The state didn’t make sure the man was the baby’s father.
He’d recently choked his wife.
And several months after the Department of Social and Health Services recommended the child live with the man, he allegedly beat the 18-month-old so severely she’s now quadriplegic.
The allegations are in a lawsuit filed on the girl’s behalf against the state Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court. It was brought by a guardian ad litem, who the state appointed to represent the girl’s interests in court.
Never miss a local story.
“This was clearly a preventable tragedy that has resulted in really horrific consequences,” said Timothy Tesh, the girl’s attorney.
A DSHS spokeswoman said the agency couldn’t comment on the case.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, identifies the girl only by the initials M.D. Court records say she’s now 3 and lives at a rehabilitation facility in Walla Walla.
The suit gives this account of how she got there:
As a baby, she was living with the man and his wife — who is not her mother — at his home in Austin, Texas, in early 2014. During that time, he assaulted his wife by choking her and forcing her leg behind her head.
The baby was brought back to Washington, where she lived with her mother until DSHS took the child away in June of that year. Her attorney said he couldn’t discuss why the child returned to Washington or why the state took her from the mother.
DSHS believed the Texas man was the child’s father, but never verified that, despite a Pierce County Juvenile Court ordering paternity testing, because he wasn’t on the birth certificate.
A Texas social worker reported the domestic violence incident with the man’s wife to DSHS, but the agency still recommended in March 2015 that M.D. go back to Austin.
There were no “red flags” from Texas, the agency told the court, even though staff members hadn’t yet reviewed a home study from Texas. The study showed the man had a more extensive criminal history than he’d reported to DSHS, which hadn’t verified the information.
“In fact, the assigned social worker did not read the home study until March 24, 2017,” the lawsuit alleges, two years after DSHS recommended M.D. live in Texas.
She and an older half-sister had been living with foster parents, who “provided both girls with a safe and loving home and were interested in adopting both girls,” according to the suit.
But in April 2015, M.D. was sent to Texas, where, on July 9, 2015, the man called paramedics to say she was having a seizure.
Emergency responders found the child with 16 rib fractures, lacerations to her liver and spleen, a brain bleed and bruising on her face. At one point her heart stopped at the hospital.
The man was charged with seven counts of injury to a child with serious bodily injury, which is a first-degree felony in Texas.
He told investigators he’d punched the girl in the ribs and spanked her after she went to the bathroom on the living room floor, according to records in his ongoing criminal case.
Then he put M.D. in the bathroom, left and came back to find her standing in the toilet. He picked her up, slammed her into the toilet and she hit her head. Then he brought her to the living room and beat her further.
The injuries left M.D. unable to move, and she’ll need help for the rest of her life, the lawsuit says. She probably won’t be able to communicate again or to eat normally. In addition to the new injuries, hospital staff members noted, she had old rib fractures and burns.