Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 4:42 PM Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 5:14 PM
An attorney has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Human Services on behalf of an 8-year-old girl who was molested by her North Portland foster dad.
The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Monday, faults DHS for failing to adequately respond to reports that something was wrong in the home.
According to the lawsuit and Josh Lamborn, the Portland attorney who represents the girl:
The girl and her younger brother were placed in the home in August 2009, after their mother was locked up in jail. In October 2009, the girl, then 6, told her biological father that foster father Leslie Boyd Hayden had rubbed her back and stomach. Her dad told her caseworker, who told Hayden to stop the massages.
"Hayden says it's no big deal, and they (DHS workers) drop it," Lamborn said.
Ten days later, the biological father complained to the caseworker that his son told him he was bleeding from the penis. The caseworker interviewed the children and Hayden's wife later that day. The children were allowed to stay in the Hayden home.
Four days after that, the caseworker learned from a non-profit worker that the girl had said her foster dad had touched her inappropriately. The caseworker responded by saying "he had already addressed that issue and it would no longer be an issue," according to the suit.
About a month after that, the girl told her biological father that Hayden, then 70, had kissed her on the mouth and molested her with his hands. The biological father called police, who started an investigation and notified DHS. Child-protective workers removed the children from the home that day.
Lamborn said the father turned to police because he'd "lost faith in the caseworker because he'd told him twice before that something was wrong" and nothing happened.
In an email earlier this week about abuse by foster parents, DHS spokesman Gene Evans said DHS has improved its screening and investigation of reports of abuse and neglect. It also has instituted "more comprehensive background checks of foster parents before they are ever certified to care for a child."
DHS officials note that the reported number of children who are abused or neglected while in foster care has been declining, dropping from one in 100 in 2007, to one in 200 in 2010, the latest figures available.
After a trial, Hayden was found guilty of two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. He was sentenced in 2011 to more than 12 years in prison.
The suit seeks $1 million in non-economic damages for the girl's physical injuries and "permanent psychological damage." The suit also seeks $55,000 for past and future counseling and "psychiatric and psychological medical treatment."
The children are now living with their father.-- Aimee Green;