July 2, 2001

California: Social Worker Lawsuit Settled

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY—An HSLDA member family finally closed a difficult chapter in their lives last week by accepting a $40,000 settlement from two county social workers who invaded their house in May 1999.

On Tuesday, May 18, 1999, at approximately 3:00 p.m., two social workers from Child Protective Services arrived at the DeSantis home to investigate an anonymous complaint of child abuse. The social workers insisted upon entry to investigate allegations of physical abuse, to examine the utilities, and to make certain that the children had adequate food and clothing.

"You do not have my consent to enter, but the gate is open," Mrs. DeSantis told the workers. Despite the mother's objections, Debbie Mulvane and Sandy Knabb pushed through the gate and marched into the house.

Once inside, they strip-searched the two younger children and subjected the seven year old to a traumatizing private interview. As the social workers left, they stated that the referral was a hoax and the case would be closed.

On March 2, 2000, HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the DeSantis family against the social workers for violating the family's Fourth Amendment right against entry without a warrant.

After long negotiations, the social workers finally agreed to pay Mr. and Mrs. DeSantis $40,000 to avoid a trial.

HSLDA believes that this settlement helps to put social workers on notice that illegal entry can have significant financial repercussions.