The County of Los Angeles faces a $750 million lawsuit over allegations its Department of Children and Family Services routinely fabricates or excludes evidence to separate children from their families.
Melinda Murphy, a former DCFS employee, recently testified that during her “just shy of 10 years” working in the department in “various capacities” she witnessed rampant misconduct that tore families apart, The Epoch Times reports.
“This is the epitome of corruption and abuse of power. I have to pay to see my children.”
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) August 1, 2019
“If one social worker didn’t like another, she would recommend the kids would not go home,” Murphy said. “A supervisor would say we are never sending these kids home, no matter what. That’s not the way it was supposed to be done. I would say 30 percent of all cases were marked by departmental or personal or political bias.”
That includes the case of Dr. Susan Spell, whose four children, conceived through a sperm donor, were kidnapped from school by DCFS officials amid a custody battle with her ex-husband, who is reportedly a veteran expert witness for the department and dating a case worker. Spell’s twin 14-year-old daughters and 9-year-old son now live with her ex-husband, Brian Evans.
Spell, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, has reunited with her 18-year-old son Nicholas years later, and the two filed the lawsuit on July 30 to expose how the agency treats families, particularly those from affluent families.
“I want to bring awareness. This is the epitome of corruption and abuse of power. I have to pay to see my children,” Spell told the Times.
The lawsuit, and a separate writ of habeas corpus requesting her children back, details how Spell’s claims her ex-husband abuses the children were repeatedly dismissed as “unfounded” despite supporting evidence from her caseworker, and it features testimony from employees like Murphy about the culture of discrimination at DCFS.
“Susan is a physician in L.A. County. She went to pick her kids up from school one day, only to find that DCFS removed them,” Spell’s lawyer, Stephen Lamont, told the Times. “DCFS convinced the school they had a warrant. They did not have a warrant. The tried to get a warrant but it was denied. They said there was a restraining order against Dr. Spell, but that never existed.”
“They gave for kids to a non-biological stepfather,” he said. “She’s been fighting these issues for at least three years. They didn’t have a warrant to remove the kids from school, so that’s a 14th Amendment violation.”
According to Murphy, Spell is only one of many family units DCFS has decimated over the years. The lawsuit follows a state audit released in May that DCFS fails miserably at keeping kids safe in a variety of ways, from failing to conduct background checks or home visits for placements to failing to complete neglect investigations accurately or on time. In many cases, workers prepared and completed assessments without ever visiting the home, the Daily News reports.
Murphy testified in an affidavit that her trainer at the department even acknowledged “We should be ashamed of what we have done to some of the families that we have sworn to serve.”
The affidavit, signed July 10, 2019, read:
During my training, my observations, and in my work experiences, I learned that the DCFS does not have a mechanism for backing down and, has a tendency, even if the parent is innocent, to make them appear guilty in some way, and that includes perjuring testimony, falsifying reports, and fabricating evidence to justify taking children.
On or about April 5, 2016, I spoke exclusively to Barbara smith, a social worker in case DK02119, involving Susan’s children. … She stated that she planned to testify about the truth, despite her suffering reprisal. Ms. Smith disclosed that her documentation in the DCFS file was deleted regarding her questioning of the children’s safety with Brian Evans, the father.
Smith has since died, but Spell’s son Nicholas is helping to fill in some of the details about the abuse with a declaration presented as an exhibit in the habeas corpus case.
And as that cases continues it slog through the arduous legal system, the county is pressuring Spell to pay up for legal fees from her time using a court-appointed lawyer, or face the possibility of never seeing her kids again, Lamont told the Times.
“They extorted her,” he said. “It’s a racketeering scheme. They claim that if you don’t pay this $550,000, you will never see your kids again. That money goes to fund the enterprise. … It’s consistent in all the cases where a parent has a good deal of money.”