PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – A 5-year-old girl who weighed only 28 pounds was hospitalized with a fractured skull after Oregon’s Department of Human Services ignored repeated warnings that she and her little brother being abused and starved by their foster parents, the kids’ guardians say.
The children, now 10 and 8, have both been adopted by other parents. Their guardians demand more than $30 million in damages in separate complaints in Multnomah County Court.
Through their guardians, the kids sued the state agency and their former caseworkers, doctors and lawyer.
The Department of Human Services took the kids from their mother in 2002, because it thought she was using meth, according to the complaint. The state placed the kids in the state-certified foster home of Thelma Beaver and William Beaver. The Beavers’ double-wide trailer also housed six other children, according to the complaint.
Over the next 2 years, the children say the Beavers subjected them to starvation and terrible abuse.
The Beavers allegedly struck J.D.’s head against a bench until she lost consciousness, fracturing her skull, giving her subdural hematomas and brain damage. She says they beat her hands with a wooden spoon, struck her head against the floor, hit her with a hairbrush, and held her upside down by her feet to bang her head on the floor, on furniture and against door frames.
They denied her meals, forced her to sleep outside without blankets, made her stand outside for long times and told her the state wasn’t paying them enough to take care of her and her brother, her lawsuit claims.
The department ignored multiple warnings of the abuse, according to the complaint. J.D. says she repeatedly told social workers she was being starved and beaten.
In May 2003, a caseworker noted that J.D. asked to speak in private, then said Mrs. Beaver “always spanks me. I want her to stop spanking me.”
Another caseworker watched J.D. eat five cups of fruit. Later, when the worker took J.D. to McDonalds, J.D. asked a stranger for food and told the stranger that her foster mother was starving her, the complaint states.
The caseworker allegedly concluded that J.D. “lies.”
Doctors repeatedly noted B.D.’s “extreme failure to thrive.” B.D. spent two separate two-week visits at Oregon Health Sciences University being fed through a tube, the lawsuit states. Both times, B.D. began to gain weight, only to lose it again when he went back to the Beavers.
At other doctor visits, William Beaver could not explain why B.D. had a black eye and other facial injuries, according to the complaint.
In addition, the state received two anonymous calls from people who said they were worried that the children were being beaten and starved. The department allegedly ignored the warning signs and did not remove the kids from the Beavers’ custody until December 2004, after J.D. was taken by LifeFlight to Oregon Health Sciences University with a broken skull.
Thelma Beaver is reportedly serving a 5-year sentence for the abuse, while William Beaver was sentenced to probation.
J.D.’s guardian ad litem, Patricia Piazza, sued the State of Oregon, Steve Duerscherl, Leslie Willette, Shirley Vollmuller, Thelma Beaver, William Beaver, Peggy Gilmer, Audrey Riggs, Steven Vess and Linda Thoreson.
J.D. and Piazza are represented by Scott Kocher and Richard Vangelisti.
B.D. and his guardian ad litem, Douglas Fellows, sued the State of Oregon, Leslie Willette, Stave Duerscherl, Shirley Vollmuller, Steve Vess, Dr. Eunice Lian-Leaf and Dr. William Marshall.
B.D. and Fellows are represented by John Devlin with Rosenthal & Greene.