The state was supposed to protect the 7-year-old they placed in a Tacoma-area foster home.
Now 45, she says in a lawsuit that state officials failed, and that she suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of the foster father who eventually adopted her.
He also abused his three daughters, who she gave birth to, according to the lawsuit the mother and daughters have filed concerning the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
“I think it took her a long time to process the fact that her whole life had been one huge victimization,” Nathan Roberts, an attorney representing the women, said of the mother, who is identified in the lawsuit by the initials D.H.
Spokeswoman Debra Johnson said the agency wasn’t in a position to comment about the pending litigation.
“Right now we don’t have any information to share,” she said.
D.H. and daughters K.W., J.H. and A.H seek unspecified damages in the lawsuit, filed July 26 in Pierce County Superior Court. The claim for damages, filed with the state as a precursor to the lawsuit, sought $8 million, Roberts said.
The women’s abuser died several years ago, the attorney said, and pleaded guilty in 1992 to reckless endangerment concerning the family.
The lawsuit gives this account of the man’s behavior:
He started raping D.H. soon after the state put her in the home, in about 1980. He eventually was allowed to adopt her, and continued abusing her into her adulthood.
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.”
State workers allegedly failed to do safety visits or an adoption placement study, which would have involved asking D.H., away from her foster father, if she felt safe in the home and wanted to be adopted.
“Had a social worker spoken to her in private and conducted that safety visit that was required, she readily would have disclosed what was going on in the home,” Roberts said.
Ultimately, they had six children.
She was 13 the first time he got her pregnant. He was about 30.
Instead of removing her from the home, a social worker allegedly congratulated her.
“She remembers that very clearly,” Roberts said.
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 lawsuit says the man abused the daughters, and “would punish them for resisting his advances by suffocating them, holding a knife to their stomach, and beating other family members.”
If he thought they were pregnant, “he punched their stomachs, forced them to do extra physical labor, and used a metal clothes hanger to end the suspected pregnancy,” according to the suit.
The state removed the children from the home after D.H. took one of them to the emergency room in 1992, and the child was found to be severely malnourished. Ultimately, the state returned the children to the home.
The state realized it had a file on D.H. from when she was a child in the home, and a social worker noted her having the man’s baby was unusual.
A Child Protective Services report about that hospital visit, which Roberts obtained as part of the lawsuit, noted that D.H. had been previously placed with a foster family with the same surname as D.H.’s baby’s father.
The author of the report wrote: “I wonder what the relationship is between” the baby’s father and D.H.’s foster family.
That report includes the birth dates of D.H., the father and their then-10-month-old and 3-year-old children.
Roberts said it’s not clear why the state didn’t intervene over the years.
“That’s one of the questions we’re eager to find answers to during litigation,” he said.