The state has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of two sisters, ages 12 and 13, who were repeatedly raped by their maternal grandfather after they were placed as foster children in his care.
The girls had been removed from their mother’s custody because of allegations of abuse in 2004 and had spent time in several foster homes by the time they were placed in the Tacoma home of Emanuel L. Finch in 2007.
Over the next three years, according to court documents, both girls were raped on a weekly basis by their grandfather.
A criminal investigation was launched in 2010 when one of the girls told a friend at summer camp that her grandfather had done “yucky” things to her. She also said that she and her sister were willing to put up with the abuse because they didn’t want to move any more, court documents say.
Finch, 61, was charged with nine counts of first-degree child rape and first-degree child molestation in 2010 and was convicted by a jury on all counts. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
According to the lawsuit filed by attorneys Ken Selander and Lincoln Beauregard, the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) failed to investigate Finch’s home before placing the girls in his care.
“The circumstances that these girls were placed in was horrendous and avoidable,” Beauregard said Wednesday.
Had the state properly done its job, it would have learned of at least three incidents that should have sounded alarms, the lawsuit contended.
In 1996, the girls’ mother, who was herself in foster care at the time, disclosed that her father had been raping her. She was even asked at the time whether the child she was carrying could have been her father’s, but she said “no” because the timing was off.
That same year, Finch’s ex-wife reportedly warned others that he was a child molester and had spoken openly about his plan to have sex with their daughters when they reached the age of 9 or so in order to “teach them,” court documents say.
DSHS did not investigate the ex-wife’s complaint, according to the lawsuit.
The girls’ mother attempted to report Finch again to her caseworker in 2007 when she learned that her children had been placed with her father, the lawsuit says. But the caseworker is alleged to have told the mother she didn’t believe her.
In the settlement, which was reached two weeks ago, the state agreed to pay $1.5 million to each of the child victims, according to Beauregard.
He said the girls have been placed, together, in a “fantastic foster home” with a person who really cares about them.
“Thankfully, having had a chance to meet these girls, it’s clear that they will continue to work toward having positive lives, particularly with the support in the form of counseling and education opportunities that this settlement will provide.”
Officials with DSHS did not comment Wednesday on the settlement.
By Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter
This article was originally published online at The Seattle Times on January 30, 2013.