- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

Four adopted boys who officials say were found starving in New Jersey two years ago will receive almost $13 million from the state under a settlement filed yesterday.

The awards — $5 million to an older brother and $2.5 million to each of the three younger boys — will be one of the largest damage awards paid by New Jersey, said Marcia Robinson Lowry, the boys’ guardian ad litem and executive director of Children’s Rights.

“No amount of money can undo the damage done to these children or diminish the fact that the state blatantly shirked its responsibility to ensure their safety and well-being,” Ms. Lowry said.

The settlement, which was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, is based on an offer made by the state earlier this year, said Andy Williams, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS Commissioner James M. Davy is a signatory of the documents.

The shocking story of Bruce Jackson and his younger brothers, identified as K.J., T.J. and M.J., emerged in October 2003, when a neighbor called police after seeing Bruce Jackson, then age 19, looking through garbage cans in the middle of the night.

None of the boys weighed more than 45 pounds, authorities found. The boys’ adoptive parents, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson of Collingswood, N.J., said they cared for the children properly and blamed their low weights on severe eating disorders.

Supporters of the couple created a Web site for them at www.savethejacksons.org, which shows the boys in nice clothes, energetic and smiling at home and at church.

But when the boys were placed in other homes, they all immediately gained weight and height. Within two months, Bruce Jackson went from 45 pounds to 75 pounds and grew 3 inches taller, the Camden County prosecutor’s office said.

The parents were charged with more than 20 counts of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child. The case is still before the criminal courts, a spokesman in the Camden County prosecutor’s office said yesterday.

Mr. Jackson died after suffering a stroke last year. A judge has given Mrs. Jackson until Friday to decide whether to accept a plea bargain or go to trial to face the charges against her, the Associated Press reported.

The Jackson case was the subject of a congressional hearing and spurred demand for reforms of New Jersey’s child-welfare agency. Child-welfare workers had visited the Jackson home regularly because they were foster parents, but the workers did not take action concerning the emaciated boys. Several child-welfare workers subsequently were suspended or fired.

In addition to the $12.5 million, the state also has agreed to provide the boys with medical insurance until they reach age 21 and pay as much as $485,000 for supplemental educational services, Ms. Lowry’s group said.

Mr. Williams of the DHS said attorney’s fees still are under negotiation.

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