Earlier this year (June 2017) we reported on one of the most horrific examples of child abuse of a child who was taken into state custody by a “Child Protection” social service agency, and put into the foster care system, that we have ever reported.
We reported how one Arizona child was repeatedly raped as part of a pornographic pedophile ring in foster care, and then placed into a different foster home where 80% of her body was burned with scalding water.
We were only able to report on this because a court-appointed guardian of the child sued the Arizona Department of Child Safety, making the alleged crimes public knowledge. See:
(WARNING! Content in the article linked below not suitable for younger audiences!)
Arizona Places 2 Year Old Child in Foster Pornographic Pedophile Ring – Foster Mom Burns 80% of Her Body
However, what was not published by the general media who reported on this story was the birth mother’s perspective, and why the child was taken away from her family in the first place.
Health Impact News has interviewed the mother and investigated her story, and we now bring it to the public. It is yet another example of just how corrupt child “protective” services have become, especially in Arizona.
How Arizona Removed an Innocent Child from Her Family and Destroyed her Life
A little girl from Tucson, Arizona, was taken away from her family by Child Protective Services and placed into state custody. One of the foster parents is now in prison for running a pornographic pedophile ring, and another faces criminal charges for holding her down in scalding water, causing burns over 80% of her body.
Young Devani was seized from her family just days before her second birthday. The social worker had no warrant or court order when she made the decision that would change the child’s life forever.
The question arises: What horrors did the real parents do that could justify CPS putting a child into such heinous situations?
Our investigation reveals the shocking truth: nothing.
The beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed toddler was allegedly taken from her home under false pretenses. The allegations were shown to be wrong from the very beginning, yet CPS (now renamed DCS – Department of Child Services) continued to pursue their case, placing the child into one nightmare situation after another, which almost cost her life. Some people claim she would have been far better off if she had been killed, rather than face the horrors no child should ever have to face.
Her maternal grandmother was already approved by the State of Arizona when she adopted another child, yet DCS has consistently refused to consider placing Devani with her. Her paternal grandmother, likewise, was never considered as an option.
Though she had never been abused in her own home, Devani was placed into foster care with strangers, and her abuse began almost immediately. According to her mother:
They took that precious angel and destroyed her life. If I could take her place, I would.
More than anything, Michelle wants her little girl home with her, so that she can protect her.
In our previous report of the case, we referred to the child as “Jane Doe,” because that is what she is called in the lawsuit that was filed against the abusers and many within the State of Arizona responsible for placing her in harm’s way. (See lawsuit.)
Other media outlets have identified her in their coverage as Devani, with no last name given. Her name has since been legally changed by the people who adopted her, but she was born as Devani, and that is what we will call her.
Allegations Dismissed BEFORE Child Taken
Devani was born on April 29, 2011. She lived with her parents, Michelle Tremor-Calderon and Jonathan Hileman, in Tucson, Arizona. She was described as a happy, loving little girl who was very much loved by her family.
In early April 2013, Michelle and Jonathan got into an argument – a shouting match during which allegedly there was no physical contact and no violence. A neighbor called the police, and domestic violence charges were filed against Michelle. The charges were quickly determined to be without merit, and they were dismissed immediately.
At the time of the incident, Devani was at her paternal grandmother’s home. She did not witness the argument.
Nonetheless, DCS became involved. On April 17, the day after the charges were dismissed, social worker Norel Alviti showed up at the grandmother’s home without a court order or warrant to take Devani into state custody. Michelle and Jonathan were at work at the time.
Michelle expected that this was all a misunderstanding which would be cleared up as soon as she took the social worker documentation that the charges had been dropped. It should have been over then.
However, when Michelle showed up at the DCS office with the paperwork, the social worker Alviti then demanded that Michelle take a drug test.
This was apparently based on an anonymous report, possibly from a disgruntled neighbor, that the parents had been doing drugs. Michelle flatly denied the allegation and complied immediately.
The 10 panel drug test came back completely negative. She was clean. Again, this should have ended right then.
It did not.
Without a shred of evidence, social workers allegedly were “concerned” about the possibility that the parents might, in the future, do something that would cause harm to their child, so DCS kept Devani in their custody, placing her in very real, and unimaginably horrific, foster care situations.
Michelle and Jonathan were assigned one hoop after another to jump through in order to try to get their child back.
DCS Double Standard: Parents Investigated, but Foster Caregivers Not
As the case wore on, DCS dug further and further into the parents’ history, while apparently neglecting to dig into the history of the foster and adoptive families that they place children in.
Devani’s parents acknowledge making some bad choices in their past, but by the time Devani came along, they had cleaned up their act. They loved their daughter and wanted the best for her.
Michelle’s first child was born with a congenital heart defect. When he passed away at the age of 3, Michelle fell apart. In her pain, she turned to drugs. In 2001, she gave birth to another child, who was adopted by Michelle’s mother. It was a very difficult season in her life. But after much therapy and counseling, she was able to get her life back on track.
The DCS social worker learned about Michelle’s drug history, a season that was over by the time Devani was born. Michelle was clean, and proved it on the day that Devani was taken. During the entire time that DCS was involved with her family, Michelle has allegedly remained free of drugs.
Yet, her prior history continues to be used against her, both in the courtroom and in the media. Social workers are quick to point out her drug usage from 13 years prior, but reportedly neglect to tell the court that she has been free of drugs during Devani’s life.
Since Devani was taken, most of the focus has been on Michelle. Jonathan, Devani’s real father, saw the writing on the wall early on. He recognized that his daughter’s best chance to come home would be for him to be out of the picture. Though the original allegations used to take his daughter away were not centered on him, he knew that his history would be used against him.
Jonathan has a record. He made some very poor decisions when he was young. He was involved in a robbery and a sexual assault of an adult, for which he served a 10 year prison sentence. After he got out, he reportedly changed his ways and cleaned up his act.
When he and Michelle met, he treated her with respect and kindness. They worked hard to build a new life and leave their past behind.
There was never any child abuse, or even allegations of such, with Devani’s real parents. Sources have reported that both Michelle and Jonathan were devoted, loving parents who obviously thought the world of Devani.
However, DCS told the couple that the only hope that Michelle had of getting Devani back was for Jonathon to get out of the picture. So, he did.
Health Impact News spoke with Beth Breen, who transported Devani back and forth to visits with her parents for more than a year. In that capacity, she was able to observe the interactions between Michelle and Jonathan and their daughter:
The love between the parents and Devani – you just know it’s there.
Breen made a chilling statement about Devani’s experiences in DCS custody:
What they [DCS] were trying to protect her FROM is the exact thing that they did to her.
Abused in Foster Care from the Beginning
Right away, Michelle recognized that her baby girl was not faring well in foster care. As a loving mother who was very bonded with her child, she saw signs from the very beginning that something was desperately wrong. Her concerns were not only dismissed, but were actually used against her.
Michelle was accused of coaching her daughter and of sabotaging placements – placements which, it turned out, never should have been options for any child.
Advocates point out that DCS was quick to say they wanted to protect Devani from potential harm that could possibly come to her in the future, but hadn’t yet, based on her parents’ past history.
At the same time, they repeatedly placed the child into situations with numerous warning signs, and they ignored actual abuse that was occurring right under their noses.
According to the lawsuit:
Mandatory Reporters Failed to Report Signs of Real Abuse, Blamed Mother
As mandatory reporters, the social workers were required to report the abuse, and their failure to do so was in violation of Arizona law. Yet, no one within the system has faced any charges.
In contrast, a school vice-principal and a counselor were arrested in Tucson on felony charges for failure to report an incident that is not nearly as horrific as the abuse that Devani was subjected to. (See story.)
At the very first visit with her daughter after she was taken, Michelle noted scratches and bruises on Devani. A week later, there were more scratches and bruises, as well as bite marks. Michelle took pictures and reported the abuse to case workers and supervisors.
When nothing was done by those who were charged with protecting her child, Michelle took action and called the police herself. The foster woman became angry and dropped Devani off at the DCS office.
The second foster care placement proved disastrous. Social workers placed Devani in the care of David and Barbara Frodsham, who had been approved and licensed by the State of Arizona as foster parents since 2002.
Mr. Frodsham is currently in prison, serving a 17 year sentence for state and federal crimes. According to the lawsuit:
Almost immediately after her daughter was placed with the Frodshams, Michelle saw signs that Devani was being sexually abused. According to reports:
There were thumb marks on her daughter’s hips and arms, scratches, bruises.
She developed a painful, smelly urinary tract infection that Michelle reported to case worker Jeannette Sheldon and her supervisors, but her concern was dismissed.
Instead, Mr. Frodsham’s wife blamed Michelle, saying that the UTI was from Devani’s real mother giving her too much juice during visitations. Devani was taken to a doctor who worked with DCS, who backed up Mrs. Frodsham’s story and blamed the juice, ignoring the signs of sexual abuse.
The social workers, who are supposed to be trained in recognizing signs of abuse, didn’t question the illogical proposition that, somehow, Devani consumed so much juice in her 2 hour visit per week with her mother, under supervision, that she developed a UTI and kept it for 8 months. Nor did they question the fosters’ neglect in taking Devani to a doctor for medical treatment for an infection which caused her to hold her private area and cry in pain.
A transporter noticed the smell of the infection as well. Beth Breen worked for a transport company formerly called IMA Trans, LLC, which was contracted by DCS to transport children to and from visits with their biological parents.
Beth Breen told Health Impact News that she was the primary transporter for Devani for about a year, because Devani was terrified of male transporters. She has submitted an affidavit to the Pima County Court about what she witnessed while transporting Devani.
In the very beginning, both parents were at all the visits. Beth Breen said that the love within the family was obvious.
Later, DCS stopped allowing Devani’s father to attend the visits, due to his past history. While DCS purportedly protected her from imagined harm, the little girl was being subjected to very real harm in the house where social workers placed her.
Breen describes Devani’s excitement when she would pick her up at the Frodshams’ house and drive her for the 90 minute trip to see her parents, and later just her mother:
She was always so happy to see them, singing and happy.
She would wave at her parents, blow kisses to them, and once unbuckled she would jump into her mother’s arms with a huge smile and a sigh.
The drive home was a different matter altogether. Devani would scream, kick, and cry as she reached out for her mother when she had to leave. She would often cry inconsolably for an hour or more on her way to the Frodshams, crying herself to sleep. When they arrived, she would look around and start crying again.
Beth Breen said that throughout the time that she transported Devani, she was always happy and excited about seeing her mother. The screams and cries on the way back to the Frodshams’ house, however, eventually “became more of a whimper.” She had apparently figured out that crying out was hopeless.
Devani had never demonstrated a fear of men before being at the Frodshams’ house, but after she arrived, she was absolutely terrified of men she didn’t know. DCS blamed this on Devani’s mother, even testifying in court that Michelle had “coached” her daughter.
In reality, the child had every reason to be terrified of men. During the investigation of David Frodsham and a soldier in the Army, Spec. Randall Bischak, law enforcement found a video made by Frodsham of explicit sexual abuse of a little girl about 3 or 4 years old.
While Michelle’s maternal instincts told her that her baby was being harmed, all of her concerns were ignored and dismissed.
In fact, her concerns were actually turned against her. Social workers accused Michelle of “disrupting the foster care placements” and “coaching” her daughter.
Later, investigations by ICE, Homeland Security, and the FBI proved all of Michelle’s fears for her daughter’s safety to be justified, and more charges are still expected to be filed against David Frodsham for his role in the pedophile pornography ring.
Even so, that has not mattered to DCS or the Pima County Court, as they continue to blame the mother instead of the real abusers.
Child Betrayed by Those Entrusted to her Care
Throughout the case, as per Arizona law, Devani has had an attorney appointed to represent her interests. Thea Gilbert has been with the case since the beginning. She reportedly told Devani’s family and the court that she was happy and “bonding with” the Frodshams. She said that it would be “detrimental” and “not in her best interests” for her to be removed from that placement.
The numerous signs of abuse while she was with the Frodshams didn’t outweigh the state’s apparent interest in keeping Devani in their care. Gilbert and DCS even advocated for Devani to be adopted by the Frodshams.
It wasn’t until Mr. Frodsham showed up drunk at the DCS office that Devani was removed from his house.
While at the next foster placement, Devani showed up at a visit with a goose-egg sized bump on her forehead from allegedly being slammed into a wall.
Meanwhile, Michelle was allegedly in full compliance with everything that DCS asked of her, working toward reunification. She was on time for every visit, tested clean for every drug screen, and completed every class. She has a stack of certificates to show, but wonders what it was all for.
Near the end of the reunification process, DCS brought in the Easterseals Blake Foundation, an organization contracted with DCS to do parent/child therapy. One advocate told Health Impact News that the pattern of Arizona DCS has been to assign the Blake Foundation to work with families at the end of the case, which often leads to reunification failure.
A Blake Foundation employee, Alexis Kirkendall, LMSW, was assigned to evaluate the interaction between Michelle and her traumatized daughter. Kirkendall reportedly backed up the DCS accusation that Michelle’s concerns about Devani’s placements indicated that she, not the foster placements, were unfit, and that Michelle jeopardized the foster care placements by calling the police when she suspected abuse.
Kirkendall and DCS caseworker Jeanette Sheldon reportedly testified that Devani wasn’t bonded well with her mother because “she exhibited prolonged temper tantrums, self-urination, and crying.” The symptoms which were actually signs of the abuse that Devani was experiencing in foster care were instead used as justification for stopping Michelle’s visits with her daughter.
Their last visit was on July 14, 2015. At the end of their visit, Michelle told Devani not to be sad because they would see each other the next week and have fun together. Kirkendall reportedly used that incident to accuse Michelle of not knowing how to support her daughter’s emotional needs, and she stopped visitations.
That was the last time that Michelle saw Devani. Her parental rights were terminated in October 2015 by Judge K.C. Standford at the Tucson Juvenile Court.
Judge Standford has since retired from the bench. An advocate for the family says that he retired “as the press started to heat up regarding this case.”
Michelle tried to file an appeal, but the appeal was thrown out.
According to Beth Breen, DCS portrayed Michelle as overreacting, but she says:
That doesn’t make her crazy; that makes her a concerned parent!
Grandmother Passed Over, Again
Michelle’s mother moved back to Arizona in early 2015 and contacted DCS social worker Jeanette Sheldon about getting custody of Devani. Sheldon had her move into a larger home, and she said she would do a home study, but it never happened.
After that, Sheldon reportedly stopped answering calls. All of her attempts to work with the department to get her granddaughter into a safer place allegedly fell on deaf ears.
Adoptive Family Warning Signs Ignored – Child Burned in Hot Water
After Michelle’s parental rights were terminated, Devani became available for adoption. The social workers and Devani’s attorney Thea Gilbert had been advocating for the Frodshams to adopt her, but Frodsham’s arrest put him out of the running.
After all that the child had been through, it would seem that those tasked with looking out for Devani’s best interest might have learned to be more careful in choosing a placement for her.
Unfortunately, agents of the state of Arizona once again placed the child in harm’s way.
Justin and Samantha Osteraas applied to adopt her through the now-closed St. Nicholas of Myra adoption agency, which worked with Christian Family Care. According to the lawsuit and advocates, the adoption licensing agency and DCS missed numerous signs that the Osteraas family could be harmful to children.
According to court records, DCS was warned that Samantha abused drugs and had a tendency toward violence. Justin’s brother told Pima County detectives that he had warned the adoption agency that Samantha was dangerous and should not be licensed to adopt. (See source.)
Nonetheless, Devani was placed with the couple, who have three other children.
On December 29, 2016, Samantha reportedly held Devani down in a bathtub of scalding water, then left her suffering for six hours before calling 911. According to the lawsuit:
“Defendant Samantha Osteraas submerged and held down Jane Doe, a 5-year-old, in a bath of scalding hot water. Jane Doe suffered severe burns over 80 percent of her body. When police arrived, there was blood on the floor and pieces of Jane Doe’s skin were falling off her body. There were bruises to her neck and arms along with other signs of trauma.”
Devani was placed into a medically-induced coma. She was in danger of organ failure. All ten toes had to be amputated. She has endured multiple surgeries and skin grafts since the abuse.
Police investigators sent a plumber to the house, who discovered that the water heater had been turned to the maximum setting of up to 140 degrees.
Samantha Osteraas was arrested on January 5, and bail was set at $25,000. She is currently out on bail and awaiting trial.
When Devani’s mother learned what had happened to her daughter, she petitioned the court to allow her to visit her in the hospital, to let her know that her mommy loves her and that she is not alone.
Not only was her petition denied, but the minor’s counsel Thea Gilbert reportedly told Michelle that the only way that she would see her daughter was if she was dying.
A gag order has been placed on Michelle Tremor-Calderon and other members of Devani’s family regarding the Osteraas case, so they were not permitted to discuss that case.
Mother Prays for a Miracle – What Other Hope Does She Have?
Devani is now in yet another foster home, and she has had numerous reconstructive surgeries since she was scalded.
No one in her family knows where she is.
Michelle’s mother filed papers last week asking the court to re-open her case and allow the child’s grandmother to have custody. Michelle told us that she wants the case back into superior court.
Thea Gilbert, the attorney appointed in the beginning of the case to look out for Devani’s best interest, is still, shockingly, on the case, even though every action taken by DCS has caused further harm to Devani.
None of the child’s placements have been in the child’s best interest.
Advocates for the family ask that Thea Gilbert be removed as minor’s counsel, and replaced with someone who will make better decisions for her.
This little girl has suffered tremendously in the protective custody of the state, beginning with the trauma of her being taken away from her mother, with whom she was strongly bonded.
There was no warrant, court order, or any valid reason whatsoever to remove the child from her mother.
How much more should little Devani have to suffer before someone intervenes to bring justice, and place her back into the safety and protection of her own family?
Her mother wants Devani to know that she loves her very much, and that she is fighting for her and praying every day for a miracle: for her to be returned home safely.
Greg McKay is the Director of DCS/CPS in Arizona. His office may be reached at 602-255-2500.
Governor Doug Ducey can be reached at 602-542-4331 or contacted here.