Date: 1989-02-16


Author: Arthur C. Gorlick P-I Reporter

The state's Department of Social and Health Services has suspended the license of a Port Angeles adoption agency run by the wife of a lawyer charged with sexually abusing a blind, 12-year-old Guatemalan girl living in his home.

The agency, Adoption Advocates International, is licensed to Merrily Ripley, wife of attorney Theadore E. ''Ted'' Ripley.

Ted Ripley, a member of the adoption agency's board and its registered agent, was charged earlier this month with second-degree statutory rape by Prosecuting Attorney David H. Bruneau of Clallam County.

Ripley, who is free on personal recognizance and living in the home, has insisted that he is innocent of molesting the girl, who has lived in the Ripley home since infancy.

The office of State Licenser Steve Ennett, a division of Social and Health Services, began investigating the adoption agency's license after the girl said she was sexually abused by Ted Ripley and others, said Frank Mendizabal, spokesman for the Department of Social and Health Services.

''Those allegations were based on the alleged abuse victim's testimony and was supported by the opinions of several professionals in the field of child welfare,'' he said.

''It was also suspected that other acts of physical or sexual abuse may have occurred in their home and that although brought to Mrs. Ripley's attention, neither she nor her husband attempted to protect the alleged victims or to curtail the alleged abuse from reoccurring.

''Therefore, we believe there was reasonable cause to believe the allegations and summarily suspended the license.''

The Guatemalan girl has been made a ward of the state and is living in a foster home.

Merrily Ripley has operated an adoption agency for 12 years ''and has placed almost 2,500 young people in homes throughout the area,'' responded Jerry Buzzard, the Olympia attorney representing her and the adoption agency in the state's licensing action.

''Now, after absolutely no complaints, she gets a summary notice from the state,'' he said.

Children being placed by the agency never stay in the Ripley home, but are placed in nearby foster homes temporarily, if necessary, he said.

''Perhaps the state jumped prematurely here without checking all the facts,'' Buzzard said.

The adoption agency specializes in obtaining children from other nations, mainly in Asia and Central America, for adoptive families.

It operates from offices in a small building behind the home of the Ripley family, which has received national recognition for adopting 18 children from other countries as well as providing a home for three children born to Ted and Merrily Ripley.

As a result of the Guatemalan girl's statements, an adopted Costa Rican- born son of the Ripleys was sentenced to six months in a juvenile institution last July after he was was found guilty of taking indecent liberties with the girl.

Another adopted son, German-born Kori Ripley, 30 ((age)), was charged last month with taking indecent liberties with the same girl and is scheduled to stand trial April 17. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Summary suspension of the license means that the agency must cease operations immediately and that it has 30 days to request an administrative hearing, Mendizabal said.

Merrily Ripley has operated an international adoption agency in Port Angeles since about 1976, when she helped found a group formerly called the Washington Association of Christian Adoptive Parents, later called Western Association of Concerned Adoptive Parents, or WACAP.

In 1983, she was licensed to operate her own agency, Adoption Advocates International, which is not connected with WACAP, now based in Seattle.

The state license for Adoption Advocates International was renewed in 1986 and is up for renewal this year.

The agency placed 144 children last year and 127 in 1987. Buzzard said it has about 100 children ''in the pipeline'' now.


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