Foster Care

Dog Bites Baby, DCFS Bites Baby’s Mom


Okay, here was the initial story, as reported Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times:

A Great Dane snatched a 6-month-old baby from her mother’s arms in Monrovia and ran with the girl in his mouth before dropping her in the street, authorities said Wednesday.

The baby’s mother was talking in the doorway of a neighbor’s home Monday when the 180-pound dog rushed out, slammed into her, snatched the baby with his jaws and ran off, said Lt. Michael Lee of the Monrovia Police Department.

The dog ran about 200 feet, carrying the baby by her right side, before dropping her in the street, Lee said. Police and paramedics found her there and airlifted the baby to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center after the 2:45 p.m. incident in the 600 block of Laurel Lane.

As of Thursday afternoon, according to the Monrovia PD, the baby is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery, even thought the entire situation was damned scary.

But, as if the whole horrific baby snatching incident wasn’t bad enough, there were these lines embedded in the story.

No criminal charges have been filed, but the Department of Children and Family Services is “pushing an investigation” into whether the mother did enough to protect her child, Lee said.


Let me get this straight. A mother and baby are both traumatized, the baby nearly killed when a neighbor’s humongous, out-of-control dog lunges out from inside the neighbor’s house, snatches a 6-month old out of its mother’s arms, and DCFS plans to further traumatize all concerned by investigating the mom?

I called the Monrovia police department and spoke with Captain Jim Hunt about the whole DCFS issue. He was unequivocal. “There’s absolutely nothing that mother could have done,” said Hunt. “Nothing. The mother actually had a cut on her hand from trying to protect the baby.”

According to Hunt, it was someone at the hospital that called DCFS, meaning that social workers were honor bound to look into it.

“Hopefully family services will talk to officers and see quickly that there’s no way this is a case,” Hunt said, making no attempt to hide his frustration at the whole DCFS matter.

Yes, let us hope.

The dog attack was Monday. I talked to Captain Hunt on Thursday—enough time, one would think, to talk to police and witnesses and conclude that there’s nothing to see here, folks.

Anyway, a case worth keeping an eye on.

UPDATE: The National Coalition for Child Welfare Reform director, Richard Wexler, who pointed out the Great Dane story to me, has a post on the issue in which he expresses concern that DCFS may be more likely to wrongly pursue a case like this one, for fear of being labeled lax if they do not, because of the publicity around recent child deaths where social workers did not correctly read the signals.


My very smart pal, Tom Lutz-–author of (along with other works) Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears“—has written an Op Ed on the matter of John Boehner’s tears that is by far the best of the essays on the matter that have been floated.


  • “According to Hunt, it was someone at the hospital that called DCFS, meaning that social workers were honor bound to look into it.”

    I’m not aware of any law in California *requiring* DCFS to look into a case just because it was called in by a hospital – though as the excerpt above suggests, it’s even harder for DCFS to exercise its own judgment and refuse in such cases.

    This illustrates how the foster-care panic engendered by the LA Times scares both hospitals and DCFS into harming the children they’re supposed to help.

    There’s more on this aspect to the story at the NCCPR Child Welfare Blog,

    Richard Wexler
    Executive Director
    National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

  • What Wexler said.

    And he may be right that this is a “foster-care panic engendered by the L A Times.” Which has also been wrong, in the opinion of myself and many others, to publish names of teachers allegedly not up to par in terms of certain quantitative rankings – which don’t take the full picture into account. Whether or not they directly contributed to a teacher’s suicide is debated, but not that the teacher was devastated by his name being published in derogatory manner.

    This case does seem like a hospital worker over-reacted out of fear they would be held accountable if they didn’t report it but you’re right, Celeste, is just doubly traumatized the mother. Hospital workers, teachers (like the case I mentioned in an earlier post) are often too quick to interfere in situations, interpreting the obligation to do so way too broadly.

    This sort of thing could make one afraid to leave their house with their child, less they’re held liable for anything that happens no matter what – or, then, to seek help at a hospital. I thought hospital workers only called DCFS if there’s reason to believe the injury was caused BY a parent or caregiver. In this case, DCFS should refer to the police report and not only put the matter to rest but apologize to the mother. Since they didn’t do so already, another reason to fear that DCFS overall does more harm than good, and lacks common sense.

  • In my contacts with DCFS while working the streets they almost always rolled if we requested them, they decided if they needed to. I think every hospital has a policy in place to call them if anything appears suspicious but that’s not how it used to be. Today is different as even if a cop tells the hospital there’s no need, the call’s made. It’s all about not getting sued and people running scared.

    It’s just how it is.

  • Seems to me protocols ought to have been clear but probably weren’t. Hospital wasn’t on scene, emergency responders were. Police would have to be at hospital when baby taken there. Dog attacks (even if the poor dog probably had no notion he was attacking a dang thing) are a public health issue requiring investigation under all circumstances. There was not only an ER doctor in charge of things, since the baby was hospitalized there also had to be an attending physician. Plus baby was not going straight home. So who exactly at the hospital got their adrenaline going when there was plenty of opportunity and people to make a reasonable decision here?

  • In regards to the comment about social workers being honor bound to report. It has nothing to do with honor. It has to do with fear. They are mandated reporters. They are in every hospital and every school. They are mandated by law to report suspicion of abuse. If they don’t they risk losing their professional license. Suspicion alone and a family can be investigated. Kind of like the McCarthy era except not only does the family get blacklisted, they also lose their children.

  • I have a not so simular situation. My daughter came to me in mid december 2010 to inform me that a neighbors great grandson (who the neighbor died 4 yrs ago so I know it’s not recent as the house was sold at auction shortly after their death) had tried to molest her..thank god unsuccessfully. I immediately informed the police who started an investigation, yet when my daughter talked to her sex ed teacher regarding the matter…DCFS was immediately informed and showed up to my home a few days later. They stated due to the numerous child deaths they had to ask my kids “questions” despite the fact my twins were not even born at the time this happened! They asked if I beat them..if I bathed them…if I touched them…and all kinds of other horrific questions! Then to make matters worse they called all the kids schools asking for attendance/grade info stating an ongoing abuse investigation..never bothering to tell them the truth about what REALLY happened to my daughter so I’m not looked at as a thug! They have made this horrible situation for my daughter into a nightmare & now she refuses to talk to anyone for fear of the enormous attention it will garner! DCFS in California should focus on the real perps beating their kids 1/2 to death or living in squalor rather than parents of a great kid that got into a bad situation..who feed/clothe/love her & our other little ones with all that we have! This state is just SICK!!!!

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