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Sisters awarded $2 million for years of abuse in state care

logo“The state of Alaska was supposed to protect the sisters from a mother who drank and did drugs, and from the increasing violence between her and their stepfather.

But, a Kenai jury recently found, the state put them in places even worse. They suffered years of mistreatment, including sexual abuse in foster care, and the state exacerbated the problems by failing to provide the girls consistent counseling, according to their attorney, Mike Kramer of Fairbanks.

After an eight-day trial this month, the jury sided with the sisters, putting 95 percent of the blame directly on the state, and awarded them more than $2 million in damages, court records show.

Some of the adults, including two case workers who should have been watching out for the sisters, doubted or dismissed their cries for help, which made their emotional problems worse, according to an expert hired by their attorney.

The state hasn’t decided whether it will appeal the award, said Cori Badgley, an assistant attorney general not directly involved in the case. “We are still evaluating our options and looking at the jury verdict.”

The sisters are now 19 and 21 years old. They took their claims of mistreatment and neglect in foster care to court in hopes of improving the state’s child protection system, the older sister said in an interview. The Daily News generally does not name the victims of sexual abuse.

“I don’t want kids to have to hurt more than they are already hurting,” the 21-year-old said in a telephone interview with her attorney on the line. “Being taken from your parents is very, very tough, and very, very painful. And I don’t ever want kids to have the pain that we had.”

Kids should be believed when they report abuse, she said. And she wants the state Office of Children’s Services to investigate reports of mistreatment and make sure its young wards get essential counseling.

Jurors assessed 5 percent of the blame for the girls’ ordeal to their mother, whose life was a chaotic blur of drugs, alcohol and violent relationships.

OCS officials on Friday answered questions about the case in brief, written responses that were vetted through the state Department of Law.”

Read more at the Alaska Dispatch News: Sisters awarded $2 million for years of abuse in state care