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Fostering Sexual Abuse

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Their Pima County Superior Court case is one of several filed in the past decade by children who claimed to have been sexually abused while in state foster care. The steady stream of court cases raises troubling questions about whether CPS adequately licenses foster-care facilities, whether agency caseworkers satisfactorily place and monitor vulnerable children in the state foster care system.

The children's lawsuits, including a proposed class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of kids who by the state's own admission have been sexually abused in foster care, have triggered debates over how many foster kids have been sexually abused under CPS's watch.

Nobody knows.

But back in 1991, after the adoption of Stephanie and Brittany had been finalized, lawsuits were the farthest thing from Joy and Brian Jackson's mind. They were committed to rearing the little girls, but they also were furious with CPS for misleading them about the challenges they would face in doing so.

Both girls had been traumatized by Hubert Jones' abuse. When they moved into the Jackson home, they began displaying disturbing "sexualized" behavior.

The Jacksons weren't sure they could cope with their daughters' bizarre conduct.

According to psychologists and psychiatrists, Stephanie developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder), a malady psychologists say afflicts some sexual-abuse victims. Stephanie funneled memories of the abuse into nine different "personalities." Sometimes the personalities would surface in the Jackson home or at school.

Other times Stephanie would simply withdraw, choosing to sit on the floor and rip up bits of paper.

Brittany, who was not yet in kindergarten, frequently exposed herself and masturbated in public. She made sexual advances to adult males. And she threw up several times a day. She vomited when confined in a bathroom. She vomited when her father tried to comb her hair. She vomited when she saw hot dogs. She vomited when she saw a Vatican painting depicting a naked man.

And she tried to kill herself by eating glue. Brittany was hospitalized, and psychiatrists determined that the child was severely depressed. She was put on medication.

The Jacksons spent thousands of dollars on psychiatric treatment for the girls and were told by many professionals that the girls would need such treatment for the rest of their lives.

The Jacksons ultimately decided that the state should pay for the damage it had caused, and hired Tucson attorney Larry Berlin to represent the girls.

During the course of the lawsuit, the Jacksons discovered that the state had ignored warning signs that the Jones foster home was anything but a safe place. Usually the dirty Jones home housed about a dozen kids--five foster kids, two of Lucy Jones' natural children, and several grandchildren. Lucy Jones seemed perpetually overextended. There were too many kids in the house, and Mama Lucy was distracted by all her church activities.

Before Stephanie and Brittany were placed in the home, CPS workers noted that Lucy Jones left Hubert in charge of the foster kids, that the home was inadequately supervised. This was counter to CPS policy, which requires that foster kids be watched by someone who is at least 18. Yet the agency did not reduce the number of kids in the home, or even monitor the home more carefully.

In 1988, Stephanie and Brittany were placed in the Jones foster home because it offered the only available beds. A few months later, Lucy Jones told CPS that a 9-year-old foster child had performed oral sex on her 3-year-old grandson. No adult had been present at the time, Mama Lucy said. After substantiating that the abuse had occurred, CPS closed its investigation--without reprimanding Lucy Jones for failing to supervise the children in the first place. The 9-year-old was removed from the Jones foster home.

Then one day, as Brittany got ready to take a bath, Lucy Jones noticed blood in her panties. When the foster mother questioned the children, Stephanie named Hubert. Instead of reporting the incident to CPS, as required by law, Mama Lucy threw the bloody panties into the washing machine.

In fact, Lucy Jones did not mention the incident to anyone until months after Hubert had confessed to sexually abusing Brittany. But during discovery in the girls' lawsuit, she told a CPS worker that Hubert probably molested Brittany because she, Lucy, had caught her son having sex on the living-room couch with his teenage girlfriend. Lucy Jones, a devout Mormon, said she did not believe in premarital sex, so she forbade Hubert to see the girl. But once Hubert had gotten a taste of sex with his girlfriend, said Lucy, he just couldn't "control himself." That's why he had had his way with Brittany.

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Terry Greene Sterling