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Barron v. Washington County Children and Youth Social Service Agency

April 11, 2006

RUTH VIRGINIA BARRON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON COUNTY CHILDREN AND YOUTH SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCY, CHRISTY CROSS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS CASEWORKER II FOR WASHINGTON COUNTY CHILDREN AND YOUTH SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCY, FAMILY CARE FOR CHILDREN & YOUTH, INC., DEBORAH A. MCALLISTER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF FAMILY CARE FOR CHILDREN & YOUTH, INC., JAMIE L. LEGAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS SUPERVISOR FOR FAMILY CARE FOR CHILDREN & YOUTH, INC., AND TAMARA SMITH, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS CASE MANAGER FOR FAMILY CARE FOR CHILDREN & YOUTH, INC., DEFENDANTS.



ELECTRONICALLY FILED

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), filed by Defendants Family Care for Children & Youth, Inc. ("FCCY"), Deborah A. McAllister, Jamie L. Legas and Tamara Smith.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, the Motion is denied.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Factual Background*fn2

In 2002, Plaintiff Ruth Virginia Barron became an approved foster parent with Defendant Family Care for Children & Youth, Inc. ("FCCY"), and Washington County Children and Youth Social Service Agency ("CYS.") Keith Crawford, whose parental custody had been severed in a court action brought by CYS, was placed in Ms. Barron's care as of August 2002 under an agreement between Plaintiff and FCCY.

Soon after Ms. Barron took custody of Keith, she noticed aberrant behavior she believed was related to the fact that the eleven-year old child had been prescribed six different medications by Dr. Farheen Fahim, a psychiatrist. When Keith later developed an ulcer, his pediatrician ordered all but one of the psychiatric medications be stopped. Ms. Barron subsequently noticed "a vast improvement" in the child's mental functioning. He also "began to disclose disturbing recollections of his previous foster home, along with his memory of Dr. Fahim pressuring him to believe that his parents had sexually abused him." (Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Defendants' . . . Motion to Dismiss, Docket No. 19, "Plf.'s Brief," at 3-4.)

During the next visit to Dr. Fahim, when Keith began crying uncontrollably, Ms. Barron stated that she wanted to remain with him during his examination. She also attempted to explain the changes in medication and Keith's perception of his prior treatment. Ms. Barron was ordered out of the room and, when Keith continued to cry, was told to take the child with her.

Pursuant to the foster care agreement, Ms. Barron reported the incident at Dr. Fahim's office and her conclusions about the child's over-medication to both CYS and FCCY. Ms. Christy Cross, a caseworker for CYS,*fn3 and/or Ms. McAllister, Ms. Legas, and Ms. Smith, informed Plaintiff that Keith would not be returned to his natural parents despite his wish to do so, accused her and the child of lying, and threatened to remove him from her care if she did not refill the medications. Soon thereafter, Ms. Barron received a letter from Ms. Legas questioning her compliance with the FCCY policy regarding twenty-four supervision of the child. Plaintiff admits that the letter was not threatening per se, but contends that it "clearly conveyed the strong recommendation that Ms. Barron adhere to company policy and served as notice that her foster parent activities, now suspect, were subject to even stricter scrutiny." (Plf.'s Brief at 5.)

Prior to a parental rights hearing scheduled for mid-September 2003, Ms. Barron filed a sworn affidavit with the Orphans Court describing the situation, and expressing a desire for both herself and Keith to testify. Neither Ms. Barron nor the child was allowed to testify at the hearing. Shortly after filing the affidavit, however, Ms. Barron met with Ms. McAllister on September 16, 2003, to discuss concerns that Plaintiff was not following FCCY policies, in particular the fact that she discontinued the child's medication without informing FCCY or CYS, a claim Ms. Barron denied. She was also criticized for filing the affidavit in which she "put FCCY down."

Ms. Barron subsequently learned Dr. Fahim had reported the office incident to CYS and FCCY, and expressed her opinion that Plaintiff was senile and no longer fit to provide foster care. Plaintiff also discovered that someone had reported her to CYS and FCCY for allowing another adult (allegedly a prior felon) to live with her in violation of FCCY policy. Ms. Barron contends that neither of those allegations was true.

On September 24, 2003, Ms. Legas arrived at Ms. Barron's home and explained that she was there to remove Keith because he was in danger, i.e., living in the same home with a felon. Despite Ms. Barron's insistence that no one else was living at the house except herself and Keith, Ms. Legas searched the home until she discovered the belongings of the alleged houseguest. Although Ms. Barron explained that he was simply storing his possessions there temporarily, she was accused of lying and the child was forcibly removed against his will.

Ms. Barron unsuccessfully appealed Keith's removal from her care. On October 29, 2003, Ms. Legas advised Plaintiff that FCCY was revoking Ms. Barron's eligibility as an approved foster parent with their agency. Plaintiff believes Defendants have since spread false rumors about her fitness as a foster parent to child care agencies in neighboring counties.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed suit in this Court on October 31, 2005, alleging violation of her rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, intentional interference with an economic opportunity, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants filed the subject motion to dismiss on February 6, 2006. (Motion to ...


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