In child abuse cases in Washington State involving those in the foster care system, the State of Washington (through DSHS) is not automatically liable if a foster parent abuses a child. Instead, DSHS must be shown to be have been negligent in some manner in order to incur liability. This posting discusses some of the ways in which DSHS may be found liable.
Failure to Properly Conduct Background Checks of Foster Parents
Placing a child in foster care is a significant event. Most (if not all) of those placed in foster care have already suffered from harsh living conditions. Some children may have been abused or neglected, while others have suffered from one or both parents who are alcoholics or drug addicts. In many cases, parents have been incarcerated, or the reason the children are being placed into foster care is that one or both parents will be incarcerated and there are no close relatives willing to accept responsibility for the children.
Because of their backgrounds, these children are particularly vulnerable. DSHS, therefore, should take extreme care in making sure that these children are placed into loving, supportive environments. They should use all reasonable methods to closely screen foster parents to ensure that such people do not have any past history (such as a history of violence, alcohol or drug abuse, or mental illness) that would be detrimental to the care of children.
Tragically, however, DS HS does not take the proper screening that would enable them to weed out those who are unfit. When DSHS fails to do their job, the impact to foster children is horrendous. Children are physically abused, sexually molested, starved, and sometimes beaten to death. When this happens, DSHS must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.