Politics & Government

Little follow-up on care complaints

Child-welfare workers fumbled an alleged abuse case when they ignored complaints and returned a Puyallup boy to live with the people accused of beating him, Washington's top social services official said Thursday.

The case, which came under scrutiny after Pierce County sheriff's detectives criticized the state's response, will result in discipline for some employees, Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Robin Arnold-Williams said.

At a news conference, the DSHS leader said individuals and the overall system failed the 12-year-old boy, who has not been identified because of his age.

A high-level review of the state's handling of the case found that half of the eight complaints to Child Protective Services in 2004-05 should have been investigated by the state and sent to police, Arnold-Williams said.

Instead, those reports received little follow-up from the child-welfare agency.

This year, the state investigated another complaint that both the boy's grandparents had beaten him. But he eventually was returned home to live in an outdoor travel trailer with them, with his grandfather in charge of care.

Pierce County sheriff's detectives later pulled the boy from the home, and he alleged more extensive abuse - including being punched, beaten with a stick and cut with a fork. Criminal charges followed.

Arnold-Williams said she could not disclose specific punishments for state workers on Thursday because of union labor contracts and state administrative rules.