After a two week trial a Multnomah County jury ordered DHS to pay the two foster kids $4.1 million dollars, the maximum amount, according to lawyers.
One juror tells FOX 12 the verdict was intended to send the state a strong message.
“I haven't slept well for two weeks, I have nightmares. The system needs to change, it's broken,” said juror Karen Preston. “The state does not protect kids and it needs to change.”
Court records show the state placed two foster kids, ages 2 and 4, into the home of Kimberly Vollmer back in 2011, despite a documented history of mental, residential and financial instability.
Those records go on to show that while in Vollmer's care DHS received several reports about the abuse and neglect of those little kids, but they failed to remove them from the home.
Prosecutors argued the state was negligent in certifying Vollmer as a foster parent and careless in responding to repeated reports of abuse.
“It was just incomprehensible, one excuse after another from DHS,” said Preston.
In the end, it only took jurors three hours to return a verdict, according to lawyers. The jury ordered the state to give the girls $2 million for each child's pain and suffering, and $50,000 each to cover years of counseling.
A verdict Preston hopes the state will take seriously.
“The money might make an impact on the girls, I hope it does, but it would have been nice if DHS spent that money on adding staff, appropriate training, quality insurance and disciplinary actions to employees who don't follow their own rules,” said Preston.
“They did not keep these two children safe, how many others are out there suffering in the same way?”
DHS tells FOX 12 they cannot comment on the verdict, and referred our questions to the Department of Justice.
The DOJ did not return our phone calls at the time this story went to air.
The children's lawyer tells us both kids have since been adopted by loving families.
She was also sentenced to three years probation.
The girl was taken from her biological parents shortly after turning 2 because of neglect, and Marrer said she’d come to consider Vollmer her mother. The plan was for Vollmer to adopt the girl and her younger brother.
One girl slapped in face as hard as Vollmer could swing
A local foster parent is accused of hitting a 4-year-old girl in the face.
Kimberly Vollmer was arraigned on charges of criminal mistreatment and assault Friday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Court documents show that a report was filed on Jan. 13 due to a visible injury on the girl's face.
The assault came to light after the girl’s pastor noticed the girl had stopped singing in church and asked her why, said the girl’s juvenile dependency attorney, Emily Marrer.
“The child replied because her face hurt,” Marrer said.
A detective met with Vollmer, who told her the injuries were caused by a change in laundry detergent, according to court records.
Police said Vollmer then suggested the girl was just remembering abuse by her biological mother.
Detectives informed Vollmer that doctors determined the injuries were inflicted on the girl. Police also interviewed other children in the home who said they witnessed Vollmer hit the girl.
Vollmer is a foster parent to four children, including the alleged victim.
Police said Vollmer eventually admitted striking the child in the face.
Court documents show Vollmer said she had just put all the children down for a nap, but the 4-year-old girl wanted to watch TV.
Vollmer said the girl began screaming at the top of her lungs and she was worried it would wake up the other children. Vollmer said she became frustrated, according to police records, and hit the girl with her left hand.
If the other three were down for a nap, how did they see Vollmer slap the girl?
She said the girl then quieted down, according to investigators. I'll bet she did!
On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, police said Vollmer admitted the force she used in striking the girl was a 10.
There is no word on what happened to the other child who was awarded the money.
|Lawyers speaking for Vollmer who was too choked-up to speak|
The Girls' lawyers criticize DHS for not ensuring a safe place for apprehended children
When Kimberly Vollmer was certified as a foster parent in 2011, DHS foster home certifiers overlooked or ignored her obvious limitations. All of the certifiers who testified at trial spoke of the desperate need for foster homes, and in the closing summation to the jury, the state's attorney argued that whether a foster care placement is reasonable depends on what is available. That is not – and cannot be – the standard.
The state of Oregon must do better for these children, and not just the Department of Human Services, but all the state and local agencies that are charged with the care and safety of children. Rule-changes are important and warranted, but having a safe place to put the children taken into State custody is critical.
[Marrer said the Oregon Department of Human Services had received tips that Vollmer might be a danger to children. Marrer said in March 2012 -- roughly 10 months before the face-slapping incident -- someone called DHS to report that Vollmer had slapped a child in the parking lot. DHS received four other calls to its hotline about concerns over Vollmer, Marrer said.
Marrer said Vollmer abused the girl both physically and sexually, but defense attorney Bryan Francesconi said his client was never charged with sexual abuse and it wasn’t an issue in the case.]
The Children's Receiving Center fell victim to budget cuts, but the number-crunchers forgot to factor in the consequences to children placed in foster homes like Kimberly Vollmer's when they were doing their cost-benefit analysis. The jury – who took to heart its role as the conscience of the community – recognized the consequences, and so should the rest of us.
Erin Olson and Josh Lamborn are the attorneys, respectively, for the two abused girls, known as N.E. and S.E.