foster care

County Pays $400K To Parents of Victim in High-Profile Sex Abuse Case

Adoptive parents claimed county workers failed to inform them of foster child’s abuse by perpetrator.

Photo of Michael Hayes

San Diego County supervisors approved a $400,000 payment to the adoptive parents of a foster child who were not informed of their child’s sexually inappropriate behavior. That troublesome behavior was allegedly caused by sexual and physical abuse inflicted on the boy by his former foster parent. 

The county made the six-figure payment on Feb. 4, according to public records obtained by NBC 7 Investigates.

The parents, known only as Cynthia and Elaine T., sued the county in September 2019 after learning that their adopted son was a victim of Michael Hayes, a foster father charged with 26 felonies for molesting three young boys that the county placed in his care. 

The $400,000 settlement is just one of several costly legal disputes facing the county for its alleged negligence in the Hayes case. 

Last year, the county paid $3 million to two of Hayes’ three young victims.

Hayes assaulted the three young boys while they were in his care from 2006 to 2013, according to court records. The court documents reveal Hayes continued to sexually and physically abuse the boys even after they complained to county social workers about their mistreatment at Hayes’ Lincoln Park home. 

Hayes is now serving a 20-year sentence in state prison for his crimes against children.

Social workers missed numerous and obvious signs of the children’s abuse, according to lawsuits filed against the county. But Cynthia and Elaine T. claimed the county was equally negligent in its care of Hayes’ victims, one of whom they adopted without knowledge of the trauma he had suffered.

The couple alleged that county social workers contacted them in November 2013 to see if they could care for a young boy in need of a new foster home. 

The couple claimed that county workers never told them that the boy, known as A.H., was one of Hayes’ three victims and that he had displayed sexually inappropriate behavior when he was removed from Hayes’ custody.

“(The county) continued to represent that A.H. never disclosed sexual abuse by Mr. Hayes,” their lawsuit alleged. “Based on these representations, Cynthia and Elaine made the decision to have A.H. placed in their home, and ultimately decided to adopt A.H.”

The couple claimed they didn’t learn of A.H. 's abuse until they read about the criminal charges filed against Hayes in July 2018. 

The settlement leaves only one lawsuit remaining. That action was filed on behalf of A.H. for damages inflicted by Hayes.

Attorney Shawn McMillan, who represents Elaine and Cynthia T., said his clients hope their lawsuit and the resulting settlement will improve the county’s approach to foster care.

“They hope the county will immediately implement improvements to their disclosure process in order to improve outcomes for both the children in County custody and for prospective adoptive parents in future cases,” McMillan said.

A spokesperson for the county did not respond to a request for comment.

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