New Jersey (K.J. v. DYFS)
Children’s Rights filed this damages lawsuit in May of 2004 on behalf of three minor adopted brothers who were systematically starved by their parents in a foster-turned-adoptive home approved and monitored by New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The horrific abuse and neglect suffered by the boys was revealed in 2003 when the eldest brother, Bruce Jackson — then 19-years-old and weighing only 45 pounds — was found scavenging for food in a neighbor’s trash can outside his home in Collingswood, New Jersey.
It was later revealed that DYFS employees had visited the Jackson home at least 38 times over the previous four years, but took no action on reports that the children were malnourished. By the time the boys were finally removed from their adoptive home, their teeth had rotted, their stomachs were distended, and their rib and shoulder bones were clearly visible. They were admitted to area hospitals, where they spent several weeks being fed first intravenously and later with solid food.
Shortly after the case was filed, Children’s Rights executive director Marcia Robinson Lowry was named guardian ad litem for the three minor boys (Bruce Jackson was represented by separate counsel). A settlement agreement was reached with New Jersey officials in September of 2005, which awarded a total of $7.5 million to the three younger boys and another $5 million to their older brother. The settlement also ensures that the children receive needed educational and therapeutic services. As a result of the groundbreaking lawsuit, the right of children in foster care to sue the state for damages has been substantially strengthened.