- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 1, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A lawyer for three children abused or mistreated in a foster home filed a $100 million civil rights lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The suit filed Friday in federal court in Eugene alleges the agency failed to protect them from unfit foster parents, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported .

The lawsuit claims state child welfare workers deliberately overlooked information that a Keizer couple lacked the mental and financial ability to serve as foster parents and ignored the unsanitary and unsafe conditions in their home.

The suit also alleges the state then repeatedly failed to respond to signs of child abuse and maltreatment of the kids placed with the couple.

“The abuse suffered by the children was both abhorrent and avoidable,” attorney Steven Rizzo said. “When Oregon took the children into custody it had a paramount duty to protect their right to bodily integrity. DHS (Oregon Department of Human Services) failed to protect these children and made active efforts to avoid taking responsibility for its conduct. Now, the children turn to the court to enforce their civil rights.”

The lawsuit seeks at least $100 million in damages: $75 million in punitive damages, plus $25 million in non-economic damages and unspecified economic damages to be determined at trial.

State Department of Human Services spokeswoman Christine Stone said Monday that the agency can’t comment on the litigation.

The lawsuit says the foster mother was raised in a dysfunctional household, made repeated suicidal attempts and suffered from severe mental health problems. The foster father was also mentally impaired, consumed alcohol excessively, watched pornography in the home and had serious anger management problems, Rizzo wrote. The couple struggled financially and declared bankruptcy, the suit said.

“DHS recruited the Millers knowing that they had to rely on foster care payments to meet household expenses which was a dangerous incentive for them to minimize or falsify abuse and maltreatment of foster children to protect their foster care provider income stream,” the suit said.

The former foster father, Casey Ray Miller, is serving a 30-year sentence for repeatedly sodomizing a girl in his care, starting at age 5. He pleaded guilty in Marion County to two counts of first-degree sodomy. He also was convicted of breaking at least seven bones of another foster child, a 10-month-old girl who was in his care.


Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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