CPS operator defends decision on Seth Ireland

February 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A call from the Fresno County jail may have been the last chance to save 10-year-old Seth Ireland. And Tuesday, a CPS worker defends her judgment that Seth wasn't in danger when she took the call.

Seth Ireland was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend four years ago. His father is now suing the county over what he believes were missed opportunities to protect his son.

A sheriff's deputy made that call to CPS three days before the beating that killed Seth Ireland. Rena Ireland and her boyfriend were trying to leave Seth and his half-brother at the jail. But the call taker decided CPS didn't need to take any action.

Seth Ireland's history with Child Protective Services dates back at least four months before his death -- to August 2008. A neighbor, a principal, and a nurse all believed they contacted CPS and the agency had two open referrals when a sheriff's deputy made the last call before the deadly beating that killed Seth. His mother and her boyfriend, Lebaron Vaughn, were trying to leave the 10-year-old and his half-brother at the jail. But Traci Morales filed the call as an "EVAL OUT" -- meaning no further investigation was necessary.

"Did that not cause you concern that for four months, there's ongoing complaints from various individuals about abuse and now the mother and boyfriend are dropping the children off at the sheriff's department the day after Christmas? Did you consider that when you did the 'EVAL OUT'?" asked Warren Paboojian, the attorney representing Seth's father, Joe Hudson.

"I provided the information to the deputy about the referrals," said CPS worker Traci Morales.

Morales says she believed the sheriff's deputy did all the necessary investigating before releasing the boys back to their mother. Three days later, Vaughn killed Seth.

Seth's father is suing CPS, claiming the agency ignored warning signs and allowed the murder to happen. His attorney outlined what he believes were missed opportunities and kept coming back to that night at the jail.

"But when you were evaluating this case to determine there was not going to be a further investigation, did you consider that past history?" Paboojian asked Morales.

"Yes," she said.

"And you still felt it didn't warrant CPS to go out there that night, on Dec. 26, to take a look at these kids?" Paboojian asked.

"Yes," Morales said.

Fresno County contends CPS followed procedures and agents did everything they were supposed to do in response to the calls on Seth and Jervon Ireland. And Morales specified that the deputy who called her was not reporting abuse or neglect at that time.


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