Children that are placed in foster care are often at their most vulnerable. It is hard to imagine how confusing and bewildering it must be to be placed with strangers in unfamiliar homes and surroundings. Many children have come from abusive environments or have suffered the loss of parents. For many children, their memories of foster care are positive ones. Sadly, for some children, their experience in foster care is one of fear and abuse.
These children suffer sexual, and/or physical, and/or emotional abuse and neglect by the very people who are entrusted with their care. For many years those who have suffered abuse at the hands of foster carers have found bringing civil compensation claims against the local authority or private agency who placed them very difficult in that they have had to show negligence on the part of the local authority/agency. This is often difficult due to records being lost and social workers having died or moved on.
Following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council 2017, victims of abuse by foster carers are able to seek compensation from the local authority which placed them in foster care. The reason for this is that in the Armes case, the court ruled that a local authority was vicariously liable for the wrongdoings of their foster carers. Emmott Snell Solicitors have recently represented two siblings who recovered compensation from the local authority as a result of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse they suffered at the hands of their foster mother, her partner, and her daughter.
The Facts of the Case
In order to protect their identities, the siblings are referred to in this article as AA and AZ. Sadly, AA and AZ’s mother died when both siblings were very young. Following their mother’s death, the siblings were taken into the care of the local authority and placed into foster care. During their time at this foster placement, the siblings suffered sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and neglect by the person who was entrusted with their care. This abuse was also meted out by their foster carer’s partner and daughter. Shockingly, the local authority was already aware of the risk that this foster carer posed to the children, based on information that had come from two children previously placed there regarding the treatment they had received.
Around two years after the siblings were first fostered by this carer, due to concerns about their care they were removed. Following their removal from the foster placement, the siblings disclosed that they had been subjected to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
The Civil Claim Process
At the time of approaching Emmott Snell Solicitor, the siblings were adults and brought their claims out of time. The basic rule in English law is that an adult who is harmed or injured must bring their claim within three years from the date of their injury. This means their claim must be registered at court by the third anniversary of their injury. If a child is harmed, they must register their compensation claim before their 21st birthday. These rules have been in force since the Limitation Act 1980, and the legal principle is known as ‘limitation’. The siblings had previously instructed solicitors and decided to transfer to Emmott Snell Solicitors. As their claims had previously been framed in negligence against the local authority, Emmott Snell Solicitors sent a supplementary letter of claim to them citing further allegations, and in particular that the local authority was liable for the wrongdoings of the foster carer. As a result of a response not being forthcoming, the siblings’ claims were registered at court. The court ordered that the siblings’ be anonymised in their claims to protect their identity.
The siblings felt their whole life had been affected as a result of their abuse in foster care. This was confirmed by the psychiatric expert in the case. The medical evidence showed that AA and AZ had been affected by the abuse they had suffered in foster care. Diagnoses included Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Recurrent Depressive Disorder, Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder, Conduct Disorder, and an eating disorder. The expert found that many aspects of their lives had been adversely affected as a consequence of the abuse. Treatment for AZ, and provision for future treatment for AA were recommended.
The expert considered that the abuse had affected the siblings’ education and contributed towards AZ’s difficulties with employment. This meant that we were able to include treatment costs in both claims and a loss of earning’s claim in AZ’s claim.
Following the service of the medical reports and schedules setting out each client’s financial losses, the defendant made offers of settlement. A barrister with expertise in claims similar to those of the siblings met with them and advised them on all aspects of their claim, including the likely level of compensation they would recover if their claims proceeded to trial. Following some negotiation, the cases concluded before trial.
Whilst no amount of money can make up for the harm that AA and AZ suffered, and the effect it had on their childhood and adult life, it is hoped that the settlement they received will find some closure and provide important recognition for the injury they suffered whilst in foster care.
If you have suffered childhood sexual abuse in foster care and are wondering what to do about it, please don’t hesitate to contact us for an informal initial chat or download our guide, which we hope, may be of some assistance to you. We will be pleased to assist.