Foster Mother in AIDS Case Drops Suit to Regain 2 Girls

Times Staff Writer

Because she faces criminal charges of bilking a disabled neighbor out of about $21,000, a former foster mother from Garden Grove has dropped her $10 million civil lawsuit against Orange County social services officials.

Cynthia Chinchilla filed suit against the Orange County Social Services Agency in July, seeking the return of the foster children who were removed from her home after county officials learned that Chinchilla’s mother had died from acquired immune deficiency syndrome. “We did not in any way want to inhibit her criminal defense by having a civil suit (against the county) in federal court,” Marjorie Rushforth, Chinchilla’s civil attorney, said Monday. “That action needs to go forward on its own merit.”

Rushforth, who was working on the the case with the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Southern California, said she learned late last week that U.S. District Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez accepted her motion to dismiss Chinchilla’s federal action. However, Fernandez ruled that either side may reinstate the case.


“We are very pleased the case was dismissed,” said Robert Griffiths, chief deputy director of the Orange County Social Services Agency.

Daughters Removed

County social workers removed Chinchilla’s two foster daughters in February, after her mother died from AIDS contracted in a blood transfusion six years ago, the lawsuit said.

Chinchilla’s ailing mother had lived with her for about a month in November, 1986, before returning to her own home, according to court records.

Although Chinchilla provided the county with two negative AIDS blood tests, the foster children were not returned to her mobile home, according to the lawsuit.

On Aug. 10, Santa Ana police arrested Chinchilla on suspicion of stealing checks from a disabled 72 year-old neighbor. Chinchilla is charged with forging the woman’s signature on the checks and depositing them into her own account. Bank officials became suspicious of the deposits and alerted police.

Rushforth said that Chinchilla is free on bail but that she does not know where the suspect is living. A preliminary hearing in Orange County Municipal Court is scheduled for Nov. 17, according to Terry Breen, an investigator working on Chinchilla’s criminal case for the county Public Defender’s office.