When an Orange County mother in 2011 started to suspect her 5-year-old and 1-year-old sons might have been sexually abused by a family friend while under the care of their father, she reached out to the Child Protective Services

But she claims county employees failed to report the abuse to police to conduct a proper investigation as mandated by state law. 

She went to Orange County Superior Court claiming her concerns that her kids were being sexually abused weren’t taken seriously because she was in a custody battle.

The mother also alleged negligence by OC Social Services Agency officials caused her children to continue to be abused for years.

More than a decade since she picked up the phone to report the alleged abuse, county officials are now going to pay the mother millions of dollars and settle the case.

Orange County Supervisors voted last week 4-1 behind closed doors to pay the mother $4.5 million to settle the lawsuit in which a mother claimed the county’s social service agency failed to report child sexual abuse.

Supervisor Don Wagner voted against the settlement.

But questions remain on what actions those supervisors will take to ensure county employees report allegations of child sexual abuse to the proper authorities as is already required.

Christopher Taylor, the attorney for the mother, said in a Monday phone call that his clients hope the decision will help ensure that child protective service employees actually “cross report” or call the police to investigate when they’re supposed to.

“In this case, the boy had told the woman quite a bit about the abuse. She still determined it to be unsubstantiated, and didn’t call the police,” he said.

Taylor adds it would have spared the children six years of additional abuse had the county employee called the cops.

In 2017, Alex Beltran, the family friend, was arrested for sexually molesting a minor and a year later the mother filed a lawsuit against Beltran and the County Department of Social Services.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Beltran is awaiting trail on 26 counts of sexual abuse that took place between 2000-2017.

“Because the County and its employees failed to follow established policies and procedures,,” reads the 2018 legal claim. “Mr. Beltran was free to continue to sexually abuse Plaintiffs while in their father’s care.”

Taylor said the children are now teenagers and have been through a lot.

The settlement for them, he adds, is a relief.

“They really did not want to have to testify and trial and face Mr. Beltran again and I think that was their greatest concern,” Taylor said.

Wagner said in a Monday phone interview he was against the settlement because it was a weak case and he felt it was a lot of taxpayer money to spend.

“The social services agency investigated and determined that there was nothing there, what they did was fail to check a box saying they reported it to Anaheim PD,” he said.

“I thought it was a real stretch to suggest a case where we found nothing in 2011 meant that in 2016, when the guy was arrested, that there was some liability on the part of the county.

Wagner said state law has changed since 2011.

“If this had happened today, there would be no liability for the county because of that change in the law,” he said.

Supervisor Doug Chaffee said in a Monday phone interview that he supported settling the case as a “business decision,” but does not believe the allegations raised by the mother were true.

“We’d already spent about $600,000 in attorney fees on our own,” he said, adding that the award includes attorney fees.

“It’s a large department and sometimes mistakes are made and I do not believe it was made in this case.”

He adds that employees already go through training on reporting child abuse.

Supervisors Andrew Do, Katrina Foley, and Vicente Sarmiento did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

The county’s social services agency also did not respond to emailed questions from the Voice of OC.

Jamie Cargo, a spokesperson for the agency, said in a June email that child abuse reports are handled on a case-by-case basis and state criteria is used to determine if a report merits an investigation.

“Depending on the risk factors reported to the hotline, some calls may require the (emergency response) social worker to investigate within the first 24 hours of the report, within three days or within 10 days,” she wrote.

According to Cargo’s email, there are 119 emergency response social workers in Orange County – which has a population of about 3.2 million people.

There were over 3,300 reports of child abuse made in May – the month with the most recent data available – to the social services’ child abuse hotline, according to a county database.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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