A child who was allegedly sexually abused by a foster parent has filed a lawsuit against welfare providers Kids in Distress Inc. and ChildNet Inc. because the agencies did not conduct proper background checks on the parent before issuing a foster parenting license.
According to the lawsuit, the child — identified only as R.S. — claims 56-year-old John Michael McGuigan of Broward County sexually abused him while the child was under his care. But the lawsuit says there were multiple glaring red flags the agencies failed to see when McGuigan applied to become a Florida foster parent in 2008.
The child-care providers failed in their background check of McGuigan, who had failed to disclose that he had been investigated for showing a minor a pornographic photo and asking that minor to perform sex acts, according to the lawsuit. McGuigan also failed to disclose that he had been arrested for cocaine possession. Moreover, McGuigan was also involved in a ten-year relationship that ended with his partner committing suicide.
Even more disturbing is that one 7-year-old foster child under McGuigan's care, Gabriel Myers, committed suicide by hanging himself in 2009. Although Myers was found dead in another foster family's home, the lawsuit says the suicide happened only days after Myers was removed from McGuigan's care following the boy's erratic behavior, which hinted at "inappropriate parenting" by McGuigan, according to the lawsuit.
Myers' death did force some changes by the Florida Department of Children and Families, including how agencies monitor drugs taken by foster children. Myers had been on two powerful psychiatric drugs at the time of his death.
But the lawsuit against the agencies points out that R.S. was placed in McGuigan's home only a year after Myers' death. R.S., who had never been abused before, was removed from McGuigan's home after DCF received a report alleging abuse by McGuigan.
"On or about December 12, 2011, DCF received a report through the Florida Abuse Hotline alleging that R.S. disclosed that he had been sexually abused by McGuigan while under his care, and this report was closed with indicators of sexual abuse," the lawsuit says. "R.S. was groomed and sexually assaulted by McGuigan, which resulted in R.S. being emotionally harmed and becoming sexually reactive."
It was after this report that investigators learned McGuigan had falsified information on his foster parenting application. Investigators also discovered that McGuigan had himself been sexually abused as a child by his father.
McGuigan was forced to resign from his position as CEO of the Broward House HIV service center following sexual abuse allegations from alleged former victims.
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In 2000, McGuigan was investigated by Delray Beach Police for lewd and lascivious acts after a teenager claimed he had shown him a pornographic picture and asked him to perform sex acts. The lawsuit also points out an incident where a man from Boston accused McGuigan of molesting him when he was a child. McGuigan was not charged in either case.
The lawsuit says that both Kids in Distress and ChildNet allowed "an alleged child molester and person of poor moral character" to care for R.S. by not thoroughly checking McGuigan's background and by not conducting a fingerprinting and local criminal records check.
R.S., who is represented Fort Lauderdale attorney Howard Talenfeld, is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $15,000.
Requests for comment from DCF by New Times were not immediately returned.