Siblings Allege Abuse in Adoptive Family as Children, Hope for DHS Reform

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URBANDALE, Iowa -- The allegations are horrifying; two children placed into the foster system and then adopted in 2007. According to the children, now adults, what was supposed to be a better situation turned into a living nightmare.

“We've seen kids not survive it, I barely survived it, my little sister barely survived it,” said Justin Bloss.

After being placed in foster care by DHS and adopted, Justin alleges years of abuse without any help in sight for himself or his younger sister Crystal.

“We were adopted into a family who lived down in Winterset, Mike and Launie Winterthieme,” said Justin.

With oldest sister Ashley aged out of foster care and with no contact, the family moved to a secluded farm in rural Albia.  That’s when they say the worst started happening.

“If I got up out of the chair and my knuckle cracked that was disturbing...what they called ‘disturbing the peace’. They had these little white sheets they would hold on to, anything you did wrong, they would make a column for that, then they'd start tallying it up, whatever it was and you'd get whipped or beat, however your age was that’s how many times you’d get beat.  So if I was ten that would be ten whippings, if I cracked my knuckles three times it would be thirty,” said Justin.

Justin says the beatings were just the beginning. Starvation for he and his sister followed.

“She just had raw cow's milk, for three years, the worst part about it was they didn't believe in cold milk it had to be straight from the cow,” said Justin.

Justin alleges he and his sister were only allowed three glasses of milk a day. He was allowed a slice of bread as well.  The two would eat food meant for the farm’s animals to sustain themselves.

“I walked out of there and I believe I was 85 pounds at 18 years old. My sister, she would have been 16 years old, I could take my fingers, and wrap it around her bicep and overlap my fingers,” said Justin.

Justin's older sister Ashley says after Justin ran away he was able to contact her, and she tried to get DHS to intervene.

“My sister was still there, called DHS, they removed her from the home, but they put her right back.  They said that the family said they would feed her from now on,” said Ashley.

Ashley says Crystal survived the abuse, and now all three hope with a change of leadership DHS will change too.

“I feel like DHS is very prideful, they remove kids to help them and to make sure they’re safe and they don't want to admit when they’re wrong and I think that’s where DHS is lacking,” said Ashley.

The Department of Human Services as not responded for comment.

After escaping in 2013 Justin says they tried to press criminal charges but were turned down over statute of limitations.

They say their adoptive parents fled to Southern Missouri when they tried to pursue civil action.

Ashley says they're sharing their story in hopes of preventing more child deaths like Natalie Finn and Sabrina Ray.

State Senator Matt McCoy says the retirement of department head Charles Palmer is good, but the entire department needs evaluation.

“I'm not going to let up and I'm going after these folks. I'm going after DHS, and I'm going after anybody that gets in my way. They have clouded themselves and cloaked themselves in secrecy and they've been able to do that,” said McCoy.

On June 5th a joint oversight committee will meet to discuss taking action on the DHS.