TACOMA – Insurance companies have settled another sexual abuse lawsuit brought against Kiwanis International, this time for $9 million in a case involving seven men who were sexually abused at a Centralia, Washington, group home for boys decades ago.
The state placed 11- to 17-year-old boys who had trouble adjusting to their foster families at the Kiwanis Vocational Home, which operated from 1979 to 1994.
Boys said they were molested by other boys, by staff and by directors, including Charles McCarthy, the head of the facility, who died last December. In some cases they were sent to do odd jobs at homes in the community where they were further abused.
Reports of the abuse date to the early 1980s, when one boy called police for help only to have McCarthy interrupt the call to downplay the report, court records show.
In recent years, the state and insurance companies have paid out about $40 million in cases involving more than 60 former residents. The state similarly paid out tens of millions of dollars to former residents of the O.K. Boys Ranch operated by the Olympia Kiwanis Club after allegations there prompted news stories and legislative hearings in the 1990s.
Kiwanis is a nonprofit organization devoted to helping children around the world. The defendants have argued that the area’s Kiwanis clubs had no role in the day-to-day operation of the boys home, which was established by an entity called Lewis County Youth Enterprises. That entity’s board members were required to be Kiwanis members, and Kiwanis granted the home permission to use its name.
Darrell Cochran, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the Kiwanis knew of allegations of abuse – as well as mismanagement that included embezzlement – but allowed the facility to remain open.