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    Wednesday, December 06, 2023

    State proposes $12 million settlement in Groton abuse case

    The adoptive family of “Baby Dylan,” a child who nearly died of starvation in an unlicensed foster care home in Groton while under the supervision of the state Department of Children and Families, has secured a proposed $12 million settlement from the state.

    The settlement, which is pending approval from the state legislature, is the result of a lawsuit that led the state in 2021 to admit partial liability in failing to properly oversee care of the child who was taken with his three siblings from his biological parents in 2015.

    New London-based The Reardon Law Firm secured the settlement on Jan. 24, court records show, following negotiations with the attorney general’s office and on the eve of a trial.

    Attorney Robert Reardon said the ending of this tragic story should be a happy one, not just because of the proposed settlement but because the Baby Dylan is in a caring home. The boy, who is now 8, was adopted by Jerry and Joyce Barrios of Waterford, part of a loving family and attending school, he said.

    Reardon said the settlement will ensure the family has sufficient funds to compensate for what the child has been through in the early years of his life and cover ongoing needs for the future.

    “It’s fortunate Mr. and Mrs. Barrios stepped in and agreed to take this child. They have been wonderful parents and done a great job,” Reardon said. “He’s in a loving family now with some special needs that will be addressed. They love their child. They have a nice home. They intend to do everything they can for this child,.”

    “Baby Dylan,” the pseudonym used for the child at the center of the case, was just 13 months old when DCF removed him from his home amid concerns of neglect by his biological parents. The children were all placed with relatives under a DCF “Kinship Enhancement“ initiative that prioritizes relatives of children as foster parents.

    The lawsuit alleges that kinship initiative required DCF “exhaust all potential relative homes prior to placement with non-relatives.” In this case the system failed, Reardon said, and Baby Dylan was placed into a home with relatives who had not completed mandatory licensing from the state.

    Baby Dylan was placed in the Groton home of Crystal and Donald Magee. Crystal Magee is a cousin of the child’s biological mother, Kirsten Fauquet.

    “This placement was made despite DCF knowing that Crystal Magee was the subject of multiple prior allegations of abuse and neglect, that allegations of neglect had been substantiated against Crystal Magee for her own son, that Donald Magee has a criminal history, including a prior conviction for assault, that both Magees had substantial health issues, that both Magees had their driver’s licenses indefinitely suspended and that the Magees had no employment income whatsoever,” the lawsuit alleged.

    They were also unlicensed and never underwent any of the state’s mandated foster parent training. Baby Dylan remained in foster care of the Magees from June 12, 2015 to Nov. 10, 2015.

    After Baby Dylan was removed from the Magee home in November of 2015, the new foster parent, another relative of the biological mother, brought the child to a local medical clinic where it was discovered he was severely malnourished and unable to walk, talk or feed himself. The child also has scars, abrasions and bruises and weeks-old broken bones in both of his arms. At 19 months, he weighed 17 pounds, which is less than he weighed seven months earlier.

    “There were some really egregious errors on the part of DCF in their placement of this child,” Reardon said. “It was a complete failure of the system.”

    The allegations in the lawsuit were backed up in part by a scathing report from Office of the Child Advocate. The office’s investigation found that DCF’s licensing unit had “utterly failed in every imaginable way to assess the safety and appropriateness of Dylan’s foster home or even record its work activities.”

    “Dylan’s near-death from starvation and abuse—a stunning event in a state-monitored placement for a child—could occur only as a result of the utter collapse of all safeguards,” the report states.

    The boy had developmental delays when placed in the Magees’ care, Egan’s report shows, but during the five months he lived with them, he received “almost no medical follow-up, almost no developmental supports and no structured child care.” Baby Dylan also went a span of 102 days without a DCF caseworker seeing him awake.

    Crystal Magee was eventually criminally charged, pleaded no contest to risk of injury to a minor and placed on probation.

    As the result of negligence of DCF, the suit alleges Baby Dylan suffered from and continues to suffer from “severe malnutrition, emotional injuries and physical injuries...developmental delays and disorders, nutritional issues and mental and physical pain...”

    “In all likelihood, some or all of (Baby Dylan’s) aforesaid injuries, conditions, issues and delays are permanent in nature and will require additional treatment, evaluation, care support and services in the future,” the suit claims.

    And while the state admitted partial liability in 2021, Reardon said the attorney general’s office had continued to challenge the amount of the settlement, arguing about whether some of the child’s problems were the result of care under the biological parents, Kirsten Fauquet and John Stratzman, versus his foster parents. Fauquet and Stratzman, who had five children removed into DCF custody and have since had their parental rights terminated.

    Reardon and law firm partners Kelly Reardon and Joseph Barnes had lined up a series of experts in various fields in advance of the trial.

    The proposed settlement agreement was approved by Niantic Probate Court Judge Jeffrey McNamara and signed by Deputy Attorney Attorney General Eileen Meskill, records show.

    Reardon said he expects the proposed agreement to be the subject of a hearing before the state Judiciary Committee on Feb. 22. Under state law, the attorney general’s office cannot enter into a settlement of more than $2.5 million without approval by the General Assembly.

    “We are pleased this difficult case has been resolved in the best interest of all parties and hope to receive the legislature’s approval of this settlement,” Elizabeth Benton, spokeswoman for the Office of the Attorney General, said in a statement.

    A spokesman with DCF declined comment on this report, citing the pending litigation.

    Reardon said the Barrios family values their privacy and have declined to speak publicly about the case. Jerry Barrios is the chief judicial marshal in New London Judicial District.

    “They’re private people and this has been a long ordeal for them. They just want to move on and raise Dylan,” Reardon said.


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