Everyone deserves to live a life free from abuse – physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, many people in the state of Washington and throughout the U.S. still suffer from all kinds of abuse. And one of the saddest examples of this is the pandemic of sexual abuse within the foster care system.
While it is true that state agencies that place children in foster care homes are improving, these agencies are still understaffed, underfunded, and undertrained. These agencies have a duty to mitigate the risk of sexual abuse within a foster home through background checks and candidate screening.
When they fail to do so, they fail to protect the lives of the young people in their trust and open themselves up to investigation and accountability for this failure.
At the Gilbert Law Firm, we have worked with many victims of foster care sexual abuse to help them achieve compensation and justice that allows them to move forward with their lives.
Foster care in Washington
There are more than 10,000 children in the foster care system in Washington. Many times, foster care is a temporary solution while the parent or parents work to be reunited with their children. In other situations, the children may be adopted by a family to provide them with a new home.
The problem occurs when foster care agencies, the Department of State and Health Services, or Child Protective Services negligently place children in an environment in which they are beaten, raped, molested, or sexually abused.
YWCA published statistics that suggest that a very high percentage of children (93%) who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser as family members, family friend, or community member.
According to the child advocacy organization Darkness to Light, foster children are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children who reside with both of their biological parents.
Young people subjected to physical and sexual abuse in these situations are left physically and emotionally traumatized for life.
The YWCA found that the impact of abuse can include:
- Educational outcomes,
- Heightened symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder
- Higher suicide rates,
- Drug abuse,
- Higher likelihood of teen pregnancy,
- Chronic health issues
How the Washington foster care system failed Michael Smith
When Michael Smith was growing up, his single mother tried to make ends meet to take care of Michael and his brothers.
But when Michael was a teenager, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services billed his mother $800.20 for the foster care of two of her sons and took them from her custody.
In the following years, Gerald or “Jerry” Duane Allen became Michael’s foster parent. Although Michael originally saw Allen as a friend to his family, Allen began sexually abusing Michael. The abuse went on for years.
What’s shocking about this case is that prior to the State of Washington licensing Allen as a foster parent, Allen had already been charged with molesting a 10-year-old boy, and spent time in a psychiatric hospital for treatment. Doctors had found Allen to have molested multiple young boys. His psychological records suggested her was “considered a sexual psychopath,” and that “further sexual acting out” was a possibility.
Nonetheless, the State approved Allen’s foster parent status for Michael, which led to years of horrific abuse.
As a result of years of barbaric sexual abuse from the age of 12 through 18, Michael Smith became plagued with a lifetime of anger issues, substance abuse problems, PTSD, and other psychological disorders. As a result of the abuse induced psychosis, Smith became a complete social outcast. He was unruly, unpredictable, and unmanageable. He was terminated by two law firms before seeking help from Mr. Gilbert. Bill Gilbert stepped up and represented Michael Smith when no one else would. His firm tirelessly fought to get Michael the justice he deserved. Ultimately Bill Gilbert and his legal team uncovered the smoking gun documents that proved Michael Smith was a product, or victim of an incompetent foster care system.
After two years of intense litigation, the Department of Social and Health Services finally acknowledged its error. Mr. Smith received substantial justice.
What to do if the foster care system led to child abuse
Foster care agencies are required to follow protocol regarding how they vet foster parents. This includes conducting extensive background checks and screening.
Unfortunately, these procedures may not always be followed. For predators looking to find a child to foster, they may develop ways to get around these procedures.
If a foster care agency acted negligently and is responsible for the abuse a child suffered with a family the agency placed them with, the agency could be held liable for the harm that befell the child.
In some cases, though, foster care agencies are state governmental programs, which may have immunity from such lawsuits.
It is important to contact a lawyer with experience in these types of foster care sexual abuse cases to discuss the possibility of pursuing a claim against a negligent foster care agency.
Contact the Gilbert Law Firm
At the Gilbert Law Firm, we’re known for taking on the most brutal and complex cases against the most difficult defendants – the cases that no one else wants to handle. Sexual abuse in the foster care system cases are painfully difficult – but it’s important work, and the victims deserve justice. And we’re here to help. Contact us today to talk with our attorneys.
Disclaimer: The blog published by the Gilbert Law Firm marketing team for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice or a substitute for legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. Readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.