CPS PAYS $400,000 FOR KIDNAPPING TWIN BOYS
Social workers (CPS) in Oakland County in Berkeley, California forced to settle with mom whose twin boys they conspired to kidnap, or, “remove.” The four hundred thousand dollar settlement may or may not change the way they operate.
Please note the following: In California social workers and the state were held financially liable for removal absent immediate danger of physical injury – emotional abuse allegations were no protection against liability AND Child’s counsel was held financially liable for failing to represent the position of elementary-school age children. Unjust removal was held to be so traumatic, that the emotional injury to the two boys even though returned eventually merited an award of hundreeds of thousands of dollars. I agree that the trauma of removal is worse for many of our child clients than the allegations against them in DSS affidavits.
It is equally critical to put on sibling visitation cases, and to actually and zealously represent what child clients want and to give voice to kinship relational value. It is not enough and should never be a “rubber stamp” of DSS biased social engineering, or “easier” to represent children. Further, if one child goes home and an attorney is appointed to represent only that child, the job is not over. There is a duty to fight for sibling relations pursuant to G.L. c. 119 Sec. 26(5) and 29.
Any case under G.L. c. 119 or G.L.c. 210 is as important to all child clients, at least in my opinion, as any criminal matter and in a Section 3 termination case, we are the bulwark against the death of a family and a child’s permanent loss of not just their mother and father, but also their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and very identity formation.
Our SJC has this issue under consideration – I will update you as it moves along. As a matter of disclosure, I currently am handling a case with a sibling visitation issue in the Supreme Judicial court. See http://www.ma-appell… While the law of the Commonwealth states that siblings “shall” have a right to maintain contact with one another if removed into foster care, or adopted over objection or made into legal orphans by the state http://www.mass.gov/… (See section 26(5) at this official site) as of now, the child, say a 12 year old whose 8 year old brother or sister has been placed in another home, is not appointed an attorney to assist them in actually enforcing this statutory right.
Deb Sirotkin Butler
[Please feel free to forward]
County pays mom $400,000 for boys’ removal without
warrant Deal could change how social workers treat
By Donna Horowitz
Wednesday, July 10, 2002 – The Alameda County Board of
Supervisors agreed to pay a Berkeley mother $400,000
and change its policies to settle her suit that
charged the county removed her twin sons from her home
without a warrant.
The settlement with Patricia Moodian, one of two
approved in closed session Tuesday, was announced by
County Counsel Richard Winnie.
The deal with Moodian means county social workers will
have to change the way they handle such cases in the
future, and it could pave the way for similar policy
changes in other counties, said Moodian’s Berkeley
attorney, David Beauvais.
The county has agreed to a consent decree that would
prohibit these warrantless intrusions and removals of
children, Beauvais said.
The county can’t remove children without warrants
unless there’s imminent danger of serious physical
harm or death, he said.
A stipulated agreement
He anticipates the consent decree, essentially a
stipulated agreement reached by both sides, will come
before U.S. District Court Magistrate Bernard
Zimmerman for approval within the next week or two.
Last month, Zimmerman ruled that a county social
worker violated Moodian and her son’s constitutional
rights by removing the boys from their home in June
2001, without a warrant, for alleged emotional abuse.
He said state law allows children to be taken from
their parents without prior judicial approval if the
social worker believes the child is in imminent
danger, but noted that emotional harm does not carry
the same immediacy.
This was the second time the county removed the boys
from their mother. Social workers also removed them
from their home in April 2000.
Both times they were returned to their mother.
This is an emerging area of the law, Winnie said.
The social worker felt it was justified, but the
court felt she required a warrant in such
Winnie said the boys, now both 11, also have a
malpractice case against their public defender, Kathy
Siegel, which is pending. That lawsuit claims Siegel
and her office was negligent in the way they
represented the boys, saying she advocated against
them in the proceedings. The boys eventually fired
Siegel was not available for comment.
Beauvais said the family will divide up the settlement
and the boys’ share will go into an interest-bearing
trust account, which they will get when they turn 18.
Winnie said about half of the settlement will go for
County Social Services Agency spokeswoman Sylvia Myles
said she didn’t know how the decision would affect the
way social workers handle such cases until we get
direction from the county counsel. We expect something
coming down the pike very soon.