Lawsuit charges DSHS failed to protect foster kids
Kirsten Joyce Q13 FOX News reporter
9:52 p.m. PDT, August 23, 2011
For years, four Tacoma children were tortured and terrorized sexually, physically and emotionally.
Their foster father confessed and was convicted of the crimes, but now a lawsuit points the finger at the state.
The law firm representing the four victims is Messina Bulzomi Christensen. The victims are now between the ages of 19 and 20.
Attorney Jeremy Johnston said this was not an isolated incident, but that it occurred over a period of years and his firm filed the lawsuit in the hope that changes are made at the state level to prevent this from ever happening again.
"As a parent, if you think about the worst things that can happen to your kids, some of those things probably happened in that home," Johnston said.
The home where the victims lived, Johnston calls the "house of horrors." The Tacoma home where his four clients abused happened at the hands of Jose Miranda. He and his wife, Juanita, were foster parents of more than a dozen different children between 1997 and 2005.
"This home should have never received a license," Johnston said.
Tuesday, Johnston's four clients filed a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court. The lawsuit seeks to sue the state, which they cite as responsible for licensing the foster home. It charges that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) ignored years of complaints from social workers, teachers, neighbors — even the children themselves.
"These complaints, while the state claims they investigated them, they obviously didn't do a very good job because all this harm was occurring to these children," Johnston said.
He questions how the couple could have obtained a foster care license.
In fact, Juanita Miranda already had a criminal history that included:
• Her biological children were removed from her home in California by the state because of her illicit drug use and neglect,
• The couple was on welfare and disability when applying to become foster parents in Washington in 1997.
"There are lots of things that I think an ordinary person would say, why would you ever give this home, the ability to care for foster kids?” Johnston asked.
Apparently the state continued renewing their license.
Court documents reveal that when the couple reapplied for a license in 2000, it was noted that Juanita had four drug-related charges between 1989-1990.
The DSHS employee stated, "Holy cow, wonder why this was never caught."
Another employee discovered that the original licenser at the time of Jose and Juanita's initial application did not complete their criminal background inquiry.
But the couple's foster license wasn't revoked until five years later, when in 2005 Jose was admitted to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. He thought he was on his death bed and confessed to his crimes.
“He asked the nurse for a priest. She said, 'Sorry there isn't one on duty now, and so he confessed to the nurse that he had done unspeakable things to children who had passed through his home," Johnston said.
Miranda was convicted of rape and molestation of a child. He died in prison, serving a term of 131 months to life, in October 2009.
His wife, Juanita died from a drug overdose in September 2006. DSHS has declined to comment on this lawsuit, or any of its policies and policy changes over the years.