DHS fires two top officials; agency hit with lawsuit alleging se - KPTV - FOX 12

DHS fires two top officials; agency hit with lawsuit alleging severe abuse

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Oregon Department of Human Services (FOX 12 file image) Oregon Department of Human Services (FOX 12 file image)
Danielle and John Yates, jail booking photos Danielle and John Yates, jail booking photos

The Department of Human Services has fired two of its top officials and the agency is now facing a $20 million lawsuit alleging caseworkers and executives ignored the severe abuse of two children by their foster parents for more than two years.

On Thursday, DHS Director Clyde Saiki announced the firings of Jerry Waybrant, chief operating officer for the child welfare and self sufficiency programs, and Lois Day, director of the child welfare program.

DHS cited "continuing concerns in leadership and direction." Deputy Director Reginald Richardson will serve as interim director until a permanent replacement is selected. Waybrant's position at DHS will be discontinued.

Waybrant was removed as interim director of DHS in November 2015, after only serving in the position for a short time, but he remained with the agency. 

A lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Thursday against DHS names nine employees, including Saiki and Day, as well as former foster parents John and Danielle Yates.

The couple was arrested in March 2015 on charges of first-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment. At the time, deputies said their foster children, a 4-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, were not provided adequate food or medical care.

The lawsuit states the children were chronically starved, isolated and physically abused. Attorneys for the children are seeking $10 million for each child, with the option for a jury to award each child a total of over $60 million. 

"DHS certifiers, caseworkers and their supervisors and managers ignored clear and repeated signs of child abuse that resulted in life, health and soul-threatening consequences to the children," the lawsuit states.

The children were placed in the DHS-certified foster home of John and Danielle Yates in Yamhill in May 2012. The couple already had two other foster children and the lawsuit alleges DHS began receiving reports of neglect and abuse regarding those children in March 2012.  

The first two children were removed from the home in July 2012, while the children involved in the lawsuit remained in the Yates' care.

In the months and years that followed, the lawsuit states DHS received numerous reports of abuse.

According to the lawsuit, DHS workers and law enforcement reported the two children involved in the lawsuit were thin and small, appeared unhealthy and suffered multiple injuries that their foster parents said were from accidentally being hit with a door, getting bumped or were sustained during swimming.

The lawsuit alleges the cases were continuously closed by DHS workers as being "unfounded."

The lawsuit alleges Danielle Yates told investigators in one instance that the children's unhealthy appearance was due to them being born addicted to heroin, and other times claimed they were born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

The lawsuit states neither claim is true.

The children were turned over to their parental aunt in December 2014. The lawsuit states they were taken to Randall Children's Hospital in Portland and doctors found many symptoms of chronic starvation and malnutrition, including emaciated appearances, loose skin and visible ribs.

The girl weighed the same, 30 pounds, as she did two years earlier when she was placed in the Yates' home. The boy had gained one pound in those two years, according to the lawsuit.

A DHS spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. A DHS release did not reference the lawsuit in connection to the firings of Waybrant and Day.

DHS reached a $15 million settlement in December 2015 with nine former foster children who were sexually abused by their foster father.  

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