Category Archives: Equal Justice

Native Child Custody Battle Has Happy Ending

.jpg photo of Child being removed from Foster Care back to Family
Lexi To Stay With Utah Relatives

Lexi To Stay With Utah Family

Choctaw child will be placed with relatives

THE 6-year-old Choctaw girl known as “Lexi,” whose custody battle became a cause célèbre earlier this year, will be staying in Utah with her family.

In a scathing 38-page decision issued on July 8, a three-judge panel of the California Second District Court of Appeals ruled against the claims of Lexi’s foster parents, Summer and Russell Page.  The panel
cited the couple’s “self interest,” their pattern of interference with and resistance to Lexi’s visits with her extended family, and their inability to facilitate an ongoing relationship with her siblings.

These factors constituted “substantial evidence” that there was no good cause to depart from the placement preferences of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the judges ruled.

Last March, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services removed Lexi from the Pages’ home in Santa Clarita, California after the couple initially refused to hand her over to social
workers.  With their refusal, they defied a court order that Lexi be placed with family in Utah, which includes two biological sisters.

The transfer, carefully planned for months and intended to proceed smoothly, deteriorated into chaos after protesters and media descended on the house in an effort to prevent it.

The case began in 2010, when Lexi’s father went to jail for selling stolen auto parts, her mother having disappeared shortly after her birth.  After being assigned to several foster homes, the girl was placed with the Pages while her father worked to complete a “reunification plan.”  Authorities told the Pages numerous times that Lexi would eventually be reunified with her father or sent to live with relatives.

Nonetheless, the couple began indicating that they wished to adopt the girl.  As a result, their relationship with Lexi’s father became strained.  The Pages were “interfering” with his visitations and
attempting to dictate the terms and length of his visits, Lexi’s father told ICTMN.

According to court documents, the increasingly despondent father—who has a criminal record and history of drug use—decided to cease reunification efforts with Lexi after 18 months of failed attempts.  He asked that she be placed with relatives in Utah.  The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the child’s attorney and the child’s guardian ad litem supported the move.

Thus began a five-year legal battle by the Pages to retain custody of Lexi.  Heading their legal team was Lori Alvino McGill, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who represented birth mother Christy Maldonado as a pro bono spokesperson during Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.  The 2013 case involved a Cherokee Nation tribal member losing custody of his daughter after a legal battle that went to the
Supreme Court.

McGill, who represented the Pages as a pro hac vice counsel in California, has tried unsuccessfully to overturn the ICWA in various jurisdictions across the country, including Virginia and South Carolina.

Addressing the primary issue―whether the Pages could show “good cause” to depart from ICWA’s placement preferences―Justice Sandy R. Kriegler wrote for the majority in the July 8 decision that the determination should not “devolve into a standardless, free-ranging best interests inquiry.”  Kriegler noted that Lexi’s lengthy stay with her foster parents was borne solely out of ongoing litigation.

“The United States Supreme Court has cautioned that courts should not ‘reward those who obtain custody, whether lawfully or otherwise, and maintain it during any ensuing (and protracted)
litigation,’” the panel concluded.

Morever, “A holding that the facts before us constituted good cause as a matter of law would circumvent the policies favoring relatives and siblings, and it would incentivize families who knowingly accept temporary foster placements to delay an Indian child’s ultimate adoptive placement in the hope that as time passes, the family will reach a ‘safe zone’ where harm to a child from disrupting his or her
primary attachment is presumed as a matter of law.  It is unwise and unnecessary to stretch the bounds of California law in that manner.”

In dismissing the Pages’ legal arguments, the California court took the couple to task on several points.  They criticized the Pages for being unwilling and unable to provide Lexi with a continuing relationship with her Utah family;  for insisting that they monitor visitations;  and for demanding that individual therapy sessions meant for Lexi should include the entire Page family.

Regarding Lexi’s cultural ties, the justices also pointed out that the Pages were reluctant to engage in any of the suggested activities and had made only half-hearted attempts at incorporating Native
American heritage into their lives.  Summer Page, they specifically noted, had testified that a dreamcatcher made by Lexi had “ended up in the trash.”

The Pages pointed out that they had joined the Autry Museum and had painted a wall in their kitchen “Navajo Blue.”  In the end, however, the panel wholly rejected the Pages’ argument that their efforts represented Lexi’s best interest.

“The Pages also do not—and in our view cannot—provide an adequate response to an issue raised most effectively by minor’s appellate counsel.  Even though they appear before the court by virtue of their status as de facto parents, the Page’s efforts to show good cause are motivated by their own interests,” wrote Kriegler.

“Minor’s counsel, not the Pages, has a legal and ethical obligation to represent Alexandria’s interests.  The Pages lack the right to assert Alexandria’s interests because Alexandria has her own counsel, who
represents her interests and also acts as her guardian ad litem.”

After the decision, Lexi’s Utah family issued the following statement:

“We respect the unanimous decision by the court of appeal justices. All who have been appointed to seek Lexi’s best interests—her court-appointed attorneys, guardian ad litem, social worker, the
Department of Children and Family Services, and the dependency court judges—have unanimously echoed that Lexi should be raised by her family.

“More than simply sharing a familial relation with us, Lexi has been a real part of our family since the moment her grandmother—our aunt—expressed her desire that we bring Lexi into our home. The
determination we felt since then, when Lexi had just been placed in her first foster home, has provided vital strength for our family as we have waited for the courts to untangle the details.

“We hope the appellate court’s ruling brings closure and finality to everyone involved, and Lexi is at last allowed to live a peaceful childhood in our home.”

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, an active party in the case from the beginning, supported the placement with the Utah relatives.

“The Choctaw Nation is pleased that the California District Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court’s decision to place Lexi with her extended family and sisters in Utah,” the tribe said in a statement. “This has been the tribe’s objective under the Indian Child Welfare Act for more than three years.

“We hope this puts an end to this needless litigation so Lexi can get on with her life.”

LA Judge Walking Tall Against 4 CPS Employees

.jpg photo of Child killed due to CPS Dereliction of Duty
Gabriel Fernandez, 8

Judge denies request to dismiss case against
social workers in Child Abuse case

I hope each and everyone will take the time to speak out, Our Laws are based on an EQUAL SYSTEM, every individual, group, or organization, should be judged equally.

CPS has shown total disregard for WE THE PEOPLE, the Laws of Our Land, Our Children, Parents, and the Family structure since the current system has been in place.  Since 2001, not one (1) state in fifty (50) has passed even minimum requirements set down by federal law.

Lying Is Part Of What Needs Total Realignment

In Our initial post of this serious Dereliction Of Duty by CPS, the same unapologetic and care-less attitude is all too evident in the bold, less-than-truthful statement:

DCFS Director Philip Browning said in a statement, “I want to make it unambiguously clear that the defendants do not represent the daily work, standards or commitment of our dedicated social workers, who, like me, will not tolerate conduct that jeopardizes the well-being of children.  For the vast majority of those who choose this demanding career, it is nothing short of a calling.”

LOS ANGELES, CA  –  A judge has rejected arguments to dismiss charges against two former Los Angeles County social workers and their supervisors, charged with child abuse and falsifying records that resulted from the death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy.

Defendants Stefanie Rodriguez, 31, and Patricia Clement, 65, and supervisors Kevin Bom, 37, and Gregory Merritt, 60, were originally set to be arraigned Monday morning on one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records.  However, defense attorneys for the four filed court papers asking that the charges be dismissed.

The hearing was assigned to a courtroom just before the lunch hour and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge M. L. Villar asked to have until 1:30 p.m. to review the documents and the prosecution’s filings in opposition.

Villar rejected the defense’s arguments and arraigned the four, who all pleaded not guilty, said D.A.’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison.

The defense filings – known as demurrers – do not dispute the facts of the case, but argued there was insufficient grounds for legal action.

Villar noted that two defendants had filed papers together while the remaining defendants filed their own responses on different, independent grounds.

The four defendants were charged March 28 in connection with the May 24, 2013, death of Gabriel Fernandez, whom prosecutors allege was tortured and murdered by his mother and her boyfriend.

When he died, the boy had a fractured skull, several broken ribs and burns over his body, prosecutors said.

The boy’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, 32, and then-boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 36, are charged with murder in connection with Gabriel’s death.  Prosecutors announced last year that they would seek the death penalty against the two, who are awaiting a pretrial hearing July 28 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

The case sparked a firestorm of criticism of the county Department of Children and Family Services over reports that the boy and his mother were repeatedly visited at their Palmdale home by social workers in response to abuse allegations, but the boy was never removed from the home.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, DCFS opened a file on Gabriel’s case on Oct. 31, 2012, and maintained one until the boy’s death.  Prosecutors allege that Rodriguez and Clement falsified reports that should have documented signs of escalating physical abuse and the family’s lapsed participation in DCFS efforts to help maintain the family.

Prosecutors also contend that Bom and Merritt knew or should have known they were approving false reports that conflicted with evidence of Gabriel’s deteriorating physical health, allowing the boy to remain in the home until he died.

An investigation revealed that at times over an eight-month period preceding his death, Gabriel – among other instances of violent abuse – was doused with pepper spray, forced to eat his own vomit and locked in a closet with a sock stuffed in his mouth to muffle his screams, authorities said.

All four defendants were fired by the county following an internal investigation into the case.  Merritt, however, appealed his firing, and the Civil Service Commission ordered that he be reinstated.  The matter is now being appealed in court.

If convicted, Merritt and the other three criminal defendants each face up to 10 years in prison.

Philip Browning, director of the DCFS, said in April that he could not comment specifically about the criminal case, but he defended the work done by his agency.

“I want to make it unambiguously clear that the defendants do not represent the daily work, standards or commitment of our dedicated social workers, who, like me, will not tolerate conduct that jeopardizes the well-being of children,” Browning said.  “For the vast majority of those who choose this demanding career, it is nothing short of a calling.”

In a statement released after the charges were filed, District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the social workers and supervisors involved in Gabriel’s case had a legal duty to protect the child.

“By minimizing the significance of the physical, mental and emotional injuries that Gabriel suffered, these social workers allowed a vulnerable boy to remain at home and continue to be abused,” Lacey said.  “We believe these social workers were criminally negligent and performed their legal duties with willful disregard for Gabriel’s well-being.  They should be held responsible for their actions.”

Darcy Calkins, who represented Clements at an April 9 hearing, told that judge that her client was once a nun.  Outside court, she said she believed her client would be exonerated of the charges.

Filer told reporters outside court after that hearing, “My client’s name will be cleared.”

A new court date was scheduled for Aug. 25.

Long Arm Of CPS Doing Coverup Again

.jpg photo of CPS Coverup Graphic
Long Arm Of CPS Doing Coverup Again

Child Abuse reports ignored by Rockbridge
social services, report finds

Rockbridge County, VA  –  Reports of child abuse and neglect did not just fall through the cracks at the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services, an internal review has found.  Some of the reports were fed into a paper shredder, never to be investigated by the agency.

VA Department of Social Services May 2016 Review

Of the 41 problems identified in the damning review, “of utmost concern” was evidence that a former department supervisor shredded reports before they could go to the Child Protective Services unit for assessment.

The former supervisor is not named in the report.  Susan Reese, head of the social services’ Piedmont Regional Office, which conducted the review, declined to comment on the reasons for the supervisor’s departure.

But Reese confirmed that the director of the Rockbridge agency, Meredith Downey, announced her retirement during the inquiry.

Other problems cited in the report include slow responses to emergency calls, missed deadlines, altered documents and low staff morale — which many employees attributed to “an atmosphere of bullying, harassment and intimidation” by the unnamed former supervisor.

The report cites one case in which a child later died.

Earlier this year, an infant was assessed by the agency as “high risk” in an unfit home.  “But no services were offered,” the report stated. In April, the 3-month-old girl was rushed to Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Lexington, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Police are investigating both the death and the actions taken by the department in that and other cases.

“We’re looking at it from all angles,” said Capt. Tony McFaddin of the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office.

For years, members of the sheriff’s office have been troubled by the social services department, which serves Rockbridge County and the cities of Lexington and Buena Vista.  “We felt that in some cases they weren’t providing the services that we felt they should have been providing,” McFaddin said.

It was the fatality that finally spurred action.

After the sheriff’s office began to investigate the infant’s death, it ran into a stone wall with the former supervisor, who refused to assign a Child Protective Services worker to the case, according to the report.

The sheriff’s office complained to the Piedmont Regional Office, which urged the local department to get involved.  But later, the former supervisor would not share the results of the agency’s investigation with law enforcement, according to the report.

That prompted two more calls by sheriff’s investigators to the regional office.  Those calls — combined with complaints from within the department and other state agencies — prompted the regional office to expedite a review of the entire social services department in Rockbridge.

“It’s very concerning,” Reese said of the three-month review, which was completed in May.

The regional office, located in Roanoke, has sent a specialist to the Rockbridge department to help work through the problems.

“Some of the findings were very severe, and that’s why we’re looking at this very closely,” Reese said.

According to the report, the former supervisor would sometimes direct her staff not to respond to emergency calls, saying that it was “too late in the day” and that law enforcement could handle the reports of children in troubled situations.

“Services workers indicated that they used personal cellphones to keep in touch with community partners (i.e. law enforcement) because the Supervisor discourages communication and working relationships,” the report stated.

“Workers stated that sometimes they are so concerned about some cases, they offer services in secret.”

In addition to surveying the 30-some employees at the Rockbridge office, the regional office also examined its caseload numbers, which raised another red flag.

During a year-long period that ended March 1, the agency received 271 reports of alleged abuse or neglect of children.  A little more than half — 158— were “screened out,” or determined not to be worthy of investigation.

“That was an extremely high number of screen-outs,” Reese said.

Of those 158 cases, investigators took a more detailed look at a sample of 30 case files.  In 12 of those cases, they found that the allegations — such as sexual abuse or physical assault — were of the type that state law requires a closer look at by social services.

While all of the 271 reports examined by investigators were entered into the department’s records, it remains unclear how many other case summaries might have been shredded, Reese said.

No evidence remains of those cases, which were never logged into the department’s computer system.  But investigators determined that the shredding happened based on reports from other employees, who had kept copies of the documents before giving them to the former supervisor, according to the report.

Why the documents were shredded remains a mystery.

“I could not speculate on that, because we have heard no reason for this being done,” Reese said.

It does not appear that Child Protective Services staff was overburdened.  With an average of nine cases a month referred for further investigation, “this should not be a difficult standard to meet,” the report stated.

In nearly all of the cases, the former supervisor served as the gateway for a case to get to an investigator.  The high number of cases that didn’t make the cut appears to be just one reason for low morale among rank-and-file workers in the agency.

“It is concerning that a majority of the employees … reported during interviews and/or written survey comments that the … Supervisor fosters and atmosphere of ‘bullying,’ ‘harassment’ and ‘intimidation,’ the report stated.

Some workers said they were so afraid of encountering their boss in the department’s kitchen area that they constructed a makeshift kitchen for themselves in a storage room.

Complaints to the agency’s director fell on deaf ears, the report stated, which only worsened morale.  Efforts to reach the now-retired director, Downey, were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

It was in that kind of environment that a 3-month-old infant received no follow-up care from the social services department, even after it deemed her to be living in a “high risk” home.  Although documents in that case were not shredded, it remains unclear why the case did not receive more attention from social services until after the girl died.

Police were notified after the infant was taken to the emergency room.

After pronouncing the girl dead, doctors found discoloration around her face and mouth that indicated she might have been lying face-down for a prolonged period of time, according to a search warrant filed in Rockbridge County Circuit Court.

A man and woman who were caring for the child gave conflicting accounts of how long the infant had been sleeping and when she was found unresponsive, the warrant stated.

In seeking permission to search the home, an investigator wrote in the warrant that the house was extremely dirty “and also appears to have been a danger to the child’s health.”

No charges have been filed in the case.  McFaddin, of the sheriff’s office, said investigators are waiting for the results of an autopsy.

And while the sheriff’s office is also looking into the operations of the social services department, McFaddin said there’s been a noticeable improvement since the shakeup at the top.

“Now, since the regional office has gotten involved, our relationship with social services is on the mend, and we still have a good relationship with them,” he said.

Reese also believes that the department is turning a corner.

“The staff that are there are really dedicated, and they want to do the right thing,” she said.  “They want to offer their best to the community, and they’re very dedicated to doing that.”

What Is Right For All Children

.jpg photo of Child Abuse Graphic
Please Don’t Ignore Child Abuse

Indifference In The Hearts Of Children:
A Perverse Agenda

Why doesn’t the safety and well-being of all Children matter?

Children are born innocent, knowing nothing but the security that has held them close and warm for nine months.

From the first day, a Child begins learning, learning everything they see, hear, feel, and smell.

Why aren’t Our Children safe and protected by laws in every state?

Why are Our Children allowed to be subjected to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that is growing exponentially?

It is WRONG for a Child to see, hear, feel, smell, or be around cussing, violence, alcohol, drugs, sex, and most especially anything perverse or antisocial.

Why are The Clergy forced to face their accusers when no one else is?

Why are Law Enforcement Officers allowed to be the victims of such close scrutiny when no one else is?  These fine people are PUBLIC SERVANTS.

IT IS TIME TO OPEN THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE TO INCLUDE EVERYONE EQUALLY.

Billy Graham’s Grandson On Protestants’ Response To Child Sex Abuse

.jpg photo of former Florida sex crimes prosecutor
Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian

“I apologize for not posting this last week, but due to the media bias toward religion, and the media’s obvious use of Clergy Sexual Abuse to cover-up shortcomings, or more to the point, total disregard toward Our Children’s safety by Our Constituents, in not enacting ample legislation and also not opening up the Statute of Limitations with the exception of Clergy related, I ceased posting anything related to Clergy Abuse and also anything related to Law Enforcement Abuse”.
Robert StrongBow

Sexual abuse of children is “one of the great tragedies of the modern (Protestant) church,” a crime that often is ignored by congregations who should be focused on nurturing the next generation of believers, said Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, a former Florida sex crimes prosecutor and grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham.

Tchividjian’s comments came as Houston jurisdictions of the United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran churches this week host training sessions for clergy on the danger of “moral failure.”  As many as 300 Methodist ministers on Wednesday are to attend sexual ethics training conducted by the 675-congregation Texas Annual Conference.  Similar seminars are being staged by the Evangelical Lutheran church’s Gulf Coast Synod in communities in the greater Houston area.

“I can tell you in my own experience that there are hundreds and hundreds of abuse cases that have occurred within the Protestant context,” said Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor and founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, a non-profit organization working to identify and prevent sexual abuse of children in church settings.

“The absolute tragedy is that not only do churches fail to protect children.  It’s the dismal responses.  All too often a congregation’s response is to protect itself,” Tchividjian said.  “We love redemption stories.  All the offender has to do is cry and express his or her sorrow, and pretty soon they’re surrounded by rejoicing.  They may even make the victim feel he or she was to blame.”

Tchividjian said one-fourth of females and one-sixth of males have experienced sexual abuse by the time they turn 18.  “That may not all have happened in a church setting,” he said, “but most pastors are absolutely ill-equipped to understand this issue.”

While much concern about sexual abuse of children has focused on the Catholic church, Tchividjian said the situation within Protestant congregations remains a hidden crisis.   “When things surfaced within the Catholic church, a lot of people in the Protestant world reacted with shock and pointing of their fingers at the Catholics,” he said.  “Their reaction was not to take a step back to evaluate sexual abuse in their own denominations.”

Tchividjian said his organization seeks to educate the Protestant community regarding how sexual predators “think and act,” providing expert assistance to congregations grappling with abuse and, in some instances, investigating allegations of wrongdoing.

“As Christians, we believe in a Gospel that is about a God sacrificing himself in order to preserve and protect individuals.  When it comes to child sexual abuse, too many churches and Christian organizations prefer to sacrifice individuals in order to protect themselves.  We end up living out the very antithesis of the Gospel that we preach.  The consequences are devastating.”