When an adult seriously harms a child, the full force of the law should come down on them. And when a series of adults could have easily prevented that harm, they should be held responsible for that abhorrent negligence. These are, after all, the lives of innocent children we’re talking about.
In a truly shocking case, Oregon child welfare workers ignored clear warning signs and placed a four-year-old girl with a man who later allegedly raped and abused her. And now the state agency has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit brought on her behalf, while her former foster father is a free man.
State Workers Ignored the Red Flags
When someone wants to be a foster parent, there’s a screening process that’s supposed to filter out people who could be a danger to children. As the AP reported, when state workers interviewed Gabriel Wallis and his wife, he disclosed the fact that he was a sex addict and “had obsessions and compulsions with pornography and strip clubs.” Court documents also say that state workers knew or should have known that he looked at child pornography online. After this screening process, the state gave him their stamp of approval, certified him to care for children, and placed a four-year-old girl in his care.
Wallis’s wife suspected the abuse when the little girl saw the woman’s personal lubricant and called it her special lotion. In interviews with child abuse investigators, she described “secrets” her foster father would do with her, including genital-to-genital contact. Wallis was charged with rape and six counts of first-degree sex abuse, but was acquitted by a judge in 2015.
A History of State Failures
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the state of Oregon has had to pay a huge sum of money to settle a lawsuit related to their failures to protect children in the system from abuse. Recent cases include a $7 million settlement awarded to preschoolers who were starved by their foster parents, and $15 million for nine children abused by their stepfather.