California Apartment Managers Should Have Duty to Report Child Abuse
By Pat Dazis
In August of 2002 my 12 year old grandson Chris Cejas was murdered in Sacramento by his bio donor (I cannot call this man his father after the terrible things he did to Chris) and his stepmother Kathryn Potter. Both were found guilty of murder. Cejas was sentenced to 75 to life for murder, Potter to 15 to life for second degree murder.
Since the trials ended in 2005 and 2006 I have been trying to get someone to help me get an amendment proposed and adopted to the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act to include apartment managers in the list of those who must report child abuse. So far I have had no luck. I have written by postal mail to several legislators, the Sacramento Board of Supervisors (who I have since learned are very inept when dealing with children's issues), even some TV shows. I have not gotten any response; none--not even thanks but no thanks.
I believe this amendment is a logical thing to do because apartment managers know just about all things that go on in their buildings and complexes. We obviously need more eyes and ears to get help to children who are in danger.
The California Apartment Association, says it is the largest state wide rental property association, representing 50,000 rental property owners as well as management professionals and apartment builders who operate two million rental housing units in California. This is only one association but I am willing to bet there are many more apartments and rentals throughout the state whose owners and managers are not members of this particular association.
When we look at those numbers alone, factoring in those not included, there are tens of thousands of apartment managers in California. To put that many eyes and ears to work protecting the children in their complexes and buildings would only serve to get help to children in trouble across the entire state of California.
Some of my reasons for wanting this amendment are as follows:
My information is that the apartment that Chris lived in during the time of the abuse and his eventual death was right next door to the manager. Since an upstairs neighbor reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) terrible sounds coming from the apartment downstairs, it seems anyone living next door would have heard those horrible sounds as well. You see the report came in to CPS in May of 2002. CPS, judging from the information I have, should have investigated immediately, but they waited nine days to show up. When they did show up they had no apartment number but they had Chris' first name. They went to the manager who told them she didn't know any Chris in trouble there. Had she been a mandated reporter she would not only have been obligated to tell CPS that there was a Chris living next door, but she would have also been obligated to call when SHE heard those sounds.
One of my other big concerns is CPS didn't take the five minutes it would have required to check for themselves to see if they could find Chris. The case worker could have and SHOULD have had someone in the office check their own system for anything at that address. Had they done that one simple thing they would have found the apartment number at that street address, because there had been a temporary removal a year or two prior to Chris going there for a visit. Also, one phone call to the school that served the address asking if there was a Christopher in that school registered in that building, this too would also have gotten quick results.
In Sacramento alone according to the Sacramento County Child Death Review Team's report for 2005 which at this time is the most recent report available shows CPS involvement and failure to protect the children. The following is taken directly from the Sacramento County Child Death Review Teams Report.
In 2005, 167 children who were Sacramento County residents died in Sacramento County, 8 of whom were victims of child abuse and neglect (CAN) homicides. One additional child who was an out-of-county resident was the victim of a CAN homicide perpetrated in Sacramento County, raising the total number of CAN homicides that occurred in Sacramento County—of both Sacramento County and out-of-county residents—to 9. This is an increase from four CAN homicides of Sacramento County residents in 2004.
Of the eight 2005 CAN homicide victims, four families had involvement with Child Protective Services (CPS) prior to their death. Of those four families, three of the actual victims had involvement with CPS prior to their death. One of the three victims had an open CPS Emergency Response referral at the time of death, one had the case closed 6 months prior to the death, and one had the case closed 9 months prior to the death. In one more CAN homicide cases, CPS involvement was limited to siblings and occurred more than a year prior to the birth of the decedent.
Our children are dying not only at the hands of the monsters that are actually killing them but from failure of CPS to protect children and to follow up on open cases, and by political indifference.
Chris hated bullies and I know The Chris Cejas Amendment to the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act would go a long was to help we his family as well as the public do what he would have us do.
Protect other Children. Stop them from dying alone as Chris did, on a bedroom floor with a blanket tossed over his bruised broken dead body!http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2007/12/california_apar.html