DHR, caseworkers sued in death of Montgomery foster mother

DHR, caseworkers sued in death of Montgomery foster mother
Porsha Echols, a well-known member of the community and former Montgomery Public Schools teacher, was killed in January 2017.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A Montgomery mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the State of Alabama Department of Human Resources after her daughter Porscha Echols was killed.

A teenager, who the lawsuit identifies as Echols' 14-year-old male foster child, has been charged with murder.

The nine-count lawsuit names Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner, Montgomery County DHR Director Karen Smith, Montgomery County DHR Assistant Director Jan Casteel and several DHR employees as defendants in the suit.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday, claims the department failed to ensure the safety of 30-year-old Echols. It alleges that by placing a foster child with a history of violent and aggressive behavior in her home, Echols was ultimately murdered.

The suit further alleges that the child should never have been placed with Echols because of his violent history, and DHR failed to provide the child with proper mental health care.

"He should have never been placed in Porscha's home," said attorney Tommy James. "My client is dead because the people at DHR did not do their jobs and it is appalling that this was allowed to happen. This child should have received the mental health treatment they knew he needed. He easily could have been placed him in a home for troubled teens. These facilities are located throughout the state and DHR knows this. The foster care system completely broke down and failed Porscha Echols and her family,"

Echols, a well-known member of the community and former Montgomery Public Schools teacher, was killed in January 2017. Investigators determined her death was a homicide, and she had been suffocated.

The family's lawyer argues there are flaws throughout the foster care system in Alabama.

"The rapid turnover of social workers handling these cases is shocking," James said. "The caseworkers are not there long enough to learn the proper policies and procedures. There is utter chaos is in the system because the caseworkers are not following DHR policies and procedures. This chaos also led to Porscha Echols' senseless death."

Echols mother is demanding a trial by jury and requests that the court system require DHR and the other defendants "follow the policies, procedures, and regulations so that foster care placements are safe, proper, the monitoring of the home Is sufficient, that persons are properly trained, supervised and required to follow policies and procedures and that certification standards are maintained at all times."

A DHR spokesperson said the department doesn't comment on pending or active litigation.

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