(CNN)– Six of the 13 Turpin children, who were tortured for years by their biological parents, were placed in foster care where they endured a “second round” of abuse, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse, their reports ignored by the agency. foster care, a lawyer for two of the children told HLN.
“One of the things that we have known that this family forced these children to do is to relive their past over and over again,” attorney Elan Zektser said Tuesday. “These children were forced for hours to relive what they had been through.”
The six children who were in that foster home, and who have since been removed, filed two separate lawsuits last week against a foster care facility and Riverside County, California. One of the lawsuits, on behalf of four Turpin brothers, includes children who are still minors. Zektser represents the remaining two brothers in the second lawsuit.
Both lawsuits request a jury trial.
The lawsuits allege that foster care agency ChildNet Youth and Family Services was negligent in its care of the children, saying ChildNet was aware that the foster parents were “incompetent” and “had a prior history of physical and emotional abuse and neglect of children who had been placed in their care,” but the agency did not act on that information.
One of the lawsuits alleges that the foster care agency went “against the advice of some of its own employees” in placing the Turpin children in that foster home. The six children remained there for three years, according to the lawsuits.
“My heart broke for these children that, after feeling that they had been saved, after finally feeling that someone was there for them, they were placed in another horror house,” Zektser said. “In speaking with my clients, they indicate that the abuse that occurred in this foster home was in some ways worse than the abuse they had endured their entire lives.”
Brett Lewis, ChildNet’s director of development and communications, told HLN in a statement Tuesday that the agency “is not at liberty to reveal facts or discuss the allegations made in the complaint.”
“We look forward to providing the facts at the appropriate time in court. Our agency has been serving California’s most vulnerable and traumatized youth for more than 50 years. We have a strong track record of providing excellent care and continue to demonstrate our commitment to these children.” “, says the statement.
The Riverside County Department of Social Services told CNN last week that once the county receives a lawsuit, “it is thoroughly reviewed to determine next steps. The county does not comment on pending legal matters or specific juvenile cases due to confidentiality laws.
“Any case where a child is harmed is heartbreaking. We continue to critically assess our practices and are committed to understanding and addressing the root cause. This includes expanding the availability of safe, quality placements for all children in care. host,” the statement said.
Children reported abuse, but were ignored
The lawsuits, which do not name the foster family but call them Mr. and Mrs. O., allege that the foster parents and their adult daughter abused the six Turpin children in their care, including “punching them in the face with sandals, pulling their hair, beating them with a belt and hitting them on the head,” says the lawsuit that includes minor children.
Both lawsuits allege that the children were forced to “eat excessive amounts of food” and “eat their own vomit.” The lawsuit on behalf of the two brothers alleges that the foster parents told them “that they were worthless and should commit suicide” and even “suggested how the plaintiffs should commit suicide.” The lawsuit on behalf of the four siblings also claimed foster parents told them to kill themselves.
Zektser said the Turpin children spoke out about what was happening in the foster home, but “a lot of times, they were ignored, they weren’t listened to, they were silenced” by foster agency employees.
“ChildNet knew about it,” Zektser said. “The previous reports, the reports from other foster families, the reports from these brave Turpin brothers themselves, ChildNet was well aware of what was going on and they did nothing.”
The lawyer added that there were some home visits at the foster home, but informants were often not allowed in by mandate and would meet the children on an outside porch “where they knew their conversations were being recorded by the family of reception”.
“When you get to the level where the agency itself allows something like this to happen or the county looks away and allows something like this to happen, then you have to make a serious change,” Zektser said. “The psychological damage to these children, having to go through this second round of abuse, is beyond what … most people could even imagine.”
Roger Booth, who is representing the three minor children and an adult in his lawsuit, said he hopes the case will “shed light” on problems in the foster care system.
“This happened to kids who are kind of famous and the whole world is watching,” Booth told HLN last week. “There may be deeper issues that affect all kinds of children.”
The foster parents and their daughter were arrested in March 2021 following an investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department on charges of false imprisonment and child cruelty, among others, according to the lawsuits.
The children were removed from the home.
When asked about a criminal investigation into ChildNet, the district attorney’s office told HLN in an emailed statement that “law and prosecutorial ethics prohibit them from confirming or denying the existence of any investigation.”
David and Louise Turpin, the biological parents of the Turpin children, were each sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2019 after pleading guilty to holding and torturing their 13 children, who ranged in age from 2 to 29.
— CNN’s Taylor Romine and Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.