Originally published March 4 2015
LA County to pay family $800,000 for kidnapping their unvaccinated children without a warrant
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The Board of Supervisors for Los Angeles County have agreed to pay the parents of two children $800,000 after a sheriff's deputy and accompanying social workers forcibly removed them.
As reported by KPCC radio, the payment is a settlement over a civil rights lawsuit filed by the parents in which they claimed that their kids were wrongfully removed from the parents' San Gabriel Valley residence four years ago. It took four months for the parents to get their children back.
KPCC further reported:
In their lawsuit, Sebastian Xoss and Mirtha Lopez accused the county of the "baseless, unreasonable, and unlawful" removal of their 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son from the hotel where they were staying on Feb. 10, 2011. They had gone to the hotel in part to escape suspected abuse of the daughter by a relative of Lopez, according to the lawsuit.
Social workers from the Department of Children and Family Services had claimed that the parents "created a detrimental and endangering home environment" for their kids by failing to provide nourishing food and for not immunizing them, according to the suit. In addition, the workers accused Xoss of not getting any treatment for mental health issues that were a danger to his kids.
The workers, along with a sheriff's deputy from the department's Special Victims Bureau, were responding to a report of abuse, says a case summary that was written by the county board, though it is not clear who filed the abuse report.
"You could lose your kids forever"
The parents claimed that the allegations were false and that their children were being raised "in a loving, emotionally, academically, and financially supportive, intact nuclear family."
In the suit, the parents claimed the deputy and social worker entered their hotel room without a search warrant and in the absence of "exigent circumstances" indicating that the kids were in immediate danger. Also, the suit said the deputy mocked the parents for not immunizing their children based on their religious beliefs and for homeschooling their kids. The suit also accused the deputy of coercing them into allowing a search of the hotel room.
"You could lose your kids forever," the deputy allegedly said.
DCFS officials said they don't comment on court cases, and the Sheriff's Department failed to return a call from KPCC seeking comment.
"No employee misconduct was suspected and no systemic issues were identified," the county counsel's case summary said, adding that the Sheriff's Department was planning to publish a newsletter "designed to educate members of the necessity to obtain a warrant where insufficient exigency exists for warrantless action."
Senior Assistant County Counsel Patrick Wu, when asked about the size of the settlement, responded that the county was anticipating large attorney's fees if it lost the suit. "If you have a civil rights issue, under federal law you can ask for attorneys fees," Wu said.
"It's not that they don't go anywhere"
The settlement comes on the heels of increased scrutiny and criticism of the manner in which LA County handles children its DCFS claims are in danger of being abused by parents or guardians. Following the death of Gabriel Fernandez in Palmdale, Calif., allegedly at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend, a "blue ribbon" panel was formed to look into DCFS procedures. Relatives of the deceased child have accused the agency of doing too little to protect him.
"The commission has made a series of recommendations, including the creation of a Child Protection czar. The Board of Supervisors has yet to hire one, nearly a year after the recommendation," KPCC reported.
Supervisor Gloria Molina told KPCC in a separate report that many of the issues identified by the panel had been identified previously and recommendations had been made to fix problems, only to see them unheeded.
"It's not that they don't go anywhere, it's always the matter of the challenge we have of how we're going to put them in place," Molina said. "It's finding locations, finding mechanisms, finding leadership everywhere."
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