Mother sues DSHS over infant son’s death

The mother of a 5-month-old who died after being shaken violently is suing the state Department of Social and Health Services, alleging the agency ignored concerns about the baby’s safety in the month before his death.

Ti-Ryn Vanderveur died after Michael Vanderveur — believed at the time to be the baby’s father — shook him Oct. 2 and 3, 2010. The baby’s mother, Racheal Emery, then of Aberdeen, said Child Protective Services didn’t do enough to address her concerns.

Michael Vanderveur, then of Hoquiam, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to two years, three months in prison in 2011. He has since been released from prison.

Currently, Michael Vanderveur is not named in the suit, lead attorney Tom Vertitis said.

“We reserve the right to bring him into the case later, but the focus of the case is (that) the State of Washington was contacted numerous times with regards to the safety of the child,” Vertitis said. “Regardless of how long you think he should have stayed in jail, he’s paid his debt for his criminal acts.”

The complaint states CPS was contacted four times prior to the shaking incidents that led to Ti-Ryn Vanderveur’s death, both by Emery and Vanderveur.

“What was very disturbing was that Rachael actually contacted the State of Washington and advised them there was bruising on his back, she took pictures of that, and the report she made was just ignored,” Vertitis said. “The real concern in all of this was that Michael Vanderveur wasn’t even the biological father, and if the state had done some actual investigation on this, our opinion is he wouldn’t have suffered further abuse by Michael.”

A fatality review completed by a Children’s Administration committee after the baby’s death agreed with CPS workers’ handling of the complaints in most cases. The review team did note that on Sept. 12, 2010, when Michael Vanderveur brought the baby to Grays Harbor Community Hospital with minor scratches, they agreed with the intake worker’s decision to assign the case for alternative intervention.

A supervisor later changed the decision to information only, rather than intervention, apparently because medical staff concluded the child was medically fine. They concluded intake staff could have gotten more specific information regarding the baby’s medical treatment.

Alternate intervention is no longer used by Children’s Administration, spokeswoman Mindy Chambers explained. It was a procedure for low- to moderate low-risk situations where staff would connect families to services, support and community resources, then contact them within 10 days, by phone or in person, to discuss the family’s status.

The committee recommended mandatory reporting training for Community Hospital staff and training for DSHS employees on intake policies.

Vertitis said a dollar figure for damages has not been set yet.

“The sad thing is is Ti-Ryn has been lost, and the purpose of this suit is to get accountability. Unfortunately, all we can ask for is money damage, but that’s not the primary focus,” he said.


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