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by Sharon Rondeau
The restraining order was initiated on February 23 but not approved at the time by Commissioner Steff Padilla, who was overseeing the child dependency case before she recused herself without explanation on March 6, 2017.
On March 10, 2016, the child was taken from her mother by DCFS and placed with her father. The mother, Michelle Robinson*, told The Post & Email that she fears for her daughter’s safety, as she had requested and been granted a restraining order against the now-custodial parent prior to a physical altercation which occurred between them on December 20, 2015.
Although the mother claims that she was not personally served with the restraining order, she informed The Post & Email that her attorney, Katherine Anderson of Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers (LADL), Inc., provided proof of service to her signed “under penalty of perjury.” “I was across town at work at the alleged time of service about 10 miles away from my home and about 45 minutes away in Southern California traffic,” Robinson told us.
Robinson identified the five DCFS employees who sought the order and their positions as:
Elize Matz (Case carrying social worker)
Kassandra Love (Case carrying supervising social worker)
Edward Bilecki (Case carrying Assistant Regional Administrator)
Sonia Contreras (Case carrying Regional Administrator)
Lynne Condon (DCFS Civil Rights Coordinator and employee relations manager)
Robinson said that oddly, Kassandra Love had “claimed via text to not have solicited any restraining order on her behalf.”
“I am not sure how DCFS plans to provide court ordered ‘reunification services’ if I am prohibited from contacting the above individuals,” Robinson told us.
In our interview published on March 8, Robinson said that her first attorney from LADL, Ruben Lopezlopez, told her at the initial court hearing that contrary to her expectation, she would not be able to take her child home because “The court doesn’t trust you. In order for the court to trust you, you have to prove to the court that you can follow rules, and you have not been following the rules. So you are not leaving with your baby today.”
Robinson has successfully raised two other daughters, one who is above the age of 18 and the other finishing high school. Originally the latter child was placed on the case but later removed. However, she was never physically removed from her mother’s care. Robinson believes that there was a financial motive for the county to the placement of her second daughter on the case.
Robinson has not seen her youngest daughter, who has been designated as having special needs, for six months, resulting from the Edelman Children Court‘s requirement that her visits be monitored. Initially, Robinson was able to use acquaintances approved by the Department, but after their availability changed, she experienced difficulty in finding a DCFS-approved monitor with whom she is comfortable.
After a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective became involved in Robinson’s report of the altercation with her child’s father, she was arrested for violating the restraining order which she herself had put in place and for “spousal abuse.”
However, the father of her child, Eric Crutchfield, was later arrested by the California Highway Patrol for stalking her in violation of the same restraining order.
Retaliation and other punitive actions have been noted in a number of civil actions brought against DCFS by parents whose children were taken from their care. In a summary of a case won by Atty. Shawn McMillan in November, the jury’s verdict included the conclusion that “the County of Los Angeles’ has ‘an official custom and/or practice of seizing children from their parents without a warrant, failed to enact an official policy or procedure when it should have done so, and knew, because of a pattern of similar violations that its official customs or practices were likely to result in the violation of parents’ rights to be free of unwarranted seizures of their children.’”
One former DCFS social worker of ten years termed the agency “a political organization” which does not advocate for children. The website medicalkidnap.com reports that Melinda Murphy left DCFS to work for LADL as a “social work investigator.” In that capacity, Murphy is reportedly “called in by the parents’ attorneys to investigate cases where children have been removed from their homes. She will make in-home visits with the caseworker. Melinda reports that 80% of the time she sees something which is completely different than what the social worker is reporting. She will write up a report on what she sees, such as parents who really are trying hard to do what is best for their children, and children who have no desire to leave their parents. The caseworker, meanwhile, is reporting that the parents are not capable of taking care of their children, and that the children need to be removed from the home.”
Further, the website reported of Murphy’s work:
Unfortunately, her information seldom gets heard in court. Most parents have court-appointed attorneys who do everything they can to block her testimony, so the judge only hears what DCFS is reporting, which, according to Melinda, is erroneous information about 80% of time.
Melinda goes on to state that once a child is in the system, DCFS has no intention of returning the child to the parents. That is not the goal. She explains how often statements are made to her such as “those kids are never going home,” and that if a social worker objects, or disagrees, they are taken off the case.
Murphy is reported to have said on the National Safe Child radio show that “A social worker or supervisor can make or break a case.”
Similar reports to Murphy’s have been related to The Post & Email by Roosevelt and Kanika Williams in regard to their three children and Jeffrey and Erica Henderson, whose eight children were taken by DCFS and, to this writer’s knowledge, never returned, despite no allegations of abuse or neglect.
Both the Williamses and the Hendersons attended all parenting classes and counseling required by the Department in expectation that their children would be returned.