Los Angeles

Judge Approved Request to Remove Noah Cuatro From Parents' Home 2 Months Before Child's Death

What ultimately led to Noah's death remains unclear and is still part of a sheriff's investigation after deputies said his injuries were not consistent with a drowning.

Months after the death of 4-year-old Noah Cuatro, there have been no charges filed and no determination about how the boy died, but answers over why a removal order that could have taken the boy out of his parents' home was never executed were provided Monday.

The removal order was issued in May. Noah drowned, his parents say, in the pool at their apartment complex two months later.

As the I-Team has previously reported, the order was submitted to the court and a judge approved it, but it was never executed.

In a new report from the Office of Child Protection reviewed by the NBCLA I-Team, the social worker who asked the judge for the order expressed concerns that Noah's parents were not "compliant" or "truthful."

The request to take the boy was approved by a judge, but the order was not carried out.

Around that same time, someone called the child protection hotline and alleged Noah was being sexually abused, a claim denied by family members.

Five people including the social worker, a supervisor and others ultimately agreed to not remove Noah but kept investigating his case.

Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle agreed to speak with NBCLA's I-Team Monday.

"We were taking further steps to ensure that we thoroughly investigated," Cagle said.


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The last social worker to see Noah alive was on June 28. The boy died on July 6. 

"Trying to reach the family, even days within the child death to be able to arrange a meeting with them," Cagle described his department's efforts. "Unfortunately the death happened prior to us being able to do that meeting."

In another instance, a judge returned Noah to his parents over the objections of a social worker last year.

Cagle is now looking into what the department can do further legally.

"We need to appeal that to a higher level court," Cagle said. "There is a capability for us to do that."

As the I-Team has documented, DCFS has been part of Noah's life since he was born.

What ultimately led to his death remains unclear and is still part of a sheriff's investigation after deputies said his injuries were not consistent with a drowning.

Investigators and the sheriff are not commenting about their investigation at this time.

A relative of Noah's mother said the boy's parents loved him and the children very much, insisting that the family's home life is not being represented accurately.

Other relatives insist the boy should have not have stayed with the parents.

Exact details in the removal order and the judge's order remain under seal.

Supervisor Hilda Solis released the following statement in response to the case:

"The tragic death of Noah continues to occupy my thoughts and actions as we work to reform the child welfare system to serve children in Los Angeles County. This reform, however, must be all encompassing, and must involve review of the Department of Children and Family Services' critical role to remove children when they endure abuse or neglect. That is why the report by the Office of Child Protection is one tool, but not the only tool, to ensure impactful reform that protects children. The County continues to hire DCFS staff to reduce workloads, provide additional training to enhance interview skills, and are implementing better decision-making tools.

"While we mourn the Noah’s passing, I am committed to working in his name so that we learn from this and continue to expand our efforts to ensure protection of our children. We must shore up prevention efforts to provide all children and families with what they need to ensure a safe environment that offers every child the opportunity to learn, grow, and be loved."

Supervisor Kathryn Barger issued the following statement:

"The moment I heard of Noah's death, I committed to make this process transparent. It should be noted that we are still in the middle of an ongoing criminal investigation.

"The safety of every child involved in the foster system, especially in the Antelope Valley, is of paramount importance. Significant changes have been made and we are working aggressively on addressing systemic issues. I've directed county departments to improve DCFS collaboration with law enforcement, to enhance workforce pipelines for the Antelope Valley DCFS offices, and to ensure more cases are reviewed by senior managers for quality improvement."

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