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Boy sues Oregon over alleged abuse and neglect in foster home

The Oregon Department of Human Services is in Salem.
Michael Romanos
Oregon Capital Chronicle
The Oregon Department of Human Services is in Salem.

The suit says the state Department of Human Services ignored complaints about abuse, injuries and neglect and kept children in the home.

A boy is suing the Oregon Department of Human Services for alleged abuse and neglect in a home where he lived with his sister for a year along with other children.

The federal lawsuit, filed in September in U.S. District Court in Portland, provides the account of the then-5-year-old boy who entered into a foster home in 2016 with his 9-year-old sister in Lane County. The boy’s court-appointed adult representative, Shannon Conley, is the plaintiff in the case.

The foster father, Joe Raygosa, was sentenced in 2018 to 94 years in prison for sexually abusing the girl.

The lawsuit says the Oregon Department of Human Services failed to properly vet Raygosa and his partner before putting children in their care and essentially ignored multiple complaints from providers about injuries and other abuse during the year when the two children lived with them. The girl, also through an adult court-appointed representative, filed a separate lawsuit against the agency in November 2022, which is open. That lawsuit seeks $20 million in damages for neglect, and the boy’s suit seeks $5 million.

The boy “spent a year in an unfit foster home where he was scapegoated, blamed, neglected and emotionally abused,” his lawsuit said.

Jake Sunderland, a spokesperson for the agency, declined to comment, saying the agency doesn’t do so on lawsuits.

The foster parents had problems in their background, including the death of a 3-year-old in their custody when they lived in California in 2012, the lawsuit said. At the time, emergency medical personnel reported the death as potential child abuse, the lawsuit said. A tribal foster parent program declined to certify them for that reason, the lawsuit alleged, without elaborating.

In July 2016, the boy and his sister entered the foster home. A month later, Raygosa and his partner Nicole Duncan asked that he be moved elsewhere, the lawsuit said. In contrast, Raygosa was “immediately infatuated” with the boy’s sister and insisted she call him dad, according to the allegations.

In October 2016, a medical provider reported concerns about two different children not in the foster system who were also in the home and filed a report with the agency’s hotline about possible neglect and abuse, the lawsuit said. The couple claimed those two children were their niece and nephew, according to the suit.

Instead of investigating, the agency licensed the couple to care for three more foster children in December 2016, the lawsuit said.

With five foster children in the household, outsiders filed more complaints about the couple: one child with a developmental disability had singed hair and another child had rashes and poor hygiene, the lawsuit said. A third had a black eye, according to the case.

Even after the agency received six calls about problems at the foster home, the agency did not transfer the boy and his sister to another home, the lawsuit said.

“While other children were removed for safety concerns, DHS did not remove (them), leaving them to suffer unnecessarily for an entire year,” the lawsuit said.

By June 2017, the boy was 6 years old. That month, he scaled a fence at the home and wandered more than a mile down a highway, wearing only his shorts and flip flops, according to his allegations.

When police found him, the boy told officers he was hungry and walking to a friend’s home for food, the lawsuit said. After police returned him to the house, the foster parents initially begged the agency to send him away, the lawsuit said.

But they allegedly backtracked after the agency told them the girl would leave with him too. Later, the foster parents told the boy he would have to wear a leash in public, the lawsuit said.

In July 2017, the agency removed the two foster children from the home, but the kids still visited Duncan and Raygosa for three more months, the lawsuit said. During that time, agency workers noticed Raygosa’s fixation with the girl and his inattention to the boy, the lawsuit said.

The visits stopped after the girl told authorities that Raygosa sexually abused her and he fled to Oklahoma, the lawsuit said. Authorities extradited Raygosa to Oregon. Court records show a Lane County jury convicted him in August 2018 of 10 felonies: four counts of first-degree sexual abuse; two counts of unlawful sexual penetration; and four counts of first-degree sodomy.

Besides the agency’s alleged role in negligence, the suit accuses the department of failing to properly train staff, do a home study and ignoring reports of neglect at the home.

The Oregon Capital Chronicle is a professional, nonprofit news organization. We are an affiliate of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Capital Chronicle retains full editorial independence, meaning decisions about news and coverage are made by Oregonians for Oregonians.

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Ben Botkin has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.