PORTLAND (AP) — The state of Oregon has agreed to pay $1.25 million to the family of a teen who died under the watch of child welfare workers.
Terms of the settlement became public this week after attorneys filed settlement documents in Multnomah County Circuit Court, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Gloria Joya of Sweet Home died at age 15 while in foster care in 2016 from untreated gastrointestinal problems, a health condition that a 2017 lawsuit claimed was made worse because of the girl's tumultuous life.
The lawsuit claimed her health had quickly deteriorated, but instead of taking her to the hospital, a caseworker sent her to her aunt's house. Her aunt brought her to the hospital the next day, where she later died.
The lawsuit said Oregon Department of Human Services child welfare workers had been contacted 28 times with concerns about Joya starting when she was 1 and continuing until she was 14. Callers voiced fears that she faced abuse or neglect while living with one or both of her parents, yet the department didn't take custody of her until she was 14, the suit said.
According to the lawsuit and the state's investigation into Joya's death, the she missed an unusual amount school, her mother repeatedly used methamphetamine while living with her in a shelter and her parents fought in front of her and her siblings. Joya also said she'd been choked.
Paul Galm, a lawyer who represented Joya's estate along with attorney Steve Milla, said the number of times people had contacted the department about Joya was "startling."
"I think that's one of the reasons that led to the settlement," Galm said.
Joya died days after she'd been moved to a temporary emergency foster home in April 2016.
Her death marked one of the last times the Department of Human Services disclosed its full history of involvement in a child's life by filing a required child fatality report. The state has subsequently withheld vital information about child deaths, making it difficult for survivors to pursue wrongful death lawsuits against it.
After paying fees to lawyers and expenses generated by the lawsuit, $780,000 of the settlement will go to Joya's family including her four surviving siblings.