Siblings suffered gruesome abuse in foster care and the state ignored it, lawsuit says

Siblings who say they were tortured, beaten and sexually abused in foster homes when they were children have sued the state of Washington, arguing that the abuse continued despite multiple reports of mistreatment.

The siblings are identified by their initials in the lawsuit: M.M.A., M.A. and A.A.

Their lawsuit doesn’t give an exact time line of the abuse or indicate how old they are now, but it says at least some of the abuse happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the siblings were placed in foster homes by the state Department of Social and Health Services.

“Despite a number of referrals, complaints, and reports to DSHS indicative of abuse and neglect, including specific disclosures by the siblings indicating that abuse was taking place, DSHS failed to investigate in most instances, and when an investigation did occur, DSHS failed to do so with ordinary and reasonable care,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.

A DSHS spokeswoman said the agency would not comment on the pending litigation.

According to the complaint, which was filed Jan. 16 in Pierce County Superior Court:

Two of the siblings were sexually abused by a foster parent in one home, and the state failed to properly investigate, even though one of the children and a neighbor reported abuse and neglect to a social worker.

Children living in another foster home where the siblings were assigned killed themselves, and the state also had reports of abuse and neglect connected to those parents.

One of the siblings was tortured at that home, where she lived from about 1984 to 1989. The foster parents made her grab live electrical fence wires, eat rotten food and rub lotion on her foster mother’s body. They also beat her with wooden spoons and with branches they made the girl find outside. They also backhanded her in the face while wearing rings, deprived her of food and shaved her head.

They also beat one of the other siblings, deprived him of food, and held his head underwater until he almost drowned.

Those foster parents also encouraged other children in the home to abuse two of the siblings, who were sexually assaulted by other youths there, according to the lawsuit.

DSHS employees’ visits to both foster homes were “infrequent, at best,” the lawsuit said.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell