Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Judge Orders DSHS to Fix Foster System

Yesterday Judge Charles R. Snyder (Whatcom County Superior Court) ordered the state Dept. of Social and Health Services to take action within 30 days on a list of changes it agreed to in a settlement in 2004. Maureen O'Hagan, Judge demands state keep foster-care promises, Seattle Times, July 1, 2008.

The ruling came a decade into what's known as the Braam case, named for the lead plaintiff, Jessica Braam, who had been bounced through 34 foster-care placements by the time she was 12 years old. Her case came to be seen as emblematic of problems that plagued the foster-care system. At any one time, about 10,000 Washington children are in foster care.

Attorneys for the children, led by Casey Trupin, a lawyer for Columbia Legal Services, and Tim Farris, a personal-injury lawyer from Bellingham, had argued that Jessica — and thousands like her — had been harmed by the state's broken system. Farris, for example, has represented numerous children who have been sexually or physically abused while in foster care.

After years of wrangling, the Braam case was settled in 2004. The state agreed to a timetable to meet certain measurable goals, such as reducing the number of children who bounce through placements. In addition, it created a panel to track the agency's progress.

The panel has repeatedly found that the state has fallen short. But because the panel has no enforcement authority, there were no real consequences. Monday marked the first time that the plaintiffs had thrown up their hands and taken the state back to court.

"If this isn't a stalemate, I don't know what is," Trupin argued in court.
For lots more information about the case, see BraamKids. This site, created by the plaintiffs, has background on the case, information about the oversight panel, the settlement agreement, and more. The Washington Supreme Court opinion in the case is Braam ex rel. Braam v. State, 150 Wash.2d 689, 81 P.3d 851, Westlaw link PLOL link (free registration required) (Dec. 18, 2003) (Wash., 2003)

Casey Trupin is a UW alum and a member of the PILA Hall of Fame.

1 comment:

Mary Whisner said...

Here is a comment from the father of a child in foster care. I have edited it to remove identifying details. -- Mary

Regarding the WA State foster care system. My non-verbal autistic
son, C.N. has endured founded physical abuse in two separate
foster homes. Not one foster parent who abused my son has ever been charged with criminal child abuse.

As example, C. was removed from a home in [SW Washington]. A month later during four days of "Dependency hearings" not a word was mentioned as for C.'s removal. DSHS and the attorney generals concealed C.'s abuse (along with four other disabled children) his failure to thrive, his pneumonia while in foster care, his ulcer and stomach infection, etc. Instead the state made me out to be a monster and bad parent.

Nice job Christine Gregoire, who was right when she said she "fixed" large judgments against the state.

My son is now placed in [Eastern Washington], even though I live in Seattle. Likewise my son's current foster mother and her "boyfriend" have made me out to be a monster for which visitation has been denied for over two years.

Strange in that the several times I was allowed to visit C., he
was brought to the visit with hand prints all over his little body
and apparent injuries: Chipped front tooth, missing front tooth and now i'm informed two missing front teeth. There are several CPS
reports which DSHS has refused to provide myself or my public
defender as they're "inconclusive". On a regular basis, so called "sworn affidavits" are allowed by the King County Superior court, and my loss of due process rights are then never appealed. It's a no win situation, as the public defender simply allows this injustice. C. is now 13 years old and needs an attorney to represent his interests. I swear the above is true and correct, M.