Arizona Wants Immunity for Social Workers Who Allowed Child Sex Abuser to Remain a Licensed Foster Parent to Sexually Traffick Children

  • June 11, 2023

Foster and adopted children sexually abused by David Frodsham. Trever Frodsham (left), Devani (center), and Ryan Frodsham (right).

by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News

One of the most horrific stories Health Impact News has ever covered involving child sex trafficking through the foster care system is a story we have been following and reporting on in Arizona since 2017.

It started with the story of Devani, a 2-year-old child who was removed from the family who loved her, simply because the mother had a previous history of drug abuse, and then was put into the home of David Frodsham, a top civilian commander at Fort Huachuca, a major Army installation in Arizona, where 2-year-old Devani became part of a pedophile ring and was repeatedly raped.

David Frodsham was eventually arrested and is currently in prison, but Devani was not placed back with her family, but with another foster family, where 80% of her body was burned. See:

Arizona Child Removed from Loving Family and Placed into Foster Care Where She was Repeatedly Raped – then 80% of Body Burned

This story is so horrible, that the national corporate media has also reported on it, and last year (April, 2022), Michael Rezendes, writing for the Associated Press, provided new details of the Frodsham child sex trafficking ring operating through the Arizona Foster Care system, as three of his adopted sons came forward to file lawsuits for the years that they too were sexually abused and trafficked.

(David) Frodsham pleaded guilty to sex abuse charges in 2016 and is serving a 17-year sentence. But records reviewed by the AP show that the U.S. Army and the state of Arizona missed or ignored multiple red flags over more than a decade, which allowed Frodsham to allegedly abuse his adopted son and other children for years, all the while putting national security at risk.

The state permitted Frodsham and his wife, Barbara, to foster, adopt and retain custody of their many children despite nearly 20 complaints, and attempted complaints, of abuse, neglect, maltreatment and licensing violations. Meanwhile, the Army gave Frodsham security clearances and sensitive jobs at a time when his illicit sexual practices made him vulnerable to blackmail.

Frodsham, former Sgt. Randall Bischak and a third man not associated with the Army are all serving prison terms for the roles they played in the child sex abuse ring. But the investigation is continuing because Sierra Vista police believe additional men took part.

Now, the criminal investigation is spilling over into civil court, where two of Frodsham’s adopted sons have filed separate lawsuits against the state for licensing David and Barbara Frodsham as foster parents in a home where they say they were physically and sexually abused throughout their lives.

A third adopted son filed suit Tuesday in Arizona state court in Cochise County, said attorney Lynne Cadigan, who represents all three. In the latest complaint, 19-year-old Trever Frodsham says case workers missed or overlooked numerous signs that David and Barbara Frodsham were unfit parents.

These included a 2002 sex abuse complaint filed with local police by one of the Frodshams’ biological daughters against an older biological brother, and the fact that David and Barbara Frodsham were themselves victims of child sex abuse. (Full article.)

And while David Frodsham is currently serving out his term in prison, the people employed by the State of Arizona and tasked with protecting Arizona foster children, who ignored complaints against the Frodshams for years, have not been punished yet for their complicit crimes to allow this evil system to continue.

One of the adopted Frodsham boys, Trever Frodsham, has filed a suit against the State of Arizona, but Joe Duhownik of Courthouse News Service reported last week that the State of Arizona is claiming that the caseworkers should have “immunity” for their crimes in allowing this pedophile ring to not only exist, but be funded by the State of Arizona for years now.

Arizona claims immunity in negligence case over foster home sex abuse

One of the many victims of a former civilian army leader’s sex abuse ring asked a federal judge to find the state negligent in placing him in the man’s care.

A child sex abuse victim argued for partial summary judgment Friday in a negligence suit against the state of Arizona over its placement of foster children.

Trever Frodsham says the state and its cooperating agencies were grossly negligent in placing Trever and his siblings in the care of former civilian army leader David Frodsham and leaving him there despite numerous complaints of abuse and sexual misconduct.

He says his foster father sexually abused him from age 2 to age 14, when David Frodsham was arrested in 2016. He’s currently serving a 17-year prison sentence for leading a sex abuse ring, forcing multiple children he fostered to perform sex acts on both him and his friends, sometimes in the presence of his wife, Barbara. Both he and Barbara are named as defendants as well in the civil case against the state.

The state allowed the couple to retain custody of their foster children and later adopt them despite nearly 20 complaints of misconduct. Arizona says in its reply to the 2022 lawsuit that Catholic Community Services and Arizona Partnership for Children, the agencies that aid the Arizona Department of Child Services in placement of foster kids, investigated each complaint but couldn’t substantiate any of them until David Frodsham was arrested.

Trever, now 20, moved for summary judgment in November on the counts pertaining to the state’s negligence, leaving claims of assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and more to be decided by a jury.

The state countered his motion in December, arguing that both it and the caseworkers responsible for Trever’s foster family have qualified immunity. Because the decisions to place and keep him in David Frodsham’s home required the exercise of professional judgment and discretion, the state says those caseworkers cannot be held liable for making a call they thought was in the best interest of the child.

“There’s no reason a caseworker shouldn’t have qualified immunity, otherwise we’re always gonna be in court,” state attorney Mark Lammers said in a Friday morning hearing. “The caseworker is in a tough spot sometimes and has to make tough professional calls.” (Full article.)

The state attorney, Mark Lammers, does not have strong legal case law on his side when he states “There’s no reason a caseworker shouldn’t have qualified immunity, otherwise we’re always gonna be in court.”

“Qualified immunity,” however, is not a blanket rule that can be invoked to cover up negligence and abuse by those employed by the state to wrongfully kidnap children from loving families and put them into the homes of known pedophiles at the expense of taxpayers funding the Child Welfare system.

When that happens, as it clearly did in this story, they shouldalways be in court.”

Kentucky mother Nikkie Holliday and her daughter. Image source.

In Kentucky, Senior Judge William Bertlesman has ruled twice in recent years that “qualified immunity” could not be claimed in cases where social workers were negligent in protecting children who were in the custody of the State, and one of those cases was upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, setting legal precedence.

Judy Clabes, writing for the Northern Kentucky Tribune, reported in 2020 that Senior Judge William Bertlesman of the U.S. District Court in Covington ruled that social workers are not entitled to qualified immunity in their case with Maureen ‘Nikkie’ Holliday versus the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

As “qualified immunity” for police and other public employees comes to the forefront nationally, the practice as it applies to state social workers has been dealt another blow in the U.S. District Court in Covington by Senior Judge William Bertlesman.

The judge has ruled in the case of Maureen ‘Nikkie’ Holliday versus the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services social workers who imposed a restrictive “Prevention Plan” the single mom was coerced into signing. It required her to have strictly supervised contact with her four-year-old daughter. The threatened penalty was foster care for her child.

Bertleman has ruled that Holliday’s due process claims and her emotional distress claims are legitimate and that the social workers are not entitled to qualified immunity.

Holliday is a single mother and an army combat veteran. She worked two jobs and was going to school at the time of her unfortunate experience with CHFS, so her daughter was enrolled in a Florence daycare center. She has since graduated from the University of Cincinnati (in social work) and is working with a homeless veterans’ group.

Her daughter had a bruise on her buttocks that she said she got when another child at the daycare bit her. When the daycare was alerted to the bite, they involved the Cabinet and social worker Alecia Leigh took charge and threatened to take the daughter into custody on the spot if Holliday did not sign the Prevention Plan agreement. She signed under duress.

As required, Holliday took her daughter to Children’s Hospital to be examined and the discharge instructions read:

“AH (the child) was seen and evaluated by the emergency department. She explained that she was ‘bitten on the butt’ by her friend Lola. My exam was consistent with bite marks on both butt cheeks. The marks were simply minor bruises and no puncture marks. There were no other injuries noted. AH otherwise appears to be a healthy and happy child. Images were taken for her medical record.”

Despite this report, Holliday endured several months under the “Prevention Plan’s” restrictions while the Cabinet proceeded to question Holliday’s friends, family and associates and questioned two young cousins at school. Holliday and her daughter lived in three homes over that period, were denied their normal family support system — and Holliday feared losing her jobs and falling behind in school.

On December 27, 2016, Leigh and her supervisor Danielle Sneed decided to close the case as “unsubstantiated” though Holliday was not notified until January 13, 2017. (Source.)

Ms. Holliday then sued CHFS and the social workers.

Holliday’s attorney Paul Hill filed suit against Alecia Leigh, Danielle Sneed and ‘Jane Does(s),’ supervisors and others in the CHFS.

Bertlesman writes in his opinion that “there was no compelling purpose to impose restrictions on Holliday,” that Leigh misrepresented her legal authority, and that Sneed acquiesced to the alleged deprivation of Holliday’s constitutional rights.

“Qualified official immunity applies to the negligent performance by a public officer or employee of (1) discretionary acts or functions, i.e., those involving the exercise of discretion and judgment, or personal deliberation, decision, and judgment; (2) in good faith; and (3) within the scope of the employee’s authority. . .

“Given that. . the defendant’s actions violated a clearly established constitutional right, defendants are not entitled to state-law qualified immunity. . .”

Bertlesman denied the social workers’ claims related to Holliday’s “substantive and procedural due process claims,” as well as her IIED (intentional infliction of emotional distress) claim.

The decision means that the lawsuit can proceed to a jury trial. (Source.)

Holly and David Schulkers. Image source.

This was the second time that Judge Bertlesman had ruled against qualified immunity of social workers abusing parental rights and illegally removing children from their home.

The other case involved Holly and David Schulkers, in Schulkers v. Kammer, and his judgment in that case denying qualified immunity to social workers was upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, setting forth important legal precedence.

Judy Clabes of the Northern Kentucky Tribune reported on that story as well.

A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling was cause for celebration at the Fort Thomas home of Holly and David Schulkers and five of their children, as the court ruled in their favor in a lawsuit against individual social workers for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The lawsuit involves the social workers’ mishandling of the drug test of a new mom’s urine sample – a “false positive” for opiates – that extended into threats of sending their children into foster care and onerous rules saying Holly could not be with her children alone in her own home.

Federal District Judge William Bertlesman in February 2019 denied “qualified immunity” for the social workers at a hearing in Covington on one count in the couple’s lawsuit and upheld it on another count. The Cabinet and the social workers, Elizabeth Kammer and Alison Campbell, appealed.

But the Sixth Circuit judges – Martha Craig Daughtrey, Eric Clay, and Richard Griffin – unanimously said the social workers should not have qualified immunity on either count which can send the Schulkers’ case to a jury trial for damages.

In a nutshell, with a lot of twists and turns:

Holly Schulkers is a busy mom and stepmom to six young children, including the baby born in February 2017 and five others, aged 9-14. At St. Elizabeth Hospital for the birth of the baby, she unknowingly had a urine test that was “presumptive positive” for opiates (perhaps her doctor noted on her chart because she consumed a snack with poppy seeds on it and “poppy seeds are among the products that can cause a false positive on a drug screen”).

She was breastfeeding her healthy baby. Meanwhile, the baby’s umbilical cord was sent for testing. Without waiting for the results of that test or a second urine test and a follow-up hair follicle test, all of which were later negative for drugs, the hospital social worker entered “Substance Use Disorder” on Holly’s chart and reported the “positive drug screen” electronically to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Enter social workers – and Holly’s nightmare. Kammer and Campbell told the Schulkers they could not take the baby home unless they signed a “Prevention Plan” that required that Holly not be left alone with any of the children at any time.

Meantime, in full knowledge of the new test results, Kammer and another CHFS employee went to the children’s schools and had the Schulkers’ children – without the parents’ permission – brought into a private room one by one – with no school personnel present – and asked them about “mommy’s drug use.” The children were understandably upset.

Despite repeated requests, the conditions of the “Prevention Plan” were not lifted until two months after the Schulkers left the hospital, at which time the case was marked “unsubstantiated.” (Full story here.)

This represents a trend in the federal courts in recent years of “piercing through the veil” of “qualified immunity” for social workers who behave badly and take advantage of their government positions to kidnap children and participate in child trafficking with no legal consequences.

Similar cases have been litigated in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco, which has jurisdiction over the State of Arizona.

In 2018 in the U.S. 9th Circuit a family in Arizona had their children removed from their home without a warrant, simply because they had taken photos of their 3 children after a bath when they were laying on a towel naked.

They went to develop the photos at a Walmart, and an employee reported them to the police.

The police investigation was extensive, including medical and forensic exams of the children looking for sexual abuse, as well as obtaining a warrant to search the family’s home, where police “seized all the evidence that might be relevant to a child pornography investigation: computers, printers, photographs, cell phones, undeveloped film, floppy discs, DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, and cameras.”

Police found no evidence of wrongdoing, so no charges were filed against the parents, and the children were returned home.

Police detective John Krause wrote in his report:

 “[a]pparently after the forensic interviews and medical exams were completed, [Child Protective Services] declined to remove the children from the parent’s custody, and had directed [his partner] to return the girls to Lisa and A.J.”

According to court records:

None of the photographs portrayed children engaged in sexual activity. None portrayed the children’s genitalia frontally.

The parents stated they simply wanted the photos to look back at years later to see how “cute” the children were.

The matter should have ended after the investigation, but it did not.

Child Protective Services (“CPS”) investigating officer Laura Pederson discussed the case with Detective Krause, according to court records, and decided to drive over to the house and take the children into custody.

The ruling of the court was made by a 3-judge panel at the 9th Circuit. Judge Marsha S. Berzon was the leading concurring judge.

The court stated:

As this court has stated repeatedly, families have a “well-elaborated constitutional right to live together without governmental interference.”

Wallis v. Spencer, 202 F.3d 1126, 1136 (9th Cir. 2000); accord Kirkpatrick v. Cty. of Washoe, 843 F.3d 784, 789 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc); Burke v. Cty. of Alameda, 586 F.3d 725, 731 (9th Cir. 2009); Rogers v. Cty. of San Joaquin, 487 F.3d 1288, 1294 (9th Cir. 2007); Mabe v. San Bernardino Cty., 237 F.3d 1101, 1107 (9th Cir. 2001); Ram v. Rubin, 118 F.3d 1306, 1310 (9th Cir. 1997).

Judge Marsha S. Berzon in her concurring opinion addressed the issue of traumatizing children by removing them from their home:

I concur in the per curiam opinion in full. I write separately to emphasize why it is essential that the courts scrupulously guard a child’s constitutional right to remain at home absent a court order or true exigency.

Taking a child from his or her home, family, and community constitutes a separate trauma, in and of itself. Our cases so recognize, and so ordinarily permit that trauma to occur only after a court determination that the alternative is worse.

The fact that the Demaree family’s constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment were violated by removing their children from their home without a warrant was apparently not in dispute in this appeal.

The parents had already successfully sued the police officer, John Krause, who settled out of court.

The courts have consistently ruled against law enforcement who remove children from homes without a warrant issued by a judge. The law and court cases defining the exceptions where a warrant is not needed, where the children’s lives are in imminent danger and there would be no time to get a warrant, are clear, and were quoted in this decision also.

However, most states have “qualified immunity” laws for social workers, under the justification that when a child is in danger, it is better to err on the side of caution.

In this 9th Circuit ruling, however, the court ruled that social workers are not above the law and do not have the right to violate the Constitution. The Demarees claimed that CPS social workers violated their constitutional rights:

The Demarees, on behalf of themselves and their children, claim Pederson and Van Ness violated their clearly established constitutional rights when Pederson removed the children from the home without a court order and absent an emergency.

The 9th Circuit Court agreed:

Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the Demarees, the social workers did not have reasonable cause to believe the children were at risk of serious bodily harm or molestation.

Pederson and Van Ness did not represent that the Demaree children might “again be beaten or molested,” Rogers, 487 F.3d at 1294, if left in their home—the children were never beaten or molested in the first place.

The 9th circuit was very thorough in their opinion regarding the 4th and 14th Amendments and how social workers cannot violate the Constitution even if state laws offer “qualified immunity.” They quoted many other cases as precedent:

In 2007, the year before the events in this case took place, Rogers held that a social worker violated a family’s clearly established federal rights by removing children with no warrant because of reports that a three-year-old and five-year old “were not toilet-trained, were locked in their rooms at night and in a room at their parents’ business during the day, were not receiving medical or dental care, that [one] had lost his teeth due to bottle rot, that [the other] was still being fed with a bottle, that their home was dirty and maggot-infested, and that there were unsecured guns in the home.” Rogers, 487 F.3d at 1291.

The social worker in that case “could have obtained a warrant within hours,” and “[t]here [was] no indication in the record that so short a delay could have resulted in a significant worsening of the children’s physical conditions or an increase in the prospects of long-term harm.”

Id. at 1295. One child’s “‘pain’ was not so serious that he ceased to be ‘playful’ and ‘alert,’” the physical risk the children faced from being locked in a room for the time it would take to obtain a warrant was “very low,” and “the mess in the Rogers living quarters . . . was a chronic, ongoing problem.”

Even in the face of this significant accumulation of neglect and bodily harm, which all parties agreed had resulted in bodily injury to the small children, we held that there was no reasonable cause to believe an exigency supported the children’s warrantless removal. Id. at 1296. We concluded that their removal therefore violated their clearly established rights. Id. (Full article.)

Hopefully these poor Frodsham children who suffered for years in a pedophile foster home network sponsored by the State of Arizona will get the justice they deserve that resulted from the corrupt Arizona Child Welfare system.

But as we have documented numerous times over the years, Arizona is thoroughly corrupt and child traffickers are almost never  brought to justice in Arizona courts. See this comprehensive report we published about Arizona in 2019:

Is Arizona a Hub of Child Sex Trafficking? Why does Arizona Take the Highest Percentage of Children from their Homes?

See also:

Is Paul Petersen the Only Arizona Politician Trafficking Children? The Marshall Islands Scandal

If the Frodsham victims have any hope of seeing justice in their lawsuits against the State of Arizona for funding pedophile foster care networks, it will probably need to happen outside of Arizona in the U.S. 9th Circuit court of appeals in San Francisco.

Comment on this article at HealthImpactNews.com.

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The post Arizona Wants Immunity for Social Workers Who Allowed Child Sex Abuser to Remain a Licensed Foster Parent to Sexually Traffick Children first appeared on Vaccine Impact.

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