The state of Washington will pay six people a total of $11 million to settle claims they suffered horrible abuse as children at the hands of their state-appointed guardians.
The Department of Social and Health Services announced the settlement today.
Although nothing can change what happened in the home, DSHS believes that the agreement fairly compensates these individuals, who can use the proceeds to meet any special needs they may have in the future, DSHS spokeswoman Chris Case said.
The plaintiffs attorney, Jeremy Johnston of the firm Messina Bulzomi Christensen, said he hopes the money helps his clients move forward from a painful period of their lives.
Obviously, what happened was terribly traumatic for them and continues to be, Johnston said. They hope to move on.
Alexander Gonzalez, Michelle Harris, Elizabeth Tapia and Aurora Tapia filed suit against the state last year. Rebecca Miranda and Anthony Winton joined the suit later.
They complained DSHS was negligent in issuing a foster-care license to Jose and Juanita Miranda and then not heeding multiple reports that the Mirandas were mistreating children in their care.
Johnston in 2011 described the Mirandas home as a house of horrors.
Among other things, the plaintiffs said they were:
• Forced to have sex with Jose Miranda or with each other while he watched.
• Made to eat expired food and then their vomit if they threw up.
• Beaten with a broomstick, cane, frying pan, electrical cord and stick with small nails in it.
Jose Miranda allegedly kept a locked room in the house where he had sex with his foster kids, the lawsuit stated.
The plaintiffs contended DSHS received multiple complaints about the Mirandas from teachers, neighbors, social workers, relatives, coaches and the children themselves from 1998 to 2005 but did nothing about them.
We regret that these children suffered at the hands of adults they had trusted to love and keep them safe, said Denise Revels Robinson, DSHS Childrens Administration Assistant Secretary.
Jose Miranda ultimately was convicted of sexually abusing some of the children. He died in prison in 2009 of congestive heart failure. His wife died three years prior to that of a drug overdose.
DSHS officials said the agency has made a number of changes in the way it administers the foster-care program, in part because of the case against the Mirandas. They include:
• Conducting more detailed screening of potential foster parents, including multiple meetings with the family and the seeking endorsements from extended relatives, references and collateral contacts.
• Formalizing the process of placing children in foster homes by involving social workers from different programs, the childrens families and service providers.
• Improving the documentation of case activities to assist supervisors in overseeing child-abuse investigations.
• The creation of a standardized, automated process that ensures allegations of child abuse are appropriately screened in and investigated statewide.
The case was scheduled to go to trial in U.S. District Court in Tacoma in February.
By settling prior to trial, the plaintiffs and the department avoid the expense of a costly and complex trial and further stress for the plaintiffs, DSHS said in a news release.