Legal Action Against The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (WA DSHS)
Lawsuits, Settlments & Verdicts For Legal Claims Against DSHS
The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is Washington's largest state agency. DSHS provides shelter, care, protection, or other forms of support to approximately 2.7 million people in Washington State every month.
"A 2010 study identified errors that were common among DSHS cases that resulted in lawsuits. The report also revealed a major gap: The agency didn’t have a system in place to ensure that lessons learned reached all frontline staff."1
DSHS is divided into six direct service administrations and two support administrations.
- Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA)
- Behaviorial Health Administration (BHA)
- Children's Administration (CA)
- Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA)
- Economic Services Administration (ESA)
- Financial Services Administration (FSA)
- Rehabilitation Administration (RA)
- Services and Enterprise Support Administration (SESA)
DSHS/CPS is supposed to protect children, juveniles or volunerable adults from common forms of abuse and neglect which lead to severe physical and emotional injuries, and sometimes death, such as:
- Starvation / Depravation
- Physical Violence / Severe Beatings
- Isolation / Being Tied or Locked Up
- Sexual Abuse / Repeated Rape & Molestation
The Children's Administration (CA), Rehabilitation Administration (RA), and the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA) are frequently the focus of lawsuits in which the negligent acts of staff members within these DSHS agencies hae resulted in serious injury, harm or death. The claims typically involve one of the following:
- Failure of DSHS staff members to follow their own procedures.
- Negligent CPS investigations which result in failure to remove a child, juvenile or volunerable adult from a dangerous environment.
- Failure to intervene in cases of child rape and child sexual abuse.
- Negligent placement of a foster child which results in violence, neglect or sexual misconduct toward the child.
- Failure to contact law enforcement in cases of abuse or neglect of a child, juvenile or volunerable adult.
- Neglecting to offer medical care and/or treatment to a juvenile that is housed in a DSHS RA facility.
- Failure to investigate allegations of reported abuse toward a child, juvenile or volunerable adult.
- Sexual sexual-harassment or sexual violence toward a juevile house in a RA facility by a DSHS staff member.
- Failure to use the DSHS computer database to investigate chronic abusers of children, juveniles or volunerable adults.
Legal Claims Against DSHS Children's Administration (CA)
DSHS Children’s Administration (CA) is the public child welfare agency for the state of Washington coviering child safety and protection and the foster parenting program. DSHS CA works with children and families to identify their needs and develop a plan for services that support families and assure the safety and well-being of children. These services are designed to reduce the risk of abuse, find safe alternatives to out-of-home placement and assure safety and permanency for children in out-of-home care. However, when these systems fail because the staff members within these agencies do not do their jobs children can be abused, exploted and may get seriously injured or killed.
We most often see issues with these two specific agencies within the DSHS CA:
- Child Protection Services (CPS) - Child Protective Services is a state agency that investigates reports of child abuse and neglect.
- Foster Care Program - Children’s Administration works with foster families to provide temporary homes for children with the goal of ultimiately returning those children safely to their parents whenever possible.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Many types of cases are subject to a statute of limitations which prevent a lawsuit from being filed after a certain period of time. However in cases of childhood abuse, and especially childhood sexual abuse, there are special exceptions that can allow a claim to be pursued many, many years later.
Lawsuits Against Washington State's Rehabilitation Administration (RA)
The DSHS Rehabilitation Administration (RA) provides community and institutional services to juvenile offenders focused on work and education. Within DSHS RA there are three main agencies in which physical and sexual abuse of teens is a frequent problem. They are:
- Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) focuses on Washington State's high-risk youth that have been convicted of a crime. Youth may be committed to the custody of JR (juvenile detention) by county juvenile courts.
- The Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) is responsible for monitoring Washington State’s compliance with the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
- The Special Commitment Center Program (SCC) provides a specialized mental health treatment program for civilly committed sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences.
Legal Claims Against Washington State's Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA)
The Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA) is charged with providing a safe environment for adults who are vulnerable, access to home and community-based services, and quality in nursing facilities and other settings. Withing ALTSA there are two departments that are frequently the focus of legal claims. They are:
- Adult Protective Services - investigates reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults.
- Residential Care Services - provides licensing, certification, and regulatory oversight to long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult family homes.
Citations / Sources:
- Jenkins, Austen. "Child Abuse Reports Increase; Washington Case Workers Face Down 'Crisis'" NW News Network. 5 Dec. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.