A 31-year-old woman who previously lived in Bellingham and Spokane is signing a settlement agreement with the Washington State Dept. of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Tuesday in the amount of $3 million for an abuse case that stems back nearly 20 years.
According to legal documents related to the lawsuit filed in April, 2012, the plaintiff, whose initials are R.R., was raped repeatedly by her mother’s boyfriend beginning when she was nine. By age 11 RR was pregnant and gave birth at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane at age 12. She was in sixth grade. Two months after giving birth, the child was pregnant again, allegedly by the mother’s boyfriend again, and gave birth a second time at the age of 13.
"When we would leave the home and deal with anyone in the public it was to their belief that my kids were my little brothers and that him and my mom were our parents," said R.R.
After the first birth in 1995, a hospital social worker alerted CPS:
“Social situation seems to be high risk based on the mother’s young age, late prenatal care, and history of CPS with RR’s sister,” wrote social worker Carolyn Ringo.
Legal documents filed in the case also show DSHS received additional reports of concern after the initial birth from witnesses in Bellingham, where the family had been living prior to the move to Spokane.
Reports were filed by “RR’s sixth-grade teacher, two police officers, RR’s school counselor, and RR’s school registrar, highlighting extremely alarming behavior on the part of the (mother’s boyfriend), and expressly identifying (him) as the likely father of RR’s child,” wrote RR’s attorneys in a motion for summary judgment.
According to DSHS intake forms from 1995, state workers wrote the information “would certainly generate concerns”. And that “They appeared very threatened by CPS involvement, and RR’s mother’s boyfriend controlled all interaction.” The intake worker went on to write “RR herself never expressed any concerns or problems within the home”….”the family moved leaving no forwarding information, and terminating assistance, their whereabouts are unknown.”
RR’s attorneys wrote in legal documents that the state should have pursued the case, regardless of whether or not the family had moved.
“Although its investigation was incomplete and many alarming facts had come to light strongly indicating (the mother’s boyfriend) was sexually abusing RR, CPS did not attempt to locate the family. Moreover, CPS did not issue a system-wide alert, or notify law enforcement, so that out-of-state child protection agencies would be aware of the family’s sudden disappearance,” wrote plaintiff attorneys Darrell Cochran, Michael Pfau and Vincent Nappo.
In a statement to KING 5, DSHS authorities said their caseworkers were led to believe the father was a fellow student, not a predator.
"The issue was whether DSHS properly investigated this case, which came to the agency’s attention in 1995 when a hospital notified DSHS that a 12-year old had given birth to a baby. The child stated the father was a student she met briefly at a school she had attended. Neither the child nor her mother disclosed any information that the child had been sexually abused," wrote Mindy Chambers, DSHS Outreach and Response Manager, Division of Public Affairs.
"DSHS focused on the welfare of the baby, by providing parenting skill support for the girl, who was living with her mother. The family moved to another state in 1995. DSHS had no involvement with the family after that. The child (now an adult) requested money for ongoing mental health treatment and other needs," said Chambers.
“In 1995, the state claimed they couldn’t do more because RR did not personally report the abuse, despite an abundance of evidence that she was a child in danger. Fast forward twenty years, and the State was still suggesting CPS was not responsible because RR did not disclose the abuse. But that’s why CPS exists: to protect children from abuse, not to blame them for it,” said Pfau.
RR currently lives in Illinois and is raising her two sons.
"I have a lot of inner demons, I usually hide them," said R.R. "I'm trying to be that hope for someone else."
The alleged abuser was never arrested and is believed to be living in another state.