A $50 million lawsuit aimed at prompting change has been filed against the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services on behalf of the family of Anthony Avalos, a boy from Lancaster, who died after being tortured and abused allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend last year, an attorney said Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, 10-year-old Anthony died despite at least 16 reports to DCFS about him suffering physical and sexual abuse at home. Heather Barron, and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva, are both facing the death penalty for the torture and killing of her little boy.
"He had so many dreams, he was such a loving and caring kid and all he ever did was protect his siblings," Maria Barron, Anthony's aunt, said at a news conference Thursday. "DCFS has really failed us, terribly, and hopefully this is a wake-up call for them so no more kids, not one more kid, has to go through this."
Attorney Brian Claypool, who represents Anthony's father, said he sent a written request to the U.S. Attorney General to launch a federal investigation into DCFS. Claypool claims DCFS employees were not properly trained, did not follow department guidelines and essentially turned a blind eye to protecting Anthony from the abuse and torture he sustained.
"It was heartbreaking to write this lawsuit. I was in tears finalizing this lawsuit. I couldn't believe the number of times, the multiple times DCFS workers had the chance to throw out a life vest to Anthony Avalos," Claypool said.
Along with providing information about why Anthony was not protected, Claypool said he hopes the investigation will also provide answers into the deaths of other Antelope Valley children who were also under the watch of DCFS social workers.
In July, 4-year-old Noah Cuatro died under suspicious circumstances after his parents reported he had drowned in the pool at their Palmdale apartment, but police later said the trauma on Noah's body was inconsistent with a drowning.
The boy's death left family member's questioning why Noah was never removed from his home despite a court order prior to his death.
In a written statement, DCFS Director Bobby Cagle addressed the claims made agains the department.
"All DCFS employees are held to the highest standards to ensure that the public trust in our service is honored and maintained," Cagle said. "We cannot comment on a pending claim, litigation, or lawsuit involving the Department at this time."