Ten foster siblings who were improperly adopted and abused by a Laurelton woman for more than two decades have taken the city to court for failing to see the red flags that led Judith Leekin to ruin their lives.
The siblings, whose ages range from 19 to 28, filed a civil rights action lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court in 2009 against the city Administration for Children’s Services and several adoption agencies to seek damages for the years of abuse they suffered while in Leekin’s care.
The 66-year-old woman is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for using several aliases to adopt 11 children, some of whom were developmentally disabled, and keeping them locked in her home in Queens and later Port St. Lucie, Fla., until they were discovered in 2007 by the authorities.
Some of the children were so badly abused mentally and physically that they could not stand up straight or talk. An 11th sibling was missing when police discovered the children and he has never been found despite an extensive search.
Leekin received more than $180,000 in subsidies from the city for the adoptions even after she moved out of New York in 1997.
The siblings, who are only listed by their initials in the lawsuit, and their legal guardians are blaming ACS for the abuse because it never properly vetted Leekin when she made the adoption applications.
“[The] child welfare system was a maze of dysfunctional bureaucracy operating under unconstitutional policies and practices that demonstrated its deliberate disregard for the safety and well-being of the children it is duty-bound to protect,” the suit’s complaint said.
The children’s attorneys contend that ACS did not determine her identity and failed to check in on the children when there were clear signs of abuse and imprisonment. One adoption agency failed to look at Leekin’s background by not looking at her employment history, interviewing neighbors, or validating her phony Social Security number.
The suit also criticized the agency for outsourcing its adoption and letting the illegal adoptions take place.
A state law was enacted in 1999 that mandated prospective parents who were looking to adopt children needed to provide fingerprints and go through an extensive process that included interviews and a home study.