FORUM BITCH / Beloved Cunt
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/03/mother-and-father-arrested-in-their-childs-killing-.htmlThe parents of a Pomona 2-year-old have been arrested and charged with murdering the girl last year.
Jennifer Dalhover, 36, and Joseph Sandoval, 21, appeared in court Friday and were ordered held in lieu of $1-million bail. The parents did not enter pleas and are scheduled to return to court March 21.
The death of Vyctorya Sandoval last April renewed concerns about Los Angeles' County's troubled Department of Children and Family Services, which pushed to reunify the girl with her parents despite a long history of mistreatment.
Healing bruises covered the girl's body, according to a court document filed by children's services officials. A rib was fractured, the document said, and blood tests suggested she died thirsty and hungry.
Tori was removed from her parents after her birth and joined eight older siblings in foster care. The family had 11 referrals to child protective services for alleged domestic violence, child abuse and other issues, according to other sources with access to the family's files.
A hearing reunifying Tori with her parents in late 2010 was criticized by a foster family agency administrator for its brevity and for the court commissioner's unwillingness to listen to concerns raised by Tori's siblings and others.
"I know that reunification is primary and always work toward that goal. However, there are cases where common sense must prevail and history is relevant," wrote Linda Kontis, an administrator with the foster care agency that had cared for the girl, in a letter to a Superior Court judge shortly after the hearing.
Linda Kontis' letter to the letter to the Superior Court judge: http://documents.latimes.com/vyctorya-sandoval-letter/
From June 2011:
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/06/local/la-me-adv-child-fatality-20110606/2The two-page letter landed in the judge's chambers at the Los Angeles County Children's Court last fall, registering "grave concern" for the well-being of 17-month-old Vyctorya Sandoval.
Linda Kontis, co-founder of a foster family agency that contracted with the county to provide care to the girl, complained that the court system hadn't properly considered the risks of returning the saucer-eyed toddler known as Tori to her long-troubled biological parents.
Months after the letter was written, Tori was dead. Healing bruises covered her body, according to a court document that children's services officials filed. A rib was fractured. Blood tests suggested she died thirsty and hungry. For six hours, doctors tried to save her after she was rushed to an emergency room.
Her case has sent fresh shock waves through the county's child protection bureaucracy, still struggling to implement reforms after more than 70 maltreatment deaths over the last three years of children who had been under the system's supervision.
Kontis' letter was one of two warnings officials received about Tori's welfare in the months before she died, according to sources familiar with the case. A friend of Tori's former foster parents, Jennifer Nichols, said the couple phoned in a report to the children services department after hearing from the girl's relatives that Tori's condition was worsening.
Elise Esparza, a friend of Tori's relatives, said she barely recognized the once-boisterous girl when she saw her the month before she died. "She was very pale looking and gaunt in the face. I said. 'Something is wrong.'" After Tori's death, Esparza said she was present when the girl's mother described Tori pulling out her own hair and pinching herself.
Despite concerns among those who knew Tori, the court and the county left the girl with her parents, who lived in a Pomona apartment before their daughter died. Social worker visits were ordered, but interviews and records indicate that during the period she was with her parents, Tori's weight dropped from the 50th percentile to below the fifth percentile for children her age.
The county has touted its success in cutting foster care rolls by nearly two-thirds since 1997, to fewer than 20,000 children. Nearly nine of 10 children returned to their parents do not have a substantiated maltreatment incident in the first year. But critics point out that the rate of unsuccessful reunifications has nearly doubled as the county has allowed increasingly troubled families to reunify.
And three years ago a state Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care reported that court hearings for foster children average just 10 to 15 minutes, providing children no meaningful voice. The panel's recommendations to reduce court caseloads have been stalled by budget problems.
The couple had a tempestuous relationship that included allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse committed by Dalholver against Sandoval when he was a minor, according to Kontis' letter to the court. More recently, Dalhover obtained a restraining order against Sandoval, citing domestic violence, Kontis wrote.
Several months before winning custody of Tori, Dalhover and Sandoval dropped out of contact with county social workers and discontinued court-mandated programs meant to prepare them to reunify with the girl, according to Kontis' account.
In June, they resurfaced in a Pasadena homeless shelter with a newborn child and restarted their efforts to regain their daughter, Kontis wrote. Seventy-seven days later, with their parenting programs still unfinished, they appeared at the September court hearing asking to reunite with Tori, according to Kontis' letter.
"I â€¦ have been in many children's courtrooms over the last 20 years, and I have never seen any conducted in the manner in which I witnessed that day," Kontis wrote to the court.
According to Kontis' letter, the court commissioner who approved the reunification, Marilyn Mackel, "dominated her courtroom with intimidation and anger, to the point that the attorneys present barely spoke above a whisper with simple answers," Kontis wrote.
The commissioner appeared distracted when one of Tori's siblings spoke, and "reams of concerns and pages of documentation" were not acknowledged, Kontis wrote. Tori's court-appointed attorney, Robert Vasquez, told Kontis that "the history of the family does not matter, the goal is to reunify," she wrote.
"At the time she was sent home, was there evidence to suggest that she was being hurt by her parents or that she would not be safe in their care?" Leslie Starr Heimov [Vasquez's supervisor at the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles] asked. "If not, then the law says that she should be returned."
Heimov echoed staffers at the Edelman Children's Court in Monterey Park, where Tori's case was heard, who said Mackel and Vasquez have reputations for being conscientious. Mackel is said to delve deeply into children's histories for her cases, and Vasquez frequently arrives shortly after dawn to prepare his arguments.
After she was returned to her parents, Tori remained under the oversight of the Department of Children and Family Services until she died and should have received frequent visits from county social workers.
Internal affairs investigators at the children's service agency are looking into whether those mandated assessments were conducted and, if they were, what social workers observed. Meanwhile, Dalhover, according to interviews with county officials and friends of the family, recently became pregnant with her 11th child.