County To Pay $300,000 In Lawsuit Over Child's Death

2-Year-Old's Death Caused Department To Initiate 'Best Practices Review'

El Paso County will pay $300,000 to the mother of a 2-year-old girl who died in foster care.

The county commissioners approved the out-of-court settlement Tuesday in the lawsuit filed after Alize Vick died in 2007. Officials said the settlement means all claims brought against the county's Department of Human Services in the lawsuit are dismissed.

Jules Lynn Cuneo, 36, was convicted last month of child abuse and reckless manslaughter for the child's death. Prosecutors said Cuneo threw the girl across the living room, causing fatal injuries when she hit her head on a coffee table.

The death prompted criticism of Colorado's foster care system.

As a result of Vick's death, the department initiated what it called a "best practices review." The department has since assigned an additional employee to its team that investigates alleged child abuse cases in foster homes, among other changes, the county said.

“We were responsible for her care and well-being,” Rick Bengtsson, director of El Paso County Department of Human Services, told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “But the person who killed the child was ultimately responsible.”

A supervisor now reviews any allegation of child abuse, including photographs, videotape, audio tape or other relevant information. And the three-person team that reviews child abuse complaints investigates all assigned allegations involving a foster home within 24 hours, according to the Gazette.

“It was a tragic event,” Bengtsson said, “and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.”