A nine-year-old girl named Cheyene Lewis found herself living a Cinderella story when Washington state awarded her $4 million for its failure to intervene on her behalf in a child abuse situation.
According to KOMO, two years ago, Cheyene lived with her mother, Amanda Foley, stepfather, Mark Dorson, and two younger brothers in Lake Stevens, Washing. Both Foley and Dorson were found guilty of committing a felony after a concerned woman saw the children alone in the house and called the police.
When Cheyene was born, both she and Foley tested positive for methamphetamine.A few years later, the state’s Department of Social and Health Services was called because Foley was accused of having a sexual relationship with her half-brother, who reportedly threw Cheyene’s then-infant brother against a wall while in his car seat. This is only a fraction of what the children had to endure.
Police arrived at the home to find it padlocked shut and needed to break it in order to enter. Police said that they saw the worst living conditions they had ever seen. KOMO reported that when searching the home, police had to use respirators to breathe and rubber boots because the carpet was completely soaked.
The home had no heat or food, and car parts, broken furniture, trash, dirty diapers, animal and human urine and feces were scattered all over the house.
Police also found then 7-year-old Cheyene, her 3-year-old brother, and her 1-year-old brother who were left home alone for days.
One of the officers who made the discovery told Komo News:
“We actually took turns kind of stepping outside for a second to kind of get ourselves together a little bit.”
Another officer said:
“It was very upsetting. It was not the way I would like to find children being treated … I’ll never forget it.”
He was also the first officer to reach the baby, who was hypothermic, dehydrated, and lying under dirty blankets in a locked room filled with empty beer cans, garbage, and mold.
The officer said:
“At first I thought that the child wasn’t alive, so I kind of reached in and touched him, and finally at the last second, his eyes started moving.”
Foley and Dorson were convicted for child abandonment and sent to jail for six months, but some good came of the arrest — Cheyene found her biological father, Kevin Lewis, who did not know that she existed until the arrest. Lewis dated Foley years ago and she never told him about the pregnancy.
Lewis and his wife, Maria, have four children of their own, but when they learned of Cheyene’s dire situation, they knew almost immediately that they wanted to adopt her.
According to KIRO 7, Maria said:
“I think it just makes us feel so good to be able to provide for another child, and there are just so many firsts for her.”
According to KOMO, because of the absence of caregivers, Cheyene was used to caring for her young brothers. When she first arrived at her new home, Cheyene attempted to parent her new siblings, preparing food for them and disciplining them. The Lewises explained to her that she didn’t have to do that anymore.
“She lit up like a Christmas tree and smiled, and I could just tell there was a weight lifted from her, to actually be told, you get to just be a kid.”
— Molly Shen (@MollyShenKOMO) November 13, 2017
KOMO reported that Kevin and Maria Lewis sued the stat, because the Department of Social and Health Services didn’t intervene sooner; teachers, community members, and even Cheyene herself reported the parents numerous times, but they didn’t investigate thoroughly enough. The state failed the children, and Cheyene and her brothers paid the price for it.
According to KOMO, Kevin said:
“It’s just disgusting to know that your kid grew up for seven years in filth. And no one did nothing about it.”
This week, the state awarded Cheyene $4 million. The family’s attorney, David Moody, told KOMO:
“DSHS paid this settlement … to Cheyene, which says to me that they know it screwed up and screwed up badly.”
As of February, KOMO reported that Cheyene was in trauma therapy, but thriving in her new life. And with her new settlement and caring family, it seems like she’s well on her way to a “happily ever after” of her own.
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