Skip to comments.Local DCS (Dept. of Child Services) faces federal lawsuit (IN)
Posted on 06/08/2014 4:10:23 PM PDT by digger48
Suit argues that caseworkers denied Cara Pettits civil rights, committed official misconduct, perjury, negligence
In July 2013, Cara Pettit received some shocking news. She was being investigated by the Howard County Department of Child Services (DCS) for possible abuse of her four children. What she didnt know was that the caseworker had a relationship with her ex-husband, and that the system was about to work against her.
According to attorney Mark King, who represents Pettit and her husband, Ryan, a pattern of malfeasance emerged during the DCS investigation with the goal of keeping them from the children. Now the Pettits are taking the DCS to federal court.
On April 8, I filed a Section 1983 case, said King. We believe that the Indiana Department of Child Services in Howard County -- specifically Karen Denton, Rachel Dishman, and Annette Nearon -- one of them had a relationship with Mrs. Pettits ex-husband, Cary Holt.
At one point, the oldest daughter wanted to live with the father. Instead of filing for a change of custody, they conspired with the case manager to begin a DCS case. In it they alleged that Mrs. Pettit was abusing her children, so they removed all four of her children, including one she had with Ryan Pettit.
After the case begins, they allow the baby -- Ryans child -- to go back to the Pettits, but not the other three. Throughout this, the interrelationship between the parties violates the color of law. They are using the case managers power to effect a change of custody and to impugn and prevent my client from being able to see her own children.
King contended that no evidence of abuse was ever substantiated with Cara Pettit, and that her children were manipulated by their father into helping make the claim. But the relationship between the case manager and the father is what turned a DCS case into a personal vendetta, he believes.
The personal relationship between the case manager and Mr. Holt is beyond what should have been happening, said King. We believe the situation became known to other persons who should have known or did know about the relationship and didnt do anything to correct it. That is the problem.
Instead, they engaged in conduct where if anyone attempted to write a report saying that Mrs. Pettit should have her children back or that there were no concerns, they were removed from the case. Thats what bothers me.
The original case worker did her assessment, made a report, and turned it over to the case manager, yet she would show up at visitations and cancel the visitation, saying the Mrs. Pettit cannot see her children, which she had no authority to do. We have emails from DCS management to the visitation supervisors, telling them to change the reports because they were too favorable to Mrs. Pettit. Thats what were dealing with.
The Pettit suit, filed in U.S. District court, alleges that DCS caseworkers acted to deprive Cara Pettit of her constitutional civil rights, and committed perjury, official misconduct, malicious prosecution, negligence, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
As with most cases, the Pettits are seeking punitive and compensatory damages, but more importantly, they hope to change the system.
At all points, someone could have fixed this, said King. We reported it to the ombudsman and the regional director, and no one has done anything about it. My fear is that when you have smaller counties, there needs to be a system in place to make sure personal relationships arent interfering with investigations and progress.
Its our goal to correct what has happened to Mrs. Pettit, but also to ensure that the system is changed. Its not about money.
When contacted for comment, the Howard County DCS office referred the matter to James Wide, Deputy Director of Communications for the Indiana Department of Child Services.
It is the policy of the Department of Child Services to not comment on cases that are pending litigation, said Wide.
I would wager this sort of thing happens far, far more often than people imagine. I have seen it before.
trouble, major trouble