Abused Kids Sue Oregon for $100 Million

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Oregon paid a young couple to foster 50 newborns and toddlers between 2007 and 2011, and the husband admitted he molested at least nine of them, the children claim in state and federal court.
     James Earl Mooney was sentenced in 2012 to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of first-degree sodomy. His wife, who is not a party to the lawsuits, divorced him and did not face prosecution.
     The Mooneys were 22-year-old newlyweds without children when they started the two-month process to become foster parents, according to the lawsuits, filed on behalf of the same nine children in Multnomah County Court and Federal Court.
     The couple requested “medically fragile” newborns, infants and toddlers, since the department pays foster parents more for their care than for children without special needs.
     “Medically fragile” children suffer from various disabilities, special needs and challenging behaviors.
     “They suffered from drug withdrawal symptoms, impaired ability to form a sucking reflex, and difficulty feeding,” the complaint states. “They had difficulty forming an attachment with adult caregivers and they cried and screamed excessively which required specialized intervention to develop a strong attachment which varied according to the child’s individual needs. The increased reimbursement payment was based on the enhance duties and skill level necessary to cope with the needs and challenging behaviors of such children.”
     In February 2007, the Oregon Department of Human Services began placing “medically fragile newborns, infants and toddlers with the Mooneys,” according to the complaints.
     Department caseworkers should have figured out right away that there were problems at the Mooney house, the children say in the complaints.
     “From approximately February 2007 through May 5, 2011, there were ongoing and escalating physical signs and symptoms occurring in the Mooneys’ DHS-certified home that were consistent with and suggestive of sexual abuse and/or child abuse,” according to the virtually identical complaints – one 72 pages long, the other 73 pages.
     “The information that was being reported in ongoing case plans and medical reports included evidence of breathing problems, complaints of pain while urinating and during bowel movements, diarrhea, eating disturbances’ difficulty with certain food textures and gagging on food, rash formation and redness on the buttocks, and sucking on random objects and vomiting.”
     But caseworkers “ignored these ongoing and escalating physical signs and symptoms,” the complaints state.
     On April 29, 2011, a little girl who had left the Mooney’s home in February 2011 told a prospective Idaho adoptive parent that “defendant Mooney had inserted his penis in A.G.’s mouth when they were in the shower and that it tasted awful,” the complaint state.
     The little girl’s report triggered an investigation from the Salem Police Department, the Marion County District Attorney and the two case workers with the Department of Human Services.
     Mooney initially denied the allegations.
     “On May 15, 2011, defendant Mooney was interviewed by Salem Police Department Detective Staples regarding A.G.’s statement. Defendant Mooney told him that his penis made brief, accidental contact with A.G.’s hand and/or mouth while the two were showering together,” the complaints state.
     But one month later, Mooney admitted to police “that he had sexually abused A.G. while in the shower,” and that he had repeatedly sexually abused other foster kids between February 2007 and May 2011, according to the complaints.
     “Defendant Mooney told detectives that he was annoyed and upset when the plaintiffs woke up during the night crying and screaming. He attempted to apply his DHS intervention training to these and other challenging behaviors, but had difficulty providing appropriate care. Defendant Mooney also volunteered that he had a longstanding problem controlling his behavior toward animals and small children, and that he was aroused by the bodies of the medically fragile newborn, infant and toddler plaintiffs,” the complaints state.
     The children claim the Department of Human Services tried to keep Mooney’s criminal case quiet, repeatedly rescheduling hearings and ignoring requests from the plaintiffs and their caregivers to inform them of the proceedings.
     At Mooney’s January 2012 sentencing hearing, the Marion County district attorney tried to seal the case and bar the public from attending, but the court rejected it.
     The children are represented in both complaints by Steven Rizzo and Michael Mattingly. Each lawsuit names the same defendants: The Oregon Department of Human Services, “Jane or John Doe Certifier-Supervisor[s],” “Jane or John Doe Caseworker-Supervisors,” and James Earl Mooney, and three named DHS employees.
     In the Multnomah County lawsuit, plaintiffs demand $1 million for civil rights violations, abuse of vulnerable persons and negligence. In Federal Court, plaintiffs demand $100 million for the same causes of action.

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