Friday, December 22, 2006

Lawsuit over closing of foster care agency

Foster-care agency owner files $10 million lawsuit
Says closing, state inquiry are racially motivated
Lovan, Dylan. Lexington Herald-Leader, Feb. 22, 2006, pg. B1.

LOUISVILLE -- The owner of a foster care agency shut down by the state last year has filed a $10 million lawsuit alleging racial discrimination by state workers.

Copper Care Inc. was closed as the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services investigated allegations of drug use and sex involving foster children. The private foster placement company has offices in Richmond and Glasgow.

The center's director, Elizabeth Clark, who is black, claimed in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington this month that the investigation is racially motivated. The suit names the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, associate Director Kathy Adams and several state managers and social workers.

"The investigation was just a hoax," Clark said in a phone interview yesterday. "There never was any investigation. Under the auspices of an investigation, they were coming in to search and seize what they could find to build a case against me to force me out of business."

Clark said the searches of her offices began in June 2002. She said the company was subjected to an inordinate number of inspections and received few referrals from the state for foster children since its opening in 1996.

Officials said the state followed the proper procedures in shutting down Copper Care in May.

"The cabinet feels strongly that every aspect of the regulatory process was correctly followed," said Vikki Franklin, a spokeswoman for Health and Family Services. She said cabinet officials have received a copy of the lawsuit and are reviewing the complaints.

Franklin said Copper Care has appealed to have its license reinstated, but the administrative hearings branch within the cabinet has not yet ruled on that.

At the time of the shutdown, the state alleged that a sexual act took place between a 17-year-old female foster child and a foster care mother's 14-year-old daughter. Another allegation said a foster parent used marijuana in front of foster children.

Clark said Copper Care's two placement offices were working with 74 mentally and physically disabled children at the time it was shut down in May.


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