A loving home has been destroyed because of one meddling doctor and offended DCS do-gooders.
A dramatic video shows Arizona police officers, with guns drawn, break down the door of a family home—not a suspected drug or child trafficker or a woman pepper spraying her foster kids—and snatch three children from the parents.
One of the 2-year-old boys had a high fever, and the parents took him to the doctor.
When the doctor found out the boy had not been vaccinated, he ordered the mother to take the child to the hospital. However, when she got home, the boy’s fever dropped.
She told the doctor that she decided not to go to the hospital since the child was playing and had no fever, but the doctor contacted the Department of Child Safety (DCS). DCS called the police and made the check on the boy.
When the police got to the home late that evening, the father refused to allow an invasive search.
So, police got a warrant, spurred on by DCS do-gooders, come back to the house at 2:00 a.m., and broke down the door.
They then took all three children into custody and placed them with various strangers approved by the system.
Fox News reported:
State Rep. Kelly Townsend criticized the raid as excessive.
“At that point who now owns control over the child?” Townsend said. “And it seems like we’ve given that now to the doctor and the parent no longer has the say or they risk the SWAT team taking all of your children and potentially the newborn.”
Chandler Police said the officers who raided the home were regular officers and not a SWAT team.
Nicholas Boca, the family’s attorney, said that type of force should be “reserved for violent criminals.”
“All because of a fever,” Boca said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
“It was not the intent (of the law) that the level of force after obtaining a warrant was to bring in a SWAT team,” Townsend said.
“The imagery is horrifying. What has our country become that we can tear down the doorway of a family who has a child with a high fever that disagrees with their doctor?”
“What about parents’ rights to decide what’s best for their child?” Townsend said. “Parents felt the child was fine. Next thing we know, the Gestapo is at their door.”
Now, the parents are fighting to get their children back and warning others:
Arizona Central reported:
A DCS caseworker called Chandler Police and “requested officers to check the welfare of a two year old infant,” according to police records. A caseworker said he was on his way to the house.
It was about 10:30 p.m. when two police officers knocked on the family’s door. The officers heard someone coughing.
Officer Tyler Cascio wrote in a police report that he knocked on the door several times but no one answered.
A neighbor approached the officers and police explained the situation. The woman said she knew her neighbor and that “she was a good mother.” At the request of officers, the neighbor called the mother and said police wanted to speak with her.
The DCS caseworker arrived and updated police on the toddler’s fever and the mother choosing not to take her child to the hospital. The officer called the family’s doctor, who repeated her recommendation that the mother take the child to the hospital.
Police dispatch told the officers that a man at the home had called requesting that they call him. They called, and the man identified himself as the sick boy’s father.
The officer said they told the father they needed to enter the home for DCS to check on the child. The father refused, explaining that his son’s “fever broke and he was fine,” according to police records.
Officers tried to call the parents again, but no one answered. They told the caseworker the parents refused to open their door.
At about 11:30 p.m., the caseworker informed officers that DCS planned to obtain a “temporary custody notice” from a judge to remove the child for emergency medical aid.
The caseworker “advised they obtained a court order for temporary custody in order to take (redacted) to the hospital.” The order was signed at 12:04 a.m. by Judge Tracy Nadzieja, according to police records.
Cascio wrote that officers consulted with the police criminal investigations bureau and SWAT.
“Based upon the court order, the intent of DCS to serve the order, and exigency to ensure the health and welfare of the child, the decision was made to force entry to the home if the parents refused to respond to verbal requests,” according to police records. Police knocked, saying they had a court order and would force entry if needed, according to police records.
The Republic has requested the police-worn body-camera footage.
It was after 1 a.m. when officers kicked down the family’s door. One officer carried a shield, while another was described as having “lethal coverage.” Officers pointing guns yelled, “Chandler Police Department,” and entered the house.
The father came to the door. Officers placed him in handcuffs and took him and the mother outside. Inside, they found a juvenile who said she was sick and had thrown up in her bed.
Officers said the home was “messy” with clothing piles and concrete floors. In the parent’s room, a shotgun lay next to the bed, according to police records.
The caseworker spoke with two of the children without their parents present. He told officers it was “necessary to obtain a temporary custody order” for the parents’ two other children, according to police records.
Since there was no “criminal incident” and because the mother refused, no photos were taken inside the home, according to the police records.
Neither of the parents was arrested.
Officials took the parents’ three children to Banner Cardon Medical Center.
a Mesa juvenile court hearing 10 days later, the parents got their first chance before a judge to fight for their children to be returned.
Each parent had an attorney. The parents had raised a family together but weren’t legally married.
The father’s parents sat on a bench next to a friend of the mother. Ford and Christina Lawler, with Arizona DCS Oversight Group, sat quietly listening and taking notes. Townsend, the state lawmaker, sat near the grandparents. She wanted to see whether the family’s rights had been violated.
A lawyer for the state Attorney General’s Office, representing DCS, asked the judge to close the hearing to the public.
In Arizona, we like our courts to be open, Judge Jennifer Green said. After listening to the lawyer’s reasoning — the attorney said members of the news media were in the courtroom and the family had spoken with the news media about the case, which he said wasn’t in the best interest of the children.
Attorneys for the parents said they hadn’t known of any restrictions on them speaking with media.
Green denied the request to close the hearing, but warned everyone that they could be held in contempt of court if they revealed personally-identifiable information about the children or any others mentioned in the hearing.
Attorneys for the parents said the children hadn’t seen each other since being taken from their parents’ home. The parents had only had one visit with their older children. DCS officials told the parents the toddler couldn’t make that visit because he was at a medical appointment.
The state’s attorney argued that the children shouldn’t be returned to their parents yet because they’d been hostile to DCS workers and weren’t cooperating. He said the parents had attended a DCS visit with members of Arizona DCS Oversight Group who were combative toward DCS workers. He said the grandfather had tried to videotape a meeting with DCS, and recording is not allowed to protect the privacy of the children.
DCS wanted the parents to undergo psychological evaluations.
Attorneys for the parents argued such evaluations were for people who had a history of mental-health issues, which neither parent had. They said the parents weren’t hostile, but they were living a nightmare that started with a child’s fever. They were woken up in the middle of the night, police busted down their door, brandishing guns and their three children were taken from them, attorneys said. The grandfather did what most people would think they had the right to do — record government officials.
The father had agreed to drug testing and the grandparents had agreed to background checks in hopes of becoming temporary caretakers for their grandchildren. Everyone was cooperating, the father’s attorney said.
A court-appointed guardian ad litem, who’s assigned to look after the best interests of the children, said he had one primary concern: Each child was still in a separate foster-care placement. Not only were the children separated from their parents, but this was also the first time they’d been separated from each other.
The judge asked the parties to attend an expedited hearing that afternoon.
After the hearing, in the courthouse hallway, the father held the mother in his arms. She cried and rested her hand on her pregnant belly.
Townsend spoke with the father about the road to getting his kids back.
“Why do they make it so hard?” he said with tears in his eyes. She tried to comfort him.
Outside the courthouse, Townsend said she didn’t know the parents personally but was disturbed by the case.
“It was brought to my attention that these parents may have been targeted by the medical community because they hadn’t vaccinated their children,” she said.
Townsend said parents who don’t vaccinate their children because of medical concerns aren’t criminals and shouldn’t be treated as such. She worried physicians were using it as a reason to refer parents to DCS.
“I think if DCS decides to use this as a factor they would be violating a parent’s right to have a personal exemption, a religious exemption and perhaps a medical exemption,” she said.
Townsend said the hearing opened her eyes to issues she will raise with fellow lawmakers. She questioned why the state’s attorney and DCS used the parent’s frustration with DCS to label the family as hostile and argue they weren’t cooperating with DCS.
“It doesn’t say anywhere that after your kids are taken, after police bust down your door, that you have to be nice to DCS to get your kids back,” she said.
It was just before 2 p.m. when the parents walked back into the courtroom.
A DCS investigator, a former police officer, took the stand. She said upon visiting the hospital, doctors found the toddler had RSV, a respiratory virus that can cause serious illness in young children. She said the parents weren’t complying with DCS’ request to provide medical records for the children. She said they also weren’t following steps to regain custody of their children.
One of the parent’s attorneys asked the DCS investigator to outline specific steps the parents must follow to get their children back. The caseworker said she couldn’t remember any of them.
Attorneys for the parents claimed DCS was angry at the parents for speaking with the media and as retribution DCS officials were making it more difficult for the family to regain custody of their children. They said the child’s fever had gone down, as evidenced in medical reports.
The judge asked what was delaying placing three children with their grandparents. The state’s attorney said the grandparents still needed a home-safety check.
Green asked if that check could be expedited. The state’s attorney said DCS contracts with a company to conduct safety reviews and has no control over timelines but that it could take up to 30 days.
The guardian ad litem, representing the best interest of the children, told the judge he didn’t see why the children couldn’t be cared for by their grandparents while their parents worked with DCS to regain custody.
The judge said the removal was warranted, citing the mother’s refusal to follow the doctor’s orders. She said records showed the family had a history of domestic violence, noting an incident in which the father punched a wall.
She approved psychological evaluations for both parents, saying it would help identify the best services for the parents. She ordered DCS to complete a safety check of the grandparents’ home within four days. And she ordered the father to continue drug and alcohol testing.
She reminded the grandparents and parents that they were no longer in control of the children’s medical and health decisions. If a doctor orders treatment, the family must follow those directions, she said.
Then, she told the parents to remember that the state had them on a family-reunification plan and wants them to regain custody of their children.
After they left the courtroom, father and mother, both in tears, embraced.
The parents declined an interview with The Republic. They said they were afraid saying anything might upset DCS officials and hurt their efforts to regain custody of their children.
ord, with the DCS watchdog group, said this is how it goes.
“They (DCS) had no right to bust into this family’s home and take their kids,” she said in the courthouse parking lot. “But now, they (DCS) have control of this family. These children are traumatized, and all over a fever that wasn’t even a fever anymore when they went the hospital—just like the parents had said.”
She was upset with Townsend and other Arizona lawmakers who talk about holding DCS accountable but never do. Meanwhile, children and their families suffer, she said.
“They hold the purse strings, if they wanted to force DCS to make changes that would protect family’s rights they’d stop funding them,” she said.
Townsend hopes this case is an outlier, but the only way to know for sure is to review DCS child-welfare check policies, medical providers’ power over families and the DCS warrant process for removing children.
This case is more than enough reason to be concerned, she said.
“The fact that they got the warrant shows it wasn’t a matter of exigency by definition — it wasn’t something that they were rescuing this child from imminent death,” she said. “The expectation of child welfare is we’re thinking about the children in the family. We’re not talking cartels holding someone who’s been kidnapped, we’re not talking about a drug bust, we’re not talking about a flight risk. We’re not talking about any of that. This was a family with a child who has a fever. … We used a SWAT team on a family with a child with a high fever.”
On March 15, the father told The Republic that DCS had placed their three children with his parents.
“We get to see them again,” he said. “Thank God.”
He still can’t shake the night police kicked down their door and entered his home with guns drawn. He still can’t believe they took all three of their children.
He said he has asked DCS why the caseworker never presented himself and showed a warrant for removal, but he hasn’t received a clear answer.
“I know people have the right not to let the police into their home,” he said. “But if the caseworker had called me or knocked, and shown me their warrant, I would’ve let them in.”
He said home security video showed police had stated they had a DCS warrant for removal, but the family didn’t hear them because they were sleeping in the back bedrooms with their sick children.
The judge’s approval of DCS’ request for psychological evaluations has created another barrier to regaining custody of their children, he said. The wait for an evaluation is months, he said.