News Release Listing
Contact: Thomas Shapley, 360-902-8007,
May 04, 2012
State settles lawsuit with young woman abused by her father
OLYMPIA – The Department of Social and Health Services has reached a settlement in the amount of $2.85 million with a young woman who was abused by her biological father seven years ago.
The Department cooperated in the criminal investigation that led to the father's prosecution on 14 counts of child molestation, child rape and incest. He was convicted of felony sexual abuse of a minor. He entered an Alford plea to three counts of child molestation to the third degree and was sentenced to 54 months in prison. He is a registered sex offender on Department of Corrections supervision.
"We regret that this young woman had to suffer at the hands of the adult she had trusted to love her and keep her safe," said DSHS Children's Administration Assistant Secretary Denise Revels Robinson.
"DSHS believes that the agreement fairly compensates this young woman, who can use the proceeds to meet any special needs she may have in the future," said DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley. The plaintiff's attorney had originally sought $12 million from state taxpayers in the lawsuit. Plaintiff's attorney had also brought a civil rights suit in federal court that was dismissed and that dismissal was confirmed on appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In August of 2004, local police placed both the plaintiff and her younger brother with their paternal grandmother based on allegations that her father had sexually abused her. The CPS social worker developed a safety plan in which the children were not to have unsupervised contact with their father pending the results of the investigation. The plaintiff subsequently denied the abuse had taken place.
Based on the daughter's denial, an inconclusive forensic exam for evidence of sex abuse and the father being released without criminal charges at that time, the Children’s Administration case worker closed this case as unfounded on October 23, 2004. Both children returned to live with their father. Less than a year later, the young woman disclosed sexual abuse by her father to her grandparents.
"We take to heart every case in which harm is inflicted on a child with whom we’ve had contact," said Revels Robinson. "We take each case personally and use each case as a lesson to evaluate our training and practices."
Best practice would have been for the Children's Administration social worker to follow up with local law enforcement and to pursue other information before closing the case.
In recent years, Children's Administration has made changes to help further strengthen the focus on child safety:
- Not simply taking a child's word that they are not being abused or neglected
- Conducting more thorough follow-up before closing a case, including interviewing all family members and making diligent efforts to interview all collateral contacts
- Implemented a higher level of review for all safety plans and improving supervisor training
- Changed protocol for responding to critical incidents by immediately conducting a staffing to learn what happened, what services have been provided and determine next steps to ensure child safety
- Strengthening the emphasis on child safety through comprehensive assessments in all child protection and child welfare programs
- Significantly fewer children have experienced repeat maltreatment since Gov. Chris Gregoire mandated quicker response times to reports of child abuse and neglect in 2005
- Today social workers respond by making contact with children regarding emergent referrals and non-emergent referrals 98 percent of the time within either 24-hour or 72-hour timeframes
- Washington is one of only two states that met five of seven performance measures in the latest round of federal Child and Family Services Reviews
"We can't emphasize enough the importance of family, neighbors and schools in keeping children safe from abuse and neglect. Public child welfare is a shared responsibility," Shapley said. "You can report abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult at 1-866 ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276) or, in an emergency situation, call 9-1-1."
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DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.