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December 11, 2012 at 2:49 PM

State to pay $11 million to foster children from Tacoma ‘house of horrors’

The state has agreed to pay $11 million to resolve a lawsuit filed against the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and 21 social workers by six people who claim they were sexually and physically abused by their foster parents.

The lawsuit had been scheduled to go to trial in U.S. District Court early next year, according to a news release.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that they had been abused over a period of years while they resided in the Tacoma foster home of Jose and Juanita Miranda, who are both now deceased. They also claimed that DSHS had been negligent in licensing the foster home and in investigating multiple complaints from May 1998 until February 2005.

The six plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against DSHS in August 2011, claiming they were “sexually, physically and psychologically terrorized for the pleasure and profit of their foster-care providers.”

“It was not a home,” said Jeremy Johnston, an attorney for plaintiffs, who are now adults. “It was a house of horrors.”

The lawsuit alleged that the former foster parents, Jose and Juanita Miranda, were both on welfare and collecting disability payments when the state licensed them to operate a foster-care home between 1997 and 2003.

Jose Miranda died behind bars in 2009 after he had been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for raping and molesting foster children. His wife died of a drug overdose in a Tacoma park in 2006, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleged that the children were routinely drugged with sleeping pills and forced to engage in sexual acts with Jose Miranda, and the other foster children, in a padlocked room in the basement dedicated to that purpose. The suit also alleged that the Mirandas forced the children to wear diapers and pretend to have bed-wetting issues to increase their foster-care benefits, to eat expired food and consume their own vomit when they were sick.

According to the lawsuit, DSHS approved Juanita Miranda as a foster parent despite a long history of drug use and criminal violations. Her own two biological children were taken from her by Child Protective Services in California because of drug use and neglect, and she was arrested in that state more than 50 times, the suit claimed.

The suit also alleged that Juanita Miranda was also under the supervision of Washington’s Department of Corrections when she was granted her foster-care license and that DSHS failed to revoke her license even after later receiving reports about her criminal history. She was never charged with a crime in connection with the alleged abuse, according to the lawsuit.

Tacoma police began an investigation in 2005 after Jose Miranda confessed his crimes to a nurse while he was hospitalized, according to the suit.

Court documents indicate that Jose Miranda was charged in 2007 with three counts of first-degree child rape, two counts of first-degree child molestation and two counts of third-degree assault of a child.


Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Department of Social and Health Services, Tacoma, U.S. District Court


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