A complaint of child neglect to a governmental body is one of the most horrifying events that can happen to a parent. An anonymous complaint of child neglect can virtually shut down a day care center. An anonymous and even vindictive complaint of child neglect can strip a father or mother of any ability to see a child as long as an arbitrarily selected social worker determines that it is in the child’s best interest. The Courts often provide little oversight to social workers, although there are welcome hints that some judges will occasionally exercise independent review. Abuses by social workers have been investigated by the county grand juries of the County of Kern and County of San Diego with scathing indictments of the process.
As if this was not enough, in April, 2016, ABC News reported that the anonymity of the internet has given rise to yet another layer of vindictive complaint of child neglect. The neglect accusations can now be made anonymously on the internet, and the investigative agencies are obligated to protect the anonymity of the source. Thus, we have reports of child neglect of children playing in a park, children walking home from school, or children living in a residence where a firearm is present, with no accountability to the complaining parties.
Which brings up the case of Suleman v. Superior Court (2010) 180 Cal. App. 4d 287. In Suleman, Paul Petersen, a self-appointed celebrity minor’s advocate, watched a reality show on TV once known as “The Octomom”. “Octomom” was Nadya Suleman, whose incredible birth of 8-children gave rise to a temporary reality series. Obviously, Ms. Suleman was paid for her performance/exposure.
Based only upon watching the highly edited television program, Paul Petersen decided that the children of the Octomom needed their own guardian ad litem to take care of the money they should be receiving for the realty series. While Mr. Petersen professed that he would not receive a cut of the children’s money, his proposed appointed guardian certainly would. Based only on this petition by a stranger to the family whose only knowledge of the family was through watching a highly edited television program, a Probate Court ordered an investigation as to the whereabouts of the childrens funds and to report this investigation to the court. Suleman took her case to the court of appeal who, fortunately, decided to hear this discretionary appeal.
On appeal, Petersen was represented by none other than Gloria Allred. Allred argued that since petition may be made by “any” interested person, and Petersen elected himself as such an interested person, the petition should be allowed to stand.
The court of appeal would have none of this. It’s specific holding was:
“This is an unprecedented, meritless effort by a stranger to a
family to seek appointment of a guardian of an estate of minor children. The petition’s allegations are insufficient to infringe on a parent’s civil rights or to rebut the presumption under California law that a parent is competent to manage the finances of his or her children. There is nothing in the petition that shows that the best interests of the children and the management of their finances are not being served by Suleman”.
An accusation to a court that a child is being neglected is a very serious accusation. It will necessarily disrupt the family. Valuable time of law enforcement officials will be brought into the matter. Lives are disrupted, jobs are sometimes even lost. In the family courts, many practitioners are declaring an “epidemic” of child neglect accusations brought for no other purpose to obtain easy child support and custody. On the anonymous internet, reporters observed the potential for wide ranging, spiteful and meritless accusations of child abuse which, nevertheless, require investigation by social workers and law enforcement.
And now, Gloria Allred champions a self-identified child celebrity advocate claiming neglect through no greater evidence than what appears on a highly edited television program.
An accusation of child neglect is a serious matter. Nothing other than a suspicious imagination inferred neglect by Ms. Suleman. Gloria Allred, who claims to be an advocate of the oppressed, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?