Ohio child abuse survivors tell their stories

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Three central Ohio residents who endured horrific foster care child abuse have joined several young survivors going public with their stories.

Julius Kissinger and his siblings, Jermaine Ferguson and Valnita Ferguson have posted accounts of their experiences online as part of a nationwide foster-care awareness campaign, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1YP0lCx).

“The reason I’m doing this is to give kids a voice who don’t have one,” said Julius, 22. “We were those kids once.”

Their adoptive parents, James and Vonda Ferguson, were convicted in 2008 and 2009 and are serving 65-year sentences for what investigators called some of the most horrific child abuse in central Ohio.

Five of the couple’s six children were tortured and beaten until they bled at the couple’s Springfield and Marysville homes. The children were hit with ball bats and duct-taped to beds.

Court records showed that child-welfare workers might have had suspicions, but the children weren’t rescued until 2004. They were later scattered to different homes.

Julius Kissinger, of suburban Columbus, was placed with a family who adopted him at age 15. Jermaine, 25, of Columbus, was taken in by a family who helped prepare him to be emancipated from the foster system. But Valnita, 20, of Richwood, struggled to find a permanent home.

Sandy Santana, the executive director of the New York City-based legal advocacy organization Children’s Rights, said that part of the campaign’s aim is to put a real face on foster care.

“The stories highlight some of the systemic issues, but they’re also very hopeful,” Santana said. “There’s great resiliency.”


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com