Seven more former residents of a shuttered Centralia boys home will benefit from a multi-million dollar settlement over their time at the Kiwanis-run facility, which was fraught with stories of physical and sexual abuse.
While Washington state has already paid out settlements over the Kiwanis Vocational Home (KVH), the newest settlement — $9 million reached last week — is only the second payout involving Kiwanis itself. The international service club ran the home from 1979, expanding it despite reports of abuse.
Kiwanis International declined to comment on the settlement.
The first $6 million settlement came this spring, and attorney Darrell Cochran expects several more to follow.
More than 60 individuals have come forward so far, whose stories paint a dark picture of neglect and abuse of young boys. Plaintiffs are being put in groups of six to 10 for litigation as they come forward, and each case, according to Cochran, shares the same basic evidence, including testimony from the late Charles McCarthy, the home’s former director found by DSHS to have physically abused boys and misappropriated funds.
The two cases consolidated in the settlement list defendants as Kiwanis International, Kiwanis Pacific Northwest District and chapters from Centralia-Chehalis, University Place and Tumwater. Former Kiwanis leadership Charles McCarthy, Guy Cornwell and Edward Hopkins are also listed, as well as several DSHS higher-ups and state agencies overlooking child welfare.
While the legal team representing KVH’s former residents — now grown adults — expect more settlements, Cochran also said it’s likely at least one individual down the line will be unwilling to settle, instead opting for a years-long trial.
“Settling is closure … but I’m going to find at least one plaintiff that says that’s not enough,” Cochran told The Chronicle. “I will want to make sure that it’s played out completely in front of a jury, and we give a jury a chance to make a decision. The story is so compelling and so dark, and so much light needed to be shone on it, and I’ll want to have it presented fully.”
In the most recent settlement, all seven plaintiffs — identified by their initials in the suits — were young boys who came to the home in the ‘80s or early ‘90s.
One plaintiff’s suit alleges his placement at KVH itself was unlawful, since the facility wasn’t licensed to care for kids under the age of 10, like himself.
According to the suit, that plaintiff was believed to be the youngest child living at the home, making him a “vulnerable target for repeated sexual abuse by KVH staff and older KVH residents.”
The complaints for all seven individuals allege staff knew of criminal and sexual misconduct at KVH and “wholly failed to protect the children residing there.”
Of the seven total plaintiffs, three still live in Lewis County. Their legal team is encouraging them to use the settlement money to buy property or homes that could provide stability.