Foster care sex abuse victim speaks after $8.5 million settlement with state

Foster care sex abuse victim speaks after $8.5 million settlement with state

John Phillips

The State of Washington agreed to pay $8.5 million to two girls who said the Department of Social and Health Services failed to protect them from being sexually abused by their foster care parent.

That parent, John Phillips, is now in prison for other sexual abuse.

The girls, two sisters, filed a lawsuit against DSHS in 2016 in Snohomish County Superior Court. They alleged DSHS repeatedly ignored signs that the foster home was unsafe, including reports by a previous foster child about Phillips.

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According to attorneys for the girls, DSHS foster home records show that shortly before the girls were placed in  Phillips’ foster home, a 4-year-old girl reported that Phillips exposed himself.

“Rather than perform a CPS investigation, DSHS relied on the foster home licensor, to determine if there was a ‘licensing infraction,’” according to a statement from the law firm. “The licensor immediately expressed discomfort with the assignment and requested that CPS handle the investigation because she felt that she lacked the training to investigate possible sexual abuse. But her supervisors refused.”

In 2013, the girls in the current lawsuit were placed in Phillips’ home.

“For the next 14 months, John Phillips sexually abused them frequently, along with a 9-year-old girl he had adopted,” the girls’ attorneys said in a statement. “The abuse was horrific, including acts of forced oral sex and sodomy.”

Michael T. Pfau, the girls’ lead attorney, said his clients hope that by speaking out and holding the State accountable, the state "will better train and equip its social workers to make certain such obviously preventable atrocities can never happen again in our foster care system."

In July 2018, child welfare in Washington state moved to be part of the Department of Children, Youth and Families, in place of the Department of Social and Health Services.

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