©2017  Shawn A. McMillan. All rights reserved.

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The threat came first: “If you don’t submit to me, you’ll never see your kids again.”

Then the Orange County social worker produced a document, telling her she must sign it.

Suddenly, Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick was faced with the social services version of a Solomonic choice: Sign a paper that says you’re a bad parent, or lose your children. Fogarty-Hardwick refused to sign it that day in 2000 and the very worst happened: Her two daughters, then ages 6 and 9, were placed in the Orangewood Children’s home and then in foster care.

“That’s when I thought, ‘OK, this is a nightmare,'” Fogarty-Hardwick said. “This is America.”

But last week, after a painful seven-y...

The Orange County Board of Supervisors may decide today whether the county will fight a record-breaking legal judgment it lost to a mother who said the Department of Social Services violated her parental rights.

At stake is a $4.5 million award decided by an Orange County Superior Court jury in March that found social workers fabricated negative evidence against Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick of Seal Beach.

The panel said Fogarty-Hardwick’s right to raise her children free of governmental interference had been violated and it also found the county negligent because if didn’t provide adequate training and supervision.

Attorneys for the county wouldn’t return phon...

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