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Former foster child claims abuse Luzerne County Children and Youth Services

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on Wed, 08/08/2012 - 08:24
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Severe physical attacks, extensive physical labor, and two meals a day.

That's what a 19-year-old man says he suffered from 2004 to 2008 while in the care of several foster homes, leaving him with physical limitations. He filed a civil complaint in federal court Friday against Luzerne County Children and Youth Services, accusing the agency of ignoring his grievances.

The plaintiff, identified as "T.A.P." in the complaint, and his brother were removed from their father's custody in October 2004 after Freeland police answered a call that the boys had been stealing and begging for food. Police searched the home, which was in "deplorable condition," and found marijuana in the freezer, according to the complaint.

The boys' father was not present.

Luzerne County Children and Youth Services then put them into foster care, but "unfortunately for the kids, they went from one unsafe environment to another," said Edward Ciarimboli, the plaintiff's attorney.

From October 2004 to January 2005, he lived with Bert and Jacqui Yachera in West Hazleton. The plaintiff then moved to the United Children's Home in West Hazleton for two months. He suffered physical abuse at both places, according to the complaint.

In February 2005, the plaintiff moved to the home of Bert and Alicia Baker in Mifflinburg. For the next three years, the complaint alleges, the Bakers attacked him about twice per week, denied him food, forced him to perform physical labor and kept him from contacting friends and his natural mother.

Attempts to reach the Yacheras, Bakers and United Children's Home for comment Monday night were unsuccessful.

In May 2010, the natural mother testified that her son repeatedly suffered abuse under the Bakers' care.

In all cases, the plaintiff said he told caseworkers, but no one intervened.

Frank Castano, director of Luzerne County Children and Youth Services, said Monday he could not comment specifically because he was not aware of the lawsuit, but that the agency did not ignore grievances.

"We take everything seriously and investigate it on its merit," Castano said.

The plaintiff, now living in Cogan Station near Williamsport, is seeking damages for future lost wages, but will not know that dollar amount until after he meets with a vocational counselor, Ciarimboli said. He will also seek damages, such as those for pain and suffering, but the jury will decide that figure, said the attorney. Ciarimboli said his firm always works on a contingency basis, meaning it only gets paid when it wins.

A suit against those accused of abusing the plaintiff is also coming, Ciarimboli said.

By Peter Cameron and Bill Wellock (Staff Writers)