Monday, March 23, 2009

Prosecutor finds misconduct at Colville DSHS

The Stevens County prosecutor says he has found a "pattern of misconduct" at the Colville office of the Department of Social and Health Services.

The Stevens County prosecutor says he has found a "pattern of misconduct" at the Colville office of the Department of Social and Health Services.

The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported Saturday that Prosecutor Tim Rassmussen sent a sharply worded letter about the office last week to Gov. Chris Gregoire, Attorney General Rob McKenna and 30 other state employees and lawmakers.

Rasmussen accused the office of removing foster children from their caregivers without cause and of "shopping" for doctors and counselors to support its agenda. The letter included accusations that children have been subjected to forensic examination to look for evidence of sexual molestation when no allegations of abuse exist.

His letter included a complaint from a doctor who said that even after he determined a baby did not have methamphetamine in its system, DSHS's Child Protective Services ordered the child be placed on a morphine drip. The result, said Dr. Barry J. Bacon, was that the baby became addicted to the drug.

"It is really unfortunate that this child was put through this degree of trauma at such an early age and I believe it can only be laid at the feet of the CPS workers," Dr. Barry J. Bacon wrote.

Rasmussen also noted that a judge blasted the department for removing five foster children on what the court deemed a "very questionable basis."

"The court found that removal by the department was done primarily for financial reasons," Rasmussen wrote. "The court noted its 'displeasure and sense of outrage at the department having operated the way it did in removing the children,' and speaks of the department 'having done a grave disservice' to the children."

When social workers tried to remove two other foster children from that home, the judge refused and called their request "child abuse," Rasmussen wrote.

Connie Lambert-Eckel, deputy regional administrator for the DSHS children's administration, said the department has been working with Rasmussen on his concerns for some time, but his letter contains new allegations which she could not immediately address.

"We will be diving into these concerns very appropriately, very responsively, very quickly and very early next week," she told the newspaper.

State Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said he asked Rasmussen to investigate after receiving complaints about the office. Kretz said he brought complaints to department ombudsman Mary Meining last summer, but now he's hoping for drastic changes in how such complaints are handled.

"I don't think conventional means are going to get to the bottom of this," Kretz said. "There's a culture in that Colville office that needs to be weeded out and have some light shown on it."

The Colville office serves Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties.

Rasmussen was openly critical of the agency following the dehydration death of 7-year-old Tyler DeLeon in 2005. DeLeon's adoptive mother, Carole DeLeon, was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of criminal mistreatment.

The state of Washington recently paid a settlement of more than $6 million to children who were under Carole DeLeon's care, including $180,000 to the estate of Tyler DeLeon.

Information from: The Spokesman-Review,
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

Local News Prosecutor finds misconduct at Colville DSHS Seattle Times Newspaper

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