Adoptive mother sues social services, alleging agency withheld information

February 03, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Adoption stories are not supposed to end this way.

An Eldersburg woman who adopted a 9-year-old girl in 1993 has sued the Baltimore County Department of Social Services and her caseworker for $1.3 million. The suit alleges that county officials did not tell the mother the extent of the sexual abuse suffered by the child or the depth of the psychological scars it left.

The 43-year-old mother knew that the girl had been abused by her father and uncle, a lawyer for the department said in court this week. But the mother said in papers filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court that she was unprepared for the nightmare that followed the adoption.

The suit, filed in June, alleges that the agency and the caseworker, Susan Noel Oberfeld, were negligent because they "did not reveal the severity of the abuse, nor the terrible effects it had on the child."

Oberfeld, who is named as a defendant in the suit, said this week that the allegations were "totally fabricated," but declined further comment.

No trial date has been set.

In arguments Monday before Judge James T. Smith Jr., department lawyers asked that the suit be dismissed, saying that the adoptive mother was informed of the child's past and warned that it could mean problems. A ruling on the request is pending.

The child would upset other children at her day care center with sexually explicit stories, according to court papers.

The girl was charged four years after the adoption with child sex abuse in the alleged abuse of two girls whom she was baby-sitting, according to court papers. She has been in treatment since 1997 in a residential program at the Mansion at Focus Point, a state facility on the grounds of Crownsville Hospital Center, court records show.

The Sun is not naming the mother to protect the child's privacy.

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