OLYMPIA, Wash. - Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington and Republican leader of the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee, denounced the removal of a 4-year-old foster child nicknamed "Poca" from her foster parents - the only stable home she's ever known.

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The child was removed at the request of the birth mother, after the foster parents repeatedly pointed out signs of physical abuse whenever Poca went to visit her biological family.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Anita Farris agreed to move the child to the home of a friend of the birth mother after testimony from a Child Protective Services social worker who was determined to reunite the family. Because of chronic drug addiction and alcohol abuse, the birth mother has lost another child to foster care and three children to death. After four years on state drug and behavioral treatment, she has made almost no attempt to reunite with her children.

"This case is too reminiscent of other cases of social worker bias, such as with Zy'Nia Nobles," Stevens said. "The 3-year-old Tacoma toddler was beaten to death in 2000 by her birth mother after a caseworker pushed to have Zy'Nia returned to the drug-abusing mother for reunification. I was on the fatality review panel, and it was heartbreaking.

"Poca's case is similar. Due to a complicated birth, this delicate, fragile child is now bonded to the only family she knows - her foster family. State law requires that we attempt to reunite children with biological parents. However, after countless state services it has become apparent that Poca's biological family remains dominated by drug addiction. This is an unsafe environment for any child, let alone a fragile child.

"It is abysmal judgment to continue parental rights after four years of no progress. The law requires that permanency be established after 15 months of foster care. The foster family who came to love this child is willing to adopt and give the child the permanency she needs. Instead, we give her emotional upheaval.

"The Legislature wants to help families become reunited with their birth children, but not at the risk of the health of the child. In this case, The Legislature has given social workers the tools to 'get it right.' There is no excuse for this egregious abuse of the law. I'm calling for a full investigation of this case."

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