TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) — New Jersey has agreed to give $12.5 million to four boys allegedly starved by their adoptive parents, state officials told The Associated Press on Friday.
Lawyers for the boys have agreed in principle to the settlement, the largest ever involving the state Department of Human Services, but they have not all signed it and it has not been approved by a judge, department spokeswoman Laurie Facciarossa said.
Authorities found Bruce Jackson, then 19 but appearing to be about 7 years old, rummaging through a neighbor’s trash can in Collingswood in October 2003.
Three of his younger adoptive brothers were similarly undersized. Authorities said their adoptive parents withheld food and the boys subsisted on gypsum wallboard and uncooked pancake batter.
Child welfare workers had visited the Jackson home regularly to check on the family’s foster child but did not take action regarding the bone-thin adopted boys.
The case was the subject of national media attention and a congressional hearing, and spurred demand for reforms of New Jersey’s child-welfare agency. Nine workers were suspended, and the state initiated proceedings to fire them, but at least one was reinstated.
Facciarossa said that under the agreement, Bruce Jackson will receive $5 million and his brothers — Michael, Keith and Tyrone — will each get $2.5 million.
The New York-based child advocacy organization Children’s Rights Inc., whose executive director, Marcia Robinson-Lowry, is the guardian of the boys’ legal rights, would not comment.
Bruce Jackson would get more than his brothers because he was in worse shape, weighing just 45 pounds when he was found, said his lawyer, Michael Critchley, who added that he waived his legal fee in the case.
The boys’ adoptive parents, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson, were each charged with 28 counts of child endangerment and aggravated assault.
Raymond Jackson died after suffering a stroke last year.
A judge has given Vanessa Jackson until October 7 to decide whether to accept a plea deal or go to trial to face the charges against her.
She has denied the charges. Her lawyers have talked of using a defense that the boys had eating disorders.