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Social workers sometimes play a role in determining child custody

When the safety and well-being of a child is questioned, the local department of child services is called in to evaluate the situation and make the appropriate recommendations. This series of events plays out in Texas and in every other state throughout the nation. Often, social workers are called in to work with the family, and to investigate any claims or concerns of abuse or neglect. If the matter advances to the point that a court will be determining child custody rights, the opinion of the social worker often carries a great deal of weight.

In a recent case, the trust placed with one West Coast social worker appears to have been violated. The social worker was assigned to the role of court mediator for a case involving an 8-year-old boy. More than 60 reports of abuse were received by the local department of child and family services, but no action was taken to remove the child from the home and place him in a different environment. The little boy died in May 2013, and investigators assert that he died as a result of abuse and torture at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend.

The child's body showed indications that he was shot in the groin and lung with a BB gun. He also suffered a fractured skull, multiple cigarette burns and had two teeth knocked out. It is alleged that the court mediator and several other social workers acted to falsify records in the matter. They have also been charged with child abuse, presumably for failing to take steps to move the boy into safer surroundings.

Because of those criminal charges, a notice was sent to all attorneys who handled cases in which the court mediator played a role in determining child custody. That means that those cases will be given a second look. If it appears that the outcome may have been influenced by a report issued by the mediator, then the parties in that case will have the right to ask that their matter be heard again in a court of law. That could lead to congestion in the county's already overburdened family court system. It also leaves many in Texas and elsewhere concerned about the level of oversight in place for social workers who are handling these types of abuse concerns.

Source: sbsun.com, "L.A. County child abuse case vexes San Bernardino County child custody cases", Joe Nelson, April 20, 2016

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