Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another DSHS Horror Story

Published: Monday, August 24, 2009
Lynnwood, WA Herald Net

Another DSHS horror story

The heartbreaking case of Shayne Abegg continues to reveal the worst in people, and the system.

Abegg, now 6, was starved by his father and girlfriend in 2007. He weighed 25 pounds — about half the weight of a healthy child his age. The father, Danny Abegg, and Marilea Mitchell were both sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison.

A civil suit filed on behalf of the Everett boy resulted in a settlement of $6 million, the largest amount the state Department of Social and Health Services ever agreed to pay for harm to a single child victim. A DSHS review of the case concluded that the state missed a pattern of abuse and neglect, didn’t follow policy to make sure the boy was safe and failed to hold his father, his girlfriend and the boy’s mother more accountable for Shayne’s well-being.

Now, as Herald writer Diana Hefley reported this month, that report has been heavily censored — in theory to protect Shayne’s privacy over medical issues, but in practice to also hide harsh criticisms of how the case was handled.

Some social workers involved in the case resigned, and a contract caseworker and his employer were responsible for $1 million of the settlement. Of course, as part of the deal, the state and contract worker did not admit wrongdoing.

The agency did make changes based on the findings, including taking steps to make sure more experienced supervisors oversee these types of cases and social workers get training to recognize the signs of malnutrition.

Social workers who can’t recognize a starving child?

Others noticed, and starting in 2003, social workers investigated at least a dozen complaints of abuse and neglect involving Shayne and his brother, including reports from outside the family that the boys appeared to be malnourished.

The state closed Shayne’s case file in February 2007. The boy was hospitalized a month later in critical condition.

Assistant Attorney General Pamela Anderson told Hefley that the report was redacted because of concerns the information could be used to stigmatize the boy in the future, Also gone, however, are parts that discuss how caseworkers failed to recognize clear signs of ongoing neglect.

Attorneys didn’t remove photos of Shayne from the report, which were taken by detectives to document the state of the boy’s health when he was found. That oversight doesn’t help the state’s argument that it was concerned only about the boy’s privacy, but Anderson told Hefley she would look into the matter.

Will Shayne Abegg’s horror story finally move us from merely acknowledging the deficiencies of our Department of Social and Health Services to actually changing it?


Anonymous said...

When I read this story; I am horrified and I think about how DSHS FOUGHT tooth and nail for my niece and nephew who didn't need "protection". My niece and nephew were taken directly out of a hospital room over twenty years ago; both born healthy. They were not born to drug addicts or alcholics. How and why is that possible? I had a large home at the time and definitely they would have been well cared for (I lived out of state). They would have had wonderful meals as I am also a good cook! They would have lived in a nice clean home! Today, we are separated because of the involvement of strangers (foster care and foster/adopt). Could somebody please tell me how this could happen? How does that happen that DSHS allows a child to starve while destroying another biological family that didn't need their services. The couple who gave birth may have needed a helping hand; however, grandparents and relatives could have assisted with that helping hand. So, while the state makes this child a millionaire and did nothing to protect this child; another biological family suffers the consequences. That is what I am reading into this story!

Anonymous said...

I'm the grandmother of the children mentioned above. I went to the hospital to see my new grandaughter and was met by police. That was in 1986. Except for KIRO T.V. interviewing the parents, nobody cared. No one did anything wrong, no one was even accused of doing anything wrong.
The State wanted a baby for adoption and wanted to punish us, apparently because we were intelligent poor people.
We can't even HIRE an attorney. I would say justice in this country is really just a joke.