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DYFS being sued over abuse to girl

The 8-year-old's adoptive mother says the N.J. agency failed to detect injuries and provide help.

NEWARK, N.J. - The adoptive mother of an 8-year-old girl has sued the state's child welfare agency, accusing it of repeatedly bungling its obligation to protect the girl from abuse.

In a lawsuit filed yesterday, the adoptive parent says her daughter endured months of sexual abuse by her biological father and years of beatings by a series of foster mothers while the state Division of Youth and Family Services failed to provide medical treatment.

The girl is now mentally and physically scarred and requires weekly counseling, for which DYFS recently halted payments, according to the adoptive mother.

The case is the latest to accuse DYFS of failing a child under its supervision. The agency was overhauled after 2003, when the mummified remains of a 7-year-old boy, Faheem Williams, were found in the basement of a Newark apartment. Later that year, four boys in Collingswood were found starving because their adoptive mother withheld food.

The lawyer for the girl, David A. Mazie, said DYFS remains incompetent. "Every step of the way, DYFS has shirked its responsibilities," he said.

DYFS referred a request for comment to the state Attorney General's Office, where spokesman Lee Moore said only that the office had not yet seen the lawsuit.

The child was born near the Shore in 1998 to a 15-year-old girl as the result of a rape by a 21-year-old man, the lawsuit said. The man, referred to only as "K.L.," has never been charged with sex offenses regarding the girl's mother or the girl. K.L. had custody of the child from November 2000 to April 2001, Mazie said.

The child began living with the adoptive mother in July 2005, and the adoption was final last April, according to the lawsuit.

"She has a lot of psychological scars from all she endured," said the woman, called "L.A." in the lawsuit.

Mazie, who is seeking unspecified monetary compensation for the girl, said DYFS staff should not have placed the girl with her father, and did not conduct a child sex-abuse investigation into the relationship between the father and mother.

Also being sued is Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, which is accused of failing to act when the father took the toddler there with an alcohol level of 0.035 percent, about half the legal limit for drivers, the lawsuit said.

A hospital spokesman, John Shaffer, declined to comment, saying that the hospital had not yet seen the lawsuit.