Four Social Workers Charged

.jpg photo of Grandparents of Abused Child
Grandparents Sandra and Robert Fernandez

Social workers knew about suicide note abused boy was forced to write, family says

Four Los Angeles County social workers have been charged with felony child abuse and falsifying public records in the 2012 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, of Sylmar, California.

The dead boy’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, are currently awaiting trial on charges of capital murder and torture.

Court records indicate more than 60 complaints were lodged with county Department of Children and Family Services about the mother.

County prosecutors allege DCFS employees Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were negligent in allowing “the significance of the physical, mental and emotional injuries that Gabriel suffered … [and] allowed a vulnerable boy to remain at home and continue to be abused.”

The four have been charged with one felony count of child abuse and one felony count of falsifying public records.

The boy’s mother and her boyfriend have pleaded not guilty to charges of beating the kid to death, shooting him in the chest and groin with a BB gun, knocking out his teeth, forcing him to eat his own vomit, drenching him with pepper spray and locking him in a cabinet in their bedroom with a sock stuffed in his mouth to silence his screams, according to court records.

Amanda Navarez, a family friend of Gabriel’s cousin, said she was shocked when she learned about the extent of the boy’s abuse.

“This was beyond abuse.  It was torture,” Navarez told Fox News Latino.  “We need a change in the system. DCFS needs to be restructured.  I’m just hoping they don’t drop charges to lesser charges.  We pay tax dollars for these people [social workers] and the union protects them.”

Fox News Latino attempted to contact Deputy District Attorney, John Hatami, handing the prosecution’s case and was told by DA spokesperson Ricardo Santiago, Hatami is not giving interviews at this time.

The fact that the social workers have also been prosecuted with criminal charges makes this case rare and historic for child welfare.

One of the most damning charges is a suicide note that Gabriel wrote, that according to court records, the social workers knew about.

“He was forced to write the suicide note, so that Pearl and Isauro could say it was his fault.  They say he did things to himself.  The truth is he played with dolls, and they claimed he was gay, and they hated that,” Emily Carranza, Gabriel’s cousin, told FNL.

Shortly before Gabriel’s death, the caseworkers decided to close his case.

At their arraignment last week, the social workers did not enter pleas, pending another hearing later this month.  Superior Court Judge Sergio Tapia set bail for each at $100,000.

“Social workers play a vital role in society.  We entrust them to protect our children from harm,” Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said in a statement.  “When their negligence is so great as to become criminal, young lives are put at risk.  We believe these social workers were criminally negligent and performed their legal duties with willful disregard for Gabriel’s well-being.”

If convicted of child abuse and falsifying records, the social workers could face as much as 10 years in prison.

Prior to living with his mother and her boyfriend, Gabriel had lived with his grandparents, starting at a month old.

Gabriel’s grandfather, Robert, told police he lost custody of the boy when his daughter took him to a barbecue and refused to return him.  She later returned with sheriff’s deputies, who claimed she had rights to Gabriel because she was his biological mother.

Within eight months living in his mother and boyfriend’s care, Gabriel’s teacher, Jennifer Garcia, reported physical signs of abuse to social workers.  It’s been reported that the abuse continued to get more severe.

Calls to Pearl and Aguirre’s attorneys for comment were not answered by press time.

The teacher first reported the abuse when Gabriel said his mother would hit him with a belt buckle until he bled.  He asked her if that was normal.

“I called the social worker several times after that incident,” Garcia told The Antelope Valley Times, saying she had the caseworker’s number on speed dial.  “She [Pearl Fernandez, Gabriel’s mother] made him wear girls’ clothes to school once, saying it was to embarrass him.”

Additionally, Gabriel told her that he wanted to go back to living with his grandparents, Garcia told the newspaper.

The boy’s grandfather told the Antelope Valley Times that he heard rumors of Pearl’s neighbors also reporting the abuse.

“Pearl gave Gabriel up as soon as he was born.  There was no bonding with him as an infant.  I’ve heard rumors that she [Pearl] was abused herself by Robert, who I’ve also heard is gang affiliated,” Navarez told FNL.

She added: “Isauro [the boyfriend] was always a bully, I’ve heard from friends, even though on the outside he appeared to be very nice.”

Thank You Governor Abbott

.jpg photo of picture of video made by Child
Video made by 13 year old Child

TEXAS GOVERNOR ADDRESSES CPS
HORRORS AND ABUSES

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has appointed a former chief of the Texas Rangers as new Commissioner of the disgraced Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).  DFPS is the agency responsible for protecting abused and neglected children in the state.  Breitbart Texas has reported about the abuses, problems, and overreach in the agency, particularly among CPS caseworkers. DFPS is also referred to as Child Protective Services or “CPS.”  There have been horrific abuses of children who are in the state’s foster care system.

The Texas Governor said that “The status quo at CPS is unacceptable.  Our children are too important to suffer through the challenges they’ve faced.  I’ve insisted on overhauling a broken system.” Abbott added, “I applaud the leadership changes that will provide a new direction and focus that puts protecting children first.”

The Texas governor appointed Henry “Hank” Whitman as the next commissioner of the DFPS.  Kristene Blackstone will serve as Assistant Commissioner.  Whitman is a former chief of the Texas Rangers and Blackstone has 17 years of experience with CPS. Blackstone began her career with the department as a caseworker. She is currently working as the Deputy Director for Field Operations for the Child Support Division of the Texas Office of the Attorney General.

In early March, Breitbart Texas reported that the top official for the DFPS announced that he is stepping-down effective May 31, 2016. Judge John Specia Jr. became DFPS commissioner on December 1, 2012.  He announced on March 6 that he is retiring after thirty years of public service.

In April 2014, the advisory council at the department approved new agency rules after children died while in CPS foster care, as reported by Breitbart Texas.  Two-year-old Alexandria Hill and eleven month old Orien Hamilton both died of blunt-force head injuries sustained by the hands of foster and kinship caregivers approved by DFPS. Children are placed in foster and kinship homes that have been approved by child-placing agencies (CPAs) licensed by the TDFPS. The department licenses the foster child-placing agencies that recruit, investigate, and train potential foster and kinship parents. They also monitor the placements once these individuals become caregivers.  The new rules which took effect in September of 2014 only applied to new foster homes.

Alex Hill died in July 2013 while in a Milam County foster home run by the Department’s #3 foster care contractor, Texas Mentor.  Her foster caregiver, Sherill Small, was charged with capital murder after she showed law enforcement officers how she smashed Alex’s head against the floor.  Rockdale Police Chief Thomas Harris stated that Small became frustrated after Alex got into food and water before the Smalls woke-up one morning.  Small “punished” Alex by making her stand in a dark room for four hours.  The Arlington office of Texas Mentor was placed on probation after 114 infractions were found at 56 foster homes during the two years prior to Alex’s death.

TDPRS objected to the release of the home study report on the Smalls but then Attorney General Greg Abbott ordered it released. The couple had been extremely candid when they were first interviewed.  Small told the agency about her troubled past as an abused foster child in Missouri. She had spent almost all of her childhood in foster care, as reported by the Dallas Morning News. Small’s husband, Clemon Small, said he was a recovering crack cocaine addict who made money from karaoke DJ jobs.  Mrs. Small had been a bus driver but had a work-related injury.

Orien Hamilton died in October 2013 when she was in an Austin foster home that had been approved by Lutheran Services of the South, the Department’s #1 CPA.  The foster mother’s ex-husband, Jacob Salas, pinned Orien’s head to the floor with his knee.  Orien already had broken ribs which had partially healed.  Orien had a fractured skull, bleeding of the brain and detached retinas.  Salas was a prison guard who had a history of violence and abuse.  The foster mother had been licensed in October and the child died less than two weeks later.  Orien’s biological father claimed that he had warned Texas officials that Orien was in danger, as reported by the Morning News.

According to TDFPS statistics, there was an alarming increase in the number of deaths of foster children in the agency’s 2013 fiscal year. Eight foster children died in fiscal year 2013; two children died in foster care during fiscal year 2012. Another child died in foster care after the Department’s fiscal year 2014 began in September 2013.
In March 2015, Breitbart Texas reported that Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the DFPS to implement comprehensive reforms. The reforms were aimed at protecting children in the agency’s care. Nine children died under DFPS’ watch during 2014.

In addition to these horrors, the agency’s critics say that more caseworkers should be investigated for their constitutional overreaches with parents, custodians, and guardians.  As reported by Breitbart Texas, a CPS worker was found guilty of official oppression in September 2015. Rebekah Ross Thonginh, a CPS worker, is one of three individuals who were charged in connection with a CPS investigation of a case involving a special needs teenager who was murdered in 2012.  Thonginh, Natalie Ausbie Reynolds, and Laura Ard were arrested in September of 2013 and were charged with official oppression and tampering with evidence.

In 2014, a Texas judge ordered the removal of a YouTube video which went viral after it was highlighted in an article by Breitbart Texas. It had hundreds of thousands of views and shares.  As reported by Breitbart Texas, Judge Keith Dean ordered the removal of the video which was produced by a 13-year-old boy who had been in the foster care system.  It exposed the sexual and physical abuse that he and his brother and family say they endured.  The video, obtained from someone outside of the family, also discusses the 377-day nightmare suffered by him and his six siblings after they were ripped from their family and placed in four different foster care facilities out of their home county.  The mother told Breitbart Texas at the time “they are trying to rake this abuse under the rug.” The children have been returned to their family.

In December 2014, a class action lawsuit was filed against CPS.  As reported by Breitbart Texas, the lawsuit was filed by a New York advocacy group called Children’s Rights.  About 12,000 children were included in the class action suit.  These children were in long-term care in Texas.  The advocacy group successfully sought and received an order from a federal district judge.

Judge Janis Graham Jack ordered the State of Texas to enact reforms.  In so doing, the judge wrote an opinion that said that the long-term foster care system was improperly run.  She also called it a place “where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm,” as reported by the Dallas Morning News in December 2015.  The judge noted that the DFPS and Judge Specia had “the best intentions” but the system is underfunded.  She called the long-term foster care system in the state “broken.”