3-week-old child sexually assaulted in Marion County foster home, lawsuit says

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A 3-week-old girl was sexually assaulted and battered in an Ocala area foster home, and child welfare officials could have prevented it from happening, according to a lawsuit filed last week in the Marion County Courthouse.

Both Kids Central, the Ocala nonprofit agency charged with managing child welfare in the region, and The Centers, which offers case management services, knew that a 14-year-old boy living in the home had sexually assaulted other young children in the past.

The foster parents – identified as “the Kleins” – had set up video cameras around the house to monitor the boy’s activities. And it was those cameras that caught him abusing the infant girl for more than 20 minutes in March 2019.

“This tragedy never should have happened,” said Stacie Schmerling, an attorney with Justice for Kids in Fort Lauderdale, who filed the suit against Kids Central and The Centers. “The family never should have been licensed to care for these vulnerable, non-verbal children.”

Stacie Schmerling, an attorney at Justice for Kids Division of Kelley Kronenberg in Davie, filed the lawsuit against Kids Central and The Centers in Marion County.

A Department of Children and Families investigation shows the infant was sexually penetrated by the 14-year-old boy, and she was medically confirmed to have been sexually abused.

The boy has since been charged and prosecuted as a juvenile offender. His sentence is not part of the public record.

Calls and email messages to Kids Central and The Centers on Monday were not returned.

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