Baby who suffered brain damage to receive $32 million in settlement with Tulare County
In the summer of 2020, a 10-month-old child, identified in court records only as J.G., was admitted to an Orange County hospital and was found to have suffered “profound brain damage due to severe malnourishment.”
J.G. “will likely have the cognitive function of an infant for the rest of his life,” according to a lawsuit filed last year against Tulare County.
The lawsuit, filed through the child’s grandmother, alleged that the county’s Child Welfare Services program failed to act on multiple reports of child abuse and neglect, resulting in J.G.’s condition and permanent brain damage.
The county settled the suit this month and is due to pay J.G. $32 million in what “is believed to be the largest settlement ever obtained against a child protective services agency by a surviving child of abuse in the state of California,” the plaintiff’s attorney’s said Monday in a news release.
“The system failed,” said lead attorney Brian Panish.
“The overall supervision and management [of the Child Welfare Services program] was very poor,” he said, adding that the program’s systems were “behind the times” and “inadequate.”
As part of the settlement, the agency must implement new policies and software to better track and follow up on reports of abuse.
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Neither Child Welfare Services nor the county responded Monday to a request for comment.
“J.G.’s experience represents one of the worst cases of what happens when Child Welfare Services fails to fulfill its basic obligations,” Panish said in a news release. “There is no amount of money that will restore J.G.’s quality of life and we will never know the life he could have lived if the County had just done its job.”
The agency began receiving referrals regarding J.G. in October 2019, just weeks after the child was born.
J.G.’s biological parents, according to the complaint, do not believe in modern medicine or that diseases are real, and in early 2019 his biological father conceived of a plan to raise an entirely “plant-based” baby.
J.G. was subjected, the complaint says, to a variety of dangerous situations within a week of being born including prolonged “sun baths” followed by ice baths. The father posted photos of these acts online.
On Oct. 9, photos of J.G. that showed him “looking very small, wrinkled, and malnourished” were posted online.
On a single day in March 2020, J.G.’s grandmother called Child Welfare Services 10 times to report J.G.’s malnourishment and neglect.
“None of these calls were documented,” according to the complaint.
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The grandmother called the agency again the following day and spoke with a social services worker about J.G.’s treatment.
Again, the referral was not investigated, and the case was passed on to multiple other social workers.
“From March 2020 to July 31, 2020, J.G.’s health deteriorated. His body was covered in a rash, his extremities were swelling, and he was not gaining weight,” according to the complaint.
J.G.’s parents were feeding the infant primarily blended bananas and dates with honey. He was not being breastfed or given formula.
On July 31, J.G. was taken by his parents on a vacation to Costa Mesa. The following morning, J.G. was unresponsive and eventually hospitalized at an Orange County hospital.
The child protection agency in Orange County opened an investigation, and on Aug. 4 the Tulare County Child Welfare Services were notified of J.G.’s condition.
Orange County Child Protective Services took custody of J.G., and felony child endangerment charges were filed against the parents by the Orange County district attorney.
After spending time in a foster home, J.G. was placed in the custody of his grandmother.
“She’s his guardian angel,” Panish said.
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