L.A. Times Report Details Systemic Sexual Abuse at MacLaren Children's Center

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Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed Against L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services

Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed Against L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services

May 19, 2022

A troubling report from the Los Angeles Times details years of alleged systemic sexual abuse occurring at MacLaren Children’s Center in El Monte, California. Described as a “long-troubled facility” for foster children by the Times, MacLaren was shuttered nearly two decades ago by Los Angeles County officials. But as the Los Angeles Times’ report notes, approximately 200 individuals – both women and men – are now coming forward with allegations of wanton sexual abuse at the hands of MacLaren staff.

L.A. Times Report Details Systemic Sexual Abuse at MacLaren Children’s Center

Eight women and four men reportedly filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services earlier this week. According to the Times, countless additional lawsuits are expected to be filed over the alleged sex crimes.

In Monday’s filing, survivors describe being “assaulted, drugged, and forced to perform sex acts on MacLaren employees between 1988 and 2001,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Additional details from the complaint include:

  • One victim said he was abused when he was just 5-years-old.
  • Another girl, 13 at the time, said she was beaten by employees in retaliation for making an allegation of sexual abuse.

According to the Times, a spokeswoman for the county’s chief executive declined to comment citing the pending lawsuit.

In a statement, however, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services said:

“Allegations leveled in any civil claim should and will be thoroughly examined. DCFS serves more than 29,000 vulnerable children and families in Los Angeles County and each of our nearly 9,000 employees is held to the highest standards. Our department has many safeguards in place to protect children in our care and to hold accountable those who violate laws and policies.”

The lawsuit further alleges that the systemic sexual abuse at MacLaren Children’s Center began in the 1970s.

How Does California AB 218 Impact MacLaren Children’s Center Sexual Abuse Lawsuits?

While many of the alleged sex crimes at MacLaren Children’s Center reportedly occurred decades ago and outside of the traditional statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims, a new law passed in 2020 known as California Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) provides survivors with a limited window to obtain justice.

California AB 218’s three-year “lookback” clause, often referred to as a sex crime “revival window,” allows any survivor of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to file a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation through the end of 2022. However, as of January 1, 2023, the standard statute of limitations will resume, and AB 218’s lookback window will officially close. Accordingly, survivors who did not file claims will likely be left without any legal recourse.

What is the California AB 218 Treble Damages Clause?

What is the California AB 218 Treble Damages Clause?

In addition to the bill’s three-year lookback window, AB 218 includes a treble damages clause which gives the courts latitude to triple financial damages awards in cases where cover-ups are proven.

For example, if you are a sexual abuse survivor who was victimized through a systemic cover-up (by either an individual or institution), and that malfeasance was able to be proven in court, a $10 million damages award could theoretically be increased to $30 million under the AB 218 treble damages clause.

AB 218’s treble damages clause was included in the legislation in an effort to severely punish bad actors who participated in systemic cover-ups, many of which allegedly occurred over the course of several decades. Such cover-ups in organizations including the Boy Scouts of America and Catholic Church have made headlines in recent years for impacting countless innocent survivors. But AB 218 offers all sexual abuse victims a limited opportunity at justice.

For additional information on California AB 218, please visit our recent blog post.

Why Was MacLaren Children’s Center Closed?

According to the Los Angeles Times, MacLaren Children’s Center was opened as a temporary shelter for children awaiting placement in a foster home in 1961. The facility originally operated under the direction of the L.A. County Probation Department. The Times’ report also notes that MacLaren was a campus with “sky-high walls and tall barbed wire fences, floodlights, and massive gates and doors.

The facility was reportedly taken over by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in 1976. According to the Times, however, “lax oversight of staff created an environment ripe for abuse.” The Los Angeles Times report also confirmed the following details related to MacLaren Children’s Center:

  • A 2001 L.A. County civil grand jury report found the facility’s managers did not conduct criminal background checks of their employees for decades.
  • As a result, people who had been convicted of burglary, robbery, and drug trafficking were hired to care for children.
  • During a review of staff that was required for a state license, MacLaren officials identified 17 employees who had disqualifying convictions on their criminal records.

Furthermore, subsequent lawsuits and the initial grand jury report found that children “frequently ran away and fought with one another, creating a chaotic and violent atmosphere,” according to the Times.

MacLaren was closed in 2003 following a pair of lawsuits alleging that staff had “physically abused dozens of residents and that the facility routinely failed to properly care for children with emotional and behavioral problems,” according to the L.A. Times.

The 2001 grand jury report also found:

  • DCFS was failing to conduct timely investigations into misconduct allegations against staff.
  • Dozens of child sexual abuse claims went unchecked.
  • Internal investigations by MacLaren officials were “perfunctory, at best.”

Other Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Filed Against Los Angeles DCFS

The child sexual abuse lawsuit filed against MacLaren Children’s Center follows other complaints made against facilities operated by the county’s probation department or DCFS in recent years.

In March, Dordulian Law Group (DLG) posted a blog detailing a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against Camp Joseph Scott, a former Los Angeles County all-girls juvenile detention facility. In the complaint, 20 women alleged systemic sexual abuse over the course of a dozen years.

According to the lawsuit, at least 10 Los Angeles County probation officers and staff members subjected the survivors, who were minors at the time of the incidents, to various types of sexual violence, including:

The complaint alleges that the abuse took place from 1996 through 2008 at the Santa Clarita juvenile detention facility, which closed in 2020.

Can I File a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit for Damages Against MacLaren Children’s Center?

Survivors of sexual abuse which occurred at MacLaren Children’s Center may wish to file civil lawsuits in an effort to recover financial compensation for the harm endured.

Compensation for various damages may be secured through a childhood sexual assault or abuse civil claim, such as:

  • Emotional trauma
  • Counseling or therapy expenses
  • Psychological distress
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Hospital or medical expenses

DLG’s sexual abuse lawyers are dedicated to fighting aggressively on behalf of all clients to secure any applicable financial damages through a maximum cash settlement or verdict.

Free MacLaren Children’s Center Sexual Abuse Lawyer Consultation

DLG is a leading California-based sexual assault and abuse firm representing survivors across the nation. Our four-tiered SAJE Team offers clients a unique type of legal representation which includes access to victim advocates, a licensed in-house clinical therapist, a retired LAPD sex crimes detective, and a former sex crimes prosecutor.

Led by Sam Dordulian, a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, DLG’s childhood sexual abuse lawyers have helped countless survivors secure maximum financial damages awards.

If you experienced a sexual assault incident, don’t wait to file a claim. Contact our expert attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Some of our recent sexual abuse and assault civil lawsuit victories include:

For a free and confidential consultation regarding your MacLaren Children’s Center sexual abuse lawsuit, contact a member of DLG’s SAJE Team today at 818-322-4056.

Our sex crime attorneys have secured more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts for sexual abuse survivors while maintaining a 98% success record. When you’re ready to take the first step towards obtaining justice on your own terms, we’re here to fight tirelessly on your behalf.


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