December 13: Has the System Failed Vulnerable Children?


Last year Aquelin Talamantes was convicted and sentenced to life for the drowning death of her five-year-old daughter, Tatiana Garcia.

Court documents that the Vanguard acquired shortly after the death of Tatiana Garcia showed that there was a lengthy custody battle between Ms. Talamantes and the victim’s father. There were accusations of child abuse from each parent.

In a declaration from the father, he accused Ms. Talamantes of anger problems, with periods of violence and property damage in front of the children.

Despite this evidence, a Yolo County Family Court judge placed the daughter with the mother.

Last spring, Barry Goldstein, author of the book, The Quincy Solution, was the keynote speaker on Sunday at the 21st Annual Northern California Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Conference. Among other things, he discussed the fact that there are different systems for how to handle claims of child abuse in the system.

If it is a stranger, the reports are aggressively investigated by law enforcement and the findings are forwarded to prosecutors, who then file criminal charges and the case proceeds in criminal court.

However, if it is a family member, it is handled very differently. It is not investigated by law enforcement and often custody courts operate under the presumption that the allegations are false and initiated in order to gain advantage during custody hearings.

In the wake of this and many other tragic child custody situations – we ask, “Has the System Failed Vulnerable Children?”

On Sunday, December 13, the Davis Vanguard and the California Protective Parents Association host a free event from 4 pm to 6 pm at the Library of the Davis Community Church (412 C Street) where a panel of experts will attempt to answer that question.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    It will be interesting to hear this discussion.

    From having served in the capacity of as an advisor to panels making decisions on child custody and placement, I have strong feelings about the root of this problem. Instead of perceiving and honoring the child as a unique and equal member of our society we continue to view the child as the possession of his/her parents. We continue to rely on this mindset of ownership which we defend under the umbrella of “family unity” long past the point where it should have become obvious to all that the child was not being protected and nurtured by the parents, but rather was being used as an object sometimes of neglect, sometimes of physical abuse, and sometimes of sexual abuse.

    In the Talamontes case, I seem to remember a quote from the mother stating that she had claimed that she was unable to care for her child. Whenever this kind of statement is made by a parent, it needs to be taken seriously and there should be a “safe house” as an automatic relief, not for the parent who is perceived as “slacking off” or “irresponsible” but for the child who is at risk once this kind of alarm has been raised.


  2. Anon

    When there is a custody battle, accusations of child abuse on both sides abound, with virtually no solid evidence to back up such claims.  So it is not surprising that a judge would dismiss such claims as nothing more than courtroom histrionics.

    Child abuse/neglect is difficult to prove.  Emotional abuse is virtually impossible to prove unless there is an actual audio/video recording, and even then would it rise to the level of enough abuse to take the child away from a parent?

    All of you who are crying for more to be done, be careful what you wish for.  How interfering do you want the gov’t to be?

    My bigger gripe has more to do with the “best interests of the child” standard.  Too often, with proof of abuse, it is determined it is in the “best interest of the child” to be with the abusive parent.  When evidence of abuse/neglect is clear, the best interest of the child should be with the other parent or as a last resort foster care.  But I have to tell you, there are too many instances where foster care is as/more abusive than the abusive parent the child just came from.  Child abuse is a very real, multi-faceted and difficult problem to resolve.  A one-size fits all solution will never work. Nor is the definition of what constitutes child abuse universal or clear.

    1. David Greenwald

      Anon: Barry Goldstein spoke last April in Davis and made the point about the difference between how an accusation of child sexual abuse against a stranger is treated from a family member – things like law enforcement doing the investigation in the former versus a social worker in the latter.

      In terms of the role of the government – I am a small government person, but I think if the government is to intrude into private lives it has to be to protect innocent and helpless children.

  3. sisterhood

    I know a family law attorney who was trying to convince a judge to remove a child, he was getting nowhere until he showed the judge photos of the battered child. The judge then ordered that the child be immediately  removed from the home. It’s a shame that, without those photos, the child would have stayed with the abusive parent.

  4. Tia Will


    All of you who are crying for more to be done, be careful what you wish for.  How interfering do you want the gov’t to be?”

    I certainly want it to be interfering enough to not return malnourished children, children who have obviously been beaten and children who have been sexually abused back to their abuser…..and yes, I have seen all of the above causing me to stop doing this kind of work. Now granted, all of this I observed over 20 years ago so there may have been improvements. But the Talamontes case has to at least make me wonder.

    1. sisterhood

      I would rather the state err on the side of the child. It’s pretty simple, if you don’t ever hit your child or sexually abuse your child, you have little to worry about.

      At CDC, my son ran into a tree when trying to catch a football. He got two black eyes. Of course the teacher questioned me. I assumed that CDC would automatically go talk to his teacher, but they didn’t. Mrs. Bitners called me at home that evening and we straightened everything out. I was glad that she cared enough to call me.

      My daughter fell off a treadmill and her face looked awful. She also slipped and fell at North Davis in the playground. Another time she fell off the jungle gym and hit her head. She was even unconscious for a few moments, and had to be taken to the hospital. These kinds of accidents happen. It’s no reason to worry about government interference.

      Re: corporal punishment, there are other more effective, or at least as effective, ways to correct your child. Hitting only teaches them that violence is the solution to a problem. When they are adults, how does that help them cope with their problems?  What do you do when the kid you are hitting grows up and is as big and strong as you are?

      My kids turned out okay and I never once hit them. Perhaps Davis should have a no hitting ordinance, like Berkeley has.

  5. Tia Will


    I would rather the state err on the side of the child. It’s pretty simple, if you don’t ever hit your child or sexually abuse your child, you have little to worry about.”

    I truly wish it were that simple and that parents had little to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When there is a custody dispute between hostile parents each accusing the other of abusing the child, it becomes a nightmare for those who have to make a decision about what is best for the child. Any of the mishaps that you described can become an accusation that has the potential to end parental rights during a custody battle.


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