Two former foster children sue state agency

PORTLAND — Two children mistreated in a foster home have sued the Oregon state child welfare agency, seeking nearly $32 million, lawyers say.

The case involves a little girl known in 2004 as Jordan Knapp and her younger brother. Both have since been adopted.

Now 10, Jordan was just 5 years old when she was flown to a hospital with a broken skull. She weighed just 28 pounds. Court documents say her brother, now 8, was starving as well and was hospitalized.

The conditions at their Clackamas County foster home led to demands for reform of Oregon's foster care system.

The Legislature ordered the Oregon Department of Human Services to investigate when a child under state supervision is seriously injured or killed and make the findings public.

But lawyer Scott Kocher, representing Jordan's interests, says the reports in her case were vague and failed to effectively address system shortfalls. He says he hopes the lawsuits will make the system safer for foster kids.

Kocher says the reports didn't identify the caseworkers or supervisors who failed to intervene for Jordan and her brother. DHS said at the time only that it had taken "appropriate personnel or disciplinary action with regard to four employees."

Oregon Department of Justice spokesman Tony Green said he can't comment because of the pending litigation. The Justice Department will defend the state.

Jordan's suit seeks as much as $28.5 million, saying she will need lifetime mental and physical care. Her little brother's suit seeks as much as $3.3 million. The suits were filed Friday and Monday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Jordan's lawsuit details how she repeatedly told DHS workers she was beaten and starved, but they did not believe her.

Jordan and her brother were removed from their biological mother's home because of concerns she was using meth. They moved in with the foster parents in September 2002.

According to court papers, in May 2003, Jordan asked to speak to a DHS caseworker privately, then told the caseworker that her foster mother "always spanks me. I want her to stop spanking me." The following month, a caseworker documented that Jordan ate five cups of fruit in the presence of the caseworker.

At McDonald's, the little girl asked for food from a stranger and told the stranger that her foster mom was starving her, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuits list as defendants DHS; two caseworkers, one of whom has retired; a supervisor, the foster parents, a former lawyer for the children and doctors who are accused of not reporting bruises found on Jordan's brother.

The Oregonian reports the foster mother, Thelma Beaver, was sentenced to five years in prison for criminal mistreatment of Jordan, while the foster father, William Beaver, received two years probation for a lesser charge.


Information from: The Oregonian,

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