An Arizona mother is fighting a state bureaucracy’s decision that she neglected her son by letting him play in an adjacent park while she bought groceries during 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic when stores encouraged shoppers to avoid family trips, to prevent the gathering of large crowds.
According to a report from the Pacific Legal Foundation, it is working with the mother, identified only as Sarra L., to fight a decision by the Arizona Department of Child Safety to put her name on the state’s central registry of “neglectful and abusive” parents.
The legal team, which has filed suit on behalf of the mother, pointed out, “There was no jury, no due process, and virtually no protections for Sarra at all.”
It developed when, in July 2020, the mother let her son, 7, and a friend play “at a nearby, safe park.”
However, someone called police, who accused her of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
“Because the kids were never in any danger, the county prosecutors dropped the charges after Sarra agreed to attend a life-skills class,” the foundation explained.
But then the state DCS jumped into the case, deciding that Sarra should be listed with those parents who abuse children.
“Due process and the separation of powers should have protected Sarra from the Department of Child Safety’s abusive prosecution. DCS has a track record of ignoring due process that should protect innocent parties from severe punishment,” said Adi Dynar, an attorney for Pacific Legal Foundation. “Sarra is seeking to right the wrong done to her and prevent other parents from facing a similar fate in the future.”
Tim Sandefur, vice president for the Goldwater Institute, which also is involved in the case, said, “Overzealous bureaucrats shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute parents for letting their kids play in public parks. The court should, once again, rebuke DCS for meddling in the decisions of parents who have done nothing wrong.”
The report on the case charged that Sarra has worked for years with refugee children, and if the department’s arbitrary actions go unchallenged, “she will be branded a neglectful parent and unable to continue her work for the next quarter-century.”
Among the documents filed in the case is a motion to stay the agency’s action, which explained, “The children were never suspected of being in any danger…”
“Sarra … presents a colorable claim that DCS should be stopped from entering her name in the Central Registry while her state-court appeal remains pending, or that DCS should be ordered to remove her name …. If DCS has already entered it there.”
The case, in court in Maricopa County, charges the bureaucracy “erroneously” deprived Sarra of her rights and interests.
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