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WASHINGTON gets no pat on the back for settling a lawsuit brought by six former foster children sexually and physically abused in a Tacoma foster home dubbed the “house of horrors.”

No telling how much higher the $11 million settlement would have been had it gone before a jury. The details are as horrific as the state’s complicity.

The state licensed Jose and Juanita Miranda as foster parents despite Juanita Miranda’s drug use and criminal record. She had lost custody of her own children. How she passed muster with the Department of Social and Health Services while under the supervision of the Department of Corrections needs an explanation.

The former foster children were regularly beaten, drugged and sexually assaulted in a padlocked room, the lawsuit alleged. They were allegedly forced to wear diapers and to fake ailments to increase the Mirandas’ foster-care payments. Multiple complaints about the couple were never fully investigated.

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“We regret that these children suffered at the hands of adults they had trusted to love and keep them safe,” Denise Revels Robinson, the head of DSHS’s Children’s Administration, said in a statement.

Save it.

More than words of regret are expected from DSHS after years of state payouts to cover agency mistakes.

Policy improvements put in place since the 2005 case began should address some of the problems. DSHS must work with other state agencies and stop relying solely on children’s statements that they are not in danger. The former might have uncovered Juanita Miranda’s criminal background; the latter recognizes children can be coerced into keeping silent about abuse.

Changes in leadership are overdue.

One is coming by default. DSHS Secretary Robin Arnold Williams plans to step down after Gov. Chris Gregoire’s term ends next month. That provides Gov.-elect Jay Inslee with a chance to not simply fill the post, but add a level of rigor to the agency.

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