Department settles lawsuit filed by abused children for $6.55M

YAKIMA -- Six brothers who were abused by their father, mother and mother's boyfriend have settled a lawsuit against the state Department of Social and Health Services for $6.55 million.

Blaine Tamaki, a Yakima attorney for the brothers and the grandmother who ultimately gained custody of them, announced the settlement agreement Feb. 1 as the case was scheduled to go to trial.

"We do hope that through this settlement they can be rehabilitated and provided with the tools to be productive adults," Tamaki said in a telephone interview. "The $6.55 million is a fair sum of money to compensate them for the abuse they suffered and to aid them so they can have a bright future."

Sherry Hill, communications director for the Children's Administration, confirmed the agreement. The social worker who failed to appropriately follow up on the abuse complaints left the agency years ago for reasons unrelated to the case, she said.

"We regret the abuse and trauma that the children received at the hands of the very people who were entrusted to care for them," Hill said. "They can use the settlement to meet any special needs they may have in the future."

Beginning in March 1995, the grandmother contacted state authorities to raise concerns that her six grandchildren were being physically abused. Over the next eight years, 33 complaints by the grandmother, counselors and doctors were filed with DSHS, according to Tamaki. Three of the boys attempted suicide.

The grandmother received custody of the children in April 2000. The family filed suit in King County Superior Court in 2009.

Five of the six brothers, who now range in age from 14 to 22, still reside with their grandmother.

The family declined to comment through their attorney. Tamaki said they were relieved they don't have to participate in a trial that could be traumatic for the brothers.

No charges were ever brought against the parents or mother's boyfriend, he said.

Hill said social workers and DSHS officials take to heart any situation in which harm is inflicted on children. In the years since this case, she said, the agency has taken steps to improve its response to abuse reports, including standardizing its protocols and evaluating patterns to better identify abuse in homes.