LAWSUIT claims foster children were physically abused at California shelter

Thursday, July 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Employees at an emergency shelter have physically abused hundreds of foster children in an effort to intimidate and control them, a lawsuit alleges.

The class-action suit was filed Wednesday on behalf of six former and current foster children at MacLaren Children's Center, in El Monte, Calif. The plaintiffs include a 15-year-old girl who suffered a broken arm two years ago at the center, run by Los Angeles County.

At least 20 employees have either injured children or improperly used the criminal justice system to ``control and subdue dependent minors rather than provide them with appropriate care and treatment,'' according to the lawsuit.

More than 1,000 foster children may have been subjected to abusive treatment at the center, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit claims that the shelter's staff used physical restraints more than 1,500 times in a 12-month period up to four times a day. State regulations prohibit the use of physical force, except to prevent injury to a child.

County officials declined to comment on the allegations because they hadn't seen the lawsuit.

``MacLaren has had a lot of problems,'' said Patricia Curry, who chairs a county committee that oversees the shelter.