Weller children file lawsuit against state DSHS look for scrib link great pleading to educate for future ….
March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Weller children file lawsuit against state DSHS
Attorney says agency was told of peril many times before acting
Buy this photoSandra and Jeffrey Weller enter Judge Barbara Johnson’s courtroom for sentencing in Clark County Superior Court March 20, 2013. The Wellers were convicted of imprisoning, starving and beating their adopted twins. Sandra received a sentence of 20 years, and Jeffrey received 21 years. (Steven Lane/The Columbian)
Five children who were abused by their parents in Vancouver have filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the state, alleging that the Department of Social and Health Services failed to adequately respond to dozens of complaints about their welfare over an eight-year period.
Jeffrey and Sandra Weller of Vancouver each were sentenced March 20, 2013, to two decades in prison for imprisoning, starving and beating their adopted twins. A Clark County jury found Sandra Weller guilty of nine separate counts related to the twins’ abuse; Jeffrey Weller was found guilty of 13, related to both the twins’ abuse and assaults against the couple’s biological children.
The children’s Seattle attorney, David Moody, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the children Friday in Clark Superior Court.
One of the children’s teachers alone warned the DSHS a dozen times about possible abuse of the children and urged that they be removed from the Weller home, Moody said.
“He has documents he kept,” Moody said Friday. “He has voice-mail messages. There are a number of educators from the local school district who voiced serious warnings to DSHS over a period of years.”
“Those concerns were ignored every time,” he said.
The lawsuit follows a $54 million tort claim the children filed Dec. 18 with the DSHS. Tort claims give public agencies a 60-day notice of a lawsuit and allows them an opportunity to settle a case before litigation.
In this case, the children received no response, Moody said.
John Wiley, a DSHS spokesman, said the agency often does respond to and resolve tort claims prior to litigation.
“However, this case is complex, involving numerous plaintiffs alleging negligence based on activities that occurred over a number of years. As such, it requires more than the statutory 60 days to analyze and investigate the merits of the plaintiffs’ claim,” Wiley said. “It would not be in the taxpayers’ best interest to quickly make a settlement offer on a $54 million claim without a reasonable and diligent investigation into that claim by the state.”
Wiley said the agency has no other comment on the lawsuit at this time.
“We’ll let the court decide the merits of the case,” he said. “We don’t comment on the merits of the case.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the DSHS failed to obtain Sandra Weller’s Child Protective Services history in California, where she adopted the twins with her ex-husband. There were seven referrals about Sandra Weller’s possibly abusing and neglecting the twins and some other foster children who were in her care between 1998 and 2002, the lawsuit states. At one point, the state of California revoked her foster care license and took the twins into protective custody, according to the lawsuit.
Some of the complaints that Washington caseworkers allegedly ignored included allegations of threats against one of the twins’ lives and withholding food as punishment, according to the lawsuit.
For example, in April 2004, the DSHS received a complaint that Sandra Weller had told the 8-year-old female twin that, “If I had a knife right now, you would be gone,” according to the lawsuit. A month later, the agency received another complaint that the twins were “so stressed they are literally pulling their hair out,” the lawsuit states.
In September 2004, there was a complaint that the Wellers locked food cabinets in the house and locked the children in their room, which had an alarm on the door, the lawsuit says.
DSHS social workers visited the Weller home in October 2004. On Nov. 1, 2004, the social worker concluded that the allegations of negligent treatment or maltreatment were “unfounded,” according to the lawsuit.
The DSHS finally removed the children from the Weller home Oct. 7, 2011, after one of the twins left a note about their abuse at her therapist’s office.
“Please, help,” the twin wrote. “Behind the laundry room door is a big wooden stick covered in blood. They use it on me and (my brother) … If you leave without us, we’ll all ran (sic) away.”
The twins were substantially underweight and malnourished when they were taken into state custody, according to testimony at the Wellers’ trial.
They also testified at trial that Jeffrey Weller, often at the instruction of Sandra, regularly beat them with a 42-inch-long piece of scrap lumber. Police investigators found it stained with blood.
Moody, the children’s attorney, specializes in civil litigation against the DSHS related to the abuse of children or vulnerable adults. He said he won the largest jury verdict award against the DSHS — $17.8 million — in February 2000 in a vulnerable adult abuse case in Pierce County in which he demonstrated that the DSHS was negligent by inadequately investigating abuse allegations.
October 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
A Broward sheriff’s employee entrusted to help shield kids from harm didn’t even bother to meet five children she needed to watch over, possibly compromising their safety, authorities say.
September 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
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August 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
FROM: Todd Bottom
I’ve read on several pages and sites (from both men and women) opinions about “50/50” parenting. Often, but not always, its dads contending that they should get 50% of the time with their children and 50% should go to the mother. Dads argue that it’s their right and that the children benefit from having him in their lives; moms argue that it’s disruptive to the (often young) child’s life, and often that the dad is not a good parent.
As a divorced non-custodial father with an M.A. in psychology (3 months away from completing my Ph.D.), I’m compelled to weigh in. I’ve been researching the outcomes of divorced and non-custodial fathers for several years, and my dissertation is a 2-year project in the making in which I’m assessing the parenting experiences and psychological well-being of fathers. My dissertation bibliography alone includes over 200 peer-reviewed research articles.
Here…in no uncertain terms…is why we CANNOT say that 50/50 parenting does not work. Keep in mind that I’m not saying it DOES work. I’m saying that no one has shown that it DOES NOT work. There is a huge difference.
Quite simply, there is no evidence showing that 50/50 parenting is not in the child’s best interest or outcomes. Some people have written such claims, but it’s all theoretical. Sure, both sides of the argument may sound good and logical based on personal experience or what you’ve heard and read from others. But most such claims come from people who are not trained to make that assessment. They are disillusioned parents, armature bloggers, life coaches, media personalities, or professionals outside of research and psychology (i.e. social workers, attorneys, politicians, etc.).
A very limited number of trained researchers and those with clinical degrees may claim that 50/50 parenting is not best for children’s outcomes. However, such claims are based on: 1) case studies of individual experiences, or 2) on the situations of several clients over several years. These are biased approaches for at least two reasons. First, individuals in case studies are intentionally selected to assess the extreme ends of an issue…no one wants to study Average Joe. Second, clients of clinical psychologists are also typically at the end of the spectrum which indicates that there are more issues at hand than custody.
Here’s why no credible evidence exists to show that 50/50 parenting won’t work:
1) There is an extreme lack of cases to study. This type of custody/parenting is nearly non-existent, which makes it hard to assess.
2) This type of custody rarely exists because fathers are not given the opportunity to have it because: 1) they do not ask for it, 2) the mother objects, or 3) the courts do not favor it.
3) Even if there were enough such families to locate, recruit, follow, and empirically assess 200+ of them (enough to start generalizing to the general population), it would take 30 or more years to do so. It is extremely time consuming and expensive to track children from 50/50 homes from their early childhood until mid-life to know whether or not 50/50 affected their adult outcomes. (My professional guess is that it would cost more than $5M to study this over a 30-year period.)
4) Even if – after 30 years of tracking and assessing these children of divorce – it would be extremely difficult to show that the 50/50 arrangement was the cause of any positive or negative outcome in adulthood. Over that much time, too many other factors could also contribute to long-term outcomes…including race, socio-economic status, parents’ levels of education, geographic location, and many other variables.
So…My response to any person who tells me that 50/50 is not in children’s best interest (and my challenge to those of you who believe it is) is that no evidence supports your opinion. Until you can show me with empirical evidence based on sound research assessed over the lifetime of enough children to generalize to the population, I will continue to believe that 50/50 IS in the best interest of children. If you have any evidence to support your own opinion or to contradict my professional one, please let me know.
Todd Bottom, M.A. (ABD)