AZ Child Welfare Agency Takes Child From Loving Family, Places Her in Horrifically Abusive Foster Care

By Rachel Alexander Published on August 29, 2017

This isn’t supposed to happen. Child welfare agencies are supposed to take children out of abusive situations, not put them into ones.

Arizona’s Department of Child Safety wrongly took a little girl away from her parents and placed her with a foster parent who ran a pornographic pedophile ring and committed sexual misconduct against a minor. They also placed her with a woman who burnt her over 80 percent of her body with scalding water.

Beth Breen, who transported Devani back and forth to her parents for visitation when they were allowed to see her, said, “What they [DCS] were trying to protect her FROM is the exact thing that they did to her.”

The scandal came to light when the girl’s court-appointed guardian sued the state over the harm. (The guardian is different from the court-appointed attorney, who’s a defendant in the suit for her alleged part in Devani’s mistreatment.)

The complaint alleges that the state “removed Jane Doe from her home and her biological mother based on a fear of potential harm.” There was “never any abuse proven nor demonstrated.”

The state’s reasons for concern might be defended. What can’t be defended, however, is the agency’s almost lethal incompetence in placing Devani into foster care. The agency having endangered Devani in that way, it’s reasonable to distrust its earlier decisions to take the little girl away from apparently loving parents and blame the mother for every problem she had in foster care.

Taken Without Justifiable Reason

According to Health Impact News, the state seized a little girl named Devani from her parents a few days before her second birthday.  (Most of the details are corroborated by the Arizona Daily Star, the major daily newspaper in southern Arizona.)

A neighbor called the police when her parents, Michelle Tremor-Calderon and Jonathan Hileman, had been arguing. There was no violence or physical contact, and Devani was not present.

The state filed domestic violence charges against Michelle. They were later dismissed. Nevertheless, without a warrant, the state took Devani into custody.

Michelle had a past history of drug use, but had since become clean. She took a drug test to prove it. Jonathan also had a troubled past, but had turned his life around. He served 20 years in prison for robbery and sexually assaulting an adult. DCS used their pasts against them. Social workers were “concerned” the parents might hurt their child and kept her in custody.

Devani in Foster Care

While Devani was in foster care, Michelle could tell she was not doing well. She noticed scratches, bite marks and bruises on her. She complained to DCS but nothing happened. Michelle finally called the police.

Only then did DCS transfer Devani to a second foster care family, David and Barbara Frodsham. She lived with them for 18 months. While living there and allowed to visit her mother, her mother noticed signs of sexual abuse. She had thumb marks on her hips, scratches and bruises. She developed a long-lasting urinary tract infection, a well-known sign of possible sexual abuse.

When Michelle expressed her concerns to social workers, they accused her of “disrupting the foster care placements” and “coaching” her daughter.

When Michelle expressed her concerns to social workers, they accused her of “disrupting the foster care placements” and “coaching” her daughter to hate being in the Frodsham’s home.

When case workers saw Devani having temper tantrums, urinating on herself and crying, they blamed it on Michelle, not on the foster parents. Devani was finally taken away from the Frodsham’s after David left her in his car when picking up a check from a state office. He was found to have a blood alcohol level of .28 — almost four times the legal limit.

Michelle was ultimately vindicated. Later it was revealed that David Frodsham sexually abused children and ran a child pedophilia ring. Devani had been one of his victims. He’s now serving a 17-year sentence.

Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire

Incredibly, a judge in Tucson terminated Michelle’s parental rights in October 2015. He declared that Devani’s behavior was a result of her not bonding with Michelle.

According to the Daily Star, Devani’s parents had violated a few of the agency’s rules, which complicated their case to get their child back. Michelle allowed Jonathan to be with them at their visits, for example, when he was not allowed there. He was also “relapsing,” the newspaper claimed, citing unspecified “reports.”

The state placed Devani with a couple who wanted to adopt her, Justin and Samantha Osteraas. Justin’s brother warned DCS that Samantha had problems with violence and drugs.

After having Devani for 18 months, Samantha submerged her in scalding water in a bathtub. She suffered burns over 80 percent of her body. Doctors had to amputate all 10 toes. Suffering organ failure, Devani was placed in a medically-induced coma.

Samantha is currently facing felony criminal charges. Sadly, the agency and the court refused to let Michelle visit her daughter in the hospital. However, according to the suit, they did not terminate the Osteraas’s relation with Devani, so the state “would not be liable for the intensive care hospital bills. This let Jonathan Osteraas visit her in the hospital and be involved in her care, “which has harmed Jane Doe [Devani] in her mental health and ability to recover.”

Overly Aggressive Child Protective Services

Beth Breen, who transported Devani back and forth to her parents for visitation when they were allowed to see her, told Health Impact News, “What they [DCS] were trying to protect her FROM is the exact thing that they did to her.” She observed that when she drove Devani to see her parents, she was joyful and excited. When she returned her to foster care, she would scream, kick and cry unconsolably.

Child protective agencies are sometimes overly aggressive in taking children away from the parents. To make matters worse, some people become foster parents either for the money or even to molest children. Devani’s parents do not appear to have done anything to warrant taking her away from them. The lawsuit should get to the bottom of this tragic situation.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

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  • SophieA

    A lawsuit will not and simply cannot return this child’s innocence or childhood. A nightmare story that is far from over.

    • Nobody Specific

      Or her toes!

      CPS has got way out of hand in most of this country and it needs to be reigned in because parental rights, are important and must be protected. CPS should NEVER be empowered to remove a child from a home without a criminal complaint against a parent or both parents full consent. If there is a criminal matter they should only be allowed to remove a child upon either conviction or prior if a judge agrees there is potential for harm of serious nature to occur before the matter can be resolved. If parents are not convicted than any actions CPS has taken should be promptly reversed.

  • Beth Young Breen

    Thank you so much for getting Devani’s story out. We need awareness about this ongoing problem. Devani survived the most horrific abuse not at the hands of her parents but the agency that we believe is there to protect children. It’s a shame that it’s all about money for DCS. They are trying to yet AGAIN adopt her out so AGAIN they can profit off the misery of this poor child and her family has been in agony for 3 1/2 years trying to get her home.

    • Rachel Alexander

      And thank YOU for speaking up. I might not have known about this story to write about it if it wasn’t for you speaking out. That is horrible to hear they are still considering not returning her to her parents. As someone who’s been the victim of corruption in the legal system, I understand what’s going on better than anyone and now speak up for others who have been victimized by it.

    • Becky

      3 1/2 years must feel like an eternity. Thank you for getting this out. We will have more people praying and contending…

  • Becky

    This is so horrifying. My heart breaks for this innocent child and her parents!!! God of all comfort, and Judge of the courts of Heaven, defend this precious child and her parents in Jesus’ name!!! Angel armies, go and tear down every plot and plan of the enemy in Jesus’ name! Restore what has been stollen 100-fold!!! Redeem this family, God!!! Resurrection life over this little girl and her parents! Justice, GOD. We cry out for justice!!! Only you can move in the minds of those who are in authority. Speak to them in dreams – give them nightmares and cause them to be physically ill until they return this little girl to her parents. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

    • Mo

      @ Becky

      Yes, amen! What a horrific story.This poor little girl.

  • Kristina Lunde

    This is almost beyond comprehension. It breaks my heart and enrages my soul. Finger-pointing does no good. Our systems are broken. Many caseworkers are ill-equipped to properly handle their caseloads and be able to assess a child in danger versus a family in crisis while tasked to follow guidelines that are counter intuitive to repairing broken families. Solutions? Rebuild repair restructure all in one family centers. Intensive interactive watchdog committee for Foster parent accountability.
    These words may look good on paper as a utopian ideal… but to really fix something sometimes you have to start from scratch.
    My heart goes out to the parents and especially to this beautiful little girl.

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