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]

Oakland Tribune

County pays mom $400,000 for boys’ removal without

warrant Deal could change how social workers treat


By Donna Horowitz

Staff Writer

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


Interest-bearing trust

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

attorneys fees.

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.


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