Amy didn't give up.
After suffering severe physical and psychological abuse from her child's father, Amy did the things we encourage domestic violence victims to do: she fled her abuser, got a protection order, obtained full custody of her child, and moved away to seek safety.
But she had difficulty finding safe housing, her son began experiencing serious health problems as a result of the abuse, and her post-traumatic stress disorder became almost unmanageable. She didn't give up.
She reached out to Washington's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) for help. But instead of supporting Amy, they took her son away and placed him in foster care for nearly 18 months. The state used her status as a survivor against her, suggesting that she was an unfit parent because she was a victim of abuse.
She fought for her child. Her fight eventually brought her to Legal Voice, where we fought even harder together. Amy never gave up - and she finally received justice!
Yesterday, DSHS settled Amy's case and agreed to compensate Amy and her son for what happened to them. We are thrilled for Amy and her son, and that their struggle has been recognized by the systems that harmed them.
We took this case to not only bring justice to Amy and her son, but to also prevent the wrongful separation of other families. So you can bet that institutional changes are a part of this settlement agreement! DSHS has already agreed to a mandatory domestic violence training for staff. And later this summer, we'll meet with Department officials and our partners at Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence to discuss further policy changes.
No one should be placed in the unfair position of needing protection and being punished when they seek it. Together, we can ensure no one has to make that choice.
Special thanks to our co-counsel Molly Terwilliger – Yarmuth LLP attorney and former Legal Voice Board President – for her tremendous efforts to seek justice for Amy and her son.
Victims of Spousal Abuse are Losing Their Children to Social Services, Pacific Standard, 3/5/18