COURTWATCH interviews a Mother who filed her own lawsuit against Child Protective Services

root - Posted on 22 July 2002

Courtwatch is a media advocacy project of POOR Magazine, dedicated to helping low-income parents struggling with adversarial judicial systems.

by Connie Lu, PNN Media Intern, Facilitator, Dee Gray/Courtwatch

I am sitting face to face with Rebecca
Barraza-Aanestad in the common room of POOR Magazine.
The spicy aroma of empty jalapeno pizza boxes lingers
throughout the room, along with the resonating and
echoing sound waves of Rebecca's powerful voice
reflecting quickly off the high ceilings. My eyes are
focused upon her deep brown eyes filled with
frustration, strength, and anxiety, as they dart ever
so slightly back and forth in search of the painful
memories in her mind when she begins to share the
account of her children being taken away by the Child
Protective Services (CPS).

R-A: My name is Rebecca Barraza-Aanestad with Parents against the
Child Abuse Industry."

C: "Can you describe the situation you're facing right
now with your son?"

R-B: "My son recently filed a lawsuit in federal court
in the United States District Court for the Northern District. He doesn't
want to have his name printed in the paper; but I
wanted to talk a little about the lawsuit and how I
came to file the lawsuit, when my kids were taken
away. My son was taken away when he was 3 years old
in May 1987. And I got him back January 17, 2001 -
You look at all that time between those dates and
that's many years. He was in Foster Care for almost 14
years. I started going to college right after he was
taken away, and I studied law and came to know what my
rights are and my children's rights. I started a group
several years after my son was taken away and his
sister and his brother. But I don't want his name
printed in the article. You can just say Rebecca's

C: "OK."

R-B: " Leave my 3 children's names out too. I started
a group called, "Parents Against The Child Abuse
Industry" after listening to KGO Radio. KGO Radio did
a talk show with Mary Pride who wrote a book called,
"The Child Abuse Industry". Right after my kids were
taken away in May 1987, I think it was July of 1987, I
heard this interview on KGO Radio with Mary Pride and
one of the KGO news casters or news people, the people
that do talk shows-a talk show host."

C: "Right."
R-B: "When I heard her talking about the child welfare
system I ran to the radio and turned the volume up
because I knew that I had just gotten back involved
with The Child Welfare System. Basically The Child
Welfare System is the Juvenile Dependency Court System
in the United States of America. It's a new court that
has been only developed in the last 20 years. Prior
to that, they did not have a Juvenile Dependency
Court. They've always had Juvenile Criminal Court but
this new court called The Juvenile Dependency Court is
about 20 years old, somewhere in there I would say. I
listened to the radio show and I was so excited. I
wanted to get a hold of her book, so I called KGO
Radio. They set me up with South West Radio Church and
I ordered a dozen of Mary Pride's books. This was many
years ago but today I still have her book called "The
Child Abuse Industry". And that's how I came to start
my group and name it "Parents Against Child Abuse".
That was in December of 1989. In 1994, I renamed my
group, "Parents Against The Child Abuse Industry"
because I was inspired by Mary Pride's book. I've been
to a thousand Juvenile Dependency Court Hearings - I
was not able to get reunited with my children."

C: "Let's go back to the lawsuit itself, can you tell
me what the lawsuit specifically entails."

R-B: "The lawsuit is based on the taking away of my
son and his brother and sister. The facts relate to
how and when my children were taken away..."

C: "How many children total?"

R-B: "3."

C: "3?"

R-B: "3-two son's and one daughter. So my son filed
the lawsuit. He filed it based on the C.P.S. (Child
Protective Services) Social Worker's-I need that copy
of that lawsuit back right now I don't why they're
keeping it?"

R-B: "Anyway the C.P.S. Social Worker - I need to back
up here, I'm totally disorganized now, this interview
is not going well now, I don't think."

C: "Can I maybe ask you about ?..."

R-B: "Don't - Don't -Don't do that to me because now
I'm focused and now you're going to throw me way off.
(Pause) When my children were taken away from me, it
wasn't all 3 of the children. There was only my
daughter. My daughter was taken away and placed with
her... Ok, let's start from the beginning. When my
husband died March the 3rd, 1985.
This C.P.S. Social Worker came out to the place where
I was living. All she did was knock on my front door
and ask me a bunch of questions. First of all she
wouldn't go away - see it's all on this document that
I have for you. She wouldn't go away and she kept
hounding me, interrogating me to come into the house
and I wouldn't let her in initially. She would not
leave. Then I let her in just so she could hurry up,
ask her questions and get out."

C: "Right, right"

R-B: "The mistake I made was telling her - Well, I
don't feel like living-my husband's dead, I'm really
depressed." I never should have told her that. With
that one damn statement she went back to her office
and typed up this report that made me look like such
an unfit mother. It was ridiculous."

C: "Did she have it recorded?"

R-B: "They go back to their office and they type up
their reports. They're like news reporters - that's
how they do their work. The end of March she served me
with a petition to go into court. I went into to court
on April the 1st, on April Fools Day. Whoa, what a big
fool I was right? I went into court April 1st and
Judge Gargano, of the Juvenile Dependency Court let my
daughter stay with her grandmother because initially I
let my daughter go and stay with her grandmother until
I could find an apartment to rent."

C: "Right."

R-B: "We were staying in a hotel at the time my
husband died. It was demoralizing, degrading. The
welfare system back in 1985, had a lot of families
staying in what they
called these "WELFARE HOTELS." There were rooms that
families actually rented.
It was very degrading to live like that. I had no
choice because my husband wasn't working. I was on
AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) back
then. That was 15 years ago-Man! I went to court. They
took my daughter. They let her stay with her
grandmother and then I moved to Sonoma County. Do you
know that the C.P.S. followed me?"

C: "They tracked you?"

R-B: "They do what they call a transfer - they
transfer your case to another county where we live so
they followed me. I felt like they were following me.
You know I was starting to feel paranoid. They
contacted the Welfare Department and they ended up
handling the case. They 'kinda like monitored me and
the boys to make sure we were all right."

C: "Yeah."

R-B: "OK, then I left because I got this letter in the
mail one day. I lived up there like ten months and I
was happy up there with my sons. And then all of the
sudden I get this letter in the mail telling me that I
had to appear in court. And my girlfriend, I showed
her the letter and she goes "Oh, Rebecca you better
move because it looks like they're gonna take you to
court on Monday and they're gonna take your boys
away." " I said "What?"
And I looked at this letter and I go "You know what,
you're right. This is another petition."

I rented a truck on a Saturday. I moved all my
property, loaded the truck up with all our furniture,
everything and we left on a Saturday. On Monday
morning I woke up at my destination. I went down to
live with my sister. Monday morning I left my sons
with my sister because my daughter was already staying
with her grandmother. I went to court. When I walked
into that courtroom and told the judge that I was no
longer living in Sonoma County- he said, "case
dismissed." He just threw the case out of court. I
looked over at the District Attorney and he was so
mad. You could tell he was just fuming. His facial
expression was kinda like "Oh, I'm gonna get you yet"
- like I had done something very wrong.

These people
are sick. The whole system is corrupt and sick. I left
the court house and moved to Santa Clara County. I
said thank God, they didn't get their hands on my poor
sons. They wanted to put my sons in Foster Care up
there - that would've fragmented all the children. I
don't want you to use their names when you write up
this article. My case remained in Santa Clara County
because I have not moved away. I've been living down
here all my life. What happened was I worked with the
system to get my kids back. I could've illegally
kidnapped my kids and moved to Mexico or France or
Italy and they would've never found me but I didn't do
that. I wanted to get my children back the right way,
the legal way. So what happened was, I've been to a
1,000 Juvenile Dependency Court Hearings and I was
never reunited with my sons or my daughter. My kids
were taken away when they were 4, 8, and 9. I didn't
get my daughter back until she was 14. I didn't get my
oldest son back until he was 15, and I didn't get my
youngest son until he was 17, and that was January 17,

Then what happened was I was living with a fiance of
mine, this man that I was gonna marry. We were
friends, companions. I was his friend then I was his
companion and then he asked me to marry him. And I
accepted his hand in marriage in February 2001.
Then on Friday, March 2, 2001, the District Attorney,
The Office of the Public Guardian and Conservators,
two sheriffs, three women from the Public Guardians
Office, a woman and a man from The Child Protective
Services, and two locksmiths came to my house. There
were 12 people. They raided my house where I lived
with my sons and my fiancÈe. Now mind you, I had just
gotten my youngest son back out of the Child Welfare
System on January 17, 2001. On Friday, March the 2nd,
my house was raided by all these government employees,
public employees, and the locksmith people changed our
front door, our back door locks, and they took away my
fiance. They flew him out to stay with his daughter
-I mean with his sister. My two sons and me became
homeless because my daughter's been living on her own
for a couple of years now.

I ended up sleeping in my car as a homeless person
last year. My youngest son who recently filed the 25
million dollar lawsuit, went back to where he
became homeless and my oldest son ended up renting a
room in somebody's apartment.

I recently got a house. God was very good to me last
year. He did not let me down because my heavenly
Father never lets me down; I'm very spiritual and very
close to my heavenly Father. With my footwork between
my Lord and me I was able to get my housing. My son
and I rented a two-bedroom house. We're in a house
now. I'm back on my feet. I'm trying to get well. I
ended up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, A
Panic-Anxiety Disorder, and a Manic Depressive
Disorder because our house was raided.

That's the last time I'm gonna be traumatized by any
'fuckin county officials - excuse my language, by any
damn county official. That's the last damn time I'm
gonna be traumatized in my whole life. This is what
happened - I talked to my youngest son who's living
with me and I advised him about his rights. I told him
what some of his rights were. As a Paralegal I cannot
give legal advice. I cannot practice before the bar,
and I can't charge outrageous sums if I help people
with their legal work. I cannot do legal work per se.
But I can handle my own cases and I do as a

C: "Good for you."

R-B: "As a professional Paralegal I can handle my own
cases. I recently took a police officer to Federal
Court and they settled out of court, and I more or
less won that case through settling out of court. I
advised my son to file a lawsuit based on the fact
that he, that he's 18. These people violated his
rights in all three counties. They violated my
children's First Amendment Rights, free speech, the
Fourth Amendment Rights, their Fifth Amendment Rights,
their Ninth Amendment Rights, and their 14th Amendment
Rights. You have this book - by the way, one of my
distant relatives is a California State Assemblymen that's right, that's right, I've power behind my

My son found the lawsuit based on the
Constitution of The United States of America and the
Constitution of the State of California.

He filed his lawsuit based on the fact that these
people The state of California Constitution which
states: Article 1, Section 1 which reads ["All people
by nature free and independent and have inalienable
rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life
and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting
property and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness,
and privacy. So my son, this right of his was
violated, his life, his right to enjoy and defend life
and liberty, protecting property, and pursuing and
obtaining safety and happiness and privacy. My son is
suing on that Constitutional Amendment - The
Constitutional of the State of California.
Article 1 - Section 1. And then he's suing under the
grounds of his First Amendment Right which is
[Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech.]

Now let me stop right there and tell you something. My
son never had a chance. None of my children ever had a
chance. My son never had a chance to go into Juvenile
Dependency Court and tell these people what he wanted,
how he felt. "No, I don't want to be in this system, I
want to go home with my mother." "He told the Juvenile
Dependency District Attorney for the Juvenile
Dependency Court, he told that woman; I'll say her
name too cause I don't care if she sues me and she
can't sue because this is a fact. Her name is Penelope
Blake. Penny Blake. My son kept telling her always
kept telling Penny Blake "I want to go home. I want to
go home. I want to be with my mother. I want to be
with my mother." And the last thing I remember of my
son every time I went to visit my son and when the
visit was over he would scream and cry and shout and
say "Mommy, Mommy, I want you back. Mommy, Mommy, I
want you back. I don't want to go with these people."

That was traumatizing for my son to have gone through
that. He's suing on that ground, he's suing on his
Fourth Amendment right, which is seizures, searches,
and warrants. The right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and affects against
unreasonable searches, and seizures shall not be
violated and no warrants shall issue but on probable
cause supported by oath or affirmation and
particularly describing the place to be searched and
the persons or things to be seized. Now let me stop
right there and explain something. When these people
came into our house in March 2001 they illegally went
into my son's bedroom. This was his private bedroom.
They stole my holographic will that my fiancÈe had
hand wrote for me plus they stole They didn't get
their hands on the grant deed because I still have the
original copy to the grant deed of his house. When my
fiance was diagnosed with lung cancer in the right
lung we knew he didn't have much time to live but I
was almost sure that he was going to live at least 3
to 5 years longer than what the doctor had diagnosed
him as living. They only gave him one year. I didn't
believe it because we were praying over him. I had him
on a good diet. He was eating fresh vegetables,
fruits. I didn't have him eating a whole lot of meat.
We were eating salads. I tried to get him to quit
smoking but he wouldn't quit smoking. When they did
this to us, when they raided our house, on top of it
all that they never had a search warrant signed by a
judge, and dated by a judge. They never showed me a
search warrant. So my son sued them on his Fourth
Amendment violations."

C: "Exactly."

R-B: "He sued them under his Fifth Amendment Violation
which states: [Criminal proceedings, and condemnation
of property. The Fifth Amendment is no person shall be
held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous
crime. Unless on a presentment or indictment of a
grand jury except in cases arising in the land or
Naval Forces between the militia. We need an actual
service in time of war, a public danger. Nor shall any
person be subject for the same offense to be twice put
in jeopardy of life or limb. This is where the catch

"Nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a
witness against himself. Nor be deprived of life,
liberty, or property without due process of law." Let
me stop right there. He sued on the ground that says
"Nor be deprived of live, liberty, or property without
due process of law." One fault that the Juvenile
Dependency Court has is that they always violate
people's Fifth Amendment Right by not allowing them
proper due process of law and they deprive the
children of their life, liberty, and being with their
families. So my son sued under his Fifth Amendment
right and the Ninth Amendment and the 14th Amendment.

The 14th Amendment reads:
[All persons born in the United States are subject to
the jurisdiction of the United States where they
reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which
shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens
of The United States. Nor shall any State deprive any
person of life, liberty, or property without due
process of law. Nor deny to any person within its
jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.] And
that's exactly what these counties have done to all
three of my children; was deprive them of their rights
- constitutional rights. Therefore my son found his
lawsuit based on Constitutional rights and State of
California Constitution, Article 1 Section 1."

C: "Now with this lawsuit what are you hoping to
achieve then?"

R-B: "My son hopes to get into a trial level. He wants
a trial where we can explain to the jury. All three of
my children are going to get up on the stand and
explain to the jury how they were treated in foster
care, how they went from satellite homes, then to
foster care and they ran away. All three of my kids
ended up running away. Do you know that, this is a
fact. My public defender that I had for over ten
years, same public Defender and I'm going to say his
name. Howard Siegel S-I-E-G-E-L. He told me "Rebecca,
your children are gonna eventually gonna run away" and
I didn't believe him, I said "Oh no, no, they're not.
I'm gonna get them back, before they even do that
Howard." I couldn't believe it. I never got my
children back the right way. They ended up running
away. As a direct result, all three of my children
never graduated from high school, and they all have
felonies on their records. That's right before the age
of 18, they all had felonies when they were minors.

So I have had it with this system. I advised my
children, that when they turned 18 they could file
their lawsuit. My daughter was all mentally deranged,
emotionally a wreck. So was my older son, he was
emotionally, mentally, and spiritually a wreck; both
him and her. The youngest son was my last hope to file
this lawsuit and by the grace of God we filed it on
April 4, 2002. In Federal Court, in the United States,
District Court for the Northern District of
California. I'm eager to find out this week about the
Judge's decision on whether or not he will accept the
lawsuit. If he accepts the lawsuit, then my son will
not have to pay filing fees for the lawsuit. Jesus
its 4 o'clock. They're gonna tow my car, why don't
you keep these"

After the interview with Rebecca, I realized that her
love for her children is simply relentless and
unconditional. The determination in her heart to be
reunited with them is the driving force and hope
behind her powerful spirit. The celebration of the
bond between a mother and her children will soon be
honored on Mother's Day, as it approaches. However, I
am encouraged by Rebecca to not only show my love for
my mother on a designated day of the year, but

Email Contact :
Rebecca Barraza-Aanestad:


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