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Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 1:36 p.m.

Lawsuit accuses DSHS of failing to stop neglect

OLYMPIA -- A lawsuit filed Tuesday says two Washington girls suffered abuse and neglect from their mother and that state officials failed to stop the problem.
Lawyers said that family members, neighbors and school officials repeatedly alerted the state Department of Social and Human Services, expressing concerns about the children. The lawsuit says the girls from Lewis County suffered years of injury and neglect caused by their mother, who was convicted in 2009 of criminal mistreatment.
A spokeswoman for DSHS says the agency does not comment on lawsuits.
Attorneys say one of the daughters cared for horses and dogs on the property and was forced to sleep outside in a puppy mill. She was repeatedly infested with lice and showed up at school bruised and visibly underweight.
The girl ran away from home at age 13 and was found weighing only 60 pounds, the lawyers said.
An attorney representing the children said the animals the girl cared for received better treatment than she did.
"At least the animals were sometimes fed and they were most often fed by (the girl) who was forced to hide food for herself to survive," said Steve Bulzomi in a statement.
The case seeks compensation for damages.
Lawyers said the mother initially gained sole custody of the girls after their father died in a car accident. They said the woman prevented the father's family members from seeing the children.
An aunt of the girls is now their guardian and is pursuing the lawsuit.

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