Ever since Erin Olson and I won the largest jury award ever against the Oregon Department of Human Services in 2014 for one of their foster parents’ sexual and physical abuse of two young foster kids, I have been explaining to potential clients exactly what type of DHS cases I handle. I receive as many as ten calls per week from people who want to sue DHS for one reason or another, but most of those callers want to sue for taking their kids away from them or they need an attorney to get their kids back. That is not what I do. I only take cases in which DHS removed a child from her parents and negligently placed her in a foster home where she is later sexually or physically abused or severely neglected OR DHS negligently failed to remove a child from his parents and then he is sexually or physically abused or severely neglected. It is also important to have some sort of determination from either DHS, law enforcement or the court that the child was in fact abused.
DHS lawsuits are defended by attorneys at the Oregon Department of Justice. They will litigate to the bitter end even the most egregious negligence by DHS. Even the best civil cases have weaknesses and it is the defense lawyer’s job to find them and use them to their client’s advantage. Even very strong cases can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take years to litigate and resolve by settlement or trial.
While the Oregon Department of Human Services is far from perfect, I have a lot of respect for most of their caseworkers. I spent almost two years at the DA’s office prosecuting dependency cases and I worked with many dedicated protective service workers. They have an extremely difficult job and they get paid, well… like social workers. There is no way to make a perfect system, but we can do better. Until the State of Oregon hires enough workers to do the job and starts paying workers what they are worth, Oregon taxpayers will continue to pay large jury awards and settlements for mistakes made by DHS employees.
If your you or your child was abused in foster care or if DHS failed to intervene in your abuse and you are wondering if you can or should file a lawsuit, contact me as soon as possible to discuss your case. There are strict timelines on cases against the State. Waiting to contact an attorney can result in a loss of your right to sue.