Washington state recently agreed to a $3 million settlement pertaining to a sexual abuse lawsuit filed on behalf of two sisters who were repeatedly abused by their grandfather after Child Protective Services (CPS) placed them in his care. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) was named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Criminal Component of Sexual Abuse
According to court documents, the two sisters, currently ages 12 and 13, were removed from the custody of their biological mother in 2004 due to allegations of abuse. After spending a few years in multiple foster homes, CPS placed them in the care of their maternal grandfather, 61-year-old Emanuel Finch, in 2007.
The lawsuit contends that after being placed in Finch’s care, the girls spent the next three years being sexually abused on a weekly basis. One of the girls reportedly told a friend at summer camp about the abuse, and the girls apparently put up with the abuse because they were tired of moving around from home to home, as they had done before living with their grandfather.
Police investigated the allegations and Finch was eventually charged with nine counts of first-degree child rape and first-degree child molestation in 2010. A jury convicted him on all counts and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Lawsuit Claimed DSHS Negligence
The sexual abuse lawsuit contends that if DSHS had been more diligent in investigating allegations of Finch’s behavior, the abuse could have been prevented and the young children would not have suffered in the way that they did.
According to court documents, after being placed in foster care in 1996, the girls’ mother – Finch’s daughter – reported that her father had sexually abused her. Later on in the same year, Finch’s ex-wife had reported that he was a child molester and that he had spoken openly about sexually abusing their daughters at a young age. Despite these obvious warnings, DSHS did nothing to investigate the claims.
In 2007, the young girls’ mother attempted to report to a DSHS caseworker that Finch was likely to be abusing the children. According to the lawsuit, the caseworker told the girls’ mother that she didn’t believe her.
Now, the girls have been placed together into a much more positive foster home. In the settlement, the state agreed to pay $1.5 million to each of the child victims.