PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon child welfare officials ignored years of warnings when they moved a 13-year-old boy with a history of abusing younger children into the same foster home as two young girls, according to a lawsuit against the Department of Human Services.
New court documents say case workers labeled the boy a "risk" and wrote that they planned to move the girls, then 5 and 7, out as soon as possible, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported .
Yet the lawsuit contends they remained in the home for two months and that the boy repeatedly sexually abused them.
Documents say the abuse came to light in 2017 when the boy admitted it and the girls confirmed what had happened, court records say.
A lawyer sued the Department of Human Services on the girls' behalf in September, then filed an updated version of the lawsuit this month after the agency turned over its case files.
State lawyers responded to the initial lawsuit by filing court papers that acknowledged they should never have placed the boy in the home.
The new filing lists dozens of concerning reports made to the state about the boy's increasingly aggressive sexual behavior, starting when he was 5. Teachers could not leave him alone with other children, and his caregivers agreed to put an alarm on his door to prevent him from entering his sisters' room at night. Before his eighth birthday, he had an "extensive history of touching other children," according to a Department of Human Services report cited in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says state workers nevertheless neglected to warn the foster parents when they placed him in the same home as the girls in October 2014.
The lawsuit seeks $24.3 million in damages for the girls, based on a state law that increases damages to particularly vulnerable victims.
"This is an especially egregious example where DHS is supposed to safeguard children, and, in this case, they put them in more danger," said Paul Galm, the Beaverton attorney who represents the girls, who remain in foster care.
Oregon's child welfare agency has received increasing criticism for failing to solve problems that have left foster children in harm's way. The department faces several lawsuits collectively seeking tens of millions of dollars on behalf of children killed or hurt in foster care or after case workers investigated reports of abuse.