A Case for Outrage

May 8, 2009




To say I am outraged is an understatement.

"Poca" is the nickname of a four year old girl. She has been in foster care her entire life. Born drug affected, premature and medically fragile, she spent the first four months of her life in the NICU at the hospital. All the rest of her life she has spent in the home of Dick and Amy Langley, who have devoted their lives to caring for special needs children.

The Langleys have been subjected to the worst case of retaliation against a foster parent I have ever seen. This week a judge ordered Poca removed from their home with no transition. She said they had "interfered" with reunification by reporting bruises after unsupervised visits. After four years, the parents are still unable to be a safe placement, so the judge ordered the child moved to a new foster home.

Poca is one of six siblings, all born premature and medically fragile. At least one tested positive for meth at birth. The father has a felony conviction for selling meth. Three children died in the home. The other three were sent to separate foster homes. The birth parents have tried for four years to get their children back. The eldest living child was returned home, but removed again last week - more on that below.

The Langleys have cared for 20 foster children over the past 10 years, including a blind baby and children with severe disabilities. Some have been successfully reunited with their birth parents, and some adopted. But when you adopt a special needs child, sometimes they have issues that are not immediately apparent.

The charges against the Langleys stem from their adoption of a boy named Taylor, who developed anti-social, violent and aggressive behaviors. It was suspected that his parents put alcohol in his baby bottle to keep him quiet, which caused serious neurological damage. By six years old he attacked family members with a screwdriver and a knife, broke Amy's nose and fingers, and threatened neighbors. Taylor needed special one-on-one attention in a therapeutic home where he was the only child. They found such a home, and he was readopted. DSHS called that child abandonment, and asked the judge to move Poca.

A scathing 36 page report by an administrative review judge exonerated the Langleys and castigated DSHS for their inept investigation. Cleared of all charges, did DSHS reverse course, allowing Poca to stay with the Langleys? No, DSHS filed a new charge: Poca should not stay with the Langleys because they did not move Taylor fast enough. Darned if they do; darned if they don't. The state has now argued both sides of this issue, in an apparent attempt to oppose placement with the Langleys regardless of the facts and evidence.

When Poca returned from an unsupervised visit with marks on her thighs, she claimed her birth mother did it. The ER doctor suspects abuse in his report. But DSHS calls it "unfounded". The child returns from another visit in respiratory distress with welts on her buttocks. The mark looks like a hand print. Another ER doctor indicates that this is abuse. The department calls this also unfounded.

However, new charges have been filed against the Langleys. Apparently, searching for a bruise in response to the child's own complaints is considered an invasion of the child's privacy a four year old child that has been with them from infancy and still needs help with toileting and hygiene! So finding a bruise is child abuse? But causing a bruise is not? I wrote Randy Hart a letter about this incident. I asked, quite simply, "Are you nuts?"

DSHS have come up with multiple theories about Poca's injuries. They have alternately claimed that a car seat was responsible, or that the welts were really an allergic reaction the just happens to look like a hand print. Or that the Langley's just made the whole thing up. Yet Poca's older brother was removed just last week after he revealed to his school teachers that he was abused in his home and instructed by his mother to lie about it. Or are the Langleys responsible for that, too?

I have been working on this case since August. I wrote to Governor Gregoire in September and asked her to investigate this case. In my letter I said that we hold her responsible, as the head of our state, for the safety of this child.

Here is a list of all the people who have warned DSHS about this case, and what happened to them:

  1. The initial social worker listed safety concerns and recommended adoption. She was moved to another case.

  2. Dave Lindsey, the initial guardian ad litem - a court appointed special advocate - recommended 5 times termination of parental rights (TPR). He claims his guardian reports were altered. He was removed from the case, and replaced by an attorney that usually represents birth parents.

  3. The child's neurologist, Dr. Stephan Glass, one of the top 3 neurologists in Washington State according to Seattle Magazine, credits the child's progress to the Langleys and warns that she will be seriously harmed by removal from the home. He is no longer allowed to see the child.

  4. The child's pediatrician warned against removing the child. She is no longer allowed to see the child.

  5. Two different emergency room doctors found evidence consistent with abuse after an unsupervised visit. Yet unsupervised visits continue.

  6. Three psychological evaluations concluded the mother is "off the charts" in anti-social behavior. The department ordered fourth which concluded the mother is okay. This is called "shopping" for a provider to give a desired result. Anti-social behavior does not simply disappear without years of therapy. The more recent tests are not more reliable; on the contrary, they are less valid because patients eventually learn what the "correct" responses should be.

  7. The Child Protection Team recommended TPR and adoption. Recommendation ignored.

  8. The Langleys, Poca's foster parents, who have been subjected to the most egregious, venomous attack against a foster parent I have ever seen.

  9. The foster parents of Poca's little brother also opposed the case plan. DSHS refuses to renew their license, despite no allegations against those foster parents at all. The hearing on May 13 at 2 PM is to remove him from the only home he has ever known.

In other words: everyone. The social worker, the guardian ad litem, all the medical providers, two sets of foster parents, the entire Child Protection Team, and the mental health evaluators. Those that oppose the department's case plan have been systematically removed.

This case is just the tip of the iceberg. I can list you 10 other cases just as bad. I am sure there are hundreds more I don't even know about. These children have rights that are not being respected.

There are 10,000 kids in foster care in Washington State. Half have been there for more than three years. Don't these kids have rights? Don't they deserve a life?  They number in the thousands.

They are defenseless. They have no voice. That's why they need you.

Gary Malkasian
Foster Care Justice Alliance