58°F
weather icon Clear

Parents of slain Las Vegas toddler sue foster care system

Updated August 14, 2019 - 5:20 am

A federal lawsuit filed this week on behalf of a toddler who died in the Clark County foster care system alleges that state and county officials routinely endanger the children they’re charged with protecting.

DaeVon Branon-Banks was taken from his parents, David Banks and Gabrielle Branon, in April 2017 after his mother was accused of driving while high with DaeVon in the car. The Clark County Department of Family Services placed him in a foster home.

In August 2017, 20-month-old DaeVon died from head injuries after his foster father, Craig Dickens, threw him across a room, police said. Dickens is serving a life sentence for the boy’s murder, and he and the boy’s foster mother, Diamond Ford, are defendants in the lawsuit.

The suit, filed by DaeVon’s parents, alleges that the heads of Clark County’s foster care system are aware of its deficiencies. It cited more than a decade of reviews and studies that found the services lacking, and claimed officials have not done sufficient work to improve them.

Defendants named in the lawsuit are Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Director Richard Whitley, Nevada Division of Child and Family Services Administrator Ross Armstrong, Clark County Manager Yolanda King and former Clark County Department of Family Services Director Tim Burch, as well as several caseworkers and supervisors.

Spokespersons for Health and Human Services and the county’s Family Services department said the agencies do not comment on pending litigation. A spokeswoman for Nevada Division of Child and Family Services said officials wanted to read the complaint before responding.

The 43-page lawsuit outlines several areas where it alleges “a deliberate indifference to the health and safety of the children” the defendants are obligated to protect.

DaeVon was placed in a home with “fictive kin” who, under Nevada law, are exempt from many of the requirements that licensed foster parents must meet, other than a criminal background check and verification that the home has fire and pool safety equipment.

“Fictive kin” refers to people who are not related by birth, marriage or adoption to a child but who have a strong emotional relationship with the child, like close family friends.

Federal regulations under the Social Security Act require that fictive kin meet the same standards as other caregivers.

The suit includes allegations that the state and county fail to provide foster caregivers background information on children’s health and behavioral history. It claims this leads to children in the system receiving poor medical and mental health care or being transferred between homes, causing more distress and lasting issues.

It also alleges that caseworkers are not adequately trained or supervised and are assigned overly large caseloads, contributing to a “crisis” within the system.

“Few Clark County caseworkers or their direct supervisors have a degree in social work or a license to practice social work in Nevada,” the suit states. “Many caseworkers are assigned caseloads before completing even the most basic training.”

DaeVon’s parents are seeking an undisclosed amount of punitive and compensatory damages. Attorney Stacy Perez, who filed the complaint, declined to comment. She said another lawyer will take over the case.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Clark County expands no-gunfire zones

The boundary in Clark County where it is illegal to shoot guns was expanded this week to include Lovell Canyon Road and areas in the southwest and northeast portions of the Las Vegas Valley.