A woman in Las Vegas recently posed as a social worker in order to facilitate an infant kidnapping. According to Bryan Callahan for KTNV, the incident raises issues of just how the woman in question acquired sensitive personal information.
The victim, mother Cassandra Dean, was supposed to meet the alleged kidnapper, Joanna Boyd, in order to sell baby items. The two had spoken on a Facebook sales group. Instead, Boyd presented Dean with a fake court order and other forged documents, saying that she had authority to remove the child from Dean’s custody. Apparently the woman’s big mistake was involving the police, whom she called to help her enforce her forded order. The child in question was just three weeks old.
“Officers had concerns about the documents as well as other inconsistencies,” writes Callahan, “like the fact they say Boyd did not have the proper ID and was not driving a county vehicle like CPS workers routinely do… [The Dean family says’ officers told them the documents contained information about them even though the only conversations [had online] were about baby clothes.”
Evidently, Boyd came equipped with their daughter’s birthdate and the family’s apartment number. The Deans claim they were very careful about exposing that information online. It’s not clear where the personal information was found… or at least, it wasn’t until a local television station found Cassandra Dean’s sonogram posted publicly.
In retrospect, it’s likely that Boyd used social media and/or Google searches to stalk the family online and glean the information she used for her forged court order. She may also have used the Internet to identify the victim of her kidnapping scheme in the first place.
What’s noteworthy about the incident is that the perpetrator felt emboldened enough to contact authorities and try to use them as a weapon. Clearly, she felt confident enough in the power social workers hold that she thought she wouldn’t be questioned. This may be due to mental illness — a woman willing to go to these lengths to kidnap a child probably isn’t well — but it may also be thanks to the perception of social workers. Regardless of the reality, the corrosive myth persists that social workers exist to steal children from their parents’ homes at the behest of an unfeeling state. Boyd clearly thought she could use this perception to her advantage.
Fighting this false negative perception, therefore, doesn’t just improve the public image of social workers. It also works against those people who would use that negative misconception as a weapon to harm others. There are no winners in this incident. All of the innocent people involved have had their faith in their own safety shaken. We can only hope that in the future, all concerned will know that social workers exist to help, not hurt.
What do you think? Could this incident have been avoided? How would you suggest this type of problem be handled in the future? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us.