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Lawsuit Over Child Murdered by CPS
November 27, 2006 permalink
A lawsuit has been filed in the case of Jamie Ceballos, a child seized by Child Protectors in Monterey County California and murdered a year later. We have a copy of the complaint (MS-Word format). The first hundred paragraphs give the facts, as known to the mother, the rest state claims in legal language. Here is a narrative of the seizure of the children from the mother, identified by her surname Allen. Hralima is one of the social workers.
In December 2004 Allen's five-year-old daughter Ana disclosed that Allen’s step-father had put on a “dirty movie” and touched himself and her in “private places” while “grandma was sleeping.” Allen herself called 911 and reported the disclosure.
Officers from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department came to the scene and asked Allen what had happened. She suggested that the officer speak directly to Ana. The officer did. The officer told Allen that she needed to take Ana in to the hospital to be checked out. Allen did immediately take Ana and her two other children to the hospital.
At the hospital, a nurse said that Child Protective Services needed to be called. Allen agreed. She believed such an organization would help her daughter, and possibly her and her other children. The nurse told Allen that she wanted to keep Ana overnight so she could evaluate her further.
Allen returned the next morning (December 14th, 2004) at 9:00 a.m., but no one would allow her to enter the back area of the hospital where Ana was being kept. She waited for over ½ hour, but learned later that all the while she waited, [social workers] were interrogating Ana. Allen finally convinced a nurse to let her in and went directly to Ana’s room. Ana was crying and asked Allen to take her home. Ana was very emotionally tired and disturbed by the interrogation and wanted to leave with her mother. Hralima told Allen that she could not take Ana because she was now on a “3-day CPS hold.”
[Two days later] Hralima phoned Allen and said Ana was ready to be released. Allen explained that the other children just got out of the bath and needed to be dressed, but that she would be there right away.
When she got to the hospital, she saw two officers (Sinor and Doe 4) and noticed that Ana was absent. Allen asked Hralima what was going on, but Hralima did not answer. Hralima then handed Allen a paper and said she was taking all of her children into custody because of “sexual abuse.” Allen began to shake and cry inconsolably for several minutes. Hralima kept insisting through Allen’s tears that she “sign the paper.” Allen refused to sign the paper and demanded to see her daughter Ana. When she did, Sinor immediately began to attempt to verbally threaten and physically intimidate Allen. Sinor, in full law enforcement attire and bearing a sidearm, immediately stepped up into Allen’s immediate physical space, and leaned his face to within inches of hers, saying menacingly, “If you don’t sign that you’re going to jail for sexual abuse.” At first Allen still refused, saying she was not going to sign the paper and they had no reason to take her children, and repeating that she is the one who had called them! With that, Sinor became more menacing, saying to her more loudly, “You either sign that paper or I’ll arrest you for disorderly conduct.” Allen was convinced that if she did not sign the paper, Sinor was going to arrest her throw her in jail, regardless of whether she had done anything wrong at all. She signed the paper, which she was told was a “notification” of the fact her children were being taken from her.
Source: complaint received by email from Robert Powell
Addendum: Below is a California newspaper's account of the suit, and one readers response:
Mother sues over death
2-year-old son died while in care of foster family
A federal lawsuit was filed Monday in San Jose against Monterey County over the death last year of a 2-year-old boy while in the care of a foster family he was assigned to by county social workers.
Jaime Ceballos died Nov. 27, 2005, and "we felt it was appropriate to file on the anniversary of his death," said San Jose attorney Robert R. Powell, who is representing Jaime's mother, Megan Allen.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, seeks damages for the boy's wrongful death and also alleges the unlawful removal of Jaime and his three siblings from their mother by Monterey County Child Protective Services social workers.
The children were taken from their home, Powell said, after Allen contacted police to report allegations by her daughter that she had been molested by a family relative.
There were no allegations of abuse against Allen, he said.
Jaime died after being fatally injured at a Cactus Court foster care home operated by Ada and Antonio Sifuentes.
Officials from the Monterey County Coroner's division have been unable to conclude whether the death was an accident or a criminal act. Salinas police say they believe the death was an accident, probably resulting from a collision the hyperactive boy had with a dull, small object that caused internal bleeding and an infection in his stomach.
The lawsuit contends that at the time of his death, Jaime had multiple bruises all over his body, a depression of his skull from some unknown blunt-force trauma, and had suffered a series of blows to his abdominal area, one of them with enough force to tear his colon and rupture other internal organs.
When he was found, Powell contends, no attempt was made to resuscitate him.
The toddler's sister had been removed from the Sifuentes home shortly before Jaime's death for alleged abuse against her by the foster family, he said, and Child Protective Services had received numerous complaints of abuse of the children from their mother, visitation supervisors and neighbors on Cactus Court.
Powell has been an outspoken critic of the state's foster care system and has been involved in several high-profile cases involving other social service departments. He announced filing of the lawsuit at a press conference Monday in San Jose.
"It's unfortunate that Mr. Powell and other plaintiff attorneys choose to try their cases in the news media instead of a court of law," commented County Counsel Charles McKee. "He could at least provide the county with a copy of the complaint. He knows how he wants to portray this in the press."
McKee and Deputy County Counsel Michael Hogan, who is defending the county, said they have not received a copy of the complaint.
Hogan said the county reviewed and denied Allen's claim when it was filed in July.
"The county's position is that there is no liability for any county official or employee," he said, adding that the county intends to defend itself against the allegations.
Denial of the claim, Powell said, is a routine formality prior to going to court.
McKee said the county's child welfare system shows "a strong commitment to children who experience abuse and neglect" and placing them in proper foster care is "an agonizing and difficult job assignment."
County Child Protective Services, he added, "has been recognized as a superior program in the state of California."
Jaime Ceballos' death, McKee said, was "a tragic and deeply felt loss for all who knew him. The compassion of those people who are working in the system should not be lost in the fervor to find a scapegoat."
Kevin Howe can be reached at 646-4416 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Monterey County Herald
Here is one reader's response:
I read you article on Jaime and I have been reading all of the previous one written by Suk. Megan Allen lived with me for About 5 month this year. Robert Powell was my attorney against CPS in my recent case. I would love to share my story with you about how the Monterey County CPS dragged me and my husband through the courts. We had adopted 2 previously sexually, emotionally and physically abused children and while they were visiting an ex-caregiver (who stated several times that she wished she had adopted them herself) and while they were there, both boys accused my husband of sexually abusing them. We have lost those children and our other children, our rights have been terminated and we no longer get to see our children.
We want people to know what can happen when you adopt children from this kind of background.
Source: Monterey County Herald