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Social worker reports on-the-job attack in Puyallup

The social worker's family says what happened is not a fluke, but instead part of a systemic failure. They want DCYF to create a safer environment for its workforce.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — A social worker with Department of Children, Youth, and Families or DCYF says she is recovering from an attack that was carried out by a foster youth in Puyallup last week. 

Her family says what happened is not a fluke, but instead part of a systemic failure.

The KING 5 Investigators first exposed the problem last year. Hard-to-place foster youth were staying the night in offices and hotels, with social workers claiming a lack of support from the state when it comes to after-hours foster care.

Last week, Deidra Van Every, a supervisor in the adoption unit, presented a new claim before the DCYF oversight board.

"I wish you could see my face right now because my face is the poster child for the retention issues that DCYF foster case, social workers are facing every day,” Van Every said.

Appearing virtually, Van Every told the oversight board about what transpired one week ago. She said a 16-year-old, who was staying in a Puyallup hotel, turned his anger on her.

"He punched her, kneed her, kicked her in the face, in the head, in her back, he dragged her by her hair, smashing her into the tables, and then he dragged her to the third-story window while yelling I am going to kill you,” said Kjersta Smith, Van Every’s sister. 

Smith added that a security guard was there and attempted to stop the attack.

"He, through all of his efforts, could not pull this youth off of me. But he kept me alive until law enforcement showed up,” Van Every said.

Law enforcement responding to social workers calls for help has happened time and time again in recent years.

"This was a known problem, and she was afraid that something worse was going to happen, and it happened to her,” said Smith. "I hope that she finds a safer workplace. If it is with DCYF, all the better."

KING 5 reached out to the state agency for an interview, and a DCYF spokesperson released the following statement:

Child welfare workers are first responders, just like many other roles in public service. DCYF staff are very dedicated and caring people who work to ensure the safety of children and the well-being of families. We work very hard to not have them be at needless personal risk and are taking steps to resolve the situation that results in staff being placed in dangerous situations to care for youth. 

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