- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - Washington state has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a former foster child who said she was sexually abused by a foster father who was a convicted sex offender.

The victim’s lawyer, Jason Amala, said Tuesday the settlement will allow the state to avoid a jury trial that had been scheduled to begin in Seattle.

The state Department of Social and Health Services confirmed the settlement. It said although background check processes “appropriate for the time” were done when Lester Drappeaux’s foster home was licensed in 1978, they did not pick up that he had a 1972 conviction for taking indecent liberties with a minor. The DSHS said Drappeaux “consistently lied in his licensing documents about prior convictions involving minors.”

Drappeaux is dead.

The agency said it’s not known why, when statewide background checks became available in the 1980s, the conviction was not reported on those background check reports. The DSHS acknowledged that it was only after federal FBI criminal information was provided to the agency in the mid-1990s that the foster father’s criminal history was discovered and the home closed.

The agency said its practices and background check procedures have been strengthened since then.

The state took custody of the plaintiff in 1979, when she was about 5 years old, Amala said. She was placed in the Drappeaux foster home for the first time that same year. She was placed in and out of the home a number of times until 1986, when she was permanently placed there until she graduated from high school in 1992.

In deposition and court records, the woman testified the abuse began when she was first placed in the home and escalated, eventually happening once or twice a week. She said Drappeaux threatened to kill her and the other foster children in the home if she told anyone. Amala said his client thought she was protecting other children, but records filed with the court show that Drappeaux abused other foster children who were placed in his care.

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