‘They Just Heaped It on Him,’ Says Attorney of Foster Parents Who Abused Boy

The hard part was supposed to be over for R.H., a young boy in Oregon’s child welfare system, when he was adopted by foster parents Alona and Roger Hartwig. However the Department of Human Services (DHS) repeatedly failed to protect him and other children from the Hartwig’s horrific abuse, according to a suit filed on behalf of the boy. The Oregonian reports:

DHS certified the Hartwigs as foster parents in 2003. From 2003 to 2009, DHS received at least nine reports of child abuse or neglect in the Hartwig home, but child-protective workers failed to step in to protect the boy or other children, the suit alleges. For example, in 2004, DHS received a report of a 3-year-old foster child who was losing weight, had a black eye, scrapes and sores all over his body, shoes that were too small and blood blisters on his feet.

The suit and investigative reports detail R.H.’s suffering, which included a broken pelvis and ribs, severe burns, and being forced to stand outside while the family ate meals. He spent five years in the Hartwig’s home before finally being rescued:

The boys suffering came to light in 2010, after someone called the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, and deputies discovered the boy with broken bones and a bad infection from untreated burns.

Alona and Rodger Hartwig had six biological children and four foster children. Some were abused, but Paul said they saved the worst of their abuse for the boy.

“Nobody was treated like this one kid,” [R.H.’s Attorney David] Paul said. “They just heaped it on him.”

While DHS says that the number of children abused or neglected in foster care has declined significantly–dropping from one in 100 in 2007 to one in 200 in 2010–they admit that this particular case was mishandled:

DHS acknowledged that repeated reports of possible abuse or neglect at the Hartwig home weren’t adequately investigated or considered as child-welfare workers re-certified the Hartwigs as foster parents and allowed them to adopt.

The Hartwigs both pleaded guilty in court and are currently serving lengthy jail sentences. However, the abuse is still taking a toll, according to the suit:

R.H., who is now 11, is still in the foster-care system. The suit describes his physical and psychological injuries as “permanent and progressive.” The suit seeks $250,000 for medical bills and counseling, $1.5 million for loss of earning capacity over his lifetime and $3 million for pain and suffering. The boy is “severely traumatized” and unable to form close relationships, the suit states.