The Department of Social and Health Services settled a lawsuit for foster care abuse in the amount of $7.3 million on June 4, 2011. DSHS paid out $6.2 million in 2007, $6 million in 2008, $2 million in 2009 and $2.5 million in 2010 for just four individual cases.
How much would the total be if it were compiled for the last 20 years? How many of these cases involved substance abuse and/or the foster parent’s criminal history being ignored?
The DSHS secretary has a lengthy list of crimes and negative actions which is supposed to be referred to for foster parent licensing. In the most recent case – a $7.3 million award – the foster parent’s crimes were overlooked.
Of equal concern is the foster parent licensing process. It defies common sense that it does not require an individual to be tested for drug and/or alcohol use. Just because an individual has no criminal history doesn’t mean there isn’t substance abuse. If a foster parent applicant isn’t willing to be tested, perhaps a child has been protected and a lawsuit avoided.
The state of Washington and DSHS should do everything possible to protect children placed in their care. A law needs to be passed to require all foster care applicants to be processed for substance abuse, and a provision needs to be included for random checks after the license is issued.