State officials have agreed to pay $367,500 to a woman who claimed caseworkers ignored 11 years of reports that she was being abused by her mother.
The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) had repeatedly received complaints about the mother, but did not intervene until she was arrested for threatening her daughter with a steak knife, said the daughter’s lawyer.
Even after that, the lawyer said, the state eventually allowed the mother to regain custody of the daughter, who then ran away.
“It’s hard to understand the state’s actions in this case,” said the lawyer, Tyler Firkins, who called the lawsuit’s resolution “the right outcome.”
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DSHS will pay the money but not admit wrongdoing, according to a settlement reached in October and finalized this week.
“On any given day, we’re taking care of 9,000 children,” said department spokeswoman Chris Case, who declined to discuss specifics. “We do the absolute best that we can to provide excellent service to everybody, and it doesn’t always happen, and when it doesn’t, we do whatever we can to improve the situation or to help rectify it.”
Raquel Granath, 23, filed the suit in King County Superior Court in December 2011, claiming the state had violated her rights by failing to protect her.
DSHS first became aware of the family in 1991, according to the lawsuit, when employees at a portrait studioreported hearing the mother hit her daughter when they went to get photos taken.
Later, teachers noticed scratches and welts on the daughter several times, according to the suit.
Caseworkers sent the mother information on counseling, parenting books and parenting classes, but did not remove the girl from the home, according to the lawsuit.
On Christmas 2002, the mother sat on her then-12-year-old daughter’s chest and held a steak knife to her forehead, according to the suit.
She pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault in connection with that incident, according to court records, and her daughter was taken from her home.
By then, according to the lawsuit, the daughter “had suffered substantially and tremendous damage had been done to her long-term mental health.”
The daughter briefly lived with an uncle, bounced among several foster-care placements, before the state returned her to her mother in June 2005, according to the suit.
Eventually, the daughter ran away from home.
Firkins said she is doing better now and was recently admitted to the University of Washington to study communications.
“She’s a good kid who has big plans,” Firkins said. “We’re excited for her.”
News researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report. Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.