Mother gets $4.9-million award in O.C. custody case

A Seal Beach woman who says social workers improperly wrested her two young daughters from her custody has won a $4.9-million verdict against the Orange County Department of Social Services.

Authorities on Tuesday described it as possibly the largest loss of its kind in the agency's history.

Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick, the mother, alleged in a lawsuit that in February 2000 social workers "intentionally misinformed the court" that she told her children, who were 9 and 6, that their father was trying to take them away from her.

Her lawyer, Shawn A. McMillan, said that led to the court's decision to remove the children and place them in Orangewood Children's Home for a month and for another two months in foster care. In the two years after that, he said, the children remained in the custody of their father, with monitored visits from Fogarty-Hardwick. He said the parents now have joint custody of the children.

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