YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – A federal lawsuit says York County’s child services agency “disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm” when it placed a young boy in foster care with a convicted pedophile.
The civil complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by the boy, who is now 13, and his mother. It names as defendants the county, two caseworkers, and a supervisor for the Office of Children, Youth and Families.
The complaint states that in 2012, the boy was taken from the home he shared with his mother and eventually placed in the care of Ronald Witmer and his wife. Witmer, 50, of York, was arrested in April for sexually abusing the boy. He pleaded guilty in August and is awaiting sentencing on counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and corruption of minors.
The boy’s attorneys say the child services agency knew or should have known that Witmer’s home was a “completely unreasonable foster placement” because he had been twice convicted of child sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty to fondling a 4-year-old boy in 1989, a case that was reported to the agency, and to exposing himself to two other boys in 1990.
The complaint says the defendants failed to investigate Witmer’s background, ignored or disregarded his known history of sexually molesting children, and failed to supervise Witmer’s relationship with the boy.
The lawsuit further that around the time the plaintiff was placed with Witmer, the office “did not have adequate staff to properly handle the placement of children.” Staffers were “overwhelmed by the size of their caseloads” and “were not receiving sufficient training and support to provide adequate services to children.”
The boy’s attorney, Ben Andreozzi, said Witmer is HIV-positive.
“This is one of the most egregious oversights that I’ve ever seen,” Andreozzi said. “We feel they’ve absolutely failed a 13-year-old boy and justice needs to be served in this case, and one of the ways we can do that is by filing a lawsuit and getting answers:”
The boy and his mother are seeking unspecified damages for “severe and permanent injuries” the boy suffered, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.
In a statement, the office said, “York County Children, Youth, and Familes cannot confirm or deny our involvement with this family because of child protective service law confidentiality.”