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Articles on lawsuits

Postby Marina » Fri Jun 29, 2007 6:11 pm



Utah foster care: Child welfare system reform means end of 14-year lawsuit

By Kirsten Stewart
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 06/29/2007 07:00:04 AM MDT

You'll have to forgive U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell's departure from routine Thursday.
In announcing her decision to dismiss a lawsuit that for 14 years has driven reform of Utah's child welfare system, Campbell - in an unusual show of ceremony - congratulated attorneys, caseworkers and others, inviting them to stand.
"This is a big day," said Campbell, who has presided over the case since 1995. "It looks like you finally did what I never thought you'd get done. We hope this is the end."
Campbell's order comes after opposing parties agreed on May 11 to the dismissal, essentially ending more than a decade of court oversight of Utah's Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS).
The agency is subject to one final review in fall 2008. If it passes muster, the case will be permanently dismissed, without a hearing, on Dec. 31, 2008.
If there's any "backsliding" on reforms, "we could be back in court," said Leecia Welch, a senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, the Oakland, Calif.-based group that filed the lawsuit.
That's unlikely, according to center director John F. O'Toole, who says his group works in states across the country to improve child welfare systems.
"Usually there's acrimony through to the end. This is one of the few states where parties agreed the system is in great shape,"
said O'Toole.
Dismissal of the lawsuit in 2008 will save Utah taxpayers $300,000 in monitoring expenses. But Duane Betournay, the new DCFS director, describes the watershed event as a beginning, not an end.
"Tomorrow you'll see the same look of determination on our faces," said Betournay.
The national center sued Utah in 1993 over alleged unconstitutional conditions in the foster care system. Among the allegations: child abuse investigations were cursory or never completed; children were languishing - even dying - in foster care and were denied education, basic health care and behavioral therapy; and foster parents and caseworkers weren't well trained.
Instead of challenging the suit - known as David C. v. Leavitt - the state settled, agreeing to reforms across the entire system. But change happened slowly.
"At the beginning, it was like this big battleship. You can't turn a battleship around quickly. It has to be done methodically and by all hands," said Pamela Atkinson, a community advocate who acted as mediator between the center and the DCFS.
When the state failed to comply with the settlement, the court appointed a monitor to shepherd the DCFS through a nine-point blueprint for improvement known as the "Milestone Plan."
In 2003, Utah began to show real strides, enhancing caseworker training and hiring 45 new caseworkers, said Welch.
The system has grown dramatically. From 1994 to 2007, the DCFS' budget nearly quadrupled from $40.5 million to $152.5 million. The number of caseworkers jumped from 282 to 612. There has been one foster care death in six years.
Growth doesn't always lead to improved quality, but in Utah's case "it most certainly has," said Welch.
Hiring more caseworkers has led to a reduction in caseloads, and a new "team approach" to investigating abuse further guarantees "no caseworker acts alone," said Welch.
Utah also is nationally recognized for its "child and family team planning" meetings geared toward keeping families intact, said Welch. "The goal now is to have everyone who is important to the child and family sitting at the table."
Finally, the system is much more transparent, capturing data to measure its performance.
Welch cautioned that the DCFS does not exist in a vacuum.
"You can improve the child welfare system, but if there aren't adequate services for families, or representation for parents or a strong court system, it won't do any good," she said. "There comes a time when we let the community take back control of the system and demonstrate that they can sustain the reforms."
[email protected]

The history of 'David C.'

The lawsuit David C. v. Leavitt, a class-action civil-rights lawsuit on behalf of all Utah's foster children, was filed in 1993 by the National Center for Youth Law.
Named as plaintiffs were 17 children, ranging in age from 3 to 17 years old. Some had languished in foster care; others remained at home with abusive parents.
The most egregious of the alleged failures involved the lawsuit's namesake. Scalded, burned with cigarettes and left without food, David - then age 3 - was removed from his parents' home in 1988 along with his two brothers.
Nine months later, David's older brother was killed in their foster home. The cause of death: "blunt force injuries of the abdomen," the lawsuit claimed.
David and his surviving brother were sent to a new foster family who said David came to them with a black eye, swollen nose, bruises and patches of hair missing from his head. The boy bounced to other foster homes, who told caseworkers he acted out and had imaginary conversations with his dead brother. He received "virtually no psychotherapy," said the lawsuit.
David C. was adopted in 1994. He is now 22, his whereabouts are unknown to child welfare officials.

Last edited by Marina on Wed Jul 25, 2007 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:30 pm


. ... p?ID=10459

$55 million lawsuit filed against DSHS

By Richard Roesler and Thomas Clouse
Staff writers
June 27, 2007

OLYMPIA – As Carole Ann DeLeon sits in jail, charged with killing her adopted son by depriving him of water, several of her other foster children are filing millions of dollars in claims against the state for failing to protect them from physical or emotional abuse.

So far, claims totaling more than $55 million have been filed against the state Department of Social and Health Services on behalf of five children, including the estate of 7-year-old Tyler DeLeon, who died in DeLeon’s Deer Park-area home in 2005. State records show that school officials, in particular, repeatedly reported concerns about the bruised, emaciated boy.

“They were abused in a licensed foster home,” said Cynthia Novotny, one of the lawyers representing the children. “And despite 16 CPS (Child Protective Services) referrals, CPS did nothing to protect these kids.”

Tyler DeLeon’s estate is represented by Breann Beggs of Spokane’s Center for Justice. He couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The criminal case against DeLeon, meanwhile, seems set to go to trial as scheduled July 16th. Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said Tuesday that plea negotiations with DeLeon have broken down. She has pleaded innocent to homicide by abuse and to an additional charge of second-degree criminal mistreatment of a second boy, identified in court records only by his initials: S.M.M.

In an unusual trial twist, Superior Court Judge Al Nielson has also approved busing in a jury from Okanogan County to hear the high-profile case in the Colville courtroom. Anticipating the need for a large jury pool, Okanogan County court officials plan to use a local hotel ballroom, rather than a courtroom, to select those jurors.

In Olympia, the children’s claims have rolled in over the past year, the most recent arriving earlier this month. Most are for $10 million; one in Tyler’s name is for $15 million. The surviving children will likely need lifelong counseling, Novotny said, and may be so traumatized that they’ll never be able to hold down a job. Plus, she said, the children should be compensated “for having had to live in such a torturous environment. The state should have been there to protect them, and wasn’t.”

A DSHS spokeswoman said the agency has made substantial changes in the wake of the tragedy but referred specific questions about the claims to the attorney general’s office, which didn’t want to comment.

Novotny’s law firm says it also intends to file claims against the children’s pediatricians and others who should have detected and reported negligence or abuse.

“How many 7-year-olds weigh 28 pounds?” she said.

State records paint a bleak picture of life in the home, where Tyler was one of six children in the care of DeLeon and her adult daughter, Christina DeLeon-Burns. Of average weight when he was brought to the home as an infant in 1998, the boy gained only 12 pounds in the ensuing 6 1/2 years. Carole DeLeon insisted that his teachers and caregivers not give him food or water, to the point of watching him in the bathroom to ensure that he didn’t sneak a drink from a toilet. She claimed that the boy could have a life-threatening reaction to overeating or drinking – a diagnosis for which subsequent state investigations have found no evidence. A day before he died, the boy reportedly tore through his basement window screen so he could eat some snow.

State records regarding Tyler show a litany of reported cuts, bruises, a severely broken leg and two teeth “knocked out.” DeLeon, state records indicate, informed his Lake Spokane Elementary School teachers that they should ignore such injuries because Tyler would injure himself and “make up stories.” School officials described the boy’s daily lunch as half a sandwich and “no more than 2 ounces of milk,” – and that DeLeon would require the boy to return home with a bite of sandwich and swallow of milk remaining. She complained frequently about his “distended tummy,” which she attributed to overeating.

The claimants include children ages 7, 9, and 11, as well as Amber Lynn Daniels, who is now 18. (The law firm, Ressler and Tesh, says it also represents a sixth child from the DeLeon home. The state’s tort claims office could not immediately locate a sixth claim Tuesday.)

According to court documents filed in Stevens County, Daniels lived at the DeLeon home from 1998 to 2000. In that time, her weight plummeted from 175 pounds to 102. She told investigator that DeLeon forced her to go without water for long periods, and she once had to sneak a drink from the dog bowl.

As punishment, Daniels told sheriff’s Detective Jerry Taylor, DeLeon made her carry hamburger in her mouth on an hours-long trip to a local mall.

DeLeon’s attorney, Carl Oreskovich, didn’t return a call Tuesday seeking comment on the allegations and claims.

State records also suggest that DeLeon was frustrated and overwhelmed by misbehavior by Tyler. In a sobbing conversation with a caseworker in December 2005, she said she never did anything injurious to any of her children and that Tyler had been “a big eater.”

The same files include numerous references to bruises on her children and allegations that she hit some with a spatula. In Wyoming, where DeLeon had been a foster mother in the 1980s before having her license terminated, a 12-year-old girl said she was deprived of food, fed animal feed as punishment, and had her hands tied behind her back for taking food.

State records include an allegation that the girl was tied up and left in the basement overnight as punishment for eating three sticks of string cheese. A 1988 CPS investigative record says a physician found rope burns on the girl’s wrists, belt marks on her buttocks, and bruises on her face and thigh. An accompanying record says the girl was “tormented, treated without regard to human dignity ... (and) belittled.”

That girl, now an adult named Mary Shuhart Dees, is slated to testify at DeLeon’s trial.

Even if the state must pay tens of millions of dollars in damages to the children, Novotny said, she’s reluctant that it will have a substantial impact on how such cases are handled.

“The state keeps saying that they’re going to change their policies every time a child dies,” she said. “It doesn’t appear that happens.”

On the contrary, said DSHS spokeswoman Kathy Spears. More than 95 percent of high-risk child-abuse complaints are now investigated within 24 hours instead of the previous 10-day standard, she said. A better database of past incidents is being developed. Staffers have access to an FBI database for background checks. And the department is phasing in state visits to foster children every 30 days.

If the state won’t settle the cases, Novotny said, the children’s claims will likely be filed as lawsuits in Spokane in a couple of months.

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Last edited by Marina on Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:31 pm

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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:33 pm


Jury to put price tag on family's suffering in DCFS suit

Caseworkers took boy from home without a hearing

By Geoffrey Fattah and Andrew Marshall
Deseret Morning News
A federal jury is being asked to put a price tag on the emotional suffering of a Davis County couple whose ailing 12-year-old son was forcibly taken from their West Point home by state social workers in 1999.
Attorneys for the State of Utah said the caseworkers with the Division of Child and Family Services entered the house of James and Connie Roska on May 29, 1999, and removed their wheelchair-bound son on suspicion that Rusty was a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. The condition is when a parent can intentionally make a child sick to gain attention from others.
John Soltis, assistant utah attorney general, said case workers believed that if they removed Rusty Roska from the home, and if his health improved, that would prove their suspicions. At the time, doctors were trying to find the cause of Rusty's sickness, which included chronic pain and loss of appetite. It was later determined by doctors that Rusty had suffered from a leaking gall bladder.
Roska family attorney Steven Russell said caseworkers Shirley Morrison and Melinda Sneddon, along with a police officer, entered the Roska's home without a warrant or court order. Russell told the jury that other children and Connie Roska were physically pushed and verbally berated by the caseworkers.
Last February the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the caseworkers violated the Roska's 14th Amendment right to due process in entering the home and taking the minor without the benefit of a court hearing.
Connie Roska took the witness stand to testify how devastated she was when her son was taken from her home, and how much more devastated she was when one caseworker later told her the state worker was pressured by a supervisor, Shirley Morrison, to take the boy even though he was showing improvement.
James Roska also took the stand to describe his emotional trauma of feeling powerless to stop state workers from taking his stepson. At one point, Roska said he contemplated taking back his son by force but thought better of it.
"Part of my soul was ripped from my body," James Roska said. But even after eventually gaining back custody, James Roska said he could see in his son's eyes "distrust" for his parents' not coming to get him sooner.
"They took more than just my son, they took more than they can ever imagine from me," he said.
Upon cross examination, James Roska admitted to saying he wanted the jury to award him enough money to care for his entire family.
The trial is expected to continue for the rest of the work week with the case going to the jury by Monday.


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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:43 pm


Marine, L.A. County Settle Suit Over His Daughter

(CBS) LOS ANGELES A decorated former Marine and Los Angeles County have settled a lawsuit in which he alleged he and his biological daughter were separated for a decade due to neglect by county social workers, according to court papers obtained Thursday.

Attorneys for Thomas Marion Smith and the county reached the agreement Wednesday during a mandatory settlement conference before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Owen Lee Kwong. The terms of the settlement were not divulged in court records and lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

Smith sued the county last July 11 for negligence. He alleged his daughter, Melinda, now 18, spent years in the foster care system because child-welfare officials made no timely effort to find him.

The parents of Melinda Smith were not married when she was born in 1988, but her father agreed to pay child support in 1989, according to the lawsuit.

Smith initially saw his daughter often, but when the girl was 4 she moved with her mother, who left no forwarding address, the lawsuit stated. In 1995 Melinda's mother turned the girl over to county foster care officials, according to the suit.

Smith kept making support payments for several years without knowing that Melinda was being shuffled through a series of institutions and foster homes, the lawsuit stated.

A retired social worker brought in by the Department of Children and Family Services found Smith in the spring of 2005 while she was beginning a program to find permanent placements for teens who had spent years in foster care, according to the lawsuit.

The two were reunited in July 2005 and two months later Melinda moved into her father's home, the lawsuit stated.


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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:45 pm

. ... 11903.html

Former Fort Gibson officer files claims against Sheriff’s Office, DHS

By Donna Hales
Phoenix Staff Writer

A former Fort Gibson police officer cleared of sexual abuse charges filed two $1 million tort claims — one against the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office and one against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

Kelly Pierce, and his wife, Leigh Ann Pierce, joint owners of Little Tykes Day Care Center located in Fort Gibson in November 2005, claim their business and reputations were ruined because of actions of the defendants.

Kelly Pierce said Muskogee Sheriff Chief Investigator Tim Brown told Pierce in November 2005 that a 3-year-old child who attended the day care center alleged Pierce had improperly touched her.

He claimed Brown told him:

• His life was over.

• Any reputation he had was now gone.

• All the things Pierce had in his life were gone.

• Pierce’s business was ruined.

• Pierce had nothing left in life but to “make what (he) did right” and tell what he had done to the child.

The claim alleges Brown then launched what amounted to a witch hunt against Pierce.

“Brown failed to make any attempts to corroborate or otherwise investigate the sexual abuse allegations, yet, despite this, Brown contacted the parents of the children attending Little Tykes Day Care and told them Mr. Pierce had been accused of sexual molestation.”

Brown confirmed he contacted the parents and told them of the accusations against Pierce but said he had no further comment because of the pending litigation.

The claims allege Brown was instrumental in charges being filed against Pierce for sexual abuse by a caretaker and sexual abuse of a child.

The claim alleges Brown failed to: interview all potential witnesses, visit the location of the alleged abuse, contact other identified suspects or conduct a thorough investigation. Yet, Brown filed a “Request for Prosecution” with the Muskogee County District Attorney’s Office, requesting criminal charges be filed against Pierce, the claim states.

Then Muskogee County District Attorney John David Luton filed criminal charges against Pierce.

The claim states the Muskogee County District Court ultimately dismissed the action, ruling it couldn’t be refiled, “there was insufficient evidence for the case to proceed” and the testimony provided ... was without sufficient indicia of reliability and was untrustworthy.”

The tort claim states that, by the time the case was dismissed, Brown’s threats that Pierce’s reputation would be gone, Pierce’s business would be ruined and all the things Pierce had would be lost, had been achieved.

“Mr. Pierce, along with his wife and business partner, Leigh Ann Pierce, lost their reputation, their business and their life as they knew it prior to these wholly unsubstantiated charges,” the claim states.

The $1 million claim against DHS alleges DHS worked with the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office and participated in the unwarranted prosecution.

Particular allegations are that DHS social worker Melissa Hayward, assigned to investigate the sexual abuse allegations, filed a report that allegations of sexual abuse were “inconclusive.”

The claim alleges Hayward’s then supervisor, Gerald Beachem, who conducted no independent investigation of his own, changed Hayward’s report to reflect that the allegations pertaining to sexual abuse by Kelly Pierce were confirmed.

The report also was changed to request court intervention, the claim states.

“Therefore, DHS failed to provide adequate safeguards against this type of baseless and unsubstantiated allegations,” the tort claim states.

Both defendants have 90 days to deny or accept the claims. After that time, plaintiffs have the right to file suit.

Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore said he had not yet seen the tort claim against the Sheriff’s Office and the Board of County Commissioners.

More than likely, the county’s insurer will be defending any litigation coming out of the claim, Moore said.

Sheriff Charles Pearson has not seen the claim, he said.

Fort Gibson Police offered Pierce his job back after the court dismissed the suit against him, but he did not accept it. The couple is divorcing and Kelly Pierce has moved from the area.


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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:50 pm


Ninth Circuit Upholds Social Workers’ Claim of Absolute Immunity

In 2-1 Decision, Judges Say Parents Cannot Sue Over Removal of Child From Their Custody

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In 2-1 Decision, Judges Say Parents Cannot Sue Over Removal of Child From Their Custody

By TINA BAY, Staff Writer

Social workers are absolutely immune from liability related to their signing and verifying of juvenile dependency and custody petitions, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held yesterday.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court concluded U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte, of the Northern District of California, properly dismissed a Santa Clara County couple’s lawsuit against two social workers whose actions led to the temporary removal of their son from their custody.

Robert and Lori Beltran sued social workers Melissa Suarez and Emily Tjhin in 2002 following an unsuccessful attempt by the Santa Clara Social Services Agency to place their then-four-year-old son, Coby, under the county’s care. The child was also a named plaintiff in the civil rights suit, brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983.

The complaint alleged violations of the Beltrans’ rights of family association, privacy, and freedom from unreasonable seizure.

Numerous Referrals

The county took action with regard to the Beltran family based on a referral of suspected abuse from one of Coby’s doctors. The referral was based on the claim that his mother suffered from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, a condition in which a parent takes affirmative steps to keep her child ill in order to gain medical attention.

Similar referrals had been made to the county on four prior occasions, but had been deemed “unfounded” by social workers who investigated the claims.

Up until the fifth referral, Coby had suffered from numerous ongoing medical problems connected to his premature birth in June 1998. His conditions included a bowel motility problem, which led to instances where his Body Mass Index fell below the fifth percentile, placing him at risk of significant long-term damage.

Suarez, a social worker with the county’s Child Protective Services Department, investigated the fifth referral.

In according with her findings, Tjhin, her supervisor, signed and filed a dependency petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 300 seeking to place Coby under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. The petition included a three-page statement of facts, verified by Tjhin, that described the findings of Suarez’s investigation.

In addition, Suarez signed and filed a custody petition pursuant to Sec. 340 requesting permission to remove Coby from his home pending the conclusion of the dependency proceedings. Suarez’s petition incorporated the dependency petition by reference.

Based on the sworn statement of facts set forth by both petitions, Coby was removed from his parents’ custody and placed in a children’s shelter on Aug. 14, 2002.

Five days later, a juvenile court judge determined at an initial detention hearing that the child should be detained and temporarily placed under the care and supervision of the Department of Family and Children Services.

Following a full hearing on Sept. 16, the judge reversed course and denied the dependency petition. The boy was ordered returned to his parents.

In their Sec. 1983 suit, the Beltrans alleged that much of the information in Tjhin’s statement of facts was untrue, and that she and Suarez deliberately fabricated evidence and suppressed information favoring the Beltrans.

Dismissal Motion

Granting the defendants’ dismissal motion, Whyte ruled that the social workers were entitled to absolute immunity for their actions in connection with the signing and filing of the dependency and custody petitions.

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued Tjhin was not eligible for absolute immunity for swearing to the facts in the dependency petition because she was acting as a complaining witness when she did so. With respect to Suarez’s action, they contended, custody petitions were too far removed from the judicial phase of proceedings for absolute immunity to apply.

Writing for the Ninth Circuit, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said in signing the petitions, both social workers were performing their responsibilities as defined by California law, and thus entitled to absolute immunity.

“Only a social worker who performed or supervised the investigation can verify the information presented to the court regarding that investigation,” he explained. “No one else can report both the opinions of those who interact with the family and the results of the investigation, which include the investigator’s observations of the home and the family interactions, and the Department’s assessment of the relative credibility of the parties.”

To hold a social worker immune for investigating a case, filing a petition and presenting evidence to a juvenile court, but not for signing and verifying the petition she is required to prepare and present, “would defy reason,” Reinhardt said.

He rejected the argument that custody petitions should be treated differently from dependency petitions:

“A custody petition cannot be filed without a dependency petition and rests on the same facts as the dependency petition. Also, like the dependency petition, it is filed with the dependency court in order to protect the child. Thus, it serves the same goal as the dependency petition and is part of the same judicial proceeding.”

Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. concurred in the opinion.

Senior Judge Warren J. Ferguson agreed with the majority that Suarez was entitled to absolute immunity for the custody petition, but dissented as to Tjhin.

“This case in particular demonstrates that the social worker cannot be obligated to swear personally to the underlying allegations,” he wrote. “This case involves allegations of medical neglect, so the social worker cannot possibly verify personally the truth of the medical opinions upon which she bases the petition: she lacks the personal knowledge and the expertise. The appropriate course of conduct would have been to attach sworn affidavits from medical professionals who were qualified to testify as to their observations.”

The case is Beltran v. Santa Clara County, 05-16976.

Last edited by Marina on Wed Jul 25, 2007 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:52 pm


Trial begins for DCFS, sued for wrongful removal of child

Lawsuit caps seven-year legal battle that helped foster changes in law

By Kirsten Stewart

The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 06/26/2007 02:41:56 AM MDT

Connie Roska sits with her son Rusty in her Layton home. (Trent Nelson/Tribune file photo )«1»Was the wrongful removal of a 12-year-old Davis County boy from his home the honest mistake of dedicated and well-intentioned Utah child-welfare workers or a reckless and capricious act?
Arguments for both were heard by a 2nd District Court jury Monday, the start of a six-day trial in which a Utah couple is suing Utah's Division of Child and Family Services for missteps made in the May 28, 1999, removal of their son.
The lawsuit caps a seven-year legal battle that helped drive changes to Utah law aimed at safeguarding parents' rights.
Connie and James Roska are suing caseworker Shirley Morrison and her two supervisors, Colleen Lasater and Melinda Sneddon, seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering. A neuropsychologist who recently examined the family said Rusty Roska, now 21, and his parents display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Connie Roska said the money would help pay mounting legal bills, but her main desire is to prevent other families from going through the "same turmoil."
Last year, a federal appeals court ruled caseworkers violated Utah law - and could be held personally liable - by taking the then-12-year-old Rusty into protective care without first offering services to his parents.
Social workers and school officials believed Rusty was a victim of Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, a condition in which the parent
acts as if a child is ill, or even causes the child's illness to get attention from doctors. The boy had lost 70 pounds in a year, was in a wheelchair and had been fed through a tube. School officials expressed concern that he might die if the state did not intervene.
The Roskas said their son suffers from chronic pain syndrome caused by problems with his gallbladder and kidneys. But doctors interviewed by caseworkers could not diagnose the boy's ailment.
On the day of the removal, however, Rusty's primary care provider, Judith Gooch, corroborated the Roskas' story by phone and further warned that taking the boy would "destroy his family emotionally and Rusty may never recover."
Nevertheless, workers took custody of Rusty. He was returned to his family after seven days spent at a foster home.
"Mistakes were made," acknowledged Assistant Attorney General John P. Soltis in Monday's opening remarks. "But at issue is whether Rusty's removal was done with malice."
Soltis portrayed child-welfare workers as dedicated professionals working a tough case.
The caseworker, Morrison, is a Utah native with a master's level education; the Roska investigation was her first to involve the potential removal of a child, said Soltis. Morrison has since quit her child-welfare post and now works in child care and teaches at Weber State University, he said.
Soltis questioned the Roskas' credibility, saying evidence will show they are suing for financial gain and that both were diagnosed with mental illnesses prior to displaying signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Connie Roska's "own witness admits she exaggerates," said Soltis.
Roskas' lawyer, Steven Russell, contends the family's troubles stem from their son's removal, a loss of faith and feelings of helplessness.
During the removal, one caseworker yelled at the Roskas' then-14-year-old daughter, telling her to "shut the hell up and get out," said Russell.
Ignoring Gooch's warnings, caseworkers sent Rusty to a foster home hoping to build a case based on his improved health. While there, they reduced his pain medications and turned off his food pump, causing his condition to worsen, said Russell.
The case is no longer about Rusty, said Russell. "It's about circling the wagons and making sure they don't get sued."


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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 8:07 pm

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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 8:35 pm


Civil grand jury blasts county's care of children
The report questions a rise in the killing of abused and neglected kids and the diversion of funds for a successful prevention plan.


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Postby Marina » Mon Jul 02, 2007 1:13 pm

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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 03, 2007 11:15 am


Trial begins for DCFS, sued for wrongful removal of child

Skeptical jury awards just $2 for parents' pain over son's improper removal by state

The case in brief
* What happened: A jury found three Utah child-welfare workers owe only $2 in damages for the wrongful removal of a 12-year-old boy from his Davis County home.
* History: Social workers and school officials believed the boy was a victim of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, a condition in which a parent acts as if a child is ill, or even causes the child's illness. A doctor corroborated his parents' assertion that he suffered from a kidney disorder. Nevertheless, workers took custody of the boy, who returned home after a week in foster care.
A federal judge had dismissed the parents' lawsuit, but an appeals court ruled the workers were liable for violating Utah law by taking they boy without first offering services to his parents.


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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 03, 2007 2:47 pm



(Gov.) Carcieri was unaware of foster care problems ... 8054b.html


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Postby Marina » Sat Jul 07, 2007 4:28 pm

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Settlement reached in abuse case

Nearly 30 years later, she'll get $100,000

By Paul Pinkham, The Times-Union

A woman who police said was horribly abused in her Orange Park foster home in 1979 while state child welfare workers looked the other way has settled her long-running lawsuit against the state - 28 years after the abuse occurred.

The 32-year-old woman, identified in court documents by the initials S.A.P., settled the case this week for $100,000, the Florida Attorney General's Office said.

The case had been scheduled for a jury trial in Jacksonville next week after the Florida Supreme Court allowed it to proceed despite a four-year statute of limitations on abuse claims. The court ruled 5-2 in 2002 that the statute of limitations shouldn't apply when the state is accused of negligently monitoring a child and concealing the abuse.

"She is pleased with the settlement, and she is eager to put this horrible episode behind her and move on with her life," the woman's attorney, Jay Howell, said Friday. Under state law, he will receive 25 percent of the award.

Of more importance than the settlement amount are the ramifications the case had for other victims of child abuse, said Howell, a Jacksonville lawyer who founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia. Children like his client are often too young to initiate legal proceedings within a proscribed time period or even know they have been abused, he said.

For example, the case aided victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Florida in lawsuits where they could show the church concealed the priests' behavior, Howell said.

"The Supreme Court, in this child's case, opened the door for abused children to have access to the courts with claims they may file after reaching adulthood," Howell said. "It was a recognition by the court of the vulnerability of children who suffer abuse."

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families said the agency wouldn't comment because the settlement hasn't been finalized.

DCF was known as the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services in 1979 when neighbors called Clay County deputies after hearing 4-year-old S.A.P. and her sister screaming. Deputies said they found the girls severely physically abused and malnourished and living in a different foster home than the one they'd been assigned.

Howell said when he first started representing S.A.P. in the early '90s, she didn't even know she'd been abused. The victim, who still lives in Jacksonville, has only hazy memories of what happened.

He filed the lawsuit in 1995 when she was 20, within three years of when the department released its internal investigative report documenting the abuse. The lawsuit accuses the department of obstructing the police investigation, falsifying reports and altering records to conceal the abuse.

A Jacksonville judge dismissed the case after DCF argued the four-year statute of limitations had long expired. The 1st District Court of Appeal overturned the dismissal but forwarded the issue to the state Supreme Court, which also ordered that the case could go forward.

"The law of this state does not bestow upon the department a special boon to betray the children in its charge, to flagrantly flout the law, to conceal its misdeeds and then to invoke [the law] ... as a shield for its actions," the order said.


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Postby Marina » Wed Jul 18, 2007 7:00 pm

. ... ews279.txt

Former daycare operator sues DHS, county sheriff

MUSKOGEE (AP) — A Fort Gibson couple is suing the Department of Human Services and the Muskogee County sheriff’s office over what they claim was the improper handling of a sexual abuse allegation.

The two $1 million claims were filed by Kelly Pierce and his wife, Leigh Ann Pierce, who owned and operated the Little Tykes Day Care Center in Fort Gibson. Kelly Pierce, who also is a former part-time Fort Gibson police officer, claims his reputation was ruined when he was charged with child abuse because of baseless allegations from a 3-year-old girl.

A Muskogee County judge ultimately dismissed the charges, ruling there was insufficient evidence for the case to proceed and that the testimony was untrustworthy.

Kelly Pierce claims Tim Brown, chief investigator for the Muskogee County sheriff, recommended filing charges without visiting the location of the alleged abuse, without interviewing all potential witnesses and without contacting other identified suspects.

Robert J. Haupt, Pierce’s attorney, said if Brown had conducted a proper investigation, he would have discovered numerous inconsistencies in the girl’s story.


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Postby Marina » Sun Jul 22, 2007 8:05 pm

. ... ster_care/

State settles lawsuit with female raped in foster care

By Larry Hannan

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Florida Department of Children and Families has settled a lawsuit with the guardians of a mentally disabled girl who repeatedly was molested by her foster father in Immokalee and ended up pregnant.

DCF has agreed to pay the guardians of Pierreisna Archille $1.3 million for ignoring complaints of abuse made by Pierreisna’s younger sister, Darlene Achille. Pierreisna’s foster father, Bonifacio Valazquez, repeatedly raped Pierreisna when she was an underage minor and Pierreisna ended up pregnant at 17.

When Darlene alleged abuse, DCF transferred her to another foster home and left Pierreisna in the Valazquez home. DCF didn’t take the abuse complaints seriously until it was discovered that Pierreisna was four months pregnant.

The failure of DCF to follow up on Darlene’s complaints was the crux of the lawsuit, which argued DCF caseworkers and investigators were negligent and allowed the rapes to happen.

It generally is Daily News policy not to publish the names of victims of sexual abuse. However, Darlene Achille gave the newspaper permission to identify her sister, for whom she is the legal guardian. The sisters’ last names are spelled differently, according to their birth certificates.

Valazquez and his late wife, Josephine, were registered foster parents in Immokalee. When Josephine died in 1999, DCF workers came in to re-evaluate whether Valazquez could care for all the children in the home by himself. They removed Pierreisna and other girls but recommended relicensing him to care for boys.

Five days later, Pierreisna’s new foster family found she was pregnant. This happened two years after Darlene accused Valazquez of abusing several children, including a girl who then was 2 years old.

The allegations were dismissed at the time they were first made, but a new investigation was conducted that led to Velazquez going to jail after it was discovered that Pierreisna was pregnant.

In addition to the rape, Velazquez attempted to smother Pierreisna, threatened to kill her, choked her and took photographs of her naked, according to records.

Valazquez, now 72, was sentenced in 2001 for sexual battery and in 2003 for indecent assault of a child under 16. He is scheduled to be released from prison in 2008.

Darlene is now the primary guardian of Pierreisna and the child she had. They live in Fort Myers.

Darlene is 22 and Pierreisna is 25, but Pierreisna has a mental disability that gives her the thought process of a 13 year old, court records show.

Pierreisna works at a Publix. Darlene is a full-time student at Florida Gulf Coast University who also works at a SweetBay.

This lawsuit had been bogged down in procedure for five years until it recently was settled.

Attorney Richard Filson, who represents Darlene and Pierreisna, said the key was Gov. Charlie Crist coming into office and installing former state Attorney General Bob Butterworth as the new secretary of DCF.

Butterworth pushed to settle the case, while previously DCF fought to delay the case indefinitely, Filson said.

“The state did dramatically change its position,” Filson said. “That made it much easier to have a good-faith settlement negotiation.

DCF spokeswoman Kristi Sonntag said Crist expressed a desire to settle these types of cases when he came into office.

“The attitude is they want these cases settled as quickly as possible,” Sonntag said. “It’s the best solution for both parties.”

Under the settlement agreement, Darlene and Pierreisna get $100,000 now. The other $1.2 million must be approved by the state Legislature by passing what is known as a claims bill. The Legislature must approve the settlement because state law caps judgments against government agencies at $100,000. Payments over that amount can only be awarded if approved by the Legislature.

A claims bill is expected to be introduced soon in the Legislature. Sonntag said DCF wouldn’t oppose the passage of that bill.

Filson said the money is needed for Darlene to take care of both Pierreisna and the child. A consulting firm had estimated that it would cost $4.5 million to care for Pierreisna and the child.

“This is the absolute minimum that we were willing to settle for,” Filson said. “If I’d had to take the case to trial my client would have had to testify. She didn’t relish that fact.”

Howard Talenfeld, an attorney who is president of Florida’s Children First, a confederation of lawyers who work on behalf of children, will be the point person in getting a claims bill through the Legislature on behalf of Pierreisna.

Talenfeld said he is talking to legislators now and expects to have someone in the House and Senate introduce claim bills by Aug. 1.

Talenfeld declined to say who would be sponsoring the legislation in the House and Senate because those discussions are ongoing.

The Legislature has approved requests like this before, but not for the past few years.

The most notable recent case involved Kimberly Goodwin, a developmentally disabled girl who was raped by the son of the director of a group care home in which she was living. Goodwin was awarded $8 million in 2002.

No significant claims bill has been passed by the Legislature since then, Talenfeld said.

The next regular session of the Legislature is in 2008. But it’s possible the bill could be approved earlier if a special session is called this year.

Former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette of Naples said getting a claims bill approved can be challenging.

“There are some legislators who believe the cap (on awards) exists for a reason,” Goodlette said, adding that those legislators oppose all claim bills.

When the leader of a committee that must approve a claims bill feels this way, or the leadership of the House or Senate has this philosophy, no claim bills make it to the floor for approval, Goodlette said.

Goodlette isn’t involved in this case, but has read news accounts of the lawsuit.

“From what I’ve heard this is the type of claim that would merit approval,” he said.


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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 03, 2007 8:22 pm


The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 08/03/2007 01:02:34 AM MDT

Couple appeal jury's $2 award

A Layton couple are appealing a federal jury's award of just $2 for the wrongful removal of their son by Utah child welfare caseworkers in 1999. Connie and James Roska sued three caseworkers at Utah's Division of Child and Family Services after a federal appeals court ruled caseworkers violated Utah law and could be held personally liable for taking custody of their 12-year-old son, Rusty, without a warrant or court order. A jury on July 2 awarded $1 for each parent. The Roskas' appeal was filed Aug. 1 at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Defendant wants judge, not a jury trial


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Postby Marina » Tue Aug 07, 2007 9:28 am

. ... ent_woman/

State works to approve $1.3M settlement for woman
By Larry Hannan

Originally published — 1:19 a.m., August 6, 2007
Updated — 5:35 a.m., August 6, 2007

State legislators have begun taking steps to help a mentally retarded woman who was raped and impregnated by her foster father when she was a teenager.

Earlier this year, the Department of Children and Families settled a lawsuit brought against the agency by guardians for Pierreisna Archille for $1.3 million. The lawsuit alleged DCF ignored repeated allegations of abuse brought by Pierreisna’s sister, Darlene Achille, against their foster father before Pierreisna ended up pregnant.

Pierreisna’s foster father, Bonifacio Valazquez, repeatedly raped Pierreisna when she was a minor and Pierreisna ended up pregnant at 17.

When Darlene alleged abuse, DCF transferred her to another foster home and left Pierreisna in the Valazquez home in Immokalee. DCF didn’t take the abuse complaints seriously until it was discovered that Pierreisna was four months pregnant.

The failure of DCF to follow up on Darlene’s complaints was the crux of the lawsuit, which argued that DCF caseworkers and investigators were negligent and allowed the rapes to happen.

It generally is Daily News policy not to publish the names of victims of sexual abuse. However, Darlene Achille gave the newspaper permission to identify her sister, for whom she is the legal guardian. The sisters’ last names are spelled differently, according to their birth certificates.

Under state law, only $100,000 can be awarded to Pierreisna unless the state Legislature passes a claims bill that approves the rest of the settlement.

The Legislature must approve the settlement because state law caps judgments against government agencies at $100,000.

Under Florida Senate rules, a claims bill had to be introduced by Aug. 1 for it to be considered during the regular 2008 legislative session.

State Sen. David Aronberg, D-Greenacres, whose district includes part of Lee County, has sponsored a claims bill that would give Pierriesna all the money in the settlement.

"It’s a disheartening case," Aronberg said. "But it’s a case that has been settled and now we need to get a bill passed."

It is not uncommon for bills to be introduced and then never voted on before the Legislature adjourns for the year. Aronberg conceded that could happen with this claims bill.

"That’s always a concern because good legislation dies every year," he said. "But I can tell you that I will do everything I can to get this passed."

There is no specific deadline in the Florida House of Representatives for introducing a claims bill. However, one will have the be introduced before the 2008 legislative session begins.

Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, said a claims bill would be introduced. It will be sponsored by either Rivera or Rep. Mike Davis, R-Naples.

"We’re talking about which one of us is going to sponsor it right now," Rivera said. "If Mike doesn’t sponsor it, I will."

Davis and Rivera both represent portions of Collier County. Rivera also is chairman of the House Rules Committee and is sometimes called the second-most-powerful person in the House after Speaker Marco Rubio.

Rivera said it is impossible to predict if the bill would be approved in the House.

"It depends on how many claims bills there are and what is going on with the budget," Rivera said. "But this is one that merits serious consideration."

Rep. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, also indicated support for the claims bill.

"As I review this case it certainly is a case of blatant irresponsibility on behalf of the state," Richter said.

Valazquez, now 72, was sentenced in 2001 for sexual battery and in 2003 for indecent assault of a child younger than 16. He is scheduled to be released from prison in 2008.

Darlene now is the primary guardian of Pierreisna and the child she had. They live in Fort Myers.

Darlene is 22 and Pierreisna is 25, but Pierreisna has a mental disability that gives her the thought process of a 13-year-old, court records show.

Pierreisna works at a Publix. Darlene is a full-time student at Florida Gulf Coast University and also works at a Sweetbay.

Aronberg said he’s sponsoring the bill because Darlene and Pierreisna live in his district, which includes part of Fort Myers.


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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:16 am

. ... e0809.html

CPS ordered to pay $1.5 million in boy's death

Elias C. Arnold
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 8, 2007 08:45 PM

A jury in Maricopa County Superior Court this week awarded $1.5 million to the mother of a 9-year-old Litchfield Park boy who died after Child Protective Services twice investigated suspicions of abuse but failed to remove the boy from his home.

Dustin Rhodes was living with his grandmother, aunt and aunt's boyfriend when he died in August 2003 of "multiple traumatic injuries," according to an autopsy report.

In 2005, the boy's mother, Christina Bowman, filed suit, claiming her son's life might have been spared had CPS fully investigated and removed Dustin from the home.

Bowman's attorney, Steve Copple, said the decision "gives some answers and some accountability" in the death.

"It was a four-year journey for Christina to try to find out why and who and how. So that decision was extremely important for her and, she felt, for Dustin," Copple said.

Spokeswomen for CPS and the Arizona Attorney General's Office declined to comment, saying the litigation is ongoing.

In February 2003, six months before the boy's death, his third-grade teacher reported unusual bruises on his back, waist, leg and eye.

Three months later, a physician examined other injuries, including a swollen face and bruises all over the boy's body. She found the injuries may have been accidental, but recommended further investigation.

Dustin's parents were not involved in his life then. His mother's attorney previously told The Arizona Republic that she had recovered from a drug problem and was trying to get her son back at the time.

The jury's verdict was a "very loud and specific acknowledgement of her loss," Copple said.

A related criminal case turned out differently.

Last month, the boy's extended family, including his grandmother Linda Rhodes; aunt, Bethany Pellerin; and previously the aunt's boyfriend, Ryan Pellerin; were acquitted on all counts of child abuse stemming from the incident.

"We expected ours to come out this way, but we didn't expect the other (case) to come out this way," Copple said.


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Postby Marina » Thu Aug 16, 2007 5:25 am

. ... S/70815017

Originally published August 15, 2007

Children and Families hit with $6.4 million verdict

Julian Pecquet

A circuit court jury in Hillsborough County has awarded a $6.45 million judgment against the Florida Department of Children and Families to the families of two children who were treated by an improperly licensed counselor and convicted felon.

The verdict Tuesday found that the long-troubled department failed to properly investigate Robert Taylor, who provided substance abuse and other counseling to minors despite not having a license to treat them.

Taylor was sentenced to 130 years in prison in 2000. One of the children, Gregory Chapman, hanged himself May 31, 1998.

"The only protection (the victims) had was DCF doing its job, and they didn't do it," said Joe Magri of the Merkle and Magri law firm, who tried the case. "The verdict hopefully sends a strong message by the jury that DCF needs to be responsible."

The verdict can be appealed, but a decision has not yet been made. DCF leadership had not seen the verdict as of Wednesday because they were attending meetings in South Florida, said Al Zimmerman, the department's spokesman.

"Within the next week," he said, "they plan to sit down and discuss the verdict."

According to Magri, the two children saw Taylor in 1997 and 1998. Chapman suffered from an attention-deficit disorder, while another girl who saw him had a substance abuse problem. A couple years before, several of Taylor's former clients had accused him of defrauding them out of money.

DCF is required to investigate such claims and do background checks and fingerprint counselors who have contact with unmarried minors. According to Magri, DCF "claimed that it did all it could do when it asked Taylor if the complaints were true and he denied them."

A background check would have revealed that Taylor had several felony convictions for fraud, including a adoption scam; had outstanding arrest warrants in Chicago; and had a consent degree entered against him by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for the unauthorized practice of psychology.

DCF told Taylor that he needed to get a license to provide substance abuse treatment, and that he wouldn't need to go through a background check and fingerprinting to get a license to treat adults only.

Taylor provided the department with a fake Master's degree, which DCF failed to properly look into. Despite lacking the right license to treat minors, Taylor started seeing Chapman and the teenage girl, along with other minors. According to the lawsuit against DCF, Taylor traumatized the children, pitting the girl against her parents while scaring minors such as Chapman into thinking they would be sent to a boot camp if they didn't "shape up" and stop causing trouble for their parents.


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Postby Marina » Thu Aug 16, 2007 5:29 am


Posted on Wed, Aug. 15,

CPS sued over death of girl, 3

Star-Telegram staff writer

The former chairwoman of the Tarrant County Child Protective Services board filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of the father and brother of a 3-year-old girl fatally injured while in foster care.

Sheila B. Johnson, who is named as the administrator of Sierra Odom's estate, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that Child Protective Services allowed Sierra Odom to remain in her foster parents' custody despite knowing that she had suffered physical injuries that required medical assessment and treatment.

The lawsuit asks a jury to assess monetary damages. Sierra's father, Jonathan Odom, is listed as a plaintiff. The lawsuit lists CPS and individual state employees as defendants.

Leaving Sierra and her older brother Dante Ballard in the couple's care "increased the likelihood of future physical harm, abuse, and/or corporal punishment ... rendering Sierra Odom and Dante Ballard more vulnerable," the lawsuit states.

Johnson referred questions to her attorney, who could not be reached Tuesday.

CPS does not comment on pending lawsuits, said Marissa Gonzales, a CPS spokeswoman.

Sierra Odom died in August 2005 after being hit on the head and suffocated.

In May, a Tarrant County jury convicted foster father Timothy Warner of injury to a child in Sierra's death.

The same jury failed to agree on a sentence for Warner; a new punishment hearing will be held later.

Monday's lawsuit comes weeks after Sierra's mother, Heather Jamieson, alleged in a separate lawsuit that CPS "owed a duty of care to Sierra Odom to ensure that she was placed into a foster home which would provide an environment which would ensure her health, safety, and welfare."


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Postby Marina » Thu Aug 16, 2007 5:34 am

. ... a=from_rss

Justices strike down Contra Costa family court rules

East Bay Business Times - August 10, 2007by Marie-Anne Hogarth

Stephanie Secrest | East Bay Business Times

The California Supreme Court sided with a Danville man who sued Contra Costa County Superior Court saying that local rules adopted to speed up trials in the family courts robbed him of justice.

The rules requiring parties to submit testimony in writing ahead of the trial haven't been enforced in Contra Costa County since state Supreme Court justices held oral arguments last May. The case could be the beginning of a larger discussion about balancing efficiency and justice in the family courts.


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Postby Marina » Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:17 am


Tucson Region

Payne kids' mother seeks $12 million in their deaths

By Josh Brodesky
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.17.2007

The mother of Ariana and Tyler Payne has filed a claim against the state, Child Protective Services, the Tucson Police Department and others, seeking $12 million for the deaths of her two children.
The claim largely focuses on the decision by CPS workers and city police to keep 4-year-old Ariana and 5-year-old Tyler with their father, Christopher Matthew Payne, despite a court order giving their mother, Jamie Hallam, sole custody without visitation rights.
Payne and his girlfriend, Reina Gonzales, have been charged with murder in the children's deaths. Ariana's decomposing body was found in a trash bin in February. Tyler's remains have not been found, but he is presumed dead.

"CPS simply cannot supplant a valid judge's custody order," said Jorge Franco Jr., a Phoenix attorney who is representing Hallam.
CPS spokeswoman Liz Barker Alvarez declined to comment, saying officials had not had enough time to review the claim and offer a response.

City Attorney Mike Rankin said he had not yet seen the claim.
Despite the court order, Hallam let her two children visit Payne in January 2006 for what was supposed to be a few days. But Payne never returned the children.

At the time, CPS was investigating Hallam on an allegation of neglect, which on March 1 was found to be unsubstantiated. Workers with the agency also were urging Payne to petition for custody.

Documents show that CPS worker Cindy Graupmann closed the case and told Hallam it was OK to pick up her children from Payne.
However, when Hallam tried to get her kids back on March 9 with the help of Tucson police, Graupmann, following the direction of Supervisor Christy Tarpley, told Hallam the case was still open for investigation and that it would be best to keep the kids with their father.

To bolster the claim, attorney Franco cites a case note from a separate CPS case that states the agency "cannot violate a court order."

The claim also provides substantial attention to the lack of follow-up with Ariana and Tyler after Hallam's failed attempt to get her children back.

CPS officials have said there was no need to check on the children because the case was closed, and Hallam voluntarily placed the kids with Payne.

But Franco said that "none of that matters, because the minute CPS decided to inject themselves and make decisions to either place children or allow them to remain somewhere else, they have an obligation" to investigate and check on the welfare of the children.

The claim also outlines Payne's extensive arrest history, calling into question whether CPS did a criminal-background check on him.
CPS officials have said they did, but the claim states that Hallam's attorneys had verified with the state Department of Public Safety "that the search results form, produced by CPS with the limited criminal history (half of which pertains to a different Christopher Payne), is not an AZ DPS form."

Finally, the claim also cites CPS' handling of Hallam's most recent baby, who was born in October 2006.

When the child was born, the infant tested positive for amphetamine, and CPS officials suspected Hallam of possibly using methamphetamine. The baby was temporarily placed in foster care but was returned to Hallam after a few days because Hallam did not test positive.

Considering there is no indication that CPS officials checked on the welfare of Ariana and Tyler, who were presumed to be with Payne, Franco said he didn't understand why one child could be returned to Hallam but two others could not be.

"If she's fit to have that child, why isn't she fit to have her older children for whom she has a legal custody order?" he said.
The claim also names Gov. Janet Napolitano; Tracy Wareing, director of the state's Department of Economic Security; Ken Deibert, deputy director for DES; Tarpley, the CPS supervisor; Graupmann, the CPS caseworker; and the city of Tucson.

Citing the handling of the case, as well as the psychological stress Hallam is said to have suffered from being separated from her children, the claim seeks $4 million in damages for each child from CPS, and $2 million in damages for each child from the city.


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Postby Marina » Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:40 am


Published: 08.18.2007

Mom of Payne kids files $12M claim vs. DES, cops for deaths

Tucson Citizen

The mother of two Tucson children, who claims they were killed under the watch of state child welfare workers and Tucson police, has filed a $12 million wrongful death claim.

Jamie Hallam's Aug. 16 claim, the first step in filing a lawsuit, gives the Department of Economic Security, Tucson police, Gov. Janet Napolitano and several others 60 days to respond to allegations that their negligence led to the deaths of the children.

Liz Barker Alvarez, spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Security, said Friday she had no comment on the claim. She said DES received the document Thursday and she has not had time to review it with attorneys.

Hallam's claim says state and local officials were negligent in the deaths of Ariana and Tyler Payne.

The decomposing body of Ariana Payne, 4, was found in a trash bag inside a plastic bin in a storage locker Feb. 18.

The body of Tyler Payne, 5, has not been found. He is presumed dead.

The children's father, Christopher Payne, 29, and his girlfriend, Reina Gonzales, 23, have been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths. They are in the Pima County jail awaiting trial. County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for both if they are convicted.

Hallam's claim alleges Ariana "had most likely been physically abused on many multiple occasions over an extended period of time" by Payne and Gonzales.

The claim cites a Pima County Medical Examiner's autopsy report indicating Ariana had been injured in the weeks before her death, as well as shortly before death:

The child's body had a "fresh spinal fracture that shows no indication of healing," the autopsy report said.

The fracture was characterized as a "hinge-type" which occurred when force was applied "from right to left" across the child's spine.
The autopsy report says Ariana also suffered fractures to 12 ribs (two of the ribs were broken in two); a fracture of the shoulder; and trauma to leg and jaw bones, to a neck bone and to the back of the skull.

The wounds showed some degree of healing, indicating they were suffered while the child was alive, the autopsy said.

Hallam, through her Phoenix attorneys, Jennings, Haug & Cunningham LLP, blames CPS and Tucson police for thwarting her attempt to retrieve her children from their father in March 2006
Hallam allowed Payne a visit with the children in January 2006 but "by early February 2006, he refused to answer his telephone and Jamie Hallam lost contact with him and her children," according to the claim.

On March 9, 2006, she asked Tucson police to help her locate Payne and the children.

A police officer, who called CPS, was advised to leave the children with Payne because CPS was investigating allegations of drug abuse by Hallam.

Hallam had been given sole custody of the children when she and Payne divorced in 2003. The judge cited Payne's history of domestic violence in denying him visitation or custodial rights.

"Although in disbelief that her legally binding custody order was given no effect by CPS and TPD, Jamie cooperated with the TPD officers and left peacefully without Ariana and without Tyler," the claim states.

She never saw the children again.

A summary of Payne's criminal history, which includes possession of drug paraphernalia, harassment, assault, domestic violence and a probation violation, is included in the claim, which says CPS never adequately researched Payne's background when recommending the children remain with him.


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Postby Marina » Wed Aug 22, 2007 6:31 pm

. ... 037134.txt

Court upholds dismissal of lawsuit against health department

By TIMBERLY ROSS / The Associated Press
Wednesday, Aug 22, 2007 - 04:23:51 pm CDT

OMAHA — A federal appeals court has upheld dismissal of a 2003 lawsuit against a caseworker and the former Nebraska Health and Human Services System.

The lawsuit filed by Ronda Conn and her ex-husband, Devin Kilpatrick, alleged that caseworker Patricia King threatened to take custody of Conn’s 10-year-old son unless she testified against Kilpatrick in a child-abuse case.

The lawsuit said that King had removed the boy from Conn’s custody and threatened to make the move permanent.

Kilpatrick had been charged in 2002 with felony child abuse, accused of hitting the boy, but a jury acquitted him. A judge ordered the boy returned to Conn, who had filed for divorce from Kilpatrick.

The Gering couple later requested that a special prosecutor investigate King’s conduct, but an investigation found that while her actions “came close to crossing the line,” no charges were warranted.

Health and Human Services also investigated King but found no wrongdoing.

Kilpatrick and Conn filed a lawsuit against King, her supervisors and the department in 2003. It was amended to include claims of retaliation after Kilpatrick was placed on the state’s Child Central Register of Abuse and Neglect.

The Health and Human Services System had said that Kilpatrick’s file showed inconclusive evidence of abuse, a determination that required his name to be added to the registry. Requests to have his name removed were denied until April 2006.

Steven Wilson, who had ruled on the initial request, discussed Kilpatrick’s case with Robert Wheeler, an assistant attorney general. He cited attorney-client privilege in refusing to disclose their conversation in court.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Thalken ruled in February 2006 that Kilpatrick did not provide evidence that Wilson’s conversation with Wheeler effectuated a crime, which would have compelled his testimony. He also said that Kilpatrick failed to show that King knowingly violated any due process rights or that her supervisors acted in retaliation, so Thalken dismissed the case.

Kilpatrick alone appealed the decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which on Wednesday affirmed the ruling.

Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Michael J. Melloy said the claims made in Kilpatrick’s lawsuit “could give rise to an inference of improper motive,” but “those inferences are not sufficient to create a genuine issue of fact for trial.”

A message left Wednesday for Kilpatrick’s lawyer, Maren Chaloupka, was not immediately returned.

The Health and Human Services System has since been renamed the Department of Health and Human Services. A department spokeswoman referred questions to the state Attorney General’s Office. Its spokeswoman did not immediately return a message.


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