Lawsuit says special needs teen was sexually assaulted by contra - FOX Carolina 21

Lawsuit says special needs teen was sexually assaulted by contract driver for SC DSS

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Lawsuit filed against SCYAP (file photo) Lawsuit filed against SCYAP (file photo)
GREENWOOD, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Employees for the South Carolina Youth Advocate Program and the South Carolina Department of Social Services have been named in a lawsuit claiming a special needs teenager in foster care was sexually assaulted.

According to the lawsuit, the then-17-year-old victim has an IQ of 72 and functions on a fourth grade level. He is unable to live independently and struggles with basic daily tasks, the court document states.

The lawsuit claims that in March 2016, the teen was being driven from his foster home near Columbia to visit family in Greenwood by a driver for South Carolina Youth Advocate Program (SCYAP), a company that is contracted by the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

The lawsuit states that the driver, a male in his mid-forties, took the victim to his home after the visit with his family. According to the document, the victim was confused and feared for his life so he complied when the man told him to come inside.

The lawsuit claims the man then pushed the teen down on the couch, kissed him, and instructed him to perform a sex act. The man then performed a sex act on the victim, according to the lawsuit.

"Plaintiff, as a special needs foster child, cannot and did not consent to sexual activity," the lawsuit states.

After the alleged incident, the lawsuit said the victim told his foster mom who notified law enforcement and took him to a hospital for a forensic rape examination.

The lawsuit says that when law enforcement visited the driver's home, "he confessed that he and [the victim] had had oral sex, but told the officer that it was consensual."

An attorney for Hite and Stone, the law firm representing the victim, said the teen was so distraught after the assault he contemplated taking his own life. The lawsuit claims the DSS caseworker for the teen failed to provide him with adequate counseling services afterward.

"Special needs foster children are perhaps the most vulnerable population in our society," said attorney Heather Hite Stone. "It is shocking and horrific when individuals and agencies who are charged with protecting our most vulnerable citizens violate this sacred trust."

SCYAP, the driver, his supervisor and a DSS caseworker are named as defendants in the lawsuit. A jury trial has been requested.

A spokesperson for SC DSS said the contract with SCYAP requires background checks on all individuals who interact with children in DSS custody. Below is the full statement from SC DSS:

The Department of Social Services is not named as defendant in the case and has not yet been served with the complaint. After we receive the complaint, we will evaluate the case and respond appropriately.

Our contract with the S.C. Youth Advocate Program requires criminal background checks on all individuals who interact with children in our care. Those checks include the sexual offender registry and the child abuse central registry.

FOX Carolina has also reached out to the South Carolina Youth Advocate Program for comment on the lawsuit.

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