Social workers for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family services ignored warnings that an El Monte girl was being sexually abused by her mother and several men and failed to tell police, resulting in the child being so mentally scarred she could not control her bodily functions, an attorney for the child told a jury Thursday.
“This case is about the destruction of a girl’s life,” plaintiff’s lawyer David Ring said as he addressed the Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of the lawsuit brought against the county on the girl’s behalf by her father in June 2013.
However, Christie Bodnar Swiss, a lawyer for Los Angeles County, said the social workers took the proper steps with the information they received and that every person, including the plaintiff’s mother, is entitled to a fair review of the circumstances before a child is removed from a home.
“We all feel for (the girl) and the abuses she did suffer, but the evidence will show the abuses did not occur while she was receiving services from the DCFS,” Swiss said.
Ring said alleged abuses occurred when the girl was 7 to 10 years old during 2010-12. The girl’s mother and father were both members of the military and the woman temporarily lived with her mother-in-law and the child in New Mexico while the girl’s father remained on active duty overseas, Ring said.
However, the girl’s mother grew weary of New Mexico and settled in El Monte, leading a “reckless life” in which she was gone from home for long periods of time working graveyard shifts and engaging in other activities, Ring said.
In December 2009, the girl’s mother reported that a man with whom she was in a relationship had physically abused her and her children, Ring said. The DCFS investigated, the man was incarcerated and the DCFS kept an open case in which services were provided to the plaintiff and her siblings, Ring said.
In August 2010, the DCFS received additional information about possible irregularities at the girl’s household and the plaintiff told them that another man was sleeping on a mattress next to her, according to Ring. Despite knowing that the man’s presence exposed the girl to possible sexual abuse, the social workers involved did not take sufficient steps to make sure the man, who had a history of inappropriate sexual contact with children, was removed from the home, Ring said.
During a 2012 trip with her father to New Mexico, the girl confided in him that she had been abused by several adult men in the El Monte home, Ring said. She also neglected her hygiene to the point her father cut off her hair because she let it become so dirty, Ring said.
“She had no idea how to be a normal 9-year-old,” Ring said of the girl, now 15.
Ring is asking that the girl be awarded damages for the costs of therapy to treat the girl for the alleged abuses occurring from 2010-12 and for treatment she will need from June 2018 forward.
But Swiss said social workers indicated there were no reasonable suspicions apparent to social workers that the girl was being sexually abused in August 2010. She said that when the DCFS learned in 2012 that the girl had in fact been sexually abused, the child’s mother and four men were eventually charged, tried and convicted.
Before that time, the social workers had no basis to remove the plaintiff from her mother’s care, Swiss said.
“Everyone is entitled to due process of law,” Swiss said.