MacLaren Children's Center Abuse

The MacLaren Children’s Center in El Monte was closed in 2003 as part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit that alleged the center failed to meet the mental health needs of the children housed there. Former residents of the facility, now adults, have come forward with heartbreaking tales of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.

The facility was operated by the government of Los Angeles County. The horrors these children endured are inexcusable. The sexual abuse attorneys at Cutter Law, PC are helping survivors hold Los Angeles County and the perpetrators accountable so they can receive justice and healing.

    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What is the MacLaren Children’s Center?

    The MacLaren Children’s Center, also known as MacLaren Hall, was a temporary shelter for children in Los Angeles County who were awaiting foster care placement after being removed from abusive homes. Los Angeles County began operating the center in 1961. 

    Despite being rated to hold 124 children, the facility held in excess of 250 children at any given time. Although the County of Los Angeles was required to place children within 30 days, children often languished at MacLaren Hall for a year or longer.

    The facility became a dumping ground and a prison for children. Juvenile delinquents, emotionally disturbed, and abused children were housed together. Violence and overcrowding dominated daily life for the children housed at MacLaren Hall, many of whom were there through no fault of their own and had nowhere else to go.

    Child Abuse at MacLaren Children’s Center

    For the tens of thousands of children that were housed at MacLaren, life was less safe and more nightmarish than the home environments from which they had been removed. The facility was inadequately staffed, and many of the workers were abusive, inexperienced, and poorly trained. Throughout the facility’s existence, children endured the following:

    • Physical abuse by staff and other children
    • At least 11 reports of arms broken by staff members
    • Sexual abuse
    • Emotional abuse
    • Filthy, unsanitary conditions
    • Illegal strip searches
    • Illegal, restraints
    • Excessive or inappropriate medications
    • Denial of basic needs such as food and water

    Children removed from abusive situations were re-abused by those who were supposed to protect them. They had no advocacy and nowhere to turn for help.

    Impacts of Child Abuse

    The impacts of child abuse are physical, psychological, and behavioral. Maltreatment of children has been linked to the following:

    • Higher risk of chronic diseases and cardiac events later in life, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke
    • Brain damage
    • Vision impairment
    • Memory impairment
    • Compromised self-control
    • Cognitive inflexibility
    • Disrupted neurodevelopment
    • Poor mental and emotional health
    • Attachment and social disorders
    • PTSD
    • Changes in the brain’s stress response architecture
    • Juvenile delinquency
    • Substance abuse
    • Unhealthy sexual practices
    • Future perpetration of abuse

    What should I do if I experienced child abuse at MacLaren Children’s Center?

    MacLaren Children’s Center should have been a safe haven where children received compassionate care. Instead, they were traumatized and forgotten. When Los Angeles County takes custody of a child, it takes on the responsibility of protecting the child and ensuring his or her needs are met. 

    The individuals who perpetrated the abuse at MacLaren Children’s Center should be criminally and civilly prosecuted whenever they can be identified, and Los Angeles County is civilly liable for allowing this to occur. The abuse and neglect of a single child would have been appalling and inexcusable. The fact that it occurred on such a large scale is outrageous.

    If you were sexually abused while residing at MacLaren Children’s Center, it is imperative that you contact an attorney right away. Our supportive attorneys at Cutter Law PC will provide you with compassionate, confidential care and file a civil claim against Los Angeles County and any individual perpetrators that can be identified.

    How long do I have to file a child abuse action?

    The statute of limitations for non-sexual physical abuse claims is two years after the victim turns 18, making it too late for physical abuse victims at MacLaren Children’s Center to file a claim. However, as of January 2020, the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse who were under 18 has been extended.

    Under this law, you can file a civil claim for sexual abuse until you have reached the age of 40 or up to five years after you become aware of the abuse. The law also provides a three-year look-back window, so previously time-barred survivors can file a claim.

    It is important to contact Cutter Law P.C. as soon as possible to allow us time to build a robust case on your behalf and help you identify individual perpetrators.

    What types of compensation are available?

    Victims of childhood sexual abuse face a lifetime of ill effects in addition to the initial trauma. The long-term effects may prevent survivors from finishing school, attending college, and maintaining gainful employment. Survivors are entitled to receive compensation for the full measure of damages.

    Economic Damages

    Economic damages are the verifiable, objective financial losses that stem from the abuse. This can include but is not limited to the following:

    • Medical expenses
    • Mental health counseling
    • Therapy
    • Lost wages
    • Loss of earning capacity

    Non-Economic Damages

    Non-economic damages are subjective, non-financial losses, such as the following:

    • Pain and suffering
    • Inconvenience
    • Mental suffering
    • Emotional distress
    • Loss of society
    • Humiliation

    While some states limit the amount of non-economic damages you can receive, California imposes no such limits.

    Punitive Damages

    Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are awarded as a punishment and deterrent against a defendant when the injurious acts were malicious, fraudulent, or oppressive. 

    California Government Code § 818 bars plaintiffs from claiming punitive damages against public entities, including Los Angeles County. However, the law does not prevent plaintiffs from seeking punitive damages against individual perpetrators who were employed by public entities.

    Do I need a lawyer to handle my MacLaren Children’s Center abuse case?

    During your stay at MacLaren Children’s Center, you were forced to fend for yourself in circumstances that would be overwhelming even for an adult. Those days are thankfully behind you, and you now have access to advocacy. Our sexual abuse attorneys at Cutter Law, P.C. can navigate the complex legal system for you and empower you to receive justice and compensation for the terrible abuses you suffered.

    Why is Cutter Law P.C. the best choice?

    Our law firm has decades of experience standing up to large companies and institutions on behalf of those who have been harmed by the wrongful and negligent acts of others. We provide caring support to each client while building the strongest case possible. 

    Our attorneys have a long record of success negotiating generous settlements and when necessary, winning substantial verdicts in court.

    Our results are the result of our experience, work ethic, and passion to help our clients. Below are a few examples of our results:

    • $2.4 million verdict in a case where medical misconduct resulted in the death of a father
    • $7.6 million verdict in a spinal cord injury case involving medical malpractice
    • $596,000 on behalf of an injured motorcyclist

    Our dedicated lawyers help survivors who have experienced abuse from such institutions as schools, nursing homes, healthcare institutions, and places like MacLaren Children’s Center, to receive just compensation so they have the resources they need to heal and live fulfilling lives.

    The statute of limitations can approach quickly. If you have experienced sexual abuse at MacLaren Children’s Center, you still have time to claim damages from those responsible. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.


    This is a high quality Law firm. This firm is top of the line and present information clearly and concisely.
    Read More
    This is a family owned business and extremely friendly. The whole crew is very profession and reputable. They are highly knowledgeable in their trade and bring a top level of expertise to any inquiry. I would highly recommend this Law firm. These are wonderful people and they will help you get the justice you deserve.
    Bryan H.
    Bryan H.
    My experience with Cutter Law has been extremely positive.
    Read More
    The staff are professional, responsive, and passionate about their clients. Highly recommend this law firm.
    Michael D.
    Michael D.
    Cutter Law is the one to call for sound legal advise and the firm to rely upon for solid support.
    Read More
    There's this thing about lawyers ... they often forget the first word in their title, Counselor at Law. Well, Margo Cutter practices the full spectrum of her profession. Though she has not represented me in litigation, I have benefited from her kind support and sound counsel regarding a traumatic injury I sustained due the negligence of others and the subsequent unbearable pursuit for justice. Thank you, Margo.
    I had the pleasure of working with the Cutter Law P.C firm recently and it was a very positive experience.
    Read More
    Their people were professional, thorough, and expressed true consideration in their deliverance. I highly recommend them to anyone.
    Miguel O.
    Miguel O.
    If aggressive, smart attorneys are what you need then look no further.
    Read More
    CL took on my personal injury injury case without me needing to put in a retainer fee all while making sure I was prepared and on time for my court dates. You can always try submitting a case evaluation to see if they are the right attorneys for you before committing.

    Schedule A Free Case Review

    Our Office Location

    401 Watt Avenue Suite 100
    Sacramento, CA 95864
    Phone: 916-290-9400

    Avvo Rating 10.0 badge
    Logo for Consumer Attorneys of California
    Logo for American Association for Justice Leaders Forum
    Logo for Martindale-Hubbell Peer Rated
    Logo for CCTLA
    Super Lawyers 2021 badget
    Scroll to Top