The State of Washington has agreed to pay $1.5 million to the family of a child who was abused on multiple occasions by his mother’s boyfriend, despite visits from Child Protective Services. CPS was slow to respond to reports of the abuse and did not conduct a thorough investigation, the boy’s attorneys argued.
The case dates back to Oct. 19, 2011, when CPS received a report that a man punched a seven-month-old baby in the face during a dispute with the baby’s mother at their Tacoma home, according to court documents.
CPS allegedly told the caller to contact police, who responded to the home. The officer who visited the home told CPS “that he was very concerned about the welfare of the baby that night,” the boy’s attorneys wrote.
CPS failed to code the investigation as a high-priority, 24-hour investigation, attorneys for the child argued. A social worker who arrived the next day “did little with the baby other than to casually and briefly observe him in a crib. The social worker spent only a short amount of time at the apartment and then walked away, leaving the baby with the swollen face and head alone with the man police suspected to have punched him in the face,” the boy’s attorneys wrote.
“CPS’s primary duty should have been to protect the child. One of the express purposes of the CPS investigation at the apartment was to see the baby up close,” attorneys wrote.
Days later, the CPS social worker visited the home again but did not closely examine the baby, attorneys argued. Had he examined the baby, the social worker “would have seen additional bruising that occurred since his last visit,” attorneys wrote.
On Oct. 30, 2011, the baby’s mother and her boyfriend rushed the child to the emergency room at Mary Bridge Hospital, where doctors discovered more skull fractures, broken limbs and hemorrhaging, the child’s attorneys said.
The social worker “ignored all of the red flags” during the abuse investigation and could have prevented further injury to the child, attorneys said.
The court settlement between the state and the boy and his legal guardian was finalized last Friday in Pierce County Superior Court.
Although the child, who is now six and living with his biological father, “will likely never learn or function at the same proficiency as peers his age,” his attorneys said he is now in a loving home and continues to improve.
“We believe this settlement provides the means for this child to get the care and recovery resources he needs to live a healthy life,” said DSHS Children’s Administration Assistant Secretary Jennifer Strus.
The child was represented by attorneys Darrell Cochran, Tomas Vertetis, and Nicholas Douglas, of the firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala Attorneys at Law.
The man identified in court documents as the abuser, DeShawn Little Eagle, was convicted of first-degree assault of a child and is serving a 100-month prison sentence.