News & Resources

California Social Services sued for 'indentured servitude'

Dec 10, 2011 Mike Garretson

The children of adults with overdue welfare debt who were targeted by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) for payment are fighting back. A lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of two girls - Irene L. of Fresno County and Jamie Hartley of Riverside County - who received debt collection notices for mistaken payments to their parents or guardians. "Obviously, the state's gone out of bounds on this," Mike Herald, with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, told KGO-TV. "It's just overzealous." Irene L., now 14, had her government aid cut because CDSS claims her mother owed $3,000 in benefits she wasn't supposed to receive during her pregnancy with her daughter. Hartley, who got a notice when she was 16, is now having trouble paying for college expenses. However, Michael Weston of the CDSS explained to the news source that when efforts to contact parents or guardians have been fully exhausted, counties are required to seek payment from "any individual that was an aided member of a family case." If victorious, the lawsuit states that California will be liable to refund all the money it collected from children through this practice.