In Bakersfield, California, family members allege that the dead 3-year-old girl Serenity Julia Gandara and her still-alive 4-year-old brother Isaiah were suspected child abuse victims prior to Serenity’s death.
Their 1-year-old sister Juliana wasn’t in the home as she has been staying with other relatives. But CPS showed up to take her away from her aunt and uncle for several hours before they returned her. CPS would not reveal why they took the child. The maternal grandmother, Maria Garcia, suggested that the CPS taking of the 1-year-old baby was in retaliation for her reporting to the media that she had previously complained about child abuse regarding Serenity and Isaiah yet CPS did nothing to protect the children.
Meantime, there are serious accusations against Child Protective Services. Serenity’s maternal grandmother, Maria Garcia, said CPS retaliated against her after she criticized a social worker for allegedly ignoring reports that Serenity and her brother, 4-year-old Isaiah, were being abused at their foster home.
“You needed to take care of thing when I told you what happened with my kids the other kids. You never listen to me,” Maria Garcia said she told the social worker.
The paternal grandmother, Renee Maese, said that other family members wanted to adopt the two kids, but CPS sided with foster parents Albert and Carla Garcia who are now wanted for murder and felony child abandonment and are believed to be in hiding in Mexico.
On Monday, Maria Garcia, the maternal grandmother of the foster children, told Channel 17’s Emily Moore she had warned a CPS social worker about abuse in the Garcia household.
“I told her many times something happened with these kids,” Maria Garcia said. The children belonged to Alberto Garcia’s sister, but he and Carla were fostering them and were in the process of adopting them.
The toddler’s paternal grandmother, Renee Maese, said other family members wanted to adopt the children, but CPS would not consider anyone but Alberto and Carla.
Barbara Zimmerman of the Kern County Department of Social Services said she could not comment on the case, even to answer the family’s allegations, until the case was determined to have been foul play.
False CPS allegations are a constant source of trouble, particularly in families with child custody disputes. They detract attention from real child abuse reports, and possibly this is what happened in this case.
Police indicate that the two children have a variety of old and new injuries that suggest a pattern of child abuse. Yet neighbors report that they never saw any abuse and the family seemed happy. Some note that they seldom saw the children outside so they could not have known what was going on behind closed doors. Others continue to believe the death must have been accidental.
Patty Clemons, who lives next door, said she was shocked because the Garcias appeared to be good parents who cooked dinner every night and often took the children out to play.
“Everything they did was for the kids,” Clemons told the Bakersfield Californian newspaper, adding that she believed the girl’s death must have been “an accidental thing.”