A $100 million lawsuit filed in Oregon argues that the State’s beleaguered Department of Human Services committed gross negligence, allowing three children to suffer horrific abuse at the hands of a foster family in Keizer, according to the Statesman Journal.
House Of Horror: Lawsuit Says Oregon DHS Failed Foster Kids
Casey Miller is now serving 30 years in prison on a truly horrifying conviction. In September 2017, Miller pleaded guilty to first-degree sodomy, KVAL reports, admitting that he had repeatedly raped one of his foster children, a girl now 12-years-old.
Before his conviction and sentencing, Miller, along with his wife Melissa, fostered at least three children in their squalid Keizer apartment. In fact, according to court documents, the couple was recruited by DHS to become foster parents, despite the fact that neither had any experience caring for children.
Three Children Suffered Hideous Abuse, Neglect In Foster Home
Their first foster child, named as J.M., entered the home at the age of two. Within a month, J.M. exhibited obvious signs of abuse and neglect, court documents report. The boy was bruised from head to toe, cut across his face, eating “compulsively.”
Yet DHS case workers did nothing, the lawsuit claims, apparently accepting Melissa Casey’s excuse for the injuries, that J.M. had hurt himself, at face value. They never spoke to Casey Miller, a deep failure in oversight, the lawsuit claims.
Case Workers Ignored Signs Of Sexual Abuse, Lawsuit Claims
Melissa used the same explanation when bruises began to show up on A.S., a five-year-old girl. A.S. was “harming herself,” Melissa said, and, apparently, the DHS case workers accepted that excuse, too, even though the young child had also complained to them of incontinence and itching in her genitals, two classic signs of childhood sexual abuse. The five-year-old girl told case workers that she would rather be dead.
The Millers’ two-bedroom home had no heat and, in 2013, case workers from DHS noted that the apartment’s filthy conditions were getting worse. Visible mold grew on the walls, shelving units crammed with bric-a-brac were about to topple. Yet case workers made no effort to remove the Millers’ foster children from their unsafe living environment.
A 1-Year-Old Girl With 7 Broken Bones
R.L. entered the home in 2013. She was 10-months-old and, at the time, hitting her developmental milestones with flying colors. Soon, however, case workers noticed that R.L.’s development had flagged; she was extremely quiet and seemed to have trouble walking and crawling.
A few months later, R.L. turned up in the emergency room; she had seven broken bones, all of which were “consistent,” medical examiners said, “with blunt force trauma or a wrenching motion.” In an ensuing criminal investigation, Casey Miller admitted to mishandling the child, receiving a charge of first-degree criminal mistreatment as a result.
Lawsuit: DHS Hid Injuries To Deflect Attention
But DHS, the lawsuit contends, worked to keep the story out of the headlines, attempting to sell a spurious narrative that blamed the girl’s injuries on brittle bone disease. Medical professionals at Oregon Health and Science University determined that R.L. did not, in fact, have brittle bone disease. And, to top things off, DHS failed to notify the foster childrens’ parents of Casey Miller’s conviction on child mistreatment charges.
It was only six years after she’d first entered the Miller’s home that A.S. worked up the courage to tell a DHS employee that Casey Miller had been sexually abusing her for years. Miller forced her to watch pornography during “nap time,” then coerced her into performing oral sex with the promise of a chewing gum “reward.” Casey admitted to his disgusting abuse shortly after, receiving a 30-year sentence in 2017.
Now, the man, his wife Melissa, Oregon’s Department of Human Services and several individual case workers are facing civil action. Filed by parents on behalf of their children, the complaint demands $100 million in compensation, including $75 million in punitive damages.
Oregon Child Welfare Office Faces Decades Of Scandal
Oregon’s Department of Human Services is responsible for the care of some 7,600 foster children on a daily basis. It’s record on child safety is far from first-rate.
A report drafted by Oregon’s secretary of state, published on January 31st, found deep and troubling problems at the State’s Department of Human Services. Overburdened by unmanageable case loads, and losing experienced staff members at an astronomical rate, Oregon’s DHS has paid out around $39 million in legal settlements over the last 12 years because, in the report’s own words, the state agency was unable to “consistently keep children in their care safe from abuse and neglect.”
DHS Drops Promising Reform Within Months
The dysfunctional agency, which has frequently been accused of “stonewalling” investigators from the secretary of state’s office, has done little over the last decade of scandal to actually improve the lives of foster children. “Poor planning, poor execution and eventual abandonment” have led the agency to drop numerous attempts to encourage accountability within its ranks, the Statesman Journal writes.
A 2016 order to increase child abuse and neglect investigations, for example, was terminated after only three months – and successful investigations fell to their previously-dismal level. The agency’s tactics are also suspect, secretary of state officials say: “field staff reported the use of questionable management tactics to push staff to complete more investigations, including threatening to take away scheduled leave time or put staff on administrate leave.”
Employees Harassed, Work Under Threat Of Dismissal
And, inside the agency, employees work in a culture of bullying and intimidation, investigators say, as high-level officials hope to harass their staff members into silence. One manager told the secretary of state’s office that employees were told that, if they testified before Oregon’s legislature, they would lose their jobs.