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Lawsuit Alleges Oregon Failed To Care For Foster Kids


Oregon workers placed young children in a mold-ridden home that reeked of cat urine, with foster parents who physically and sexually abused them, according to a $100 million civil rights lawsuit recently filed in federal court.

Instead of investigating when signs of abuse surfaced, the lawsuit alleges the state Department of Human Services attempted to cover up the severity of the abuse and its own lack of oversight in the foster home.

The lawsuit alleges the state has a pattern of placing vulnerable children with foster parents who are financially dependent on state money they receive for housing the children. It also argues there is a lack of accountability within DHS.

The state declined to comment on the case.

The Oregon Department of Human Services building in Salem, Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Human Services building in Salem, Oregon.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

Years Of Alleged Abuse

In September 2011, the state placed a 2-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl into the home of Casey Ray and Melissa Miller in Keizer, Oregon.

At the outset, the lawsuit reads, the state knew the Millers resided in cramped and unsanitary surroundings, had no experience parenting children and had a history of familial abuse. Melissa Miller was raised in a home where she was sexually abused, which DHS had investigated, the lawsuit states. She was bipolar and inflicted self-mutilation. Casey Miller was cognitively challenged, watched pornography at home, drank excessively and had issues with anger management, according to the suit.

Within a short period of time, the 2-year-old boy showed signs of abuse with bruises all over his body. He had cuts along his eyebrows and ears. The 5-year-old girl showed signs of bruises, urinary dysfunction and vaginal itching within one month of being placed in the home. She also pleaded to be placed with her biological mother and said she wished she were dead.

In 2013, family members of the young children urged the state to remove the children from the Millers’ home and said they would accept responsibility. In September 2013, DHS placed three more children in the Miller home. One of the girls shortly displayed signs of abuse.

On Oct. 20, 2013, the 10-month-old girl, known in the lawsuit as RL, was admitted to the hospital. An examination showed she had fractures in every limb. The seven fractures were signs of blunt force trauma or a twisting or wrenching motion, according to the lawsuit.

After the incident, DHS interviewed Casey Miller for the first time, according to the lawsuit. He admitted he yanked the girl’s arm. He was arrested and charged with causing physical injury to the child.

In a move the lawsuit characterizes as a way to deflect attention of the household and the case’s lack of investigation, DHS attempted to cover up its conduct and went out of it’s way to get doctors to evaluate RL’s fractures and declare the girl had “brittle bone” disease. Upon examination, doctors at Oregon Health and Science University declared she did not have that condition.

In 2017, Casey Miller admitted to sexually abusing and sodomizing the 5-year-old girl in his custody. He is serving a 30-year sentence.

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OPB | Broadcast: March 29, 2018