On March 1, 2018, headlines in the Vancouver, WA Columbian newspaper read, “DSHS pays 3.1 million after placing Vancouver girl with known rapist”. The article told of CPS placement of an infant with her biological father, even though he had a known history to indicate this situation would present a direct and serious threat of harm. The child remained in her father’s care and was sexually abused for years before the tragic error was corrected.
On February 28, 2018, one day before the news broke of the 3.1 million DSHS settlement, Vancouver mother Trisha DeLaurent, who has been fighting 17 months for the return of her children, was informed that her 11-year-old son Austin* would be placed in a similarly dangerous situation with his biological father and two adult half-brothers. The oldest half-brother is a known sexual predator who has been caught molesting siblings in the past. The younger half-brother has a history of violent behavior and has physically attacked Austin on at least one occasion. Both adult siblings have exposed 11-year-old Austin to pornography since being in state care. The new living arrangement between these three grown men and vulnerable child is scheduled to begin on Friday, March 9th, 2018.
The DeLaurent children were taken from their mother’s care by Oregon CPS in October 2016 after two anonymous hotline calls were made by Trisha’s estranged mother who claimed her oldest grandson was a victim of medical child abuse. The grandmother, Pamala Gaddis, is engaged in an intimate relationship with her daughter’s ex-husband and abuser, William Lance Ulich.
Trisha DeLaurent and her children are survivors of severe, court-documented, domestic violence at the hands of Lance Ulich, Austin’s biological father. In April of 2014, Mr. Ulich was subjected to two consecutive years of domestic violence orders of protection, which prevented all contact with Trisha and the three children. After he completed domestic violence and parenting classes, the court determined that Mr. Ulich still demonstrated high lethality risks based on his own testimony and court evaluations.
In 2015, following a lengthy divorce trial, a King County Washington Superior Court judge issued a lifetime protection order for Trisha and her children. The court also approved confidential relocation and sealed name changes due to what the judge determined to be a high likelihood that, given the opportunity, Mr. Ulich would harm the family again. Now, less than three years later, William Lance Ulich has been designated by Multnomah County Judge Susan Svetkey, through an interstate agreement between Oregon and Washington child protective services, as appropriate placement for the 11-year-old child.
Austin has been in therapy for years due to diagnosed PTSD after finally escaping the domestic violence he witnessed when his father frequently beat and verbally abused his mother and others in the household. According to Washington court records, Austin remembers seeing his dad strangle his mother. He openly expressed his fears to DHS case workers, his attorney and others at the onset of the CPS intervention. During a hearing early in the case, Ms. Jane Chausova, Austin’s court appointed attorney stated to Judge Svetkey, “…[Austin] does not want to have any contact with his father. He’s reported that he’s very fearful of him and it causes him distress to think that his father is participating in this case.”
In the CPS Investigator’s notes, Austin is quoted as making the following statements regarding Lance Ulich:
• “He abused my brothers and always got mad. He would break stuff and yell.”
• “I’m afraid he’ll abuse me like he abused every single kid in my house”
• “I have stress a lot. I don’t want to see him.”
The investigator also included in his notes that Austin reported he is afraid of his father and that he sees his father behind him in the mirror sometimes.
All the above statements of fear were expressed while Austin was still protected from Mr. Ulich by a court order, and the father and son had not had any contact in almost three years. Within three months of being in state’s custody, the court ordered protections had been improperly circumvented by Oregon DHS, and Mr. Ulich was given full access to his son despite Austin’s expressed fears.
Trisha DeLaurent has continued to advocate for the safety of her children as they each have been exposed to increasingly dangerous and potentially harmful situations in foster care over the past 17 months. Now, five weeks from a decision that could bring all three of her children home (April 10, 2018), Trisha has learned that Oregon and Washington child protective services have collaborated to order that Austin live with his abusive biological father and two adult half-brothers in Seattle, Washington.
The significant abuse that Austin has suffered since being in state care is currently the subject of ongoing investigations by regulatory agencies in Oregon State. The recent decision to force Austin to live with his biological father was stipulated to by Washington DSHS through the ICPC division that handles Interstate Compact agreements. As a result, Washington DSHS has agreed to take responsibility for Austin’s safety (or lack thereof).
The agreement to place Austin in a situation that a King County Superior Court judge deemed to pose “high lethality risks” as recently as 2015 is startling. With the March 1, 2018 press release of a $3.1 million settlement reached by Washington DSHS regarding a similar derelict placement, it seems logical that the Agency would be operating with heightened awareness. Based on evidence in King County Court record, it is not a question of whether Austin will be harmed in the new placement, it is more likely a question of how tragic the harm will be.
*The name of Trisha Delaurent’s son (Austin) has been changed in this article to protect his identity