At issue on this appeal is whether the City of New York and a child protective service, defendant Louise Wise Services (LWS), sued herein as Louise Wise Agency, are insulated by immunity from liability for injuries allegedly sustained by children, both in connection with their judicial placement into the foster care system and subsequently, while in the custody of various foster homes. This Court concludes that although these defendants are insulated from liability with respect to the initial placement, they are answerable for any injuries sustained as the result of the failure to adequately supervise foster parents to ensure that children entrusted to their care are not subjected to mistreatment.
The plaintiffs Deborah (Debbie) and Sean M. are siblings, born on December 29, 1976 and January 16, 1980, respectively. They were removed from the child custody of their natural parents in February 1982 after it was determined that the five-year-old Debbie had contracted gonorrhea of the throat. The children were first placed with defendant Catholic Guardian Society and, after approximately two months, were transferred to the custody of defendant LWS. At her deposition, Debbie testified, inter alia, that in the first foster home, she was kept in her room “hour after hour.” In the second home, she was beaten and pushed into a glass, cutting her wrist; the foster mother told Debbie to say that she had fallen off a bicycle. Ms. Vasquez, the third foster parent, pulled her hair, struck her and routinely confined her to a room; a male child in the same home fondled her, at least once, between the legs. Debbie was then between five and seven years old. In another home on Long Island, the foster parent was not abusive, but the older children used to have “oral sex parties” with Debbie. She was ultimately returned to her mother’s home, where she was subjected to constant physical abuse by her mother and stepfather.
The complaint, dated September 5, 1985, alleges that plaintiffs were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, both within and outside the foster care system. The first and second causes of action allege that the City of New York and its agencies, the Human Resources Administration and the Department of Social Services (collectively, the City), failed to act on reports of abuse and neglect received since January 1977 by taking timely and appropriate action to remove, respectively, plaintiff Debbie M. and plaintiff Sean M. from the custody of their biological parents. The third and fourth causes of action allege that from the time they were placed in foster care in February 1982 until March 1984, plaintiffs were subjected to abuse and neglect in a series of foster homes and were denied adequate medical care. It is further alleged that after Family Court returned them to their mother’s home, plaintiffs were subjected to further abuse and neglect. The complaint asserts that defendants breached their duties to investigate complaints of abuse and neglect, to provide a clean and safe environment for the children and to furnish appropriate medical treatment.