The good people at Leftyblogs Oregon could care less about situations like this. They are too busy reading what their cult leader is saying on Blue Oregon. At least these kids got out of our state to somewhere they'll get the love and support they need.
Gresham foster kids abused despite DHS checks
by Aimee Green, The Oregonian
Saturday April 04, 2009, 3:20 PM
The Oregon Department of Human Services has agreed to pay $2 million into a fund for the future care of twins who were allegedly abused by their foster parents -- the largest such settlement in the agency's history.
According to the civil rights suit filed in December 2007 in U.S. District Court, Kaylie and Jordan Collins were kept in makeshift cages -- cribs covered with chicken wire secured by duct tape -- in a darkened bedroom known as "the dungeon."
The brother and sister often went without food, water or human touch, according to the suit. The boy, who had a shunt put into his head at birth to drain fluid, didn't receive medical attention and resorted to hitting his head against his crib to relieve the pressure. When police and child welfare workers rescued the twins from the Gresham foster home, he was nearly comatose.
Portland attorney David Paul said although the twins were born underweight and had medical problems, the neglect they endured under foster care was so severe they will need care for the rest of their lives.
Jordan, now 6 1/2, has brain damage. He still wears a diaper and can't talk. Kaylie can say 25 to 50 words. Both suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are in the bottom 1 percent developmentally of children their age.
The twins are among the approximately 100 Oregon foster children who are abused or neglected each year while under the supervision of the state, according to DHS.
But few suits are filed against DHS because the obvious plaintiffs -- the injured or dead children's parents -- are often out of the picture.
"I don't think many of these kids have a champion," said Greg Kafoury, a prominent civil attorney in Portland. "There's no one to bring a case. There's no one who's sophisticated on their side."
Kafoury said that without the threat of legal action, the state agency has little incentive to change.
Oregon law limited the state's liability to $200,000 until 2007, when the Oregon Supreme Court threw out the cap for defendants who've been injured.
Paul filed suit in federal court on behalf of the twins' adoptive mother, seeking $12.8 million. Paul said the twins, who were born prematurely in August 2002, arrived at the foster home of Gail and Marvin Thompson after spending weeks in the hospital. They stayed about three years.
The Thompsons, both in their 60s, had successfully fostered scores of children, the state says. Since March 2004, state policy has required caseworkers to have face-to-face contact with children at least once a month, but Paul said they often skipped visits, sometimes phoning instead.
Paul said that, according to police reports, the floor of the children's room was covered in garbage and their sheets were saturated in dried excrement and urine. The windows of the room were blacked out.
One caseworker noted that while visiting the home, the children were brought into a common room, where they squinted at the daylight. State workers also didn't check to make sure the Thompsons were regularly taking Jordan to the neurologist, according to Paul.
Meanwhile, the Thompsons were taking in as much as $90,000 a year tax-free for caring for up to six children at a time, Paul said.
• Authorities investigated more than 100 reports of abuse of children in state-sponsored foster care in 2008. That was down slightly from 2007. Nearly 14,000 children went through the system last year.
• In 2004, Gov. Ted Kulongoski ordered DHS to issue a public report explaining what went wrong whenever a child dies or is seriously injured either under state supervision or after abuse was reported. DHS has issued 16 such reports, but not one for Kaylie and Jordan Collins.
• Oregon had 4,893 foster homes in 2007, down from 5,309 in 2006. The state struggles to find new foster parents.
• The child welfare division of DHS is understaffed by 19 percent and faces more cuts. The state would need to add 407 employees to adequately take care of the current caseload, according to a state analysis.
"They just started warehousing children in a dungeon of sorts, and the state just didn't follow up to see how the children were doing because these parents had been a very good resource for years," Paul said.
The neglect came to light after a Thanksgiving dinner in 2005 at the Thompsons' house. Three guests -- including at least two relatives -- were concerned enough to report the Thompsons to authorities.
Police investigated, but the Multnomah County district attorney's office decided not to prosecute. Prosecutors said child-privacy laws prevent them from explaining why.
Marvin Thompson, reached by phone, said the allegations laid out in the lawsuit are almost entirely false. He said he and his wife brought the children to all their doctor's appointments and fed them.
He said he and his wife didn't keep the children in a darkened room, but it's true they'd covered the cribs in a mesh -- not chicken wire. He said the mesh was for the children's safety, to keep them from crawling out and getting into trouble.
"We're not bad people," Thompson said. "We didn't mistreat these kids."
But DHS said the Thompsons deceived child welfare workers.
"The family went to elaborate lengths to hide the abuse, including having a fake nursery on display to deceive visitors and DHS caseworkers," said Patty Wentz, a department spokeswoman.
The state is not admitting any wrongdoing. The caseworkers for the twins, Elisa Deserano and Tammy Stanfill, still work for the agency. Wentz said she could not comment on any disciplinary action. Lynn Jenkins, who monitored living conditions, no longer works for DHS.
Wentz said caseworkers saw the children 39 times during their three-year stay, but it is not clear how many of those visits were in the home and not at a state office. The state lacks documentation showing how many times a worker in charge of monitoring living conditions visited the house.
But Wentz said in light of what happened to the Collins twins and other cases of children who were abused and neglected under the state's watch, her department has created new policies and clarified existing ones. For example, caseworkers are required to visit homes every two months and see children face to face at least once a month. Workers in charge of monitoring living conditions are required to walk through "each and every" room in a foster home twice a year.
If the settlement is approved by a judge, as is expected, Paul's law firm will collect 33 percent of the $2 million for its two years of work on the case. Of the remaining money, $500,000 will be immediately available for Kaylie and Jordan's benefit -- and that could include more speech therapy, swimming lessons and time spent with horses. Paul said the twins are responding well to interactions with the animals.
The rest of the money will go into a fund that is expected to grow to $4 million over the children's lifetimes. Paul said that will be enough to care for them if they outlive their adoptive parents.
Paul said the twins are thriving in their new lives, on a farmhouse and land in Michigan.
"They have this wonderful adoptive family," he said. "They go to school. They go to church. They are loved."