December 06, 2003

Foster child assault case

Regarding your Nov. 24 report on the $8.8 million jury award against the state of Washington over charges that state social workers neglected the problems of two delinquent teenagers in foster care: I'm trying to think of a solution for the general problem presented in this case that would assure that county social service agencies act responsibly (on behalf of the public-taxpayer).

A few years ago, while serving as a Law Guardian, I discovered that our county DSS had unofficially told its staff social workers and all private agencies that no child was to be placed in the (more-expensive) restrictive forms of foster care if the child's family was willing to participate in (cheaper) at-home "preventive" services. This meant that children who were clearly out-of-control and dangerous were allowed in the community, schools, etc. The sole purpose was to save money.

In one case, where I was the law guardian, the social workers covered up problems to keep the judge from placing the child into a restrictive placement, after the judge had declared from the bench that even one additional incident would result in the child being taken from his home. They repeatedly told the judge, in writing, that all was going well -- not mentioning that the boy had been suspended from school over 20 times in one school year, often for violent outbursts.

If such a child causes severe injuries, isn't the County responsible in some way? Has it been pennywise but pound foolish with the public trust and purse?

Any thoughts? -- David Giacalone

Posted by Walter Olson at December 6, 2003 12:43 PM