Raul is 14 years old. His younger brother, Jose, is 13. They were raised together by their parents. The two boys, along with their younger sister, Maria, age 8, were recently removed from their parents’ custody by Arizona Child Protective Services.
The two boys have experienced regular physical and verbal abuse by their father, Alberto Lopez. Mr. and Mrs. Lopez are illegal immigrants from Mexico. They are both migrant workers in the Western USA, moving continuously throughout California, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, and Colorado to follow the availability of seasonal farm work. The children have not attended school regularly due to the family’s mobility, and Raul has often been left in charge of the younger two children when the Lopez’s have been working long days, sometimes seven days a week during picking season.
The family has had two encounters in the past year with INS, but has escaped by fleeing and hiding. They live in fear of deportation and/or arrest. Mr. and Mrs. Lopez do their best to feed and clothe their children while also sending money home to family members in need in Mexico. Money is very tight, and resources are limited.
Mr. Lopez had bouts of drinking before he and his family slipped over the US border three years ago. But since that time, due to the stresses of migrant life, he has abused alcohol regularly. He will drink whatever he can afford or obtain free of charge. Mr. Lopez often becomes violent when he is drunk. He routinely loses patience with his children, demeans them verbally, blames them for his stresses, and beats them with his hands or belt. He also batters his wife when he is drunk. He breaks objects and/or throw them at his family. The children have all suffered bruises, contusions, and occasional broken bones, for which medical care has not been available. When Mr. Lopez is sober, he hates himself for how he is treating his family, and he sees a priest whenever he can to confess his behaviors and start again. The family often attends Catholic Church services in their native language, run by Catholic missionaries.
The three children came to the attention of CPS because of Raul’s behavior. Raul was caught setting fire to a German Shepherd who was outside in the backyard of family in a nearby town. The family was away for the day. Raul had smashed a window and entered the house, and stolen jewelry and coca cola. He ran from the police when they arrived at the house. When interviewed, he was defiant and denied any wrongdoing. Others in the community report that Raul has been involved in fights with their children, and that he is often seen verbally taunting other kids. The police picked up Raul, along with his younger brother and sister, who were apparently horrified at what Raul had been doing to the dog. Jose and Maria were trying to save the dog.
While left in charge of his younger siblings, Raul has been verbally and physically abusive to them, “to keep the discipline”, he says. He is worried about his younger brother, Jose, because he believes that Jose “acts like a little girl.” Jose appears nervous and shy. He speaks in a barely audible voice. He has problems getting out of bed in the morning, daydreams most of the day, bites his nails continuously, wets the bed at night, cries a lot, does not seem to have any interest in sports or physical activities, and does not connect well with other children. When interviewed by CPS, Jose seemed to blame himself for how his father is acting, believing that he is the main cause of the family’s stress. Jose did seem very bonded to his younger sister, Maria, however, and seemed to view himself as her protector.