December 11, 2023

SAN JOSE – In a rare rebuttal, a union consultant for Santa Clara County social staff stepped ahead Tuesday, immediately refuting the account of the kid welfare company director who blamed a social employee and supervisor for choices that stored a child woman along with her troubled father earlier than she died of a fentanyl overdose.

“I’ve to appropriate the report publicly that this isn’t true,” stated Alex Lesniak, a union consultant from SEIU.

As an alternative, she stated, the County Counsel’s workplace, the place legal professionals have had growing affect on choices about eradicating susceptible youngsters from unsafe properties, opposed the social employee’s and supervisor’s suggestions that the kid be pulled from her dad and mom’ care.

“They had been informed by county counsel there’s not legally sufficient to take away” the infant from her dad and mom, Lesniak stated.

That assertion was bolstered by emails obtained Tuesday by this information group. One from a social employee near the case despatched to Damion Wright, director of the Santa Clara County Division of Household and Youngsters’s Companies, stated that social staff had been “informed at each flip that there’s not sufficient proof” to take away Phoenix Castro from her San Jose house within the months earlier than the woman’s Could 13 dying.

Child Phoenix Castro was solely 3-months-old when she died of fentanyl and methamphetamine poisoning on Could 13. (Courtesy of Edward Morillo) 

Lesniak stated she spoke with a second supervisor on Tuesday, who named a second legal professional within the County Counsel’s workplace who additionally consulted on the infant’s case.

In an interview final week, Wright, informed this information group that “there isn’t a indication of county counsel overriding any resolution” in Phoenix’s case. His workplace later added in an electronic mail earlier than the publication of the story Sunday that the County Counsel “was not consulted at any time” concerning the resolution to ship the infant house.

On Tuesday, when confronted with Lesniak’s declare, he issued an announcement that stated his workplace “might be exploring this and all data that involves gentle, however is not going to have further remark concerning the specifics of the case till our inside and exterior evaluations are full.”

Because the Bay Space Information Group started investigating this case, the county has repeatedly informed this information group it’s “dedicated to full transparency.”

Lesniak stated the social staff and supervisors concerned within the case have been admonished to not discuss to the media by county officers, and had been reluctant to talk on the report to this information group. That’s why, Lesniak, a union steward, stated she got here ahead on their behalf after the county pinned accountability on the social staff.

Lesniak’s protection of the social staff got here after a Bay Space Information Group investigation printed Sunday uncovered quite a few warning indicators that preceded the choice to ship child Phoenix house, and the tensions between the division’s purpose of preserving households collectively and its bedrock obligation to maintain youngsters secure. Lately, the county turned its focus towards preserving households along with security plans and providers after many years of disproportionately separating households of colour.

The controversy goes to the guts of a report by the California Division of Social Companies, which discovered that Santa Clara County social staff’ requests to take away youngsters from unsafe properties had been regularly overturned by the county’s authorized workplace. In accordance with that report, state investigators uncovered a number of circumstances of youngsters who had been faraway from unsafe properties by regulation enforcement officers just for the  Division of Household and Youngsters’s Companies to have “instantly positioned the kids again within the care of the unsafe father or mother.”

The Bay Space Information Group investigation revealed that Phoenix’s dad and mom, David Castro, 38, and Emily De La Cerda, 39, each examined optimistic for opiates, methamphetamine and cocaine in drug exams they underwent as a part of their effort to win again custody of their two older youngsters.

Their child was born affected by neonatal opioid withdrawal signs at Kaiser San Jose Medical Middle on Feb. 12. The day after Phoenix’s beginning, a social employee stuffed out a security evaluation that discovered the infant was at “very excessive danger” to go house along with her dad and mom, and a social employee assigned to the couple’s older youngsters warned colleagues in an electronic mail that the dad and mom hadn’t “addressed any of the problems that introduced them into the system” and “I fear that Phoenix could also be topic to that very same degree of neglect and probably lead to her dying.”

On Could 13, child Phoenix was discovered lifeless within the household condo off Blossom Hill Street in South San Jose. It stays unclear how the infant ingested the medication, however police discovered fentanyl and a damaged glass pipe not removed from the infant’s bottle.

Castro, the daddy, is now in jail dealing with a felony little one endangerment cost and De La Cerda, the mom, died of a fentanyl overdose, simply 4 months after her child.

On Tuesday, Lesniak stated she felt compelled to set the report straight on the makes an attempt by social staff to maintain Phoenix secure, particularly in gentle of Wright’s feedback singling out the social employee and supervisor. She stated she spoke immediately with the social employee concerned within the child’s case, who made it clear the county counsel didn’t help their place to take away the infant.

“The County’s/Division’s public statements concerning Phoenix is unacceptable,” Lesniak stated in an electronic mail Monday to the top of Santa Clara County Social Companies Daniel Little. “The reality can’t be hidden eternally behind emails that can’t be forwarded, paperwork that can’t be printed, or statements which are deceptive.”

Regardless who’s responsible, family, neighbors and others in child Phoenix’s circle are struggling to grasp how she was left within the couple’s care.

De La Cerda additionally had two youngsters, now 8 and 5, earlier than her relationship with Castro. A kind of child’s fathers is Elias Romero who has custody of De La Cerda’s second little one.

“You probably have two children which are taken away then you definitely shouldn’t be granted a 3rd one, as a result of each dad and mom had been deemed unfit,” Romero stated. “And also you let this man look after the third child understanding there’s two children that aren’t in his custody. This simply doesn’t make sense.”