Sacramento County CPS sued over alleged child molestation

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 - 7:59 am

In 2011, Sacramento County Child Protective Services allowed three young children to be placed in their grandmother's home where a registered sex offender lived, records show.

Now the children's father is suing the county in Superior Court, saying the children were sexually assaulted by the man, Larry Gowan, who could not be reached for comment.

Sacramento County officials said confidentiality laws prevent them from commenting on the case. They have not replied in court to the lawsuit filed Jan. 28.

"While we cannot address this case, as a matter of policy, we do not place children in homes where sex offenders live," CPS Deputy Director Michelle Callejas said in a written statement.

In an interview with The Bee, the children's father said that he was admitted to a mental hospital after a CPS social worker called to tell him that his children had been sexually abused. He was so upset that he was worried about what he would do, he said.

"I was going to burn down CPS, I was going to beat down the grandmother, and I was going to take down Gowan," he said.

The Bee is withholding the names of the parents to protect the identities of their children, because they are alleged victims of sexual abuse.

The children – two girls, ages 3 and 6, and a boy, 7 – are in foster care in the county. Court records say they are receiving psychiatric care for the alleged sexual abuse.

According to a report filed in Family Court by a CPS social worker, the children's mother notified CPS in June 2011 that mental health issues were preventing her from taking care of her children. She signed a document giving temporary custody of the children to their maternal grandmother, the report says.

The report also noted that both the mother and the father had drug problems.

The grandmother's "live-in boyfriend" was Gowan, a registered sex offender, according to the report, which noted that Sacramento police had confirmed Gowan's status as a registered sex offender.

Based on the social worker's report, it appears that CPS first became aware of Gowan's background in August 2011, a month after the children's grandmother had received temporary custody. The agency received a report from a confidential source complaining about the placement of the children with their grandmother and Gowan.

But CPS did not move to take custody of the children until a month later. The agency took a renewed interest in the family and the younger children when their father got into a fight with the mother's 16-year-old son from a previous relationship, records show.

The boy told CPS that the father of the younger children started hitting him when he refused to turn off a television. The father told The Bee that the boy started the fight after he told him he couldn't go outside, an account supported by the boy's mother in court records.

CPS took custody of the three children and placed them in a foster home. In October 2011, a CPS social worker interviewed two of them; the third, age 2, could not speak.

One of them, the boy, who was 6 at the time, said Gowan touched his privates several times, records show.

CPS spokeswoman Laura McCasland said the agency checks a number of databases to make sure foster children are not placed with sex offenders.

An October 2011 report by the state auditor found that the listed addresses of more than 1,000 sex offenders matched those of foster care facilities across California. Some of those addresses were in Sacramento County, but a check by CPS showed no sex offenders were living with foster children, McCasland said at the time.

CPS agencies often rely on the state's Megan's Law website, even though various exemptions and limitations mean the site displays the full home address for less than half of the state's registered sex offenders, the auditor reported.

Gowan is not listed on the website, even though court and police records show he is a registered sex offender.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Brad Branan



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