In front of the New York State Supreme Courthouse in White Plains yesterday, former residents of The Children’s Village residential treatment center in Dobbs Ferry gathered to allege a 25-year history of physical and sexual abuse by both staff and former residents at the institution.
“These children were typically brought to The Children’s Village to remove them from abusive or neglectful conditions in their families’ homes with the goal of healing their traumas,” says lawyer for the plaintiffs Robert Greenstein of Greenstein & Milbauer. “Instead, their victimization continued and escalated to horrifying proportions. These victims have endured — and continue to experience — fear, shame and pain. It has taken them years to step forward and tell their stories.”
The Children’s Village was founded in 1851 as a home for troubled boys. Today, the organization bills itself as working “in partnership with families to help society’s most vulnerable children so that they become educationally proficient, economically productive, and socially responsible members of their communities.”
Greenstein & Millbauer have filed 10 separate lawsuits as of last month, on behalf of 10 different former residents of The Children’s Village Dobbs Ferry campus, all of whom were emotionally disturbed young boys placed at the facility courts or child welfare agencies. Allegations range from physical abuse and humiliation to sexual by older residents, with full knowledge of staff.
More alarmingly, the suits allege a pattern of sexual exploitation and abuse by staff members themselves, including teacher aides, counselors, group home leaders and foster/adoptive parents, and even the organization’s former executive director Urban Tekip. Specifically, accusations include systemic molestation, coerced masturbation and oral sex, rape, and at least one instance of creation of child pornography. The suits also allege that all complaints to social workers and other staff members were either ignored or met with threats of direct violence. Consequently, the suits accuse The Children’s Village of negligence in fostering and knowingly permitting an environment of pervasive physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by its residents and staff, and seeks commiserate damages of a value to be determined by a jury.
“As a leading child welfare agency, the safety of children in our care is our top priority,” The Children’s Village said in a statement to Westchester Magazine. “We are heartbroken by these allegations. Every child deserves and needs to feel safe, secure and supported, and that’s what we work hard to achieve every day.”
The former residents came to The Children’s Village between the ages of 4 and 11 years of age, over a period of 25 years from 1970 to 1995. All 10 cases were filed under provisions of the Child Victims Act, signed last year by Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow child victims to seek justice for abuses that otherwise would have seen their statute of limitations expire, and which was extended through August 12, 2021 due to a slowdown of the court system due to the COVID-19 pandemic.