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Doctors testify in Cox civil suit against DSHS

Data pix.

TACOMA -- The civil case pitting Susan Cox’s family against the Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services moved into day three in Tacoma on Thursday.

The crux of the suit: is Washington state responsible for the deaths of Susan Cox’s two young boys, Charlie and Braden, at the hands of their father?

Jurors heard from one of the architects who helped the state agency devise a new policy meant to identify domestic violence as a possible warning sign where a client’s children could face danger.

“People started asking routinely about domestic violence at the intake part of process,” testified Dr. Anne Ganley, a psychologist who helped the agency overhaul how it handled domestic violence claims when meeting new clients.

“This policy represented a major shift in how workers and supervisors would do their work and could not be implemented without special training on how you do it,” she said.

Ganley said part of the new policy reflected evidence that domestic violence among clients could sometimes lead to fatalities in the family unit.

“They wanted to make sure it was identified as early in the case as possible,” she said.

The new policy started in 2009 but the Cox family attorneys allege not all caseworkers in the agency were fully trained and that some didn’t complete training until well after Josh Powell killed his sons.

“There was supposed to be training on it, but there wasn’t,” said plaintiff’s attorney Anne Bremner. “The training only occurred in 2013, tragically after the boys were murdered.”

But, also part of the new intake procedures meant reaching out to other people close to families who may have seen evidence of domestic violence, and the DSHS attorney asserted that may have never been the case.

Since Susan was absent by the time Josh moved himself and his boys to Puyallup, her missing voice may have left the door open for his actions.

“You do not rely solely on the report of the examinee,” testified forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard Adler.

The Cox family attorneys believe Adler’s testimony would sway jurors to believe DSHS failed to reveal that Josh was an obvious risk to his family, and the state didn’t properly evaluate the father of two.

“The testing protocol, or strategy used here, was far from ideal and to be more specific was below the standard of care,” he said.

The trial has concluded for this week, but coming up next week, Josh Powell’s sister is expected to take the stand and testify that she was extremely concerned about the safety of her brother’s sons.

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