Two years ago, a similar investigative report from KOMO prompted action and promises from the state’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) of positive changes in the future. However, since data on recent years has become available, it becomes clear that those changes have not occurred.
State Ombudsman Mary Meinig believes that changes have been made for the better, but that troubling trends still illustrate the need for more improvements.
“We all get fatigued over the same recommendations,” she says. “Will we ever reach a day where we have no child abuse? Great – but we’ve got a ways to go.”
Rachael Emery is just one of hundreds of parents who has dealt with the consequences of neglect and abuse the state has enabled in the last decade. Amidst a custody dispute between her and former boyfriend Michael Vanderveur over their son, Ti-Ryn, Vanderveur took the boy and refused to give him back. The state declined to intervene based on reports that there was an ongoing custody battle.
“I begged her to at least put him in CPS care until it played out in court,” Emery said. But the state never intervened, and Vanderveur caused serious injuries to the boy. “If they did [intervene] he’d still be here,” she adds.
The collateral damage of the state’s negligence does not stop with the traumatized families and loved ones of the children who have died, however. The latest federal review of Washington’s DSHS could lead to a minimum $1.5 million penalty for the abuse and neglect statistics of recent years.