Social worker accused of tipping off foster parents about complaints of abuse

Paulette Brown has gotten plenty of media attention for her efforts to pursue justice for her murdered teenage son, who was gunned down near the Panhandle three years ago. But she has a second, less conspicuous crusade — against a foster-care system that she says betrayed her niece.

Brown has filed a claim for unspecified damages against the city, asserting that employees of San Francisco Child Protective Services ignored abuse of her 16-year-old niece, Champagne Williams. Moreover, Brown says that after she complained to child welfare caseworker Anca Bujas that Williams had been dragged down the stairs by a foster parent last December, Bujas called the parents, Wayne and Wanda Cooksey of Oakley, to clue them in — a serious breach of protocol. "It wasn't my intention to do this, but I have no choice, because if I don't, and I let it go, this is going to continue to happen," Brown says.

Brown claims Bujas told her that she had notified the Cookseys of the complaint, "because she thought they should know," according to a police report on the case. In February, Brown filed a report with the San Francisco Police Department, saying that Wayne Cooksey was making harassing phone calls to her after she contacted Bujas.

Bujas and her superiors did not return calls for comment. Reached by telephone, Wayne Cooksey said Bujas had not tipped him off about the alleged abuse. "I don't recall that being true," he said, though he acknowledged his foster-care licensing agency had directed him to have no contact with Brown, who now has custody of her niece.

Brown's complaint against Wanda Cooksey was substantiated by the California Department of Social Services. Department spokeswoman Lizelda Lopez said an investigation confirmed that Williams had been grabbed by the hood of her sweatshirt and "forced down the stairs" during an argument, a clear violation of rules on physical contact for licensed foster-care providers.

What is perhaps the more disturbing allegation — that local child welfare workers are cozy with misbehaving foster families — was not investigated by the state, and Brown says she has yet to hear back on complaints to Bujas' supervisors and the police. In light of Brown's other losses, reasonable observers might agree that two inconclusive investigations for her family are two too many.

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