Chandler couple sue over kids’ removal The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler couple sue over kids’ removal

Chandler couple sue over kids’ removal
City News

By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

A Chandler couple whose sick child was forcibly removed from their home last year after choosing not to take them to the hospital is suing city and state officials for violating their constitutional rights.

Brooks Bryce and Sarah Beck filed a lawsuit in federal court last month that accuses Chandler and Arizona Department of Child Safety officials of “unlawfully” taking custody of their three children during a series of chaotic events in February 2019.

The couple’s case attracted extensive media coverage after videos and photos of Chandler Police raiding the family’s home went viral.

State lawmakers condemned the incident and it reignited a political debate about how much power social workers should have when it comes to protecting vulnerable children.

Bryce and Beck are seeking at least $2 million in damages for the emotional distress they claim they suffered as their children were taken away.

“They want to stand up and make it known these guys were horrible in their treatment of this family,” said Shawn McMillan, the family’s attorney. “It never should have happened.”

The incident began Feb. 25, 2019 after the couple’s 2-year-old son spiked a fever of 101 degrees.

Beck did not think he was in immediate danger and elected not to take him to the hospital, according to the lawsuit.

Out of an abundance of caution, Beck had the boy examined at the offices of naturopath Jaclyn Bain, who doesn’t hold a medical license in Arizona.

Bain’s assistant first got a reading of 102 degrees. Then Bain herself purportedly got a temperature reading of 104 degrees from the child.

The rising temperature prompted Bain to instruct Beck to take her child to a hospital for treatment.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys have called into question Bain’s temperature reading, deeming it “erroneous” and illogical when compared to all the other readings done on the child.

Beck claims she checked her son’s temperature after leaving Bain’s office and got a reading of 101 degrees, court documents state.

Because it appeared to Beck her child was not sick enough to warrant a hospital visit, the mother elected not to follow Bain’s advice.

“Given (the child’s) rapidly improving condition, Beck did not want an expensive and unnecessary hospital bill,” the lawsuit states.

As the child’s symptoms continued to subside, Beck called Bain to inform her she wouldn’t be taking the toddler to the hospital. Bain did not agree and reported the couple to DCS.

Arizona law requires most medical workers to report suspected instances of child abuse. If they don’t, then they could become subject to criminal enforcement or have their license suspended.

Some states specifically require naturopaths to report abuse, but Arizona’s list of mandatory reporters doesn’t include naturopathic practitioners like Bain.

On the night of Feb. 25, the family invited a friend who is a registered nurse to come to their home and examine the boy. The nurse determined his health was not in danger and did not recommend taking him to a hospital.

Around midnight, Chandler Police visited the family’s home and asked to come inside. The parents told the officers their son was feeling better and not in any danger, then invoked their right to not have police officers search their home without a warrant.

A court order filed by DCS was signed by a judge shortly after midnight and allowed authorities to take custody of the boy. 

The plaintiffs argue the court order was obtained “fraudulently” because social workers gave the judge misleading information.

For example, DCS claimed Beck had not attempted to obtain a second medical opinion about her child’s health and insisted the family refused to talk to police officers.

After obtaining the court order, officers donned tactical armor and stormed the family’s home.

Beck, who was pregnant at the time, claims officers pointed weapons at her as they seized custody of her sick son.

Chandler Police have previously said the forced entry was necessary in order to tend to a child who may have had a dangerous illness and that officers were acting under legal authority of a court order.

But the family claims the boy’s medical condition was not severe enough to justify the presence of law enforcement.

Paramedics at the scene evaluated the child and determined he only had a 100-degree fever.

Despite the child’s mild symptoms, a DCS social worker instructed officers to seize custody of the couple’s two other children even though the court order only allowed them to take the sick child.

DCS later filed a petition in court arguing the agency had authority to take all the family’s children without a warrant because the couple’s home was “too dirty,” court records show.

More specifically, social workers claim they observed crumbs on the floor and clothes piled up in the family’s living area.

The plaintiffs believe these conditions don’t validate the unwarranted seizure of someone’s children.

“These are clearly not conditions that pose any risk of serious bodily injury or death, let alone the immediate risk of serious bodily injury or death that is required in order to lawfully seize a child without a warrant,” the lawsuit states.

The couple further fault police officers for not questioning the unwarranted seizure of the couple’s two other children.

The three children were later placed in foster homes and authorities tried filing criminal charges against Beck and Bryce.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute them for child abuse, citing the unlikelihood of obtaining a conviction.

All three children were reunited with their parents a couple months later. In July 2019, the Maricopa County Juvenile Court dismissed a dependency case against Beck and Bryce.

The parents claim they were subjected to months of emotional distress over a situation that turned out to be minor.

“All that was ever proven was that (the child) had a mild fever and a common cold – which his mother was addressing with an appropriate level of concern and care,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses police of excessive force, unwarranted seizures, judicial deception and unlawful deception.

McMillan said this case demonstrates how Arizona tends to overreact to an abuse allegation without getting all the facts first.

There was no emergency at any time, the lawyer said, and the confrontation could have been avoided through some simple communication between DCS and the family.

“There’s just a lot of ways this could have been resolved without the heavy-fisted hand of the government,” he said.

The city declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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