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Doe v. South Carolina Department of Social Services

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
597 F.3d 163 (2010)


Facts

Jane Doe (plaintiff) was taken into emergency protective custody by the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) (defendant) at the age of four. Following an investigation, the family court found that Jane was physically neglected, and SCDSS was granted temporary custody of Jane Doe and her brother, Kameron. The children's therapist reported that it was likely that Jane and Kameron had experienced inappropriate sexual encounters with one another and with other adults. Jane was placed in foster care, and her brother was allowed to visit overnight. SCDSS then filed a successful petition to terminate Jane and Kameron's parents' parental rights, and the children were selected for adoption by Gregory and Michelle Johnson (plaintiffs). However, the Johnsons chose not to proceed with the adoption of Kameron due to concerns that he had inappropriately touched their biological son. A year later, Kameron admitted to his therapist that he had sexually abused Jane, the Johnsons' biological son, and several other foster children. Following this revelation, Jane began acting out sexually and abusing animals. The Johnsons then filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit on behalf of themselves and Jane. The Johnsons sued SCDSS and Debby Thompson (defendants), an adoption specialist at SCDSS. The suit alleged that SCDSS violated Jane's substantive due-process rights by placing her in foster care with Kameron while knowing that Kameron was sexually abusing Jane. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Thompson and SCDSS based on qualified and discretionary immunity. The Johnsons appealed the decision.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Traxler, C.J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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Concurrence (Wilkinson, J.)

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