VANCOUVER - A Vancouver couple accused of beating and starving their adopted twins appeared in court Thursday to enter pleas.

Jeffrey Weller pleaded not guilty to seven counts including assault and unlawful imprisonment.

The 16-year-old twins remained in protective custody until a hearing next month.

Sandra Weller did not enter a plea and requested a competency evaluation.

Both asked to visit their four biological children but were once again denied.

Tim Hennessy is the director of a program called CASA, or Court appointed Special Advocates, which works to protect children. He said too many children like the Weller twins fall through the cracks of state services.

A DSHS [Washington State Department of Social and Health Services] case worker could be handling between 50 and 70 cases, he said. So for them to stay on top of all those effectively is very hard.

Hennessy oversees child welfare cases in Multnomah and Washington Counties. He said that out of the 4,000 DHScases in those counties, CASA can only take on 850 a year.

Washington State files show that child protective services got eight referrals about the Weller twins. But child welfare workers said the children repeatedly denied the abuse, making it difficult to move forward with the a case.

We have to keep going for these kids, Hennessy said. We gotta keep trying, we gotta keep trying to do better and reach out to these kids.

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