Children's Home of Poughkeepsie Named in Child Abuse Lawsuits

Children's Home of Poughkeepsie Named in Child Abuse Lawsuits

Clarification: Tarell Heard is a former employee of The Children's Home of Poughkeepsie and Astor Services for Children and Families.

Three Hudson Valley residents are suing the Children's Home of Poughkeepsie, claiming they believe the foster care program was aware and could have prevented child abuse, according to the lawsuits.

One of the lawsuits alleged Dutchess County was aware of the "risk of sexual abuse" at the program, but did not have any policies in place to protect the children.

"All three of my clients were raped at The Children's Home of Poughkeepsie by the staff who were responsible for protecting them," said Robert Greenstein, an attorney for Greenstein & Milbauer, a firm based in New York City.

Greenstein said two ofthe three accused, employees of the Children's Home at the time of the alleged incidents, were arrested on accusations of sexually abusing other minors in the past five years. One of them, Helen Fahy, "acted as a or the administrator" for the home, according to the court filing.

Two of the lawsuits were filed in Dutchess County Supreme Court this month, after the first was filed in February.

Hyde Park police arrested Fahy in 2016 for third-degree rape of a minor and he was later sentenced to 18 months in state prison.

Tarell Heard, another former Children's Home employee and also former-employee of Astor Services for Children and Families, was charged last year with first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a felony, according to state police. The status of Heard's case was unclear on Tuesday.

The third employee named has not been arrested. While all three are named in the lawsuits, none are listed as defendants.

Walter J. Joseph, executive director of the Children's Home of Poughkeepsie, issued a statement in which he said the home was declining comment "on any litigation matters," but said the allegations "are strongly disputed."

He said the facility for its 174 years has been "dedicated to providing a safe and nurturing environment that improves lives and empowers at-risk children and families in the Hudson Valley and surrounding communities."

The plaintiffs were between the ages of 9 and 16 when they say the abuse took place. The alleged incidents took place in the 1980s and between 2000 and 2008. The names of the plaintiffs were not released by the attorney to protect their privacy.

Some of the abuse is alleged to have happened at the home of an accused employee, because the facility allowed for staffers to take children home, according to the lawsuit.

Dutchess County was included in a lawsuit in which the county had placed the minor into the care of the home, according to the filings. The other two plaintiffs were placed in the home by guardians.

"We're bringing cases of negligence. Negligence for the Children's Home of Poughkeepsie for negligently hiring these employees, negligently supervising them, negligently retaining them when they should have known something was going on," Greenstein said.

Over the past two years, there have been thousands of civil action lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act against individuals, schools, churches and youth organizations. Last year, the 2019 law that allowed survivors of child sexual abuse one year to file claims against those responsible for abuse regardless of how long ago the incident took place was extended to Aug. 14 of this year.

Prior to the enactment of the Child Victims Act another lawsuit was brought against the children's home and was dismissed because it did not meet the statute of limitations, which states a individual has three years after they turn 18 to file a lawsuit.

The home, which provides both residential living and support services, helped about 275 children ranging in age from newborn to 20 years old in 2019, according to its website.

"The Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie is a licensed facility by NYS Office for Children and Family Services," said a county spokesperson. "OCFS is the entity that investigates any allegations of abuse. The County will work with OCFS as this claim is investigated."

Saba Ali