Suit: Siblings claim DCS knew of adoptive parents’ abusive past

Three adults who claim they were abused as children have filed a lawsuit against their adoptive parents as well as the Indiana Department of Child Services and the department’s county director and caseworkers, claiming the state agency and its employees were the “proximate cause of the shocking abuse” that the plaintiffs suffered.

Isaiah Huey, Miley Huey and Jace Huey were placed with Larry and Nikki Russell in 2007 and eventually adopted by the Vigo County couple in 2012. In their complaint filed in the Southern Indiana District Court, the Hueys claim the failure of the DCS defendants to correct the “systematic issues afflicting Indiana’s foster care system” caused them to be subjected to severe physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse during their time in the Russell household.

The plaintiffs assert DCS and the individual DCS defendants violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment and the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. Also, the Hueys claim DCS breached its fiduciary duty by placing them in the Russell home and failing to provide supervision even through the state “knew the Russells were abusive and dangerous.”

In addition, the Hueys claim the Russells intentionally inflicted emotional distress and committed battery as well as breached their fiduciary duty to care for the plaintiffs’ physical, emotional and psychological well-being.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as public apology.

“DCS Defendants failed to provide Plaintiffs a safe and appropriate foster care placement,” the Hueys assert in their lawsuit. “DCS’ failure to employ a sufficient number of caseworkers and supervisors, and failure to adequately train them and ensure that they carry reasonable caseloads, substantially departed from widely accepted professional standards and demonstrated a deliberate indifference to the risk of harm to Plaintiffs.”

In a statement, the Hueys’ attorney, Andrea Ciobanu of Ciobanu Law P.C. in Indianapolis, said, “These victims have been through a lot and they look forward to having their legal voice heard in court.” The Indiana Department of Child Services declined to comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit includes the DCS county director and caseworkers as defendants but does not specifically identify who they are.

According to the complaint, Larry Russell had a history of domestic violence before the Hueys were placed in the home. He was again arrested on domestic battery charges one month after the children were adopted for an incident that included firing a gun multiple times.

The plaintiffs were subjected to “severe physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse” by both Larry and Nikki Russell, according to the lawsuit. They were locked in an upstairs room, tied to their beds with socks stuffed into their mouths and had no access to food, water or bathroom facilities. Also, the lawsuit states, the Russells poured urine and feces over the plaintiffs and “beat and tortured them.”

One of the plaintiffs was eventually able to escape and was found along the side of the road, barefoot and weighing about 93 pounds with “marks consistent with abuse,” the lawsuit states. Terre Haute police described the situation as “by far the worst case of abuse [they’d] ever seen.”

Larry and Nikki were both convicted on felony neglect of a dependent and criminal confinement charges in November 2013.

The Hueys allege the DEC defendants were aware of Russells could not provide the children a safe home and “knew or suspected that the Russells were child abusers….”

According to the complaint, “By placing Plaintiffs in the Russells’ care, despite their knowledge of the danger that the Russells posed, DCS Defendants were the proximate cause of the shocking abuse that Plaintiffs received at the hands of the Russells.”

The case is Isaiah Huey, Miley Huey and Jace Huey v. Indiana Department of Child Services, John Doe County Director, John Doe Caseworkers, Larry Russell and Nikki Russell, 2:21-cv-00091.

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