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Foster Care Trains Prostitute/Killer
November 13, 2005 permalink
Debbie McCabe was found to have a sexually transmitted disease at the age of five. It is hard to see how her mother could have been responsible, but New York City child protectors took her into foster care. In the next fifteen years they educated her to become a drug addict, prostitute and killer. In the final line of the story, Debbie suggests that her life in prison is an improvement over what she had before.
New York Daily News -
Victim of system?
BY HELEN PETERSON
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, November 13th, 2005
Debbie McCabe is in jail for killing an off-duty cop. She was a drug addict and prostitute - and a former foster child who is suing the city for abuse 20 years later.
She was a little girl known only as Debbie M. when her troubled mom sued the city in 1985, charging that foster care was destroying her kids.
Two decades later, Deborah McCabe tragically has made her mother's fears come true.
She made her first suicide attempt at age 11. She was a prostitute by age 14. A cop killer by the time she was 20.
Now, from an upstate prison cell, McCabe is trying to make something of her life. She has taken college courses, earning an associate's degree in sociology.
And largely unbeknownst to her, her mother's suit against the city has quietly moved forward - giving her a chance at winning millions of dollars in damages and possibly changing the system she claims subjected McCabe and her younger brother to years of abuse and molestation in several foster homes.
McCabe's hope may be the city's fear. As the Administration for Children's Services is facing tough questions about how it handled a Brooklyn neglect case, McCabe's story is a grim reminder of how the effects of child abuse can echo for decades.
Moreover, experts say a jury verdict in favor of the McCabes could open the floodgates for suits by other ex-foster kids.
As she talks about her childhood abuse, McCabe is surprisingly calm.
"I want something to happen with this case. I want something to change. Something's got to give," said McCabe, 28, from the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.
Her lawsuit accuses the city and the Louise Wise foster-care agency of failing to provide "a clean and safe environment" for McCabe and her brother, Sean, who were first placed in foster care when she was 5 and he was 3. According to court papers, doctors found that the nervous little girl had a sexually transmitted disease.
But instead of a safe haven, the siblings say they found themselves in a Dickensian nightmare.
"In those foster homes, the social workers never showed up, and if they did, they called ahead and then the [foster parents] cleaned up the house," McCabe said.
"We weren't fed well, and we were locked in rooms. I remember there was one boy who molested me. I remember being hungry. I remember being hit," she said. "Just a whole bunch of stuff that I don't think should have happened."
McCabe said that if she gets any money from her suit, she wants to open a center where people on drugs or alcohol can drop off their kids so they are not neglected.
"I do hope that I win, first of all. I hope that I win because I have this thing in my head that I don't want this to happen to other kids. I hope that if we win, it opens doors for other people like myself," she added.
But she is brought to tears describing the "hell house" run by a Bronx couple where she and her brother were placed in the late 1980s.
There, she said, they were made to kneel on uncooked rice, sleep in lice-ridden beds and clean slugs out of the bathtub. They had to use the same bathwater as the five other foster kids living with the couple. Dinner, she said, was rice scraped from the bottom of a pot.
It is the memory of watching her little brother at a rear window of that house, calling to her for help, that drives her to tears.
She said she recalls being penned in a shadeless backyard. A fair-skinned child, she was sunburned so severely that her skin peeled off in sheets.
Meanwhile, her little brother - locked in a room with three other boys, and made to urinate and defecate in a bucket - would call out to her.
"They used to be crying in the window. And he used to call my name, and I couldn't go get him," she said, sobbing.
The two are no longer in touch. She said her brother was angry that her own son, born when she was 16, was sent to foster care when she went to prison.
"We made promises to each other that we would never let our kids go to foster care. We would never have kids and have them wind up how we did," she said, crying.
Now McCabe wants the city to explain how she and her little brother fell through the cracks of the child-welfare system, as they were shuttled in and out of foster care and group homes into their teen years.
Last spring, the city lost a key appeal in the case, and if it isn't settled, a trial could get underway in Bronx Supreme Court early next year.
"We believe that the evidence at trial in this case will show that the city's supervision of the foster-care placements was not in any manner inadequate or inappropriate," said city lawyer Ronald Sternberg.
McCabe is serving a 10- to 20-year sentence for manslaughter in the death of 28-year-old rookie cop Brian Fasack.
Fasack picked her up in his car on a Bronx street shortly after his shift ended. McCabe claims he wanted oral sex and admitted shooting him after the two got into a struggle.
Fasack died two weeks later and was given a ceremonial inspector's funeral, usually reserved for cops killed in the line of duty.
In prison, McCabe said she battles depression, and is undergoing extensive counseling and group therapy.
"I don't think a day goes by that I don't wish he was still alive," she said of Fasack. "And then, I...sort of, like, thank him. I don't know how to explain it, but me coming here saved me from the rest of my life," she said.
Source: New York Daily News