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Foster Care Sexual Abuse

While it may seem unthinkable and unimaginable, there are instances when parents simply cannot care for their children. When this happens, whether this happens in Seattle, Kirkland, Olympia, or Bellingham, the children must go somewhere. They usually end up becoming wards of the state of Washington.

DHS is the agency that oversees the welfare and wellbeing of these displaced children. Currently, there are approximately 10,000 foster children in the Washington State system. Many of these children are in this predicament because of the opiate and drug crises that has ravaged Washington States and other states in the country.

The state will then attempt to find foster parents to parent children. While many times the children are safely placed in the custody of loving foster parents, there are instances when children are abused, physically, sexually, and emotionally by their foster parents. In the event this happens, the State of Washington holds responsibility for the injured children’s damages.

Washington State Foster Care Laws

The law surrounding the duty and responsibility Washington State has towards foster care children has, like many laws, evolved and changed over the years. Recently, there was a tragic case in which five children, all girls, were consistently abused both sexually and physically by their foster parents. The girls sued the State of Washington and the case went all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court.

This case allowed the girls to hold the state of Washington liable for failing to protect them from their abusive foster parents. The Washington State Supreme Court reasoned that the State of Washington is responsible for the care of children removed their birth parents. In the opinion, Justice Stevens said, “While the State of Washington contracts with foster parents and others to provide day-to-day care for dependent children, the state is the custodian and caretaker of foster children.”

Typically, social workers will work with the foster parents and act as a kind of liaison or middle-man between the state of Washington and the foster care family. In the particular case that went before the State Supreme Court, the Pierce County Sheriff Department responded to the children’s requests for aid after being abused for years, even though, until that time, there had been no instances of abuse and all signs pointed to the parents as being ideal foster parents.

Legally, these cases present a unique challenge to people who wish to sue the State. There are a number of legal theories available to children, or adults who were in the foster system, to sue the state. Before discussing them, however, it is important to understand the basic legal premise behind any negligence lawsuit.

First, you must show that there was a duty that existed by the state. In other words, no matter how horribly the state may have acted in placing a child in foster parents’ homes that had a history of abuse, it must be shown that the state had a duty to protect children. Up until recently, this was very debatable, but the recent Washington State Supreme Court case held that the state does in fact have a duty.

Second, you must show that duty was breached in some way. The most common and perhaps easiest way to do this would be to show that the state knew, or reasonably should have known, that the State of Washington made a mistake in placing the child in the foster parent’s home. This may or may not be an easy thing to accomplish and may or may not validate your case. The evidence of the particular case will determine how wrong or improper the State was in placing the child in the care of a particular foster parent.

Third, you have to show there was an injury that was the result of the state of Washington’s breach. This is normally not too hard. You simply have to show that the injury the child suffered was 100% related to the mistake of putting the children in the foster parent’s home. For instance, in the case decided by the Washington State Supreme Court, the girls who sued were able to show that they were abused and mistreated because the State of Washington failed to properly supervise and ensure a safe environment for them.

Once you have established these elements, you will then have to determine the best course of action for the lawsuit. Probably the most viable option is to file a lawsuit under the theory of negligent supervision, meaning that the State had a duty, and they failed in that duty, to properly protect the child from the danger posed by the foster parents. This may or may not be easy to accomplish depending on the facts of your case.

Common Injuries for Foster Children

Children who have been injured in foster care often suffer terrible emotional, physical, sexual, and psychological abuse by their foster parents, in the worst situations. The parents these children have been entrusted with can turn into their captors and abusers. Few things are worse than this for a child to endure.

Children who live through this experience need counseling and a lot of therapy from a qualified and experienced therapist, counselor, and psychologist, or a combination of the three, to properly address their needs and wounds. While the injuries these children suffer are not obvious to the eye, they are every bit as real and impactful as a physical wound. These emotional and psychological injuries rarely just go away or heal on their own. Rather, they need to be addressed and properly treated by the appropriate medical professional.

How The Jackman Law Firm Can Help

The Jackman Law Firm has the resources and know-how to effectively handle your claim against the State of Washington for the injuries a child suffered while in the foster care of a parent. While these cases are difficult to prove, we have successfully done it before and we know how to help you during this time of need. The Jackman Law Firm can help you recover the following:

  • Money for emotional trauma
  • Money for lost wages
  • Money for lost future income
  • Money for bills for therapists or counselors

These cases are defended vigorously by the State of Washington and require a lot of dedication and tenacity to successfully win. The State is going to fight very hard to make sure that they do not have to pay any damages and set further precedent for the State being responsible for the injuries of foster children. The Jackman Law Firm can help you during this difficult time.

Feel free to call for a free consultation.

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