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L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services Hit with $50M Lawsuit After Child’s Death

— August 12, 2019

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services was recently sued for $50 million after the death of a 10-year-old boy.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services was recently hit with a $50 million lawsuit hoping to prompt positive change. The suit was filed by the family of Anthony Avalos, a Lancaster boy “who died after being tortured and abused allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend last year.” According to the suit, the 10-year-old boy was left to suffer and die alone even though DCFS had previously received 16 reports about him “suffering physical and sexual abuse at home.” Both his mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva are facing the death penalty as a result.

Image of police cars of the Los Angeles County Sheriff
Police cars of the Los Angeles County Sheriff; image courtesy of James via Wikimedia Commons,

When commenting on the child’s untimely death, his aunt, Maria Barron, said:

“He had so many dreams, he was such a loving and caring kid and all he ever did was protect his siblings. DCFS has really failed us, terribly, and hopefully this is a wake-up call for them so no more kids, not one more kid, has to go through this.”

Brian Claypool, an attorney representing the child’s father, has also submitted a request to the U.S. Attorney General to investigate DCFS. In his request, Claypool claims employees at DCFS “were not properly trained, did not follow department guidelines and essentially turned a blind eye to protecting Anthony from the abuse and torture he sustained.” He added:

It was heartbreaking to write this lawsuit. I was in tears finalizing this lawsuit. I couldn’t believe the number of times, the multiple times DCFS workers had the chance to throw out a life vest to Anthony Avalos.”

Claypool also hopes that the lawsuit and pending investigation will provide better insight into the deaths of “other Antelope Valley children who were also under the watch of DCFS social workers.” For example, back in 2013, eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was killed after “suffering years of torture by his mother and her boyfriend.” His death resulted in allegations of negligence against four social workers working for DCFS. In addition, four-year-old Noah Cuatro died in July “under suspicious circumstances after his parents reported he had drowned in the pool at their Palmdale apartment.” However, a later report concluded the trauma Noah’s body sustained was inconsistent with drowning, prompting many of his family members to wonder why the child “was never removed from his home despite a court order prior to his death.”

When pushing back against the allegations against the DCFS, Bobby Cagle, the DCFS Director said:

All DCFS employees are held to the highest standards to ensure that the public trust in our service is honored and maintained.”


Family of 10-Year-Old Anthony Avalos Files $50 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against DCFS

After boy’s death, family sues L.A. County’s child welfare agency for $50 million

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