Child Protective Services (CPS) is facing a First Amendment challenge in court that could forever change the laws that allow CPS to seize children from their biological parents. Andrea Wood and a minor child have filed a civil rights and conspiracy to violate civil rights lawsuit against Contra Costa County and the California Department of Social Services among others.
The case is being heard in United States District Court — Northern District of California San Francisco Division. Wood’s children were seized following an anonymous call from a vengeful neighbor regarding Wood’s house being trashed — a fake tip that sparked a nightmare for Wood, who eventually got her teenage son back. But her daughter was placed in the care of the very neighbor who called in the fake complaint.
READ THE LAWSUIT HERE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT Rev1 pdf
The lawsuit states:
“This case concerns the shocking truth that the County of Contra Costa (“County”), through it agencies Children and Family Services (“CFS”) and Office of the Sheriff and David O. Livingston (together, “Sheriff”), operate under a policy, practice and custom by which they act under color of law to seize children regardless of whether the statutory requirements of “serious harm” or “substantial risk” have been met,”
Plaintiffs believe that the proceedings authorized under Section 300 of California’s Welfare and Institutions Code are criminal in nature, in that they can result in the loss of family unity, a well-recognized fundamental constitutional right. For this reason, Plaintiffs believe that the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a trial by jury, the right to confront accusers, the right to compel witnesses in the defendant’s favor, and the right to an attorney in the “Dispositional” phase of a trial proceeding under the challenged statute. Presumably, Defendants believe otherwise. 192. The Sixth Amendment states, in its entirety: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
A representative for the plaintiff sent us a statement describing the plaintiff’s assertions regarding county counsel allegedly violating HIPAA:
Officers of the court in Contra Costa County are violating Federal Law in attempting to adversely influence the findings of a prominent doctor in a case involving a child with special needs. The County receives federal funding every time a child is seized and retained and they are further incentivized in cases of children with special needs. Could this be why they are so resistant to returning special needs children to their families?
Contra Costa County Counsel Patricia Lowe and social worker Edyth Williams have been exposed in their attempt to exert undue influence on the county approved doctor who was appointed to this case. In doing so, they hoped to reverse the findings in reports where he wrote glowing assessments of the mother of the child in question. This doctor was appointed by the county and we can presume that it was based on his medical credentials. To our knowledge, neither Ms. Lowe nor Ms. Williams, have any medical qualifications. Yet Ms. Williams saw fit to privately contact the doctor via telephone so that he could “get her input”. Ms. Lowe had full knowledge of this and admitted in an email that Ms. Williams had contacted the doctor in order that he would “understand the court’s perspective/perception”. She further admitted to attempting to convince the mother’s lawyer to contact the doctor for the purpose of sharing the court’s opinion with the doctor.
Having submitted two letters of recommendation to the court, the doctor was then issued with a subpoena demanding the mother’s medical records. This was subsequently canceled after the mother reminded Ms. Lowe that the subpoena was illegal. When the attempts to sway his decision failed, the doctor submitted a third letter to the court which Ms. Lowe attempted to block as part of the evidence. Even though the doctor provided proof that he had emailed all three letters to Ms. Lowe, she denied receiving them and in doing so was committing fraud upon the court.
The actions of Lowe and Williams are illegal in many respects. Under HIPAA legislation it is unlawful for the doctor to turn over the patient’s confidential data to a third party without the consent of the patient. HIPAA rules are the cornerstone of American privacy legislation and under Federal Law violations and are punishable with financial penalties and imprisonment. As Ms. Lowe is a licensed attorney, her deliberate violations constitute an even more serious breach of HIPAA Law.
In this case, the attempts by the mother to be reunited with her child have been met with obstacles at every possible juncture. Having completed her recommended case plan to have her child returned, she was informed by the court that she first she would have to admit guilt to a number of charges which were based purely on hearsay. If she admitted to these trumped-up charges, the mother could have her son taken from her in the future based on unsubstantiated reasons and she would virtually be waiving her rights to pursue any type of remedial action.
Ms. Lowe committed a further act of fraud in claiming that the county had not received proof of the mother’s completion of the case plan which included letters of recommendation from her therapist. The mother was not given to opportunity to challenge these lies as she was silenced by Judge Hinton.
To commit fraud, to impinge on patient privacy and to do so for monetary gain at the expense of families and children with special needs, constitutes corruption by any definition. For an officer of the court to does so, in the full belief that she is above the law, suggests that this corruption is systemic. In fact, when Andrea Packwood, President of California Family Advocacy, brought the situation to the attention Grand Jury, the District Attorney’s office and Supreme Court Judge Barbara Hinton, it went unchecked. It seems none of them are willing to enforce the law.”
Plaintiff’s representative passage concludes
National File reported:
he crisis in California’s child welfare system is only getting worse. A social worker in California has been caught disposing of hundreds of child abuse reports, including potentially dozens that specifically reported the sexual abuse of children.
Children faced “incredible pain and suffering” when a Madera County social worker intentionally discarded hundreds of child abuse reports last year, according to government emails uncovered in a Fresno Bee investigation.
Department emails examined by The Bee indicate at least some of the 357 reports may have been neglected for up to two months. The emails, obtained through a public records request, reveal a behind-the-scenes crisis in the fall of 2019 with Madera County Social Services workers scrambling to investigate hundreds of abandoned abuse referrals.
Dozens of the dumped cases were emergency reports — cases involving allegations of physical or sexual abuse, the emails show.
At least 75 of the 357 reports involved possible sexual or other physical abuse, requiring social workers to respond within 24 hours. Another 248 reports involved allegations of neglect and required a 10-day response, according to the emails.
Some of the cases may have been ignored for up to two months.
Sacramento Bee passage ends
My recent report for The Epoch Times about Contra Costa County in California drew nationwide attention to allegations of prostitution in the Child Protective Services and foster care system. Meanwhile, a whistleblower complaint has been submitted to the House Oversight Committee in Washington, D.C. alleging that a family court repeatedly destroyed or manipulated evidence in child custody and child support cases in California.