Another UPDATE -
July 22: Child Protective Services is notified that a Tucson father intends to sue the agency for $5 million for its role in the death of his son.
July 27: The Arizona Daily Star writes a story about 4-year-old Fabian Silva, who on Jan. 27 slipped through CPS' fingers and into his grave.
July 29: An hour before he was scheduled to pick up his surviving son, the father is informed by CPS that his visit has been cancelled. No longer will he be allowed to see the boy without a caseworker being present.
Despite cries of retaliation, a CPS spokeswoman says this isn't about getting back at Oscar Silva for his lawsuit or the story. No, it's worse.
It's because the father had the temerity to talk with his son about how his little brother died.
"There were guidelines that existed about how there could be discussions with the child and those guidelines were there to prevent further trauma to the child," explained CPS spokeswoman Liz Barker Alvarez. "When those guidelines were not followed there was a concern of possible further trauma to the child."
What, more than the trauma of seeing your little brother go to his grave while CPS was supposed to be watching? More than the trauma of losing your brother even though you tried to warn somebody?
"It's business as usual," says Silva's attorney Jorge Franco, who has a string of successful wrongful-death suits against CPS. "They had the smoking gun in front of their face and they just choose not to follow the trail."
Stop me if you've heard this story before.
Fabian and his 8-year-old brother lived with their mother and her boyfriend, Alejandro Miguel Romero. On Oct. 31, seven weeks after Romero moved in, Fabian was hospitalized with a bleeding brain and bruises that two doctors suspected might have been the result of abuse.
CPS was called and - surprise! - found no problem. But then, CPS investigators didn't talk to the boys' maternal grandparents, who repeatedly called to report their suspicions that Romero was abusing the boy. And they didn't talk to the boys' aunt, who lived with the family at the time and would later tell police that Romero used drugs, hit Fabian for wetting the bed and allowed his own sons to beat the boy up.
And they apparently didn't talk to Fabian's day-care provider, who would have told them that Romero called the child "pee-pee boy." Or do a background check, which would have turned up Romero's encounters with police for fighting with the father of one girlfriend and threatening to snap the neck of another girlfriend's boss. Or take Silva seriously, when he asked for help.
As for the letter that Silva's 8-year-old son wrote in November, the one that said Romero spanks the boys nearly every day and that he's scared of the man, CPS wrote it off as coerced. The caseworker would later tell police that she asked the boy whether it was true and he said no, that his father told him to write it.
Three months later, Fabian was dead.
Romero has been charged with manslaughter and child abuse. He and the boys' mother have said Fabian died from a fall. Since then, CPS has taken custody of her surviving son. Silva, meanwhile, was allowed to see his son twice a week and every other weekend. Until now.
Now that he's suing CPS. Now that the boy saw the front-page Sunday story and asked his dad about it - and his dad answered.
CPS' Alvarez won't talk about why CPS now monitors Silva's visits, citing privacy. She also couldn't discuss Fabian. For that, we'll have to wait until a judge releases the records, as CPS has asked, or until Sept. 26, when they become open by law.
I, for one, would be fascinated to know how it is that CPS, the agency that walked away from Fabian, feels qualified to give parenting orders to Silva, the father who turned to CPS when the boy needed help.
And tragically didn't get it.
Reach Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8635.
CPS' parenting orders to Tucson man are absurd