A woman who alleges Los Angeles County officials wrongfully stripped her of custody of her son in 2009 with false accusations of neglect testified Tuesday that the boy has told her he believes she abandoned him and tried to kill him.
Rafaelina Duval also told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of her lawsuit that she is constantly being negatively judged by other people who wonder why her only contacts with her son — who’s now 8 years old and in his father’s custody — is through visitations.
“I have to explain to people why my son doesn’t live with me,” Duval said. “I try to keep positive, but it’s difficult at times.”
Duval’s suit names as defendants Los Angeles County and seven social workers. Her attorney, Shawn McMillan, alleges the county Department of Children and Family Services failed to supervise its social workers and train them to obtain warrants.
He alleges the DCFS allowed the workers to operate in a “culture and atmosphere” in which they “ran roughshod” over parental rights.
But defense attorneys say the social workers took appropriate action because the boy was not being properly fed.
The 41-year-old plaintiff, who previously lived in Los Angeles and now resides in Lake Forest, filed the lawsuit in September 2011. She said her son has told her during visitations that his father told him that she didn’t want him.
She quoted her son as telling her: “You tried to kill me when I was 15 months old; you abandoned me when I was little.”
“I tried to tell him these were adult conversations,” Duval testified.
She said all her visitations are monitored, making it more difficult to go places with her son other than sitting down with him at a table with the monitor present. She said she once mildly spanked him after he began kicking and hitting her during a visit, and the “monitor wrote a report and said I was not supposed to discipline my son during visits.”
Duval said that because she does not have legal custody of the boy, she cannot obtain basic information about his well-being and cannot get access to his school records.
“I have no legal standing to request any type of medical information regarding my son,” she said.
Duval testified she has been unable to develop any personal relationships because of her status with her son.
“When I meet people and tell them the DCFS has my son and that I’m fighting their allegations, people don’t want to deal with it,” she said.
The boy was born Aug. 2, 2008, at Methodist Hospital in Arcadia. Duval took him to a pediatrician after he developed feeding problems and the doctor developed a plan, but disagreements between the child’s parents over her choice of a physician led to the doctor withdrawing from providing further care, McMillan said.
The father and Duval later agreed on a doctor and a nutritionist, McMillan said. The doctor saw development delays in the boy, but decided he was not in any danger, according to the plaintiff’s attorney.
McMillan said Duval was falsely accused in the report of suffering from a mental disease, Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and that she was discriminated against because she suffers from a lifelong tremor disorder, which social workers wrongfully claimed interfered with her ability to feed and care for her child.
Defense attorney Tomas Guterres said the boy is currently doing well in his father’s care and claimed Duval has refused to accept any responsibility for medical problems her son had earlier in his life.
He defended the actions of the social workers and said Duval was represented during the custody hearings by an attorney who presented her side of the issues before a juvenile court judge, who upheld the DCFS recommendations that the boy’s father be given custody.
–City News Service