Women file lawsuit over alleged abuse by former foster parents

Date: 2011-11-07
Source: News Tribune

Women file lawsuit over alleged abuse by former foster parents
CLAIM: Eatonville couple’s adoptive daughters say state, police failed them

LAST UPDATED: NOVEMBER 7TH, 2011 09:57 AM (PST)

State officials and Eatonville police did not do enough to investigate allegations that a Pierce County firefighter and his wife abused children in their care, a recently filed lawsuit alleges.

Haeli Hamrick and Staci Craney, adoptive daughters of the couple, seek undisclosed monetary damages from the state and the Town of Eatonville. The women, both 21, filed their personal-injury lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court last week.

They contend they suffered neglect and unspecified physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Scott and Drew Ann Hamrick, who were state-licensed foster parents from 1997 to 2004.

A spokesman for the state Department of Social and Health Services said his agency did investigate complaints against the Hamricks last year and worked with them for nearly six months to rectify problems.

“They really let us all down, both as a community and an agency,” DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley said.

Patrick McMahon, a lawyer for the town, said Eatonville police acted appropriately and that the lawsuit is “without merit.”

“We don’t have any liability exposure,” McMahon said.

Hamrick and Craney were young foster children when they moved in with the Hamricks in 1999, their lawsuit states. The couple had several natural children as well.

Scott and Drew Ann Hamrick later adopted both girls, Shapley said.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department in June began investigating allegations that the Hamricks mistreated children in their care. Some allegations included that Scott Hamrick, a lieutenant with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, sexually abused some of the children.

Scott Hamrick committed suicide while the investigation was ongoing.

Drew Ann Hamrick later was charged with two counts of tampering with a witness, aggravated unlawful imprisonment and fourth-degree criminal mistreatment.

She is accused of covering up the alleged molestation, hitting the couple’s 12-year-old daughter with a metal spatula and locking their 14-year-old daughter in a bedroom for up to a week without food, water or access to a bathroom.

She has pleaded not guilty, and her lawyer has said she would vigorously fight the charges.

Haeli Hamrick and Craney contend in their lawsuit that multiple complaints were made to DSHS about alleged abuse in the house but that a thorough investigation never was conducted.

“Reasonable investigations and appropriate action would have resulted in the removal of Haeli and Staci from the care of Scott and/or Drew Ann Hamrick,” their lawsuit contends. Instead, the plaintiffs continued to be exposed to “abuse and harmful living conditions.”

Shapley said there were no complaints about the Hamricks when they served as licensed foster parents from 1997 to 2004 and that there were no allegations of sexual misconduct when Child Protective Services launched its investigation last year.

“This is a difficult situation for Children’s Administration,” he said. “This was a couple that was well-respected in the community.”

Complaints also were made to Eatonville police regarding the safety of the children, the lawsuit contends. Police failed to investigate the allegations or report them to the Sheriff’s Department or DSHS, which prolonged the plaintiffs’ suffering, the lawsuit states.

Because of the inaction by DSHS and Eatonville police, “Haeli and Staci suffered severe damage,” the suit contends.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644
adam.lynn@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/crime Twitter: @TNTadam

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