Washington State agrees to pay $9.35 million settlement for children abused in foster care under watch of DSHS

Sep 13, 2023 | Firm News, Sexual Abuse

The State of Washington has agreed to pay a $9.35 million settlement for children who suffered years of physical and sexual abuse while under state foster care, announced PCVA partner Darrell Cochran.

The three young children were subjected to constant, unimaginable trauma, both from their biological father and an older, sexually aggressive youth who was co-placed in the same foster home.

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) completely failed to fulfill its duties and obligations to protect these children as legally required, Darrell stated.

“There are essential duties and obligations a state upholds when it decides to take children under its care,” Darrell said. “This includes rigorous initial investigations, periodic assessments and consistent monitoring of foster home environments. Additionally, there’s an overarching obligation to protect these children from any discernible dangers. In this case, the state flagrantly failed to fulfill even its most basic responsibilities.”

The Washington Supreme Court has reiterated multiple times that the state is charged with the vital task of preserving the physical, mental and emotional well-being of every child. Even if the child is placed in a foster home, the state remains the primary legal custodian. It signifies that the foster home is an extension of the state, required to act in the child’s best interests.

Case workers entrusted with the care of the children knew their father had a history of child sexual and physical abuse, and also of the history of an older boy with an abusive past who was placed alongside the young children in the home. The children’s primary case worker later admitted she would not have placed them in the dangerous home had she been aware of the full circumstances.

Associate Patrick Brown, who served as a key member of the legal team in the case, stated: “The aftermath of such prolonged and intense trauma is devastating. These children not only suffered physically but also bear the deep scars of mental anguish and emotional distress, and are faced with an uncertain future. This settlement provides them with comprehensive care, support and counseling they critically require for a lifetime of healing ahead.”

Darrell stated: “This case serves as a solemn reminder of the immense responsibility the state holds in protecting and nurturing children in its care. It underscores the necessity for constant vigilance, regular monitoring and proactive actions to prevent such tragedies in the future.”

This settlement is not just a victory for the children, but it also serves as another resounding wake-up call for systemic change within the Department of Social and Health Services and foster care systems nationwide.