A Lacey foster-care provider has sued the state, contending that young people are being removed from foster homes without proper notice or explanation.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court, pits New Vision Programs against the state Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees foster-care programs.
Attorney Tom Rask seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent removals of the youths pending a full hearing. Rask expects to present arguments for the restraining order at 9 a.m. May 17 in Superior Court.
“We’ve asked them to tell us what’s wrong,” Rask said Friday. “They won’t tell us. They’re just coming and taking them away. You can’t fix what you don’t know.”
A small group of New Vision supporters picketed DSHS offices Friday to draw attention to the issue.
DSHS spokeswoman Chris Case said she could not address specific allegations in the lawsuit, but said the state is removing children from the program to ensure their safety. She said a series of complaints tied to the New Vision program surfaced late last year, prompting an investigation.
“We provided a complete report” to New Vision, Case said. “We worked with them over time on those issues. Some of them were corrected and then some new ones popped up. We became concerned after the new ones came in. We needed to ensure the children got out of there to ensure their safety.”
DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley added that the state stopped new placements at New Vision last month in light of safety concerns.
New Vision owns and operates four residential homes in Washington for young people in foster care. The homes — two in Lacey and two in Vancouver — serve about 20 young people, said program director Trent Hall. New Vision also operates two foster homes in Oregon, Hall said.
The organization receives payments from the state to provide the service, based on standard rates. Its contract with the state dates to 2010.
The legal complaint contends New Vision received favorable evaluations from the state after setting up the Lacey-based program. In December 2012, a foster child “harmed herself and abused staff,” which prompted the state’s investigation, the suit states.
The inquiry found one New Vision employee had not yet passed a background check, which led to a compliance order from the state. According to the suit, state officials conducted an unannounced inspection of New Vision sites in March of this year, which allegedly led to new concerns about health and safety.
Those concerns are not specifically described in the suit.
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486