Parents whose children are taken by social workers can fight back against the government and win. Los Angeles County agreed to pay a couple whose children were seized without a warrant $800,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit.
Among the allegations against the family: Their children were not immunized.
“This lawsuit alleges that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) violated plaintiffs’ civil rights arising from wrongfully detaining plaintiffs’ children,” a letter from LA County Senior Assistant County Counsel Patrick A. Wu to the LA County Board of Supervisors stated.
The Board of Supervisors (county commissioners) approved the payment of $800,000 to Sebastian Xoss and Mirtha Lopez earlier this year.
The controversy began when a sheriff’s deputy and social workers entered a hotel where the couple was staying and took their six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son on Feb. 10, 2011, a report from the LA County Claims Board indicates. Xoss, Lopez and their attorney, Robert R. Powell, allege that the deputy and DCFS were acting illegal because they lacked a warrant or a court order.
“The plaintiffs alleged that a warrantless detention occurred in the absence of exigent circumstances, consent or a legally obtained court order,” county documents state.
The children were kept from their parents for four months.
Children Seized Because of No Immunizations?
The children were taken from a hotel room, where the parents had taken them to escape suspected abuse of a daughter from a relative, South California Public Radio (SCPR) reported. The deputy and social workers came to the hotel and seized the kids because officials believed they were in danger. The parents says they were raising the children “in a loving, emotionally, academically, and financially supportive, intact nuclear family.”
During the seizure, the deputy allegedly mocked the parents for homeschooling their kids and made fun of their religious beliefs and refusal to immunize the children, according to the lawsuit cited by SCPR.
“You could lose your kids forever,” he allegedly said.
Officials claimed they removed the kids because the parents refused to immunize them or provide nourishing food, the lawsuit stated. The officials also accused Xoss of having untreated mental health problems that made him a threat to the kids.
After a four-month investigation, DCFS returned the children to the parents.
To cover the lawsuit the supervisors took $780,000 from DCFS’s budget and $20,000 from the sheriff’s budget, county documents state.
County Admits Warrant was Needed
The Sheriff’s department agreed that its deputy violated the law by seizing the kids without a warrant. It also admitted that its deputies were not knowledgeable enough about the law.
The Department’s Risk Management Bureau will send deputies a “Field Operations Support Services Newsletter designed to educate members of the necessity to obtain a warrant where insufficient exigency exists for warrantless law enforcement action.”
Courts around the country have ruled that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution for social workers or law enforcement to enter a home to check on children without a warrant or parents’ permission.
“The Fourth Amendment strikes a carefully crafted balance between a family’s right to privacy and the government’s need to enforce the law,” James Mason, the senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said about another case last year. “In most situations, government agents cannot simply force their way into a home. Instead, they must explain to a neutral magistrate why they need to enter the home, and they must provide real evidence to support that need. This rule applies to all government agents. Court after court has agreed that there is no social services exception to the Fourth Amendment.”
What is your reaction to the family receiving $800,000 as part of the settlement? Share your views in the section below: