CARNATION, Wash. -- The state's Child Protective Services - and ultimately the taxpayers - are facing another multi-million dollar lawsuit for failing to protect vulnerable children.
In this case, doctors compared the 14-year-old victim to a "concentration camp survivor" after she was starved by her stepmother.
The guardian for that girl and her younger brother is suing the state for a total of $40 million. Attorneys say they hope the lawsuit serves as a wake-up call for the state, as the children will be suffering the effects of this abuse for the rest of their lives.
When a sheriff's deputy found the 14-year-old living in a Carnation home, he thought she was a 7- or 8-year-old child. The teenager weighed less than 40 pounds and stood just over 4 1/2 feet tall.
Her father, Jon Pomeroy
, and stepmother, Rebecca Long
, have both pleaded guilty to child abuse. The teenager testified at her stepmother's sentencing.
"Rebecca came to locking me in my room and rationing my food and water," the victim said.
What that trial didn't address is that the state's Child Protective Services first learned about this family and the abuse three years earlier.
In 2005, the girl's teachers contacted CPS with concerns about the girl's condition.
CPS investigated, and though Long admitted to locking the girl in her room for hours at a time, the state didn't find she was being starved. But attorney Tim Tesh contends social workers should have seen the signs.
"We can tell you that doctors we've talked to say what they should have seen is a girl who was already beginning to waste away," he said. "I think it's outrageous.I think anyone with children realizes just how outrageous it is."
Even the girl wished she could have talked to the social worker who visited just once and interviewed the teen at her home.
"Yet I could not make contact, because that was when Rebecca began keeping me barricaded into a room all day," said the victim.
Instead, the state admits it closed the case after just five weeks, and never spoke to the girl's father. The state also never followed up with calls to the school and never tried to talk to the young girl again until three years later when a neighbor reported a child screaming, non-stop. It was the young girl.
"She herself - not the system that was there in 2005 - but she herself reached out in 2008, and saved her life. She saved her own life," said Tesh.
The state says it cannot comment due to a pending lawsuit.
At the time, the head of Children's Administration promised a thorough review, but now the state says there was no formal review.