A California mother and her four underage children are suing Lassen County, a number of people affiliated with Children’s Protective Services, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors, the director of the California State Department of Social Services, a foster mother, and Environmental Services-a regional agency that handles placements for CPS. Amy McConnell and her children are asking for at least $11 million.
The suit accuses the defendants of violating the plantiffs’ rights under the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit is also alleging that the defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress and were negligent in fulfilling their mandatory duties under state law.
According to the complaint that was filed in United States District Court, Eastern District of California in 2003, McConnell left three of her children with her husband to pay a gas bill. While she was away, her husband went to the neighbor’s house to use the phone. The oldest child was in school. While both parents were away, Amy McConnell’s father found the three children alone and took them to CPS without telling the parents. When both parents returned home, they couldn’t find their children and went into the neighborhood to look for them. The oldest child was picked up by CPS at school. Lassen County filed a juvenile dependency petition in Lassen Superior Court, but the plaintiff was not informed of the hearing, and the hearing ended up not taking place.
The children were placed in a series of foster homes and at least two of the children were repeatedly physically abused and sexually abused. The complaint says that the defendants were negligent in evaluating whether the environments the children were placed in were safe. They are also accused of failing to investigate whether the children were better off being with their biological mother. The complaint also says that “there was no claim against the plaintiff for leaving the children … (and) the oldest minor child was never left alone.”
In 2005, The Lassen County Board of Supervisors rejected the claim of McConnell in its entirety. The children’s claims were also rejected.
The trial is scheduled for December 2007.
The Juvenile Dependency Court is a court of law that focuses on the special needs of children and families. Ideally, the Dependency Court wants to make sure that:
· When the court makes a decision, the most important thing is the child’s safety.
· Child welfare professionals plan and organize all the services for the family. And make sure they are practical.
· Families see the same professionals the whole time their case is in court.
· Children only live in 1 place until they get a permanent home.
· Every child will get a permanent home within 1-year after they leave the parents’ house.
· All professionals will give their services up-front. They will only use the court process as a last resort.
· All professionals will help the families solve their own problems.
· All professionals will try different ways to help families solve their problems, as long as it’s best for the child. This is called alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
· All professionals will encourage families and children to work with volunteers. The volunteers are trained to work in the dependency system.
· All professionals will get information about the child’s family to help the child and family. This can be:
o Medical histories.
o Mental health histories.
o School records.
o Other information.
· The court will give families a fair, fast, affordable, and accessible place to solve problems.
· The caretakers and professionals who work with the children will take care of all their medical, mental health, and learning needs.
· The Court will coordinate with other agencies, the lawyers and other courts so that any case involving the same child or family can be heard by the same judge.
· The Court will protect the family’s right to a fair and speedy trial.
In the state of California, according to Statute: Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 361.5(b), (h), (i); 366.26(c)(1) :
Circumstances That May Be Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights include:
· Abandonment or Extreme Parental Disinterest.
· Mental Illness or Deficiency.
· Alcohol or Drug Induced Incapacity.
· Felony Conviction/Incarceration.
· Failure of Reasonable Efforts.
· Abuse/Neglect or Loss of Rights of Another Child.
· Sexual Abuse.
· Failure to Maintain Contact.
· Failure to Provide Support.
· Child Judged in Need of Services/Dependent.
· Child’s Best Interest.
· Felony assault of child or sibling.
· Murder/Manslaughter of sibling child.
With offices in San Jose, Fremont, and Monterey, Sagaria Law, P.C. handles juvenile dependency and other family law matters in the counties of Santa Clara, Fremont, and Monterey.
Our main goals when we work in juvenile dependency matters are to:
· Protect children.
· Give them stability.
· Keep families together.
· Treat everyone with dignity.
· Respect diversity.
· Value every child like their own.
Contact Sagaria Law, P.C. for a free consultation.
Mother Files Second Amended Complaint In $11 Million Lawsuit In CPS Case, Lassen News.com, October 3, 2006
Juvenile Dependency Court, Superior Court of California County of Santa Clara
Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights In California, Adoption.com
Related Web Resource:
Juvenile Dependency, California Courts: Self-Help Center
California Courts: Rules