A child welfare agency retained by Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services has agreed to pay $6 million to three sisters after it returned them to their sexually abusive father, according to the girls’ attorneys.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the name of the nonprofit was to remain confidential.
But court records identify it as Turning Points for Children, a community umbrella agency based in Center City.
“What these girls experienced was unspeakable,” said Nadeem Bezar, of the Kline & Specter law firm, who, with attorney Kyle Nocho, represented the girls.
“I am sickened that a person, let alone their father, could have done these horrible things to these children,” Bezar said. “I am happy that we were able to achieve a recovery that will give these girls some opportunity for a future.”
Bezar declined to identify the agency, citing the settlement agreement. He said no city funds were included in the payment.
Messages left Thursday for Turning Points and for Philadelphia DHS were not immediately returned.
The girls’ father was later convicted of sexually abusing them and is serving a 37-year prison sentence in central Pennsylvania.
The Inquirer is withholding the name of the father to protect the identity of the victims.
Bezar said at least five caseworkers and two supervisors had been involved in the girls’ case, which may have led to serious mistakes, including misinterpreting the father’s criminal record and failing to conduct a court-ordered psychosexual evaluation of him. The girls were reunited with him in 2016.
The girls, who were between 9 and 14 when their father raped them, were returned to him despite him having open criminal charges, no fixed address, and no source of income, Bezar said. He said his law firm had a map with eight different addresses across the city that the father had provided.
“You’re basically giving the children back to a homeless, unemployed man, who has a history of an attempted kidnapping of a woman, and who has recently been accused of trying to sexually assault his girlfriend,” Bezar said.
He said a caseworker incorrectly believed at the time that the latter charges had been dropped.
The father was convicted in 2018 of charges that include rape, aggravated indecent assault without consent, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, according to court records.
“Other than biology there was no reason — he had nothing to take care of these children,” Bezar said.
According to the lawsuit, the man for years had subjected two of his daughters to repeated rapes and beat them with an extension cord, while moving them from one home to another. Others also allegedly abused them in their homes and, at times, the father coerced them to engage in sexual acts with his girlfriend, the suit contended.
The horrors persisted until June 2015, when child services removed the two girls from his grasp and he was barred from seeing them. In the care of DHS and Turning Points, however, the relief would not last long, according to the complaint. The children were placed in an aunt’s home and then removed after further reports of abuse from the father’s girlfriend.
Turning Points caseworkers — bound to ensure the safety and well-being of the children — conceded having limited knowledge about the extent of the abuse that followed the girls from home to home, according to the complaint.
For unknown reasons, Turning Points allowed two of the girls to return to their father’s custody in 2016. The third girl later joined them.
In 2017, child welfare advocates at the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance learned the full extent of the man’s brutality during an interview with all three sisters.
Each girl corroborated the father’s four years of abuse against the other sisters.
Formed in 2008, Turning Points provides supportive services to children in the city’s foster-care system. In recent years, Turning Points has broadened its footprint to include four city-funded “community umbrella agencies” providing family services to 17,000 people across the city, according to the organization’s website.
According to city contract data, Turning Points was paid through the Philadelphia Department of Human Services in fiscal year 2020, though some funding may have come from state and federal funding as well.
In 2015, the city established a network of community umbrella agencies that provide child welfare services to more than 10,000 children a year. In the network’s first evaluation, DHS ranked Turning Points among the three poorest performing child-care contractors in the network. Since that time, Turning Points’ four umbrella agencies have shown signs of improvement and received mixed “competent” and “proficient” marks, according to a 2020 report card from DHS.
The department declined to answer questions about the case or about the settlement.
Staff reporters Chris A. Williams and Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.