory and Melissa had been working on their case plan, while at the same time appealing the decision to have the children removed in the first place, Gregory said. He said he had many objections to the process, including a requirement in a domestic violence class that he admit to having committed domestic violence. He says that would have been a lie.

April Putzulu, spokeswoman for the Safe Children Coalition, said participants must “buy in” to the process. Otherwise “the individual is a potential disruption for the rest of the group who do acknowledge their need to improve.”

Gregory has been acting as his own attorney in many of the legal proceedings.

When asked last week whether he and Melissa jointly decided that she should disappear, Gregory said it was her decision. When asked if he supported that decision, he declined to answer. He said he hopes he and his wife will win their appeal and reunite with their other children.

Such decisions, however, are rare.

Failing that, the most likely way Melissa would regain custody of her other children would be to work with the very system she apparently has run away from.

“They will find her, there’s no doubt in my mind,” said Greeson, who stressed that he thinks the Pounds are competent, loving parents. “You find Public Enemy No. 1, why can’t you find a woman with a child?”

[Last modified April 24, 2006, 01:40:15]

How Does A CPS Case Work? When to report?

This is a summary I wrote up about how a case works. For the exact laws and rules/procedures, read the Guidelines on the TDPRS website (for Texas) or the guidelines for your specific state which should be available for your information at your state’s Health and Human Services website. The following is simply a summary outlining generally the way a case works, specifics may differ from state to state. I am not an attorney and this is not to be construed as legal advice to follow in your specific case, for assistance with a specific case, contact an attorney licensed to practice law in your area who can assist you.


What are Referrals?

When a call or report of abuse/neglect comes in, it is assigned a certain priority level;. Depending on the level of priority it is assigned. The allegation and amount of imminent danger the child may be in determines the level of priority.



To the contrary, only about 25% of allegations are substantiated, which means approximately 3 out of 4 reports that come in are false or unsubstantiated allegations of abuse and/or neglect.

Anyone can call in a referral on anyone else. It can even be done anonymously.

It is common to have referrals come in that are based on misinformation, misunderstandings, or reported with malice, spiteful intent, and based on lies and deceit.

Of course, there are good faith reports that are made when someone truly believes a child is being abused or neglected. Those are the reports that are supposed to be called in.

Often times couples in custody battles call in referrals and make allegations. These are spite referrals which are the most damaging to the children.

Every referral must be assigned a priority and looked into, to determine whether or not further investigation is needed.

An investigator is assigned, and he case is looked at by the investigator in the following (usually six weeks) period of time. Sometimes the children remain in the home, other times they are removed.

During that time the child is interviewed, parents, school teachers, friends, family, and a determination is made by the investigator whether or not abuse/neglect occurred.

If it is determined that it did occur or that the child is at risk of it occurring, the parents are placed into “services” they must complete over (usually) an 18 month period of time. Services include counseling, drug treatment, parenting classes, etc., and if they complete those services. Parents must prove to the court that they have met certain requirements of a ‘family service plan’ before they get their children back if the children are removed from their care and placed into a foster home.

Part of that plan includes several court dates, PPT Staffings (meetings with CPS to determine the status of the case), visits with the child (if the child is removed from the home), and classes, therapy sessions, drug test screenings, rehab, and other services. Sometimes the parent is required to find better housing, a better job, remove a spouse or partner from the home if that spouse/partner is found to be a danger to the child. It is even common to have CPS tell you to get divorced if you want your children back, or break up with your lover. They have parents jumping through hoops, and sometimes even that is not enough.

It sounds like a good system (on paper), but upon deeper examination you realize how many children are placed into the foster homes when the allegations are not substantiated. Sometimes this is because the children were removed early on ‘just in case’. When that happens, the trauma to the child and family is indescribable.

The involvement of CPS in the household is extraordinarily stressful, often devastating. Parents lose jobs, socially they are scrutinized by those they associate with, reputations are ruined, family bonds are often severed, and lives torn apart. Nervous breakdowns and even suicide has been known to be the result of these cases.

In cases where the child did not need to be removed, but was, OR when the unthinkable happens and that child is then abused in the foster care system that he wasn’t even supposed to be in to begin with – the results can be absolutely devastating.

So with stakes so high, in order to keep from destroying children’s’ lives, the CPS workers should be held accountable at the very least, wouldn’t you think? Accountability in CPS is a joke.

There are laws that make the workers not liable in many cases, that protect them against being held accountable in the court of law. This is not only frustrating, but it opens up a whole new arena for parents to take matters into their own hands, placing the workers at risk. It also leaves room for the workers to mishandle cases, placing families and children at risk.

In order to ensure that they are not deliberately hiding facts, concealing items of evidence that would otherwise change the entire scope of an investigation or case, that the children’s placement in foster care may not be what was best after all, or done by mistake, or inappropriately. Rather than admit to the mistakes these caseworkers often cover their mistakes by backdating, moving the children, or sometimes downright lying in order to fill in the gaps. At the children’s expense – how much is a worker’s mistake costing us? Its costing us in our children’s lives – which is UTD unable to determine – in terms of $$ or placing worth on our childrens’ lives.





( for those who don’t, lets hold them responsible for their wrongdoings)

For an example See This Court Opinion I Posted Below:

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin



CONTACT: Louise Uccio
PHONE: (917) 806-8301
FAX: (914) 965-3823



September 28, 2007

New York, Ms. Louise Uccio via her civil rights attorney has filed a lawsuit in The Supreme Court in the State of New York after the devastating affect of a false 2001 “Substantiated” Child Protective Services case against her. Defendants named in the lawsuit include: The case-worker, Noreen Boffa and various “John and Jane Does” unknown officers in the Administration for Child Protective Services, as well as the City of New York.

Ms. Uccio, a loving and devoted mother, and her children’s lives have been irreversibly destroyed over the last six years. She was accused and falsely found guilty of being a drug addict who attempted suicide. Ms. Uccio is alleging that her estranged abusive husband’s relentless pursuit to destroy her for leaving the marriage was the basis of four investigations by The Administration for Children’s Services in N.Y. and Division of Youth and Family Services in N.J. In 2001; leading to this lawsuit.

Ms. Uccio has been kept from her children for years with no visitation, no phone contact, and no access to medical or school records. Her estranged husband has successfully managed to alienate the children from her and erase her from their lives. This loving mother who diligently took care of her children according to her daughters pediatric cardiologist [Dr Putman] has lost six precious years from her children’s lives, during which time two of her children have aged out of the system.

Ms. Uccio has no history of drug abuse, as proven in the original documentation that was used to over turn this case, which was available and should have cleared her from the beginning had this case ever been properly investigated.

She was falsely accused, and maliciously prosecuted while she was able to prove her innocence from the start. She feels the case was able to be substantiated as a combined result of her civility, and respect for “authority”, as well as her naive innocence and not knowing her constitutional rights.
Although the false “substantiated” case was over turned on July 12, 2006, Not only have Ms. Uccio and her children not been reunited there has been no visitation to date.

# # #

If you would like more information about this lawsuit or to schedule an interview with Louise Uccio please call (917) 806-8301 or contact her @


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