Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Would You Still Have a Job?

When I was a teenager my first job was as a ‘bagger’ at the neighborhood grocery store. When I wasn’t asking ‘paper or plastic’, I was busy gathering carts from the parking lot. This was a very important job. A wayward cart could cause untold damage back in the day before cart corrals. I was vigilant about keeping the lot free. One of my work buddies did not share the same enthusiasm. On his watch, a runaway cart slammed into a parked car. There were serious dents involved and management was not happy. The second time it happened management was furious. Although I wasn’t sure it was really my buddy’s fault, he was the one in charge of the parking lot when the transgressions occurred. I don’t think they fired him. They just kind of reduced his hours to nothing and let him drift away. I think of that from time to time when I see or hear of magistrates or judges making horrendous decisions about the lives of children despite the evidence of risk before them. Good decisions about foster children are made every day across the country. Unfortunately, bad ones are too.

Vyctorya (Tori) Sandoval was eighteen months old when she was returned from foster care to the home of her biological parents. Their family history included domestic violence and physical abuse. A restraining order was issued preventing her mom and dad from being together. They had lost custody of eight other children and disappeared after Tori was placed in foster care. They resurfaced months later and wanted her back.

The court (Commissioner Marilyn Mackel) gave her back. Even though they lived together despite the history of violence and restraining order. Even though they never engaged in or completed services to address the domestic violence between them. Even though they hadn’t retained custody of their eight older children. Even though Tori (at age 15 months) tried to run and hide from them at visits. Even though she sobbed uncontrollably after visits, cried in her sleep, and wanted to be held by her foster parents all the time. Even though she returned from overnight visits emotionless with only a fixed stare. Even though she came home from visits and stuffed food into her little mouth with the frenzy of a starving child. Even though her loving foster parents wanted to adopt her. Commissioner Mackel returned Tori to her biological parents and did not order any post-reunification supervision of the case.

Linda Kontis, director of the foster care agency who had overseen Tori’s foster placement, wrote this letter of grave concern and requested a full review of Tori’s case. The court
(Judge Michael Nash) reviewed it. Nothing changed.

Tori died seven months later.

Full cardiopulmonary arrest. Severe anemia. Acute renal failure. Severe hypothermia. Severe hypocalcaemia. Displaced fracture to the right ninth rib. Multiple bruises to face and body. Large bruise and laceration to the forehead, right eye, chest, abdomen and legs.

Commissioner Mackel took a medical leave of absence after the LA Times exposed the letter and Tori’s case yet returned to the bench months later. Judge Nash continues presiding today.

Tori’s biological parents’ arraignment is scheduled for later this week. They are ultimately allegedly responsible for her death. However, when we fail to hold courts accountable for their decisions or at least question how the courts arrived at such decisions then we further rob vulnerable children of a chance to be heard. We are also more likely to fail children in the future.

If a local grocery store manager holds a sixteen-year-old accountable for not keeping a watchful eye on the cart situation in a parking lot, surely we can hold accountable the people who fail to keep a watchful eye on defenseless babies who truly have no voice.

Especially when these kids pay for it with their lives.


  1. Thank you Holly. Becoming a parent does not make you a(good)parent. Children should not have to suffer, especially when the people who gave birth to a precious child can't/won't/don't know how to be a loving parent. At the same time, as you have noted above, there are some professionals who obviously don't know this either. Blessings to you.

  2. Oh my heart.....this sounds familiar and horrible!!! Similar to one of our cases....except a miracle happened and after 3 years....our children were granted a LIFE SENTENCE- one that would ensure them being able to LIVE with us!! PRAISE GOD!

    I sooo pray for the release of children from such horrible imprisonment and harsh realities. It sickens me!

  3. http://survivorsofcps.livejournal.com/

    As a former adopted child I would have loved to have the chance to go back home. I missed my real mom so much.

    I was abused in the adoptive home. I was raped almost every night. My adoptive parent refused to even let us visit with my real mom because she wanted us back.

    Then she died. We were removed b/c she was disabled.

    No one reports the vast amount of children who were not abused and wanted to go back home. Many children are even lied to about why they were removed.

    Please try to be less biased in reporting the facts.
    Why not interview some children that did not need to be removed but were. Some statistics have shown that up to 70% of kids that are removed did not need to be.

    It is very traumatic for children to be kept away from their parents when they do not need to be.

    1. I am so sorry to hear of your situation - that is horrible and inexcusable. However, the facts in this case speak for themselves. I know Tori's foster parents. I know how awful that child was treated - and the bio parents are on trial for her murder. Not just abuse. Murder. They had 8 children removed and murdered their 9th.

      This child should have been kept away from her parents. Had she, she would be alive and breathing today. End of story.