Wednesday, June 16, 2021
June 16, 2021

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Washington to pay millions to settle women’s ‘horrific’ foster-care abuse lawsuit

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TACOMA — The state has agreed to pay $16.5 million to settle a lawsuit that said a woman and her children suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her adopted father.

The woman, who is now in her 40s, was 7 when she was placed in a Tacoma-area foster home with a man who eventually adopted her.

She’s identified in court records by the initials D.H., and her daughters are identified as K.W., J.H. and A.H.

“Although nothing can erase the abuse and trauma in our past, we are glad that the State has accepted some responsibility for what occurred,” the family said in a statement Tuesday. “We hope this case puts renewed focus on the safety of the foster children in the State’s care, and that changes will be made to prevent any more children from slipping through the cracks.”

The women filed their lawsuit in 2018 in Pierce County Superior Court. The settlement was finalized last month.

“Though we know this cannot erase the past, we hope this settlement provides the family an opportunity for a sense of closure,” the Department of Children, Youth and Families said in a statement Wednesday.

The lawsuit gave this account of what happened:

The state put D.H. in the man’s home in about 1980. He was 30 and she was 13 the first time he got her pregnant. They ultimately had six children.

The state failed to remove her from the home or to do safety visits or an adoption placement study.

One Child Protective Services report noted the birth dates of D.H., the father and their then-10-month-old and 3-year-old children.

“I wonder what the relationship is between” the baby’s father and D.H.’s foster family, the author wrote.

The state “rubber stamped (his) request to adopt his de facto wife and foster child, D.H., guaranteeing that D.H. and her children would be further abused,” the lawsuit states. “… And of course, that happened and the abuse worsened.”

D.H. was 16 when K.W. was born. She had a son several years later, then a miscarriage. She had another son in 1992, J.H. was born in 1994 and A.H. was born the next year.

The man abused the daughters, punished them for resisting and took measures to end their suspected pregnancies.

Attorney Nathan Roberts, who represented the family, said the abuser died years ago and that he pleaded guilty in 1992 to reckless endangerment concerning the family.

“It was horrific abuse that spanned many, many years,” Roberts said. “… They do hope the case sends a message and that it will prevent future tragedies like this from occurring.”

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