OLYMPIA, Wash. - Angry and heartbroken families rallied against the state Department of Social and Health Services today in Olympia.
They believe DSHS has unfairly taken their children away, and they want things to change.
The demonstration was prompted by one family's fight to get their granddaughter back.
For months the KING 5 Investigators looked into the case of an Enumclaw couple, Doug and Anne Marie Stuth, who lost their granddaughter to foster care for nearly two years. Last month they got her back. Now lawmakers and other families are demanding that the state work with more families for more positive outcomes.
"CPS does not follow the guidelines, they are not accountable and they are not self-corrective," said Sen. Pam Roach.
She got the idea for the rally after getting involved with the bitter custody battle between the Stuths and the state's child welfare system.
About 200 people who've lost their children and grandchildren to foster care attended the rally, each with their own story.
Deborah Morrison wants her step daughter back.
"She needs to be home, not with strangers, she needs to be with family that loves her," she said.
April Burbee wants her daughter back as well.
"I see her four hours a week and there's no reason for it," she said.
In January there was a shocking turnaround in the Stuth case. A judge ordered that their granddaughter be returned, and the KING 5 Investigators were there for the reunion.
The reunification came soon after our stories aired, showing social workers used misinformation and arbitrary decision making to keep the family apart.
Today Doug Stuth addressed the crowd. He told families to keep fighting for their kids.
"The laws need to change," he said. "I can see I'm not alone here. We were told to keep quiet, never give up."
Many families say the Stuth case has given them hope, and groups such as Washington Families United say the case has given them more energy to take on the system.
"We know the pain in your heart, your tears, we're here to support you," said CC Tillet. "We'll win this thing - let's roll!"
Several family law bills are being considered by the legislature this session. One would give grandparents visitation rights in custody cases; another would break up DSHS into smaller pieces. Organizers hope the rally will persuade lawmakers to take the bills seriously.