LAS VEGAS -- A young woman who says she suffered in foster care is speaking out. Linda, not her real name, is one of 13 children pursuing a class action lawsuit against the Clark County child welfare system.
The suit seeks reforms and monetary damages for the alleged failures of the agencies that are supposed to protect children.
Linda entered the foster care system in Clark County at the age of two. Now at 17-years-old, she still wonders what it would be like to have a real family. She blames the system for a lifetime of instability, abuse and loneliness.
She hopes putting her name on a lawsuit may save another kid from the same heartache.
"I've heard so many stories about why I was in foster care that I don't really know what the real reason is. I know on my papers it basically just says neglect," she said.
Linda speaks matter of factly about a life of abuse that would bring many listeners to tears. She recalls her first foster placement with the clarity reserved for traumatic events. Not because of what occurred there, but because of what didn't.
"They absolutely loved me and wanted to adopt me, but here comes a relative and family comes first so they stuck me with my relative instead of letting me get adopted by the foster family," she said.
Linda says, like her mother, the relative abused her. It wasn't long before the system placed her with another foster family, and then another, and then another. She counts 40 placements in her 17 years.
"It's not a good feeling. It's like, lonely. You start at school and by the next school year you don't know anybody because you're at a different school. It's lonely, basically," she said.
The lawsuit says the agencies consistently fail to provide stability, appropriate medical and mental health care and even a minimal level of safety for the 3,600 children in their custody at any given time.
Bill Grimm is Linda's attorney with the National Center for Youth Law, a non-profit child advocacy firm in Oakland, California.
"We made a promise to the foster kids in Clark County that we would be back -- that we would continue to fight to make sure things improve for them," he said.
The National Center for Youth Law dismissed its first lawsuit against the agencies last year after more than three years of litigation. Unlike the previous action, this suit seeks monetary damages in addition to system-wide reform.
"Just as we did in the last case, we want to see broad changes for the children that come after the Linda's and the Henry's so that the children that come after don't suffer the same kinds of abuse that they suffered," he said.
Linda shares the same motivation as she contemplates her future outside of the system.
"I just want to help other kids to not have to go through what I've been through," she said.
We did contact both the county and the state today seeking a response.
Representatives from Clark County and the State of Nevada say they had not reviewed the lawsuit with their legal counsel.
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