SCHENECTADY COUNTY — Another lawsuit against Schenectady County and a foster care company is alleging a young teenager was sexually abused while living in a foster care group home.
This lawsuit is one of two filed under the Child Victims Act for allegations of sexual abuse in the county foster care system in the 1980s and 1990s.
In December court documents were filed by the firm Herman Law against the county, Northeast Parent and Child Society and one to 10 unnamed defendants on behalf of J.C.– the plaintiff — whose name is being withheld because of concerns regarding the personal nature of the complaint.
“Plaintiff fears embarrassment and further psychological damage if his identity as a victim of child sexual abuse were to become publicly known,” the court documents state.
Another lawsuit filed under the Child Victims Act was filed on March 4 against the county, the Office of Children and Family Services and one to 10 unnamed defendants by attorneys for Elizabeth Mary Mills concerning allegations of sex abuse in a foster home.
J.C. alleges that in 1997 when he was around 13-years-old he was sexually abused by an employee working at a group home in Schenectady operated by Northeast Parent and Child Services, according to court documents. The documents assert that the employee was Hezekiah, a male in his late 30s or 40s, whose last name J.C. couldn’t remember.
J.C. said shortly after arriving at the group home he was sexually assaulted and abused by Hezekiah, who was in charge of watching kids in the home at night.
“On numerous occasions Hezekiah offered the Plaintiff marijuana in order to get close to him,” according to the documents submitted by Herman Law. “In this manner, Hezekiah groomed Plaintiff and earned his trust.”
The court documents also state that Hezekiah had an office at the group home and would take J.C. into the office to sexually abuse him and that on multiple occasions Hezekiah took J.C. to his personal residence where he was sexually assaulted again. The acts of sexual abuse included fondling of J.C.’s genitals, oral sex and rape. J.C. said those acts took place at least eight times over two years at both the group home and Hezekiah’s residence.
A representative of Northern Rivers Family of Services, the parent company of Northeast Parent and Child Society, said no one under the name Hezekiah is employed with the company at this time.
“Northern Rivers Family of Services stands with all those working to bring perpetrators of crimes against children to justice,” said William T. Gettman Jr. the CEO of Northern Rivers Family of Services. “The allegation made by a former client while in the care of Northeast Parent & Child Society in 1997 violates everything we stand for as an organization. Whenever a child comes into our care, we make a promise to nurture and protect that child. That promise lasts forever. We pledge to fully participate in all measures to ensure that justice is done, and reaffirm our commitment to every member of our community.”
The agency declined to comment further on the case.
“We are fully participating in the investigative and legal processes,” Gettman Jr. said. “We work every day to keep children, adults, and families safe, and will continue to do so as long as we are here.”
J.C. also alleges that while at Hezekiah’s residence, Hezekiah’s roommate Tony, whose last name couldn’t be remembered, raped him.
During that time, J.C. also alleges that Hezekiah would take him to a bar owned by a man named Kenny, whose last name isn’t remembered, where J.C. would work even though he was only about 13.
Court documents state that J.C. began running away from the group home while the sexual abuse continued and that Kenny was allowing J.C. to stay with him as long as J.C. performed oral sex on Kenny. That behavior continued for four months before J.C. said he ended up living on the streets.
County Attorney Christopher Gardner said the county has not been served with either case yet and that this case may not fall under the jurisdiction of the county’s Department of Social Services. However, he said the county “takes all allegations seriously.”
“We’re just gathering the documents and going through the files,” he said.
J.C. is asking for a jury trial and compensatory damages, special damages, costs and “such other and further relief as this Court deems proper.”
“This case is another example of how the foster care system designed to protect our most vulnerable children, failed them,” said Scott Duquin, an attorney with Herman Law.