Last Update: 7/13/2020
There have been at least two allegations of staff members at the Edgewood Center for Children and Families sexually abusing minors who were staying at the facility in the Sunset District. The state has announced that if more allegations surface, the facility could have its license suspended.
These allegations involve two former staff members and two alleged victims, who both reported the alleged abuse to other staff members at the facility. One of the alleged victims was 14 years old, while the age of the second has not been released because the specifics of that case are confidential at this time.
Only one of these two former employees has been charged as of November 20, 2019. Kenneth Ofigho faces five counts of committing lewd acts on a minor. The 14-year-old alleged victim, in this case, reported the alleged abuse to another Edgewood employee in April, and that employee contacted state officials.
This report led to a social services investigation, which found that Ofigho “went into (a resident’s) bedroom in the middle of the night and inappropriately touched (the resident’s) breast and buttocks.” The investigator in this case also recovered security camera footage from the hallway outside of the alleged victim’s bedroom and did interviews that provided further evidence of the alleged abuse.
Ofigho was placed on leave and later terminated from his position. HE surrendered to the police on September 4.
In May of this year, Edgewood night facility manager Graham Bessermin was arrested for allegedly possessing child pornography and communicating with a minor for sex. Following his arrest, city agencies started their own investigation to determine if Bessermin had abused any children at Edgewood. One minor reported abuse by Bessermin at the facility in late 2018 and this allegation was immediately reported to California’s Department of Social Services.
Bessermin is accused of multiple incidents of inappropriate touching at the facility. However, he has not been criminally charged at this time.
The San Francisco Public Health Department and Human Services Agency has stopped referring children to three Edgewood programs following the release of the results of August’s sex abuse investigation. The city has asked the organization to come up with a new safety plan before referrals begin again. Approximately 30 children have been sent to other programs while referrals are suspended.
Attorney contributor Bobby Thompson represents sex abuse victims and their families in lawsuits against sexual predators and negligent third parties – including youth organizations that have failed to protect children under their watch from sexual predators. In researching the facts of this report, we asked for his insight on how the civil system can aid in victims’ pursuit of justice; He offered the following response.
“Programs and organizations that provide assistance to vulnerable children and teenagers have a critical legal duty to make sure those children are safe. As part of this legal duty, these organizations must have adequate protection against sexual abuse. Sadly, predators often seek out work in this field and other fields that involve working with kids.”
Mr. Thompson continued, “When allegations of sexual abuse arise in a youth organization, it’s important to investigate both the accused individual as well as the organization itself. Specifically, the organization must be investigated to determine if they had sufficient safeguards in place for preventing abuse. Some of these cases are preventable but still occur due to negligence by the organization – such as failing to report previous allegations of sexual misconduct involving a staff member.”