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Niland man protests against CPS for the return of his kids

March 24, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

Holding a makeshift cardboard sign, Craig Alcott, 40, of Niland has stood at the corner of Bradshaw Road and Imperial Avenue in north El Centro every day since Wednesday to protest county Child Protective Services' treatment of his case over the last year.

His signs have evolved from one cardboard sign to two and he's taped photos of his children in the surrounding area.

He has ridden the bus from Niland to protest.

Alcott said a year ago CPS seized his six children. With the pro bono legal aid of attorney Carolyn Janzen of El Centro, four of his children have been returned to him, although his diabetic daughter and infant daughter remain in foster care in San Diego, a distance he says makes it financially difficult to visit them.

Alcott said his children were taken away because CPS officials claim he cannot adequately care for them.

Alcott said he is unemployed and living on welfare.

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Following several days in court and an ongoing fight against CPS, he said he's protesting as a last resort.

"I'm standing here today because I'm out of help and I'm out of money," said Alcott. "I want my children back desperately."

The catalyst for his protest was Tuesday when a local judge said Alcott was not qualified to have an opinion on the management of his children's healthcare, according to Alcott.

Alcott claims he's done everything the county Department of Social Services, under which CPS operates, has required of him, including taking diabetes education and anger-management classes. Yet he says Social Services still refuses to return his two children to his care, saying he is unable to care for them.

Alcott said he believes CPS is "leading a vendetta" against him because he is poor and leads an alternative lifestyle, meaning he chooses to live at the Slabs, a squatters camp. He lives there with his wife and returned children.

Alcott said within the next week, he plans to file a $250 million dollar lawsuit against Social Services because of the damage it has done to his family.

Among the damages are claims that his children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the separations.

He's also seeking to be reimbursed what he's spent driving to court over the past year, more than $1,200.

Alcott plans to protest every day until his children are returned to him. He returns to court later this month.

Alcott said he has a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of South Carolina.

Mickey Castro, program manager for county Children and Family Services, said she could not confirm nor deny the department has a case involving Alcott because of confidentiality issues.

Regarding her agency, Castro said it attempts to be fair in its dealings but she said, "the nature of the work is that there will be complaints because sometimes we are seen as adversarial."

She said the agency's goal is to reunify families.

"We remove some children from families and have parents do things to get the kids back," said Castro. "Some see it as an intrusion, but we are not out there to remove the children.

"We don't want to put any barriers. We try to offer services to keep children with parents," said Castro

Castro said her agency deals with more than 150 cases a month.

Staff Writer Anthony Longoria can be reached at 337-3452.

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