PALMDALE (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection released a report Wednesday that found the department acted "appropriately" in handling the child welfare case of 4-year-old Noah Cuatro, who died July 6 under suspicious circumstances.
The report, dated Aug. 30, was broken down into three parts. The first examined the August 2014 allegations against Noah's mother Ursula and father Jose that resulted in the removal of Noah and his sibling. The second examined the Nov. 2016 allegations that again prompted the removal of Noah and his sibling. The third examined the removal order issued by a court May 15 that was not executed.
According to the report, the first petition, filed in 2014, alleged that Ursula physically abused her infant sibling resulting in a skull fracture and that Jose was an abuser of marijuana.
Noah and his sibling were removed from the home and placed with their maternal great-grandmother during the investigation.
Ursula's petition was dismissed after DCFS said it was "more likely than not that the mother did not cause the injuries," the report said. The petition against Jose was dismissed because there was "no evidence" that he was an abuser of marijuana.
Noah and his sibling were returned to their parents.
The second petition was filed in Nov. 2016, according to the report, after allegations that Noah had been diagnosed with "failure to thrive," developmental delay and congenital hypertonia. It also alleged that his parents, who failed to take him to eight scheduled doctor's appointments, were medically negligent.
Noah and his sibling were removed from their parent's home and placed in foster care — his sibling was soon returned to Ursula and Jose over the objection of County Counsel.
Ursula and Jose plead no contest to the petitions, and in June 2017 it was ordered that Noah be placed back with a family member. In August 2017, Noah went to live with his great-grandmother until November 2018 when the court ordered Noah be returned to his parents' home — over the objections of DCFS — the report said.
From November 2018 through May 2019, a children's social worker visited the family a number of times, the report said, and stated that Noah "appeared to be happy and bonded to his parents."
That statement was made despite the fact that Ursula and Jose failed to enroll in the Parent Child Interactive Therapy program, failed to enroll Noah in preschool and failed to be forthright with their new address after moving, the report said.
In April of 2019, the report said the Child Protection Hotline received an anonymous call that prompted a visit from a child social worker who interviewed the parents and Noah, and said Noah's responses to questions of abuse felt coached. After a forensic exam, it was determined that the allegations were inconclusive, despite the fact that a previous child social worker assigned to the case expressed concern about Noah's well-being and believed Noah was a "targeted sibling," the report said.
The report said the Child Protection Hotline received another anonymous call in May 2019 about allegations of physical and sexual abuse. The report said, prior to an investigation of the claims, a removal order was submitted to the court. The report said there was disagreement among the emergency response and continuing services staff about the removal order and an attempt was made to withdraw it, but it had already been signed.
During the investigation of the latest allegations, all parties involved "unequivocally denied" their veracity, the report said. Noah was said to be "alert and in good spirits" and denied being abused. It was decided that the removal order not be executed.
A month before Noah's death, Ursula gave birth to another child, despite telling DCFS workers that she was not pregnant, the report said. Hospital personnel said they were "concerned with the Mother's mental health," the report said. On June 13, DCFS promoted Noah and his three siblings to a case due to concerns about Ursula's mental health and her inability to comply with court orders.
On June 26, DCFS informed the court that the removal order from May was not executed and recommended a 30-day continuance to address a possible new case filing for Noah and his three siblings after the May allegation of general neglect against Ursula was substantiated.
Ten days later, Noah was hospitalized after his parents said they found him in the apartment complex's pool, which sheriff's deputies deemed suspicious due to other trauma found on the child's body. He died July 6.
The report ultimately found that the May removal order was not appropriate, because the basis for the removal was "sketchy for several reasons," though it did state that the court made the correct decision in signing the order with the information it was given.
"The court had no knowledge that those serious allegations had not been investigated," the report said.
According to the report, the decision to leave Noah with his parents was the appropriate decision.
"Given the fact that the most serious allegations, stemming from the (maternal great-grandmother) and the only reasonable basis for removal, had not been investigation, the removal of Noah from his parents would have been a premature, if not inappropriate, action," the report said.
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