Investigators: Plan for Poca not as promised

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by By / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 13, 2009 at 1:08 PM

Video: Plan for Poca not as promised

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. - For three months the KING 5 Investigators have exposed flaws in the state's child welfare system that put a foster girl nicknamed Poca in limbo her entire life.

Top state officials told KING 5 they were finally going to allow Poca to be adopted, in hopes of giving her a permanent stable home.

But that's not what's happening.

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It's been exactly two months since Poca was removed from the family that raised her. State social workers and a judge decided Poca's foster parents, Dick and Amy Langley of Snohomish County, were unfit and shouldn't care for Poca anymore. This after 10 years of being trusted foster parents to many special needs children.

The day she left the Langleys felt like someone in the family had died.

"The look in her eyes of acknowledgment that she was leaving us and it was such a painful look, it will haunt me forever," Amy Langley said.

Soon after, the case took on a life of its own. Rallies were held with people demanding Poca be sent back. Talk radio picked up the story.

Gov. Chris Gregoire even intervened, calling for a thorough investigation.

And on her second day on the job, May 19, 2009, the new head of DSHS, Susan Dreyfus, met with the KING 5 Investigators to say Poca was a top priority and a decision had been made in the case. The state would ask Judge Anita Farris to approve of a new plan - to terminate the legal rights of Poca's birth parents so she could be adopted by the Langleys or another suitable home.

Back in May DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus said four years is too long to continue to give the biological parents the chance to get it together.

"But what we'll really be asking now is for a change to termination, so we can file the termination documents and move that process along to free her up for that adoptive home," said Dreyfus.

In an interview spanning more than an hour, Dreyfus and her lead Assistant Attorney General Steve Hassett told the KING 5 Investigators 17 different times this was the plan for Poca:

"The department is requesting an expedited hearing to look at changing the permanency status for Poca to one for adoption, termination and adoption," Dreyfus said. "And I know Steve (Hassett) and the AG's office, they're committed to moving forward and getting this termination filed."

"And at some point it was just time to make the call, and move the case along," Dreyfus said."And in this situation it simply waited too long for that to happen but we're going to change that now."

But the KING 5 Investigators have discovered that's not what's happening in Poca's life.

The state is working -- not to terminate any parental rights -- but again to try to reunify Poca with her birthparents while she lives with family friends of theirs.

When we told Sen. Val Stevens the parents were being given yet another chance, she was shocked.

State officials told her in a meeting two months ago the same thing they told KING 5.

"And now we're back giving more services, spending more taxpayer's money to get more services to this family who for four years have failed, and the worst case for this, Susannah, is that it's the child who suffers," Stevens said.

When we asked DSHS to explain their current position, they insisted nothing had changed and because of confidentiality they couldn't talk to us anymore about Poca.

Even though the state won't talk to us, we have learned the court recently signed off a new plan - not termination and adoption like we were told, but a dual plan of reunification with the birthparents or adoption.

All of that talk of the termination and adoption process happening quickly on an "expedited basis" never took place. Poca remains in limbo.

More: of the KING 5 Investigators' stories about Poca.

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