ALBANY – Foster care agencies in both Albany and Schenectady counties missed repeated opportunities to get 4-year-old Charlie Garay out of the Rotterdam foster home where he’d been placed and ultimately save his life, according to a new lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in Albany County.
The agencies ignored repeated red flags and bypassed established procedures, leaving Charlie in the care of at the home of Dequan and Latrisha Greene for months longer than he should have been and even bypassed procedure to initially place him there, the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit alleges missteps and negligence from the outset of the Greenes’ application to be foster parents, all the way through to the days leading up to Charlie’s death.
Charlie died Dec. 20 of injuries inflicted by his foster father, Dequan Greene, prosecutors say.
Dequan Greene, 27, of Broadway, has since been indicted on second-degree murder and other charges. His case remains pending and he is due back this week for the continuation of a pre-trial hearing.
Charlie and his 5-year-old sibling had been placed in the Greene’s care in September 2020 by Child Protective Services of the Albany County Department of Social Services, after an order from Albany County Family Court removed them from the care of their biological parents, Schenectady County prosecutors previously said.
The couple had been certified as foster parents by the Schenectady County Department of Social Services, but previously had only fostered one child for one day, prosecutors said.
Schenectady County officials in January said Charlie and his sibling remained in the care of Albany County Department of Social Services, even though they were physically placed in Schenectady County.
The new lawsuit, however, provides far more detail on how the two counties allegedly handled the placement and oversight of Charlie and his sibling in the Rotterdam foster home.
The case was brought by Albany attorney Lorraine R. Silverman, the court-appointed guardian to bring the action on behalf of both the surviving child, as well Charlie’s estate, acting as the plaintiff. She could not be reached for comment late Monday afternoon.
Attorney Patrick Higgins is then formally representing the estate and the surviving child in the lawsuit. Higgins limited his comments on their behalf Monday. He called it an awful case and difficult to work on, but “we will do all our talking in front of a jury.”
Representatives of Albany and Schenectady counties declined to comment, citing the pending nature of the case. A message left Monday with the St. Anne Institute, identified as a case planner and/or service provider, did not return a call for comment.
The lawsuit also names as defendants multiple employees with both counties alleged to have had involvement with the case, including case workers, supervisors and a CPS intake specialist, as well as employees at St. Anne Institute, including a counselor, case manager and social worker, alleged to have had involvement in placement and oversight.
In one instance, a social worker and case manager employed by St. Anne and involved in Charlie and the surviving child’s cases, interacted with both children, including visits believed to have taken place Dec. 10 and Dec. 16, days before Charlie’s death, the lawsuit alleges.
But the two employees “did not interview and assess” the two children “alone in an appropriate context, and take appropriate steps to assess whether (the children) were being abused and beaten,” the lawsuit alleges.
The two children, Charlie included, are identified in the suit only by their initials.
According to the lawsuit, the Greenes first applied to Schenectady County to be foster parents in 2019.
The lawsuit alleges that early on in that process, officials got indications that Latrisha Greene was running a day care out of her home and that she continued to do so while Charlie and his sibling were in the Greenes’ care.
The day care was not licensed or certified and none of the children were interviewed prior to certifying the Greenes as foster parents, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges a foster child had been placed in the Greene’s home briefly in July 2020, but not interviewed. In an interview after Charlie’s death, that child made allegations that Latrisha hurt children and placing them in a dog crate as punishment, the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit highlighted several points in the Greenes’ foster parent certification process that it suggests were not properly followed up on, including that Dequan Greene acknowledged using fasting as a “self-care practice,” that Dequan Greene indicated he had a short temper and that both Latrisha and Dequan Greene indicated their parenting styles were authoritative.
The two also repeatedly indicated they did not want a child with a complex medication regimen, the lawsuit says. Charlie and his sibling had multiple issues, but the children were not only placed with the Greenes, the Greene’s weren’t told of their issues when the children were placed there, the lawsuit alleges.
The Greenes “were unsuited for and had never been trained to manage, care for, and parent foster children who had the medical and other conditions” of Charlie and his sibling, the lawsuit reads.
They were certified by Schenectady County on July 9, 2020 to foster a single child. They were never certified to foster two children, operate a day care in their home or to serve as emergency foster parents, the suit alleges.
They also had only ever previously fostered a single child for eight hours, the lawsuit reads.
Regarding the placement of Charlie and his sibling with the Greenes on Sept. 25, 2020, the lawsuit contends that Schenectady County agreed to help Albany County with emergency placement of the siblings, but only for the weekend. Albany County agreed and indicated they would take the children back that Monday, Sept. 28, 2020.
But that weekend turned into three months, the lawsuit contends.
Charlie and his sibling “should have never been placed at the Greene foster home through an emergency placement, or any other placement,” the suit reads.
Come Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, however, Albany County called for an extension and advised that the Greenes wanted to keep the children in the home, the lawsuit reads. Schenectady County agreed.
The decision violated state laws and regulations and violated the counties’ duty to protect the children in their custody, the suit reads.
From there, the unanswered red flags continued, according to the allegations in the suit.
The Greenes missed an early child well visit deadline. Latrisha Greene cited COVID, the suit alleges, but she also did not verify the providers who had refused.
“From the start of the foster care placement … the defendants did not make the required visits, assessments, evaluations, referrals, and checks” on the children “to determine if they were properly and safely placed in the Greene foster home,” the suit reads.
In October, Latrisha Greene reported a behavioral issue had shown itself, but that she had been provided with no information from the caseworker about the issue, and that information was relayed to the attorney for Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families in court that Oct. 14, the lawsuit alleges.
About that time, Latrisha Greene herself asked that the children be removed for a variety of reasons, including their need for sleeping accommodations she could not meet, the lawsuit said.
Rather than remove the children, Albany County asked Schenectady County whether one of the children could sleep in a walk in closet, the suit reads. Albany County also recommended placing the other child in the basement, the suit reads.
After a Schenectady County employee indicated that Charlie could not sleep there, Albany County indicated it would remove the children the next day, the lawsuit contends.
However, the children were not removed from the Greenes’ home.
Albany County even sent an emergency removal 10 day letter Oct. 22, 2020, the suit reads.
“Following that letter, Albany County DCYF and Schenectady County CFSO deliberately, willfully and intentionally chose to keep the infants in the Greene foster home,” the suit reads.
Instead, Albany County “bullied” Schenectady County and Latrisha Greene to keep the children in the Greenes’ home, the suit alleges.
Schenectady County then never visited the home again after Oct. 28, through Charlie’s death Dec. 20, the suit reads, “a period of 53 days” where Schenectady County “never took any steps to determine whether” the children were safe.
Meanwhile, the Greenes “continued to demonstrate that they were not suitable foster parents and that they were unable to, and did not want to, keep” the children, the suit reads.
The Greenes delayed to Dec. 4 enrolling the oldest child in a Mohonasen school program. Latrisha Greene gave false or inaccurate explanations why, the suit alleges.
The Greenes even took both children to Florida and Georgia from Nov. 16 to Nov. 22 without supervision or oversight by the counties, the suit reads. Albany County knew about the trip, but did not require dates or location information, the suit alleges.
The Greenes then advised they were “in quarantine” upon their return until Dec. 6 and could not allow visits. The lawsuit contends they did not actually quarantine.
Then, on Dec. 6, Latrisha Greene indicated the children were sick with the flu and she could not allow “in person” visits, but the counties did not require documentation, the suit alleges.
Altogether, the Greenes were allowed to sequester the children for nearly 30 days without investigation as to why, the lawsuit alleges.
Then, on about Dec. 10, Albany County caseworkers showed up at the Greene home to drop off a door alarm for a bedroom of one of the children. The lawsuit did not further detail what allegedly occurred on that visit or on the alleged later Dec. 16 visit.
The suit also cited testimony Latrisha Greene gave under oath March 15 where she said she had seen bruising on the older child sometime in December, but didn’t know where it came from. She also testified then that they disciplined the two by having them stand at a wall with timers.
The children could have told officials that, had they been asked, the lawsuit suggests.
The suit alleges the children were beaten with sticks or switches, hands struck with pots and pans, made to do wall sits, force fed, had their mouths filled with food as punishment, food withheld, hit in their stomachs with jugs, sprayed with cold water, forced to take cold showers, pushed down, choked, confined to a dog cage as punishment and denied medical care and schooling.
It ultimately alleges Dequan Greene stomped on them.
Earlier prosecution filings related to the death have indicated prosecutors believe the 4-year-old had been punished earlier that same day by being made to take a cold shower and sit with his back against a wall, all because the younger foster child had wet himself and did not tell the truth about it, according to the allegations.
The case workers did not conduct appropriate house visits throughout the children’s time there, did not conduct unannounced house visits and they also never spoke with the children away from the Greenes, the suit said.
“As a result, (the children) continued to suffer beatings, maltreatment and abuse from the foster parents Dequan Greene and Latrisha Greene,” the lawsuit said.
The surviving child suffered a torn frenulum, swollen lip, bruising to the torso and face, ear and bruising and scarring to the neck and bruising to the pelvis, among other injuries, the suit reads.
Charlie’s autopsy showed he had “several serious and suspicious marks on his body” caused by the beatings, including marks on his back, upper arm, wrist and thigh, the lawsuit reads.
Charlie died from blunt force trauma that severed his liver, the lawsuit said.
“If the defendants had acted properly and had complied with their obligations and duties … (the children) would have never been placed with Latrisha Greene and Dequan Greene,” the lawsuit said, “and (the children) even if wrongfully placed, would have been removed before they were beaten, abused, and/or murdered.”
Dequan Greene’s attorney has said his client denies wrongdoing, calling it a terrible accident related to the boy choking.
Latrisha Greene does not face charges in Charlie’s death. She was previously charged with evidence tampering, a count that has since been dismissed. That left her facing two misdemeanor child endangerment counts. Her attorney has said Latrisha Greene denies the allegations.