Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is A Lawsuit Enough?

Here is a story you won't soon be able to forget. What is DHS thinking??

Boy was raped, lawsuit says
It alleges he was victimized by another boy in foster care


August 13, 2008

A 10-year-old boy with a history of fetal alcohol and drug syndrome, neglect, sexual abuse and mental illness was raped in March by another boy in a Salem foster home, according to a $10.5 million civil lawsuit filed this week in Marion County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the boy and his guardian by a Salem lawyer, alleges that he was victimized because of negligence by the state, along with a local nonprofit agency that has a network of foster homes and a Salem couple who provided foster care for him.

Named as defendants are the Child Protective Services Division of the state Department of Human Services, Catholic Community Services and foster patents Jack and Evelyn Cannon of Salem.

According to the sexual battery complaint, the boy — identified by the fictitious name of "Dakota" in court papers — entered state custody and care in 2006 after being sexually abused and neglected. His mother has a history of substance abuse and prison incarceration, the suit says.

Before being placed in the Salem foster home, Dakota received mental health evaluation and treatment at a Portland facility called the Parry Center for Children. He then was placed in a foster home in Mill City, about 30 miles east of Salem, and later was admitted to a psychiatric unit at Providence Hospital in Portland.

In mid-January, the state arranged with Catholic Community Services to place Dakota in a Salem foster home, according to the lawsuit. At the time, it says, state protective services workers, mindful of the boy's mental illness and past sexual abuse, gave "strict orders" that he live in a home with no other children.
"In spite of these strict orders, there were at least three other children in the Cannon household," the suit says.

Dakota was sexually assaulted by a 12-year-old boy, himself a foster child taken into state care because of abuse and neglect, according to the complaint. The older boy "raped, molested, sexually and physically assaulted, intimidated and otherwise abused Dakota," the suit says.

Being sexually assaulted again caused Dakota severe physical and mental suffering, including post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, retarded emotional development and other problems, the suit says. He reportedly attempted suicide multiple times after being raped.

Still in state custody and receiving care at a secure treatment facility, Dakota will require counseling, medical care, medication, supervision and constant psychological evaluation for the rest of his life, according to the suit.

Salem lawyer James Shadduck, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of the boy, said late Tuesday that the case was investigated by Salem Police and resulted in criminal charges against the older boy. He said the juvenile court case has not been resolved.

Asked how Dakota is faring now, Shadduck said: "Terrible. He had a lot of emotional issues before this because his mom was in prison for drug- and alcohol-related offenses and apparently there was sexual abuse early in his life. He wasn't exactly in the best of shape emotionally before this, and the events surrounding what happened have exacerbated it. He has a hard time communicating verbally."

Before being placed in the Salem foster home, the suit says, Dakota was "prone to lashing out, exposing himself, and otherwise instigating instances in which he may create an environment that would invite sexual abuse and assault by other male children. This was a primary reason why Dakota was to be placed in a foster care environment without other children."

Shadduck said the defendants failed to ensure Dakota was the only foster child in the home.

"That was the key element that was supposed to be met, in addition to the treatment he needed in a temporary foster situation," he said. "Unfortunately, for whatever reason — Catholic Community Services or DHS or somebody — dropped the ball and he was placed in a home with another foster child, and the background he had was not suitable for that.

"I don't believe, based on what I can tell, that the Cannons had a clue that that (single child in the home) was supposed to be the situation. I think they still needed to maintain supervision and make sure the kid didn't get hurt and so forth. Those are different issues and responsibilities. But in regards to the communication, that was between the state and the agent they contracted with — Catholic Community Services."

The lawsuit says the Cannons were paid by Catholic Community Services to be foster parents for Dakota. The Cannons could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Mary Marshall, the communications director for Catholic Community Services, said that she could not comment on the lawsuit.

"We're unaware of such a case, and in any event we are bound by customer confidentiality, so we would be completely unavailable to comment," she said.
Catholic Community Services is a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves children, youths and families with special needs as well as adults with disabilities in the Mid-Willamette Valley and Central Oregon Coast.

It offers more than 20 programs providing family support services, independent living services and community homes for children in foster care and for adults with developmental disabilities.

The lawsuit asserts that the state failed to properly train Catholic Community Services employees and the Cannons "in the proper techniques and guidelines" so that they could be "qualified therapeutic intervention specialists who could recognize and determine Dakota's needs."

The suit also claims that the state failed to inspect the foster home and check records to make sure that there were no other children living there with Dakota.
It also asserts that the state failed to ensure that the foster home had an adequate safety plan, "requiring the Cannons to ensure that Dakota's safety would not be compromised during the course of their care and supervision of Dakota and the sexual predator."

Spokesmen for the state Department of Human Services and the Oregon Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the suit.

"We've received the lawsuit, and we're reviewing it at this time," said Jake Weigler, a spokesman for the AG's office. "That's about all I can say."

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