Lancaster abuse case: Family of Anthony Avalos files $50 million lawsuit against DCFS

The family of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died from abuse filed a $50 million lawsuit Thursday against Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services and an outside agency that worked with the department in the case.

The lawsuit alleges that DCFS and Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services had more than a dozen reports of suspected child abuse in the case of Anthony Avalos and yet did not take action to remove him from his home.

Anthony's mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareen Leiva, are charged with torturing the boy, who died in 2017 after suffering five or six days of sustained abuse, authorities said.

The family and their attorney, Brian Claypool, claim social workers with Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services were aware of problems and violated laws that require them to immediately report any suspected child abuse.

"DCFS knows that Hathaway-Sycamores breaks the law and they don't report suspected child abuse. And yet, they continue to use them," said Claypool at a press conference Thursday.

RELATED: Attorney, relatives demand criminal investigation of social workers in death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos

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An attorney representing relatives of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died from abuse is demanding a criminal investigation of the social workers involved in the case.



Claypool added that DCFS turned a blind eye to reports from law enforcement agencies and school teachers of Anthony being physically and sexually abused.

A crowd gathered at the DCFS offices in Koreatown to demand accountability from the department and its social workers, chanting "Justice for Anthony."

An internal DCFS document reveals that in May 2016, Anthony's mother had been declared "unable or unwilling to protect the child from serious harm, including physical and sexual abuse," according to the Claypool Law Firm.

The department is also facing similar claims in the separate cases of two other children, Gabriel Fernandez and Noah Cuatro, who also allegedly died despite a number of red flags that indicated physical and sexual abuse.

Officials with DCFS issued a statement which says in part: "... All DCFS employees are held in the highest standards to ensure the public's trust but we cannot make any comment on any pending lawsuit."

Claypool also called on the U.S. Attorney General to launch a federal civil rights investigation into DCFS.
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