A North Carolina foster child, who was discovered by a sheriff’s deputy cuffed to a front porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck, filed a lawsuit last month against the Child Protective Services worker who adopted him, only for her and her boyfriend to spend several years abusing him.
“A lot of times I would bleed. Sometimes they wouldn’t clean it up. Sometimes, they didn’t care, they just left it bleeding,” the boy revealed in an interview with the Huffington Post, adding that his former foster parents never called for medical help despite the fact he endured severe injuries like a broken wrist while attempting to escape the chains of the abusive home.
Wanda Sue Larson was a Gaston County Social Services CPS Supervisor when she adopted the boy at the age of four in 2006. The boy, now 14, is referred to as “J.G.” in the lawsuit, which can be read here or below.
Larson’s boyfriend, Dorian Lee Harper, reportedly tied the dead bird around J.G.’s neck after he killed it at the 5-acre farm where they lived. J.G.’s lawsuit claims Larson never intervened and allowed the abuse to happen for years, although the time in prison she spent for allowing it to happen wasn’t isn’t even a third of the six and a half years of abuse J.G. survived.
Investigators say Larson submitted false statements in order to manipulate the “process and substance” of the legal hearing determining J.G.’s custody, manipulating the juvenile courts into removing the child from his biological mother, Maria Harris, by deceiving the juvenile court judge overseeing the case.
Harris regained custody of her son in 2015 after the information about Larson came to light.
In 2006, Larson had used her position as a department supervisor to manipulate the courts to terminate Harris’ parental rights. She also required subordinates to conduct post-removal assessments to qualify the child’s status for funding as well her qualifications so she could adopt him.
North Carolina pays foster parents at least $432 a month for each child, which increases with disabilities. Larson had five foster children in her custody including J.G.
The end of J.G.’s abuse finally began in 2013 when Union County Sheriff Deputy Robert Rucker responded to a call about a hog that escaped a farm and had been running loose through the community.
While searching for the hog running amok, Rucker approached Larson’s farm house where he found J.G. handcuffed to a railing on the porch. He also discovered the child would be regularly chained to a railroad tie in his room and deprived of food when Harper got angry.
Rucker discovered J.G., along with four other foster children, were living in “shocking conditions” inside the CPS supervisor’s home where she allowed her boyfriend free reign to abuse children.
A further investigation revealed Harper would also starve “J.G.” and tie his ankle to a railroad tie, cut his face knife as well as burn his face with electric wire and squeeze his pinkies with wire cutters.
Harper remains in prison after he pleaded guilty to being the primary abuser of J.G. and was sentenced to six to 10 years of hard time.
In 2015, Larson was given time served for 17 months in prison after she pleaded guilty for her role in J.G.’s abuse, so she is no longer incarcerated.
“I want to do whatever it takes to get her back in jail,” J.G. told WBTV. “Cause she deserves to be in jail for a long, long time.”
In addition to monetary assistance provided by the federal government for adoptive parents to assist with the costs raising adopted children, local CPS departments across the country receive thousands in federal funding.
Each CPS department’s budget is based on how many children social workers remove from the custody of their families to place in foster care, which is viewed as a Fourth Amendment violation by most parents who have their children suddenly ripped away, often never to return.
The incentives increase significantly for foster parents and departments if a child is determined to have special needs through federal title IV-E adoption assistance.
Others criticize removal-based incentives saying they corrupt departments by driving their focus towards the bottom line instead of protecting children, resulting in department supervisors driving subordinates initially drawn to the job to protect children to lie about abuse that’s not occurring, removing kids from families to generate money for the department instead.
Others add the incentives provide no reason for departments to work to keep families together, but rather motivate supervisors to push for removals, operating CPS officers like a business, which a Baltimore CPS director speaks about in a TED talk titled Rethinking Foster Care.
At the end of the year, the annual total of child removals is tallied up to determine the department’s budget for the following year as Orange County CPS Director Michael Riley explains to a civil rights attorney in the video deposition below in a case involving former Miss California Deanna Fogarty, who had lost her parental rights in 2000 after social workers engaged in a”pervasive pattern of lies and extensive cover-up” to justify removing her two daughters before they spend six and a half years in foster care.
Do Social Workers Have A Right to Lie?
An Orange County jury found CPS social workers Marcie Vreeken and Helen Dwojak were liable for the “unconstitutional removal and continued detention” as well as the warrantless removal of her daughters, who were nine and six at the time, awarding Fogarty $4.8 million for violating her right to parent her children.
Attorneys for Orange County appealed the jury’s ruling.
Although they did not contest to the jury’s finding that the social workers had lied to remove Fogarty’s two daughters, attorneys argued the decision should be overturned because while the social worker’s deceptive statements to the court might have been ethically wrong, they were not illegal because no prior court ruling had been established against social workers lying to the court in order to remove children.
They also argued that Vreeken and Dwojak were protected by qualified immunity from liability in federal court unless Fogarty could prove the social workers’ lies violated her Constitutional rights.
But that argument fell flat with the judges hearing the case, who upheld the jury’s decision, boosting Orange County’s payout to $10.6 million after attorney’s fees for fighting the appeal were added up, which is the most expensive case ever paid by Orange County, according to the Orange County Register.
“How in the world could a person in the shoes of your clients possibly believe that it was appropriate to use perjury and false evidence?” 9th Circuit of Appeals Judge Stephen Trott asked.
“How could they possibly not be in notice that you can’t do that? You mean due process is somehow consistent with a government worker introducing perjured testimony and false evidence? I can’t even believe for a microsecond that a caseworker wouldn’t understand you can’t lie and put in false evidence.”
The $10.6 awarded in Fogarty-Hardwick also resulted in a steep increase in liability claims cost for Orange County.
“It was pretty amazing. They succeeded in taking a $5 million award and doubling it for us,” Shawn McMillan, the civil rights attorney who represented Fogarty, told the Register.
“In my view, the taxpayers in Orange County should be pissed. This never should have gone this far.”
In November, a jury awarded Lina Duval, who is also represented by McMillan, $3.1 million for “malice, oppression, and fraud” for the unwarranted removal of her 15-month old son, who was also taken without a warrant.
“The law is very clear and the social workers get training on this, you can not seize a child from its parents unless there’s an emergency.”
According to McMillan, an emergency would be exigent circumstances that pose a significant risk of death or serious bodily harm in the half hour or so it would take social workers to get a warrant from a judge in an abuse case that would warrant seizing a child, such as the moment Deputy Rucker discovered the boy living under the care of Larson.
However, that fact isn’t widely known due to the secret nature of juvenile courts and what takes place during their proceedings, which are not open to the public, allegedly to protect the minors in involved.
“The basic purpose espoused by the legislature, and the courts is protection of the child’s privacy,” McMillan told PINAC during an interview.
“In the vast majority of the cases I review, secrecy only protects the workers from liability.”
Even after proving victorious in Fogarty-Harwick, Marcie Vreeken, one of the two social workers named responsible for committing judicial deception, was promoted to a supervisor position.
In 2013, Vreeken earned $103,441.48 and is responsible for training, according to the OC Register.
Wanda Sue Larson was released from prison about a week after pleading guilty to abuse charges against J.G.