Thursday, December 15, 2011

Local Mom Files Claim Against County Child Welfare - California

Joanna Swartwood Says Her Children Were Abused At Shelley's Home Day Care

SAN DIEGO -- A local mother says her children were abused at a day care and claims the county's Child Welfare Services did not properly do their jobs.

In April, Joanna Swartwood, who works full-time, started taking her 1-year old daughter Riley and 3-year-old son Dale to Shelley's Home Day Care in Linda Vista after she received a referral from the YMCA.

Within weeks, Swartwood said Riley came home with broken capillaries under her eye.

"At that age, they're falling all the time," said Swartwood. "I didn't think anything of it."

Soon after, Dale started crying when he was headed to day care. Weeks later, Swartwood received a phone call from the daycare.

"I got a call from the day care owner saying Riley had redness on her face," said Swartwood. She said according to the daycare owner, a trampoline accident may have caused the redness and bruising.

But when Swartwood took Riley to a doctor, she was told someone had likely squeezed Riley's face.

"I broke into tears… couldn't believe it," she said. "That's your worst fear."

Letters show the doctor believed Swartwood and reported the day care to the county's Child Welfare Services.

Swartwood took Riley to an emergency room that same night. Another doctor also confirmed the abuse suspicions. The doctor's note also confirmed the parents were not suspected.

But hours later, the Swartwood family that received a late-night knock at the door. After an interview, the children were taken.

"We didn't know when we'd get our children back," said Swartwood. "They are our life. For parents, it's the worst thing that can happen besides death."

After a two-day investigation, the children were returned. A state probe into the day care recently ended with the owners losing their license.

Swartwood said her son is still coping with the effects of the ordeal, including a fear of strangers and separation anxiety. Swartwood has filed a claim against the day care and the county.

"They should have contacted the doctor and day care before taking any of the children away from their parents," said Spencer Busby, Swartwood's attorney. "They should have done their homework before doing something so drastic."

Swartwood added, "Here is the agency that's supposed to be protecting children and instead, they are traumatizing them."

Child Welfare Services declined to comment, saying they do not comment on specific cases.

The Swartwood family said they were told by prosecutors there is not enough evidence to file criminal charges. The day care provider declined an interview and has denied any wrongdoing.


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