The imprisoned mother of Serenity Deal is seeking $3 million from the state in a tort claim that blames DHS for the girl's murder.
Samantha Deal, 22, is seeking $1 million for herself and $1 million each for her two remaining daughters.
“It's awful. It's awful,'” said the mother's attorney, Jim Loepp. “What DHS did, it was just horrifying to me.”
Serenity is the 5-year-old girl whose death in June 2011 sparked public outrage against the state Department of Human Services. The agency's longtime director, Howard Hendrick, retired this year after public confidence in his leadership fell because of child deaths.
Serenity's father killed her less than a month after she began living with him full time at his Oklahoma City apartment at the recommendation of DHS workers.
She had been in foster care.
DHS officials acknowledged its child welfare workers made mistakes in the handling of Serenity's placement. One worker quit, one committed suicide and two others were fired.
DHS said its workers failed to fully check the father's background and discover times he had been violent in the past.
Serenity was not living with her mother because her mother had been accused of molesting a boy. Samantha Deal eventually pleaded no contest in Lincoln County District Court to oral sodomy. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Samantha Deal remains in prison.
“We are reviewing the claim,” a DHS attorney, Richard Freeman, told The Oklahoman.
The state received the one-page tort claim from Loepp on June 4. The attorney is following a state law that requires a person first to make a claim for damages with the state before filing a lawsuit. State officials have 90 days to respond.
State officials could elect to settle the claim before the deadline, but that is unlikely.
“The negligent acts of OKDHS were the proximate cause of Serenity Deal's untimely passing and the claimant ... has suffered damages as a result thereof,” the mother's claim states.
Serenity's grandparents, Chuck and Annette Deal, of Chandler, have made a separate claim against the state over the girl's death, their attorney, Joe Vorndran, said. Serenity stayed with them for a while before being put into foster homes.
The grandparents' claim may have been misplaced. The grandparents' attorney said he has proof the state accepted it. State officials said Thursday they have not received it yet.
The girl was placed with her father, Sean Devon Brooks, in May 2011 even though she was injured twice in January 2011 during overnight visits with him.
The second time, she came back to a foster home with black eyes and a swollen and bruised face, records show. Both she and her father said he dropped her accidentally. DHS workers accepted that explanation.
Brooks, 32, is serving a life term in prison for first-degree murder. He admitted in his guilty plea last December that he beat Serenity in the head.
DHS commissioners last September formed a special committee to review her death and other child deaths.
They acted after Gov. Mary Fallin complained of “the appearance of lax oversight on the part of DHS commissioners.”