Babcock v. Department of Soc. & Health Servs – Case Brief Summary (Washington)

In Babcock v. Department of Soc. & Health Servs., 116 Wn.2d 596, 809 P.2d 143 (1991), the Court held that DSHS caseworkers do not enjoy absolute immunity for their foster care placement investigations. Babcock, 116 Wn.2d at 606.

As the Court noted, the Legislature has granted caseworkers only a qualified immunity even in the case of an emergency situation. Babcock, 116 Wn.2d at 607.

In Babcock, the State's negligence resulted in the foster care placement of children with parties connected with a man who raped them. Babcock, 116 Wn.2d at 603.

The trial court issued an order confirming that placement. In our decision we said that a caseworker cannot escape liability for negligent investigation because the juvenile court commissioner relies on the caseworker's recommendation to allow a caseworker's placement decision to stand. In the absence of a preplacement adversary hearing in which a predisposition study is entered into evidence, the caseworker controls the flow of information to the court. Babcock, 116 Wn.2d at 608.