|Quinte Courthouse, Belleville, Ontario|
An order dismissing further action against the child welfare agency has been approved by a judge at the Prince Edward County superior court where the lawsuit was filed in April 2013. Court staff confirmed only three of the five cases have been settled to date, leaving two outstanding plaintiffs.
Confidentiality provisions restrict the plaintiffs’ Belleville lawyer, John Bonn, from divulging details on the dollar amount of the compensation dispensed.
“It’s an order of the court dismissing the action on behalf of three of the plaintiffs, as against the children’s aid society,” Bonn said of the settlement. “They have resolved matters to their mutual satisfaction.”
Bonn added “there was no trial in this matter. They can’t talk about the terms of the resolution because there are confidentiality provisions in effect.”
When it was filed in 2013, the civil suits totalled $14 million ($2.8 million per plaintiff).
Each plaintiff initially claimed $350,000 for pain and suffering, in addition to $1 million each for loss of future earnings and another $1 million for punitive damages. They sought $100,000 in future care costs, plus $100,000 for special damages and $250,000 for aggravated damages.
Two outstanding plaintiffs will be addressed shortly, Bonn said.
“We continue to work on those,” he said. “We intend to mediate those.”
The suit directed at the CAS also targets four former foster parents, two are now serving prison terms for sexual abuse of children placed in their care. A third convicted predator’s case is now before the Ontario Court of Appeal.
“Like most of these issues, they’re difficult all the way through and deal with unpleasant issues, but the fact that we’ve been able to reach some form of agreement means that each side is able to live with it at some level,” Bonn said Tuesday.
Bonn filed the claims on behalf of the five female plaintiffs, now in their late teens and early 20s.
“With litigation done, it would bring an end to this piece of their involvement with the CAS,” Bonn said.
The County society is now part of the newly-amalgamated Highland Shores Children’s Aid Society, which also spans the societies of Hastings and Northumberland counties.
Before the 2013 merger, PECCAS was subjected to an extensive government probe which revealed a bevy of damning findings.
The investigation led by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services in Dec. 2011 - following a rash of child sex abuse charges against County foster parents - showed the agency was rife with significant internal conflicts recklessly placing vulnerable children in homes not properly screened and some cases not screened at all for months.
Kartusch said the agency has found better footing since the findings triggered amalgamation.
“I think we’re moving forward but will not forget the past,” he said.
Some concerns linger.
“I’m concerned that this may cause people to lose confidence in fostering or foster families,” he said, adding few bad apples aren’t representative of the whole bunch.
One statement of claim states, “PECCAS caused (the plaintiffs) permanent and extensive injuries and losses” ranging from alcohol and substance abuse to inability to trust, impairment of mental health, nightmares of abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
“They (plaintiffs) have incurred medical expenses and will continue to require therapy and medical attention,” the 2013 statement of claim adds.
Two of the former foster parents initially targeted in the claim were Walter Joseph Holm, 46, and his wife, Janet Holm, 49.
They pleaded guilty to several charges, including possession of child pornography, sexual assault and invitation to sexual touching and were sentenced in November 2011 to four- and three-year prison terms respectively.
Three of the five plaintiffs, now ages 21, 23, and 19, are linked to the Holms. It’s not known if they were the three of five now concluded.
Justice Geoff Griffin blasted the Holms for turning their home into a “sexual cult” while fostering 25 teenagers over the course of nine years.
The three plaintiffs further implied that PECCAS was “vicariously liable for the actions” of the Holms.