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    Sunday, February 25, 2024

    State admits liability in case of Groton foster care abuse

    The state of Connecticut admitted last month that it was partially liable for the abuse and neglect endured by a baby boy while he was in a foster home in Groton.

    The boy, referred to in court records by his pseudonym Baby Dylan, was removed from the care of his parents in 2015 and placed under the care of a relative in a foster home, where he nearly died.

    When removed from the Groton foster home in 2015, the 19-month-old boy weighed just 17 pounds. His eyes were sunken in, his ribs were protruding and loose skin covered his body. His face and hands were swollen, he had weeks-old broken bones and was covered in bruises. Investigators said he was so emaciated, he could not walk, talk or feed himself.

    His parents, Kirsten Fauquet and John Stratzman, had pleaded for help while their son was in the care of relatives Crystal and Donald Magee of 181 Mather Ave. During that time, a social worker with the Department of Children and Families went 102 days without seeing the boy awake, according to court records, and a damning report by the Office of the Child Advocate in 2016 found that DCF employees failed to protect the child despite repeated warnings that something was wrong.

    On April 8, 2019, the boy was adopted by other relatives who live in Waterford, according to Rearden Law Firm, which is representing the family. Last month, the state answered a complaint in which it admitted some liability for what happened to the baby while he was under the care of DCF.

    In its response, the state admitted that it knew previous complaints of neglect and abuse had been brought forth against Crystal Magee; that Donald Magee had a known criminal record; and that neither of the foster parents had a valid driver’s license or any form of employment income, according to court records.

    The relatives were chosen as Baby Dylan’s foster parents as part of a state kinship program that aimed to rehome foster children with relatives. The couple were not licensed foster parents and did not complete mandatory training.

    The state also admitted the Magees' home was not licensed for foster care by DCF at any time the baby lived there; DCF workers did not see the baby awake for multiple visits; case workers failed to make home visits after his biological parents shared concerns; the Magees failed to bring the baby to visits with his parents and Crystal Magee failed to comply with drug testing, according to court documents.

    The state denied certain allegations in the complaint, including knowledge of DCF being denied entry into Magees' home, knowing that the Magees had health issues and allegations that the state was aware of Crystal Magee using DCF funds to purchase drugs.

    The boy is now 7 years old and attending school. His parents are pursuing a lawsuit against the state for damages for what the boy endured during the five months he was in the Magees' care.

    The state has indicated it will be willing to compensate him for what he’s been through, Attorney Kelly Rearden said.

    “It really was horrific treatment that he received and in our view it's all due to the fact that DCF didn't do their job,” she said.

    The attorney said that her office is working with experts “to prove that these instances have had a very significant and traumatic effect on him that's going to continue for the rest of his life.”

    Although the boy is now in a healthy and stable environment, experts interviewed by Rearden’s law firm have told attorneys that he is still struggling mentally and physically.

    “Fortunately, he does not know yet what happened to him when he was a baby, but of course when he finds out someday down the road, that will be something he’ll have to deal with and he will need therapy,” Kelly Rearden said.

    Baby Dylan was one of four children who were removed from the home of their biological parents in 2015. Fauquet and Stratzman’s parental rights were later terminated by a Superior Court judge.

    Crystal Magee was charged in February 2019 with risk of injury to a minor and cruelty to persons. She pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced in May 2019 to five years in prison, fully suspended, followed by three years of probation, meaning she served no prison time.

    All parties involved in the case are scheduled to attend a trial management conference on Jan. 28, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. in the Hartford Judicial Courthouse.

    Rearden did not say how much they would be seeking in damages, but the boy is “entitled to a very substantial sum of money because he’s going to continue lifelong care.” Any damages will be put into a trust for him to access in the future.

    The Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment in time for print deadline.

    t.hartz@theday.com

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