2016-2017 Updates, Progress, and Headlines

The following includes updates, progress, and headlines related to teen liberty and institutional abuse.  News reports regarding individual programs are now shared primarily on the background information/staff list pages of our website unless the program referenced was closed prior to creation of a staff/background information page or is located outside of the USA .  To search our news page using a PC (not a Mac), hit "CTRL+F" and enter the name of the program then hit "enter key" or "return key".  If using a Mac (not a PC),  hit "Command+F" and enter the name of the program then hit "enter".  The Command key on a Mac is also known as the Apple Key or Clover Key.

Russell Home faces fines, closure over licensing Lacking a proper state license, the Russell Home for Atypical Children faces closure Located on Holden Avenue, the Russell Home for Atypical Children has been serving Orlando for 67 years, albeit without any official licensing from the state. With more licensing challenges ahead, the home now faces closure. Located on Holden Avenue, the Russell Home for Atypical Children has been serving Orlando for 67 years, albeit without any official licensing from the state. With more licensing challenges ahead, the home now faces closure. Kate SantichContact ReporterStaff Writer This family-run nonprofit has been helping kids and adults for 67 years without incident.  For 67 years, the Russell Home for Atypical Children has cared for Central Florida's most vulnerable individuals — people who may not see, hear, walk, read, speak or otherwise fend for themselves. By most accounts, it has done an exceptional job. The home doesn't charge anyone and doesn't accept any government funding. But now, state officials have warned that the home needs to become a licensed facility — or shut down. If it doesn't, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration wrote in its most recent letter to the Russell Home, it will face a cease-and-desist order and fines of up to $1,000 a day. "We're baffled," says executive director Vantrease Blair, whose grandmother, Vantrease Russell, started taking special-needs children into her family home in 1949. "I know there are bad people in this world who would take advantage of others, but we're not trying to do that. We're just trying to do what my grandmother did her whole entire life." The state began investigating the home last October following an anonymous complaint that it was operating without a license, says AHCA spokeswoman Mallory McManus. Negotiations with the home since then haven't resolved the state's main point of contention: "By law the facility would need a license to continue operations," McManus says. The problem, it seems, is in the limits a license might impose. There isn't a category that the home neatly fits into: It no longer qualifies as a child-care facility as it once did — the children taken in by "Grandma" Russell, who died in 2003, are now adults. And if it operates as an assisted living facility, it would have to reject the more recent clients who are younger than 18. If it is licensed as a group home, it's limited to 15 residents; the Russell Home has 25. "We don't want to turn anyone away," Blair says. "And choosing who can stay and who has to go? That's like telling me which sisters and brothers I can keep." Late Friday afternoon, the Russell Home's board of directors voted to file the group home application to avoid a cease-and-desist order but requested that AHCA sign an agreement promising not to move any of the current residents. It was not immediately clear how state officials will respond. A registered nonprofit organization, the Russell Home has earned a large and loyal following over the years. Last week, a supporter launched a Change.org petition asking state officials to make a licensing exception for the home, and the group's Facebook page has filled with messages from outraged fans of the charity. But Blair says she doesn't object to licensing on its face. In fact, the Russell Home has had licenses under various state agencies in the past, though state officials sometimes struggled to define the home. A 2006 letter from the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, for instance, states the home's "size, nature and structure … precludes APD licensure" under any of its categories. The home doesn't charge the residents who live there full time — some of whom are now middle-age and have no other family. Nor does it charge the handful of clients who come for day care, or those whose families simply need a reprieve of a week or two from round-the-clock care-giving. Instead, it raises $93,000 a month through donations and its thrift shop to cover licensed certified nursing assistants, cooks, custodians and administration costs. In addition, the home spent the past eight years raising $1.8 million to triple its cramped facility and upgrade everything to modern building codes. That construction is due to be finished this fall. "To have all this come up now…" Blair says, her voice trailing off. As she speaks, the women in the home are taking a dance class, and the sound of laughter and chatter spills into Blair's office. A nurse in the front room cradles a 12-year-old boy who was born without most of his brain. Other residents and day clients are in class or playing games. "They interact like that all day," says Kathie Post, a Winter Garden resident whose 37-year-old daughter attends day care there while Post works. "If my daughter were in some state-run facility, she'd be sitting in a chair all day. I can't say enough about the place." Jeannie Flynt of Orlando started bringing her son, Matthew, there in 2009. Born with a chromosomal disorders, he is now 29 and has severe intellectual and physical limitations. But Flynt was so impressed by his progress that, in 2013, she quit her corporate management position to become a teacher there. "Before I found the Russell Home, some of the places I checked out I wouldn't take my dog to," she says. "But you can come here any time, just drop in, and you will see the people like Matthew laughing, having fun, having a life that matters. To me, the Russell Home should be a model." The charity still hopes to resolve the matter amicably, says Tampa attorney Robert Williams, a senior litigator who has volunteered his services for the cause. "I'm prepared to go to court if it becomes necessary," he says. "But we're trying to avoid that." ksantich@tribpub.com or 407-420-5503  Source: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-russell-home-for-children-facing-closure-20160531-story.html
Audit: NYC agency didn't properly monitor troubled minors June 2, 2016 11:35 PM By The Associated Press  By MICHAEL BALSAMO (Associated Press) Reprints + - advertisement | advertise on newsday NEW YORK - (AP) -- New York City's child welfare agency failed to properly oversee a citywide juvenile justice program when its workers didn't make required visits to group homes or routinely check on the condition of children who were sent to the homes, the city's comptroller said in an audit released Thursday. The audit alleges that workers for the city's Administration for Children's Service, which oversees a program known as Close to Home, routinely failed to meet with children in the program and their families, or ensure that they were getting help from the providers who were contracted by the city. The program tries to house minors between 7 and 15 years old in residences near their relatives and schools instead of in far-off detention centers. The agency "abdicated its responsibility to oversee this program and robbed hundreds of New York City children of the opportunity to get back on the right track," New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer told The Associated Press. "It is outrageous that ACS has no idea if windows are locked, if children are receiving care or providers are doing their job. They are sounding a loud message that these kids don't deserve the necessary follow-up." Stringer said two-thirds of Close to Home group homes didn't receive a single unannounced visit in 2014, even though workers were required to make both announced and unannounced visits to every site. He also alleged that workers often failed to make required phone calls and didn't show up for required visits to check on the children. "The safety of our young people -- and communities -- is paramount," ACS Deputy Commissioner Jill Krauss said in a statement. "Over the past year, ACS has added experienced staff to monitor the safety of programs, enlisted the NYPD to assess security at all Close to Home sites, and, since 2013, we have shut down three programs that were unable to adhere to our standards." advertisement | advertise on newsday Last year, authorities arrested a worker at a now-closed Close to Home program group home after three teenage boys escaped on his watch and raped a woman. Prosecutors said the worker had made false entries in a group home logbook indicating he checked on the boys every half hour and that they were in their beds. Three additional group home staffers were arrested in April. They have all pleaded not guilty. The boys were charged as adults with raping a 33-year-old woman in Manhattan. ___ Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1.  Source: http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/audit-nyc-agency-didn-t-properly-monitor-troubled-minors-1.11871326
Lawsuit demands safer conditions for S.C. foster children Lauren Sausser Email @laurenmsausser Jun 3 2016 12:05 pm The 2015 investigation "Warehousing our Children" shows South Carolina places its youngest foster children in group homes and institutions at a higher rate than any other state in the country. × The Department of Social Services announced Friday it settled a class-action lawsuit that alleged 11 children in foster care were abused, neglected, separated from their siblings and over-medicated. Part of the settlement will require South Carolina to find alternatives to group homes and institutions for children. The Post and Courier published a series of articles in 2015 titled “Warehousing our Children” that showed the state places its youngest foster children into group homes and institutions at a much higher rate than any other state in the country. Many experts find this practice troubling because research proves children tend to thrive when they live with families, not in a group setting. More than 3,000 South Carolina children have been placed in state custody. Data provided by the Department of Social Services last year shows more than 20 percent of them lived in a group home, institution or orphanage. Friday’s settlement also requires the Department of Social Services to reduce caseworker loads, to improve safety oversight and to make sure foster children receive adequate medical care. “We think it’s a wonderful step forward for children in foster care,” said Sue Berkowitz, executive director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center. The settlement does not award money to the foster children, Berkowitz said, adding, “It’s all systemic relief. It’s class-action relief for all of the kids who are in foster care.” Her group, in partnership with Children’s Rights, a national advocacy organization, filed the lawsuit against South Carolina on behalf of the foster children last year. Camden attorney Robert Butcher represents former foster children who say they were sexually abused by adults and other children in state custody. He called Friday’s settlement “dramatic.” Similar settlements in other states have prompted major changes, he said. “In those states, they’ve had legislatures that have had the desire to make the changes,” said Butcher, who was not involved in the class-action lawsuit. “We always talk about unfunded mandates. If it’s a mandate that no one’s supporting, we’ve got some big problems.” Foster children have no voice in the Statehouse, Butcher said. “Foster kids don’t have lobbyists. They don’t have special interests,” he said. “They’re going to be the first ones our politicians drop when they need to cut costs.” Berkowitz agreed that the settlement will require the state to spend more money. “They cannot help kids if they don’t put resources into the services that they need,” she said. “That’s part of the reason they’re in such a big mess to begin with.” In a press release, the Department of Social Services said the settlement will avoid “prolonged, expensive litigation and allows DSS to continue to focus on implementing reforms that will improve the quality of care for children in foster care in South Carolina.” Gov. Nikki Haley, a named defendant in the lawsuit, issued a prepared statement Friday through her spokeswoman. “There is nothing more important than the safety of our children and our most vulnerable citizens, particularly those under the care of DSS. Whether it’s increasing the number of caseworkers or working with partners across state government and in our communities, we remain focused on strengthening DSS,” Haley said. “This settlement agreement represents yet another step in this process, and I applaud the work Director (Susan) Alford and her team do everyday.” Department of Social Services spokeswoman Karen Wingo said Alford was not available to discuss the settlement Friday. Alford also offered a prepared statement: “We will not reach these outcomes overnight; but our goal is to establish a strong foundation which builds a continuum of services for children that will be sustainable.” Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.  Source: http://www.postandcourier.com/20160603/160609795/lawsuit-demands-safer-conditions-for-sc-foster-children
‘Supergirl’ Star Jeremy Jordan Begs Fans to Help Rescue Cousin From ‘Ex-Gay’ Camp TV | By Itay Hod on June 7, 2016 @ 4:55 pm Follow @Itayhod Email Print Related CBS’s ‘Supergirl’ Casts ‘Last Five Years’ Star Jeremy Jordan Watch Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan Sing While Driving Recklessly in ‘The Last Five Years’ (Video) Jeremy Jordan’s Followup to ‘Smash’ Begins Production With Anna Kendrick as Co-Star “Sarah’s parents… sent Sarah away against her will to an East Texas Christian boarding facility for troubled teens to ‘pray away the gay,’ actor writes “Supergirl” star Jeremy Jordan is asking fans to help rescue his 17-year-old cousin from an “ex-gay” conversion camp in Texas where she has been placed against her will. “Meet my cousin Sarah. At 17, her future looks bright. She is in the top 10% of her class, runs cross-country and belongs to the National Honor Society and the debate team. She is also gay,” Jordan wrote on his Facebook page. “Like any high school kids in a relationship, Sarah and her girlfriend wanted to go to prom together,” he wrote. “But when they did that, Sarah’s parents, who believe that homosexuality is a sin and abnormal, sent Sarah away against her will to an East Texas Christian boarding facility for troubled teens to ‘pray away the gay.'” Also Read: Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato Cancel North Carolina Concerts Over Anti-LGBT Bill Jordan also set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover legal expenses to get Sarah released from the facility. So far, the page has raised more than $33,000 toward its $100,000 goal. At least one Hollywood friend has already agreed to help. Colton Haynes, the former “Arrow” star who recently came out as gay, has contributed $5,000 to Jordan’s campaign. This absolutely breaks my heart. Pls help Jeremy Jordan's cousin be her true self. #FreeSarah . Join me & donate. https://t.co/Iroz5nN8W4 — Colton Haynes (@ColtonLHaynes) June 6, 2016 And gay dating app Grindr asked its Twitter followers to help. Help #SaveSarah from a year of useless, damaging therapy. https://t.co/fb33X4tqJ2 — Grindr (@Grindr) June 7, 2016 Texas State laws allows parents to place their children in a residential boarding facility until they turn 18. Also Read: North Carolina, Mississippi's Anti-Gay Laws Prompt UK Warnings to Citizens Traveling to America According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, conversion therapy can be extremely dangerous: “Research shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were more than eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide, more than five times more likely to report high levels of depression, more than three times more likely to use illegal drugs, and more than three times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.” A handful of states have banned conversion therapy, including California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, New York, and Vermont. Also Read: Mumford & Sons Donate Proceeds From North Carolina Show to Charity Here’s Jordan’s emotional plea in full: Meet my cousin Sarah. At 17, her future looks bright. She is in the top 10% of her class, runs cross-country and belongs to the National Honor Society and the debate team. She is also gay. Like any high school kids in a relationship, Sarah and her girlfriend wanted to go to prom together. But when they did that, Sarah’s parents, who believe that homosexuality is a sin and abnormal, sent Sarah away against her will to an East Texas Christian boarding facility for troubled teens to “pray away the gay.” Not only does this type of “therapy” not work, mental health professionals from organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have found it to be psychologically damaging, especially for minors. And Sarah has been told that she must stay in this facility for a whole year. So instead of being surrounded by friends and extended family who love and support Sarah for who she is, she’ll be isolated in a place where the fact that she is gay is treated as a sin and an illness. Instead of preparing for college and competing in the state debate tournament, she’ll be doing forced labor every day and enduring Bible-based “therapy” for her “disease.” She is not allowed phone calls or email or any form of computer communication. She is also not allowed visitors and cannot leave the property. She is completely cut off from the outside world. She tried to run away, but was caught by the staff and returned to the facility. Sarah’s extended family and close friends are trying to win her release through the legal system, but it’s not cheap. Attorney’s fees in the first few weeks have already exceeded $20,000, and they are continuing to mount, with a full hearing set for July. Sarah needs your help. But this is about more than just one gay kid – if we free Sarah we can help show that it’s not okay to try to make gay teens straight by sending them away and using the threat of God against them. Spread the word so being gay doesn’t mean losing freedom for Sarah. #savesarah. Source: http://www.thewrap.com/supergirl-jeremy-jordan-cousin-ex-gay-camp/
New sex charges filed against ex-MK Place staff member By Debbie Bryce For the Journal Jun 7, 2016 (6) prev next POCATELLO — Prosecutors filed new charges against a former MK Place worker accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with underage clients at the adolescent residential center. Charges were dismissed against Julie Ann Gewarges, 30, in April. She was originally charged with two counts of felony lewd conduct related to one underage male victim. Following a preliminary hearing, Sixth District Magistrate Thomas C. Clark dismissed one count, and Gewarges was bound over to the trial court for the second charge. According to court records, the second charge was later dismissed by the prosecutor. Story continues below video The former MK Place staff member is now charged with four felony counts of sexual abuse by soliciting a minor under 16 to take part in a sexual act. Bannock County Deputy Prosecutor Zach Parris said if convicted of the charges against her, Gewarges could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for each count. Parris said the new charges were the result of additional investigation in the case and the new complaint involves a second victim. The deputy prosecutor said authorities are in contact with both victims and their families. The new charges were filed on June 1, and Gewarges will make her first appearance in court on June 17 when she be arraigned on the new charges. Gewarges was previously represented in the case by Shane Reichert of Pocatello. The charges against Gewarges stemmed from an incident on July 4, 2015, inside a van en route back to MK Place, 110 19th Avenue, following a Fourth of July celebration at the North Bannock County Fairgrounds. During the preliminary hearing in April, a 15-year-old male victim told the court that Gewarges made several sexually explicit comments to teens inside the van and engaged in lewd behavior with his friend. The boy’s father, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his son, said he’s pleased that charges were refiled in the case. “(Gewarges) needs to be exposed," he said. "It’s like she went on a rampage against children.” The underage male is currently receiving counseling, and his father said the teen is prepared to take the stand again. The man has taken no civil action against MK Place or Gewarges, but he said he wants the juvenile treatment center and the former staff member held accountable. MK place is a residential treatment center specializing in young people 13 to 17 years of age. The center has not released any statement regarding the July 2015 incident or the charges against Gewarges, and the director did not respond for this story Tuesday.  Source: http://idahostatejournal.com/members/new-sex-charges-filed-against-ex-mk-place-staff-member/article_eccce4e8-5a05-54ed-9bfe-1e6e5abc7652.html
Lawsuit alleging abuse, neglect of teen filed against Zelienople group home Updated: May 11, 2016 - 7:32 PM 140 Share this with your friends! From To Compose your message Thanks for sharing with your followers! Lawsuit alleging abuse, neglect of teen filed against Zelienople group homehttp://on.wpxi.com/1TbutGy ZELIENOPLE, Pa. — A family is suing Glade Run Lutheran Services, a group home in Zelienople, claiming that a 13-year-old boy was abused and neglected at the facility.   Attorneys for the boy and his family spoke Wednesday with Channel 11 News after filing the civil lawsuit.   “The thing that gets this little boy excited is the thought that Glade Run will no longer exist,” Nick Indovina of the Pisanchyn law firm said. Glade Run Lutheran Services in Zelienople   Channel 11 News has covered the residential treatment facility, which cares for children and teenagers with severe mental health issues, for months.    State inspectors found evidence last October of children having sex with other children on campus. As a result, the state Department of Human Services stripped the 56-bed facility of its license, which Glade Run is attempting to get back through an appeals process with the state. The campus has three additional facilities that have remained open pending the appeal decision.   No criminal charges were ever filed, but the state mandated changes, including firing the staff, hiring new employees and adding security cameras.   Indovina said the changes are not enough.   The lawsuit filed Wednesday details allegations too graphic for Channel 11 News to report about what the boy, now 15, endured from March to July 2015 while he was being treated at the group home for severe mental health issues.   The suit alleges that the staff failed to keep him safe from other children.    While Glade Run had yet to see the lawsuit, officials issued the following statement to Channel 11 News:   “Glade Run Lutheran Services serves our communities' most challenging and traumatized youth, providing residential, school-based and community-based offerings to thousands throughout Western Pennsylvania each year. Many have complex mental health issues and behaviors that necessitate residential treatment for stabilization and healing. The safety of our clients remains our first priority, and we are committed to providing the safest environment for their treatment and recovery.   “The provision of human services to individuals with mental health issues is not without risks. These risks include physical harm to staff and potential litigation. The privacy rights of our clients preclude us from discussing any allegation that may arise. Glade Run has a longstanding track record of more than 160 years of successful care and treatment of traumatized youth, and is dedicated to protecting the best interests of those we serve.”  Source: http://www.wpxi.com/news/lawsuit-alleging-abuse-neglect-of-teen-filed-against-zelienople-group-home/276616277
Oregon plans to revoke another foster care license 1 / 6 foster care feb. 3, 2016 Oregon's then-interim human services director Clyde Saiki, left, and Dani Ledezma, a policy adviser for Gov. Kate Brown, prepare to testify to lawmakers in support of foster care reform legislation. Saiki is among those sued Thursday over treatment of two vulnerable preschoolers. Denis C. Theriault/staff Denis C. Theriault | The Oregonian/OregonLive Print Email By Hillary Borrud | The Oregonian/OregonLive The Oregonian Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 09, 2016 at 12:14 PM, updated June 09, 2016 at 1:30 PM 0 shares OAnother state-licensed facility for foster children could soon shut down, after investigators found neglect, maltreatment and failures to protect health and safety. The Oregon Department of Human Services plans to revoke the state license of Chehalem Youth and Family Services in Newberg, which currently provides behavioral rehabilitation for 16 children. The agency sent out a notice of intent to revoke the license on Wednesday. According to that notice, obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive, investigators found youth went missing from the facility overnight without the staff noticing, staff failed to notify emergency personnel when a youth was unconscious for nearly an hour, and staff did not file mandatory reports on sexual assault allegations. Gene Evans, a spokesman for the department, said Thursday morning that Chehalem was "one of those where I think the agency's finally reached an 'enough is enough.'"  The state's Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations conducted multiple investigations of the facility starting in September. Human Services officials took action after an increase in reported problems at Chehalem Youth and Family Services starting last fall, according to the notice of intent to revoke the facility's license. The state also discovered Chehalem Youth and Family Services had financial problems and "is on the path to insolvency," according to the state.   All of the residents are wards of the juvenile court, according to the state's notice. Evans said the state has begun seeking other placements for children at the facility, which serves children with debilitating psychosocial, emotional and behavioral disorders. Human Services officials had been tracking issues at Chehalem Youth and Family Services for a while, and had placed it on a watch list of licensed facilities with recurring problems.  Evans said Chehalem Youth and Family Services was one of the facilities that spent the longest time on the department's so-called "radar list," which was created in 2012.    Chehalem Youth and Family Services has 30 days from the notice to request a hearing to make the case to licensing staff that the facility should be allowed to keep its license. If the facility does not, DHS will revoke its license. — Hillary Borrud hborrud@oregonian.com  Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/06/dhs_revoke_license.html
NY group home operator sued in probes of alleged abuse  By - Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016 ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A federal judge has ordered an upstate New York group home operator to provide records and access to a legal services organization representing two youths allegedly attacked by staff. Judge Glenn Suddaby says Thursday that Northern Rivers Family Services cannot block Disability Rights New York from its federally authorized monitoring of the disabled. Disability Rights received complaints about a 13-year-old punched and choked at a Schenectady group home in 2014, and a 15-year-old left unattended at a bus stop and choked there in early 2015. Northern Rivers, which initially denied access, says it’s committed to protecting the rights of people in its care and welcomes any group with legal authority to monitor its efforts. It told the judge both youths left the home last year and two staff were fired.  Source: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/9/ny-group-home-operator-sued-in-probes-of-alleged-a/
. Questions surround death of 2-year-old child in foster care By Danielle Taylor June 11, 2016Updated Jun 11, 2016 at 12:07 AM CDT Cloquet, MN (NNCNOW.com) -- A funeral was held Friday morning on the Fond du Lac Reservation for a two-year-old girl who drowned in a plastic laundry bin in a Bemidji Foster home last Sunday. According to a criminal complaint, Kira Friedman was placed in the shower and left unattended by her foster dad, who is now facing manslaughter charges. "This didn't have to happen. This little girl didn't have to die. She should be right here with her parents at this time," said Patti Larsen, a family spokesperson. Larsen, who serves as the Sacred Hoop Coalition Director, was shepherding 2-year-old Kira Friedman's case through the St. Louis County Court system on behalf of the little girl's family, and believes her death was preventable. "The maternal grandmother identified numerous people who would be potential placements for the child," she said. Larsen wanted to ensure Kira was placed in a Native American home. Therefore, she says the County let this child down when they removed her from a Native foster home, and placed her with a white foster family in Duluth. "Kira was just a number, was shipped off to a place," Larsen said. At the family's request, Leech Lake Reservation got involved to find a Native foster home. When Kira was placed in a home in Bemidji, red flags were sent up right away. "There was too many children in that place to properly care for a child with special needs, such as Kira," said Larsen. Larsen says keeping Kira in the hands of the St. Louis County Court System is where her parents went wrong. However, a spokeswoman with the county says the child was no longer in their custody. In a written statement the county said, "This case has been under the jurisdiction of Leech Lake Tribal Court for close to a year and custody has been with the Leech Lake Band. This matter is under active investigation by the authorities involved, so we would have no further comment on it." Nonetheless, Larsen stresses the importance of applying the Indian Child Welfare Act to foster children. The act is a federal law that seeks to keep native children with native families. "Follow ICUA. It's there for a purpose. It was placed there for a purpose in 1978 when so many kids were being lost," said Larsen. In addition to the Indian Child Welfare Act, Larsen also mentioned the Minnesota Indian Preservation Act should be followed by government agencies, when dealing with Native foster children.  Source: http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/Questions-surround-death-of-2-year-old-child-in-foster-care-382559811.html
Three central Ohio residents who endured horrific foster care child abuse have joined several young survivors going public with their stories THE ASSOCIATED PRESS   June 11, 2016 - 9:36 am EDT AAA COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three central Ohio residents who endured horrific foster care child abuse have joined several young survivors going public with their stories. The Columbus Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/1YP0lCx ) that Julius Kissinger and his siblings, Jermaine Ferguson and Valnita Ferguson— all in their 20s —have posted accounts of their experiences online as part of a nationwide foster-care awareness campaign. Their adoptive parents, James and Vonda Ferguson, are serving 65-year sentences for the abuse. Five of the couple's children were tortured and beaten until they bled at the couple's Springfield and Marysville homes. They were rescued in 2004 and later scattered to different homes. Sandy Santana, the executive director of the New York City-based legal advocacy organization Children's Rights, says part of the campaign's aim to put a real face on foster care.  Source: http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/07d4bae256b0451488890d1d32c1e879/OH--Child-Abuse-Survivors
Former pill mill doctor's home to become drug treatment center By WSAZ News Staff |  Posted: Fri 4:26 PM, Jun 10, 2016 GREENUP COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) – A new treatment center is opening at a mansion owned by a former pill mill doctor who spent time in prison. Recovery Works has announced it will open its second treatment facility in Kentucky. The facility will be housed in the former home of David Procter, a doctor who ran a pill mill out of his South Shore practice. Procter moved to the US from Canada, opening his practice in the early 1980’s. His practice was then converted to a pill-mill in the mid-1990’s with the held of 3 former associates. Dr. Procter, as well as two other partners, traded pills for cash regularly, with prices ranging from $80 to even $120 per prescription. During the trial of one of his former business managers, Procter testified he saw as many as 80 patients per day. Procter pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to illegally distribute substances in 2003. In 2006, Procter appealed his conviction and his 200-month sentence was reduced to 141-moths He finished his sentence in 2013. Procter’s old mansion will hold 32 beds once it is converted to a treatment facility and it will be an unlocked facility, meaning patients will be able to come and go. Recovery Works says, on average, their patients stay three weeks. They offer residential, outpatient and transitional living programs and 24 hour nursing coverage. The center, which will operate under the Pinnacle Treatment banner, says they plan to hire locally in order to staff their workforce. The organization says they will break ground on the new facility June 15th, with an expected opening date set for July 2016.  Source: http://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Former-pill-mill-doctors-home-to-become-drug-treatment-center-382519111.html
A staffer at a state-run treatment center for troubled youth is accused of having a sexual relationship with a teen who made headlines in 2013 after shooting and killing his parents and three younger siblings THE ASSOCIATED PRESS   June 15, 2016 - 4:37 pm EDT AAA ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — A staffer at a New Mexico-run treatment center for troubled youth is accused of having a sexual relationship with a teen who made headlines in 2013 after shooting and killing his parents and three younger siblings. Amber Lucero, 35, made her first appearance in court Tuesday. She's charged with sexual contact of a minor by a person in a position of authority. It was not immediately clear if she had an attorney. Lucero works at the Sequoyah Adolescent Treatment Center where Nehemiah Griego — now 19 — had received therapy prior to pleading guilty to charges stemming from the slayings at his family home just south of Albuquerque. According to a criminal complaint, some of Griego's family members learned of the relationship and reported it last week to administrators at the Albuquerque treatment center. State Health Department spokesman David Morgan said the allegations are troubling and that the agency, which oversees the center, is taking them seriously. "DOH placed the employee on leave Monday and we are moving forward with termination," he told The Associated Press in an email. "We have also been cooperating with state police on their criminal investigation and will continue to do so." Albuquerque television station KRQE first reported allegations about the relationship. The criminal complaint stated that Griego confirmed for investigators that he was in a romantic relationship with Lucero and that the relationship began in the latter half of 2014. The two began spending time together. Walks around the facility led to holding hands and kissing, and Griego told investigators that he had touched Lucero's breasts over her clothing. Griego was reluctant to talk about their relationship because he cared for Lucero and didn't want to get her in trouble, according to the complaint. When Griego was moved to another facility, authorities said, the two continued to exchange letters. In an interview with police, Lucero said she believed she loved Griego and that she "weakened" when he asked for a kiss. She went on to say that she overstepped her boundaries by becoming "too much of a friend with him and caring too much." During Tuesday's court hearing, the judge ordered Lucero not to have any contact with Griego or return to the treatment center. Griego will remain in state custody until he is 21 as part of a sentence handed down in March for the shooting deaths of his parents and siblings. He was 15 when he opened fire inside the family home. Prosecutors are appealing the sentence.  Source: http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/8dbd234b071f4b649928c5b100e17666/US--Teen-Killer-Relationship
Rapes, Daily Beatings, and No Escape: Christian School Was Hell For These Boys Blue Creek Academy was an abusive hell on earth, former students say—and the principal who ran it is now heading up a new Bible school in another state. Jacob* dressed himself in a camouflage jacket and a matching beanie on the summer morning he ran away into the West Virginia hills. At 14 years old, he was one of the youngest, smallest, and longest-attending students at Blue Creek Academy, a religious reform school for boys from which he was desperate to escape. Blue Creek Academy was made up of an old schoolhouse and several cabins situated on a remote campground in central West Virginia. A mission of the nearby Independent Fundamental Baptist church, pastor James Waldeck advertised Blue Creek as an “alternative to today's degenerate, secular culture and education methods,” and took in boys who had been in trouble at home—both locally and from as far away as Texas—to be reformed. Its principal, 35-year-old JR Thompson, had reopened the church’s campgrounds in 2010, renamed it Blue Creek Academy, and marketed the boarding school, which he ran with his wife, Hannah, as a godly answer for “at-risk” teens with emotional and behavioral disabilities and Christian parents with $1,000 a month to spend on their salvation. “We can’t wait to watch God move as he helps us snatch troubled souls out of Satan’s hand,” Thompson wrote on the school’s now-defunct website. What the boys found when they got to Blue Creek Academy was something else entirely—an all-too-common story for victims of Lester Roloff-inspired homes, which thrive as part of the unregulated religious teen reform industry. Along with a strict Bible-based curriculum, boys at Blue Creek Academy were allegedly subject to isolation, physical beatings and mistreatment, and at least two students reported sexual abuse by another student, according to court documents from a pending civil case brought against the school by one boy’s guardian; complaints and reports from West Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Daily Beast; and interviews—with a lawyer representing three Blue Creek Academy students, three other former students, one parent, and the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office. Once at Blue Creek, the boys were cut off completely from the outside world, former students and their representatives claim. Bunkered in dilapidated quarters that were infested with rats and mice, the boys weren’t permitted to speak in public unless it was to sing hymns for local churches and the elderly. They weren’t taken to the doctor, and their calls home were monitored to intercept any unhappy tidings. When the boys weren’t going to church, doing manual labor, or memorizing Bible verses, they were in a kind of school—seated in desks facing the wall, completing Bible-based academic workbooks for hours. Staff at Blue Creek Academy educated children using the Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) curriculum, from a homeschooling supply company whose workbooks promote the Bible as a literal history book and stress Creationism as science. (At one time the company even used the Loch Ness Monster to “disprove” Darwin’s theory of evolution.) Following A.C.E. guidelines, desks faced the wall, and were usually surrounded by dividers to block out any distractions. “They basically handed you a book and said, ‘Learn,’” one former student, who asked not to be named, told The Daily Beast. In lieu of teachers, ACE only requires “facilitators” to check students work and record grades, but even that was neglected at Blue Creek, according to several students who told The Daily Beast their time at Thompson’s school had to be made up once they returned to public school because none of their work “counted.” Even the director’s adopted son, 19-year-old Justin Thompson, who lived at Blue Creek starting in 2010, told The Daily Beast over Facebook chat, “I passed high school but [JR Thompson] never kept a lot on record, so I have no proof.” But the educational neglect was nothing compared to the punishments given by Thompson, former students allege. Get The Beast In Your Inbox! Daily DigestStart and finish your day with the smartest, sharpest takes from The Daily Beast Cheat SheetA speedy, smart summary of news and must-reads from The Daily Beast and across the Web By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy Thank You! You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason Boys who acted out, or refused to obey, might have their heads shaved like Jacob. Attempts to run away were allegedly penalized with food: an all-bean or asparagus diet or being made to chug water then denied use of the bathroom. They were all allegedly beaten—with bare hands, paddles, and boards. Jacob—whose new guardian is now suing Thompson and Waldeck for the maltreatment the boy allegedly endured there— said he was thrown into a wall when he wouldn’t confess to breaking a bench. “Mr. Thompson was very aggressive when it came to paddlings,” said one former student, reached through Facebook, who says he was sent to Blue Creek Academy for drinking and smoking pot. The boy, who asked not to be named because of his remaining ties to Blue Creek staff, said that he was hit nearly every day with Thompson's bare hands or a two-inch thick wood plank with holes they called “The Hillbilly Hot Seat” for lying, or cursing, even singing a secular song in the shower. “It was hell,” he said. “They forced unwanted religion on us, made us do labor that we hated, and made us run up and down the driveway. They used a board to hit us if we didn't do what we were asked,” he said. At least two of the boys there were the victims of sexual abuse. As detailed on an intake form from the division of Child Protective Services, obtained by a FOIA request from The Daily Beast, a 17-year-old boy—who was sent to Blue Creek from another teen reform school in Wisconsin where he had been originally placed and subsequently booted for molesting boys—was sexually abusing two of the younger students in 2012. Thompson—whom two former Blue Creek families fault with failing to supervise a known abuser—did report the older boy to police. When questioned, the older boy admitted to Thompson and police that he had raped one boy and molested another; he was arrested and sent to a juvenile detention center, where he was charged with four counts of 3rd degree sexual assault and three counts of 1st degree sexual abuse. A separate allegation of sexual assault by a different boy at Blue Creek Academy is still currently under investigation, according to Sgt. Brian Humphreys, the public information officer for the Kanawha Sheriff's Office. Blue Creek administrators had their own personal history with CPS: one had been investigated for the alleged sexual abuse of his biological children, while another had been reported for unspecified allegations against his adopted son. Both investigations were closed as “incomplete.” On the intake form, the CPS investigator noted there was not enough supervision at the school and took issue with the policy of corporal punishment, but neither concern was enough to remove the children. Besides, where would they go? “The parents of all the boys do not seem interested in coming to get any of them,” the worker wrote. Handout But Jacob wanted out. So he waited until the morning of June, 10, 2014 when Thompson would be off campus. As the other boys gathered for prayers and school, Jacob went back to his cabin, telling them he had forgotten to brush his teeth. Then he made a run for it. When the staff at BCA realized Jacob had run, they called Thompson back to look for him. After hours of fruitless searching, Thompson called local law enforcement, who helped him search the surrounding woods—but Jacob was gone. The next evening, a man found Jacob begging for change at a neighboring county supermarket 10 miles from Blue Creek and called Clay County Child Protective Services. Jacob smelled foul and the soles of his shoes had been worn bare from running. He was hungry, dirty, and scared, according to the CPS intake form.   Jacob begged the sheriff not to send him back. Kanawha County Child Protective Services went out to investigate Jacob’s abuse allegations and interview the boys at Blue Creek. When they got past Thompson, who initially refused to let them in the door, they found seven boys who all disclosed allegations of abuse and neglect by Thompson. The caseworker wrote that, in her interviews, the children told her Thompson had left marks from beatings and his poor supervision allowed for the molestation of several children; guns, drugs, and alcohol were also being brought on campgrounds.  The official finding was maltreatment. “There was a lack of oversight,” said Troy Giatras, the attorney litigating a case for Jacob’s guardian against Thompson, Waldeck, and Blue Creek Academy. “The corporal punishment, the manual labor, the isolation, and the allegations of abuse that were never investigated? Other kids have reached out to us, so I know this isn’t an isolated incident.” “You have a place that is operating without a good charter and not well supervised by the Department of Health and Human Resources, and parents with troubled kids who are expecting a religious school to help.” No one from Blue Creek chose to comment for this story. Calls to Wadeck and Bible Baptist Church, and calls and emails sent to JR Thompson, his wife Hannah, and two other couples who worked at the camp during the time of alleged abuse were also not returned. In answers to a number of pending lawsuits, however, including one on behalf of Jacob, Waldeck and Thompson deny all charges of neglect or mistreatment of the boys at Blue Creek Academy. After her interviews, with the help of the Kanawha County Sheriff, the Child Protective Services caseworker brought the kids to a pizza parlor while they organized a return to their homes. While the children could be removed—because Blue Creek was unlicensed as a residential home—the Department of Children and Families had no power to shut the boarding school down. Like thousands of other religious private schools around the country—many of which become havens for abuse—Blue Creek Academy operated unlicensed, unregulated, and wholly unmonitored by the state. The only avenue for closure rested with the Board of Education, an entity that until then, had also had minimal interaction with the school. As in many other states, religious private schools in West Virginia aren’t held to the same standards as their nonreligious counterparts. Though the ways in which they are exempt varies from state to state, for many schools that operate with a religious mission—80 percent of private schools nationwide—accreditation or licensing, the hiring of certified teachers or the approval of curriculum, or even simply notifying the state as to its existence is completely voluntary. “It’s a little scary when you think about it,” Betty Jordan, executive assistant to West Virginia’s Education Superintendent told The Daily Beast, explaining Blue Creek’s “Exemption K status,” a category that simply requires any religious school to send a letter to the state of its intent to operate and file annual test scores. “There is very very limited oversight. Actually there is no oversight. So basically if I wanted to tomorrow, I could write a letter to the state saying I want to open a school and I could open a school.” There are 130 such schools in West Virginia. Jordan said the exemptions are “hardly ever” revoked. State superintendent Michael Martirano did initiate Blue Creek’s closure, by revoking Blue Creek’s exemption status shortly after the children were removed. And in his September 2014 revocation letter, Martirano ostensibly put an end to any ideas of Blue Creek reopening. He wrote: “Due to the egregious nature of the non-compliance, children's health, safety and welfare, any future attempts by the school to seek reinstatement of the exemption status will be denied by this office.” Notably, the superintendent had shuttered another school 75 miles south of Blue Creek Academy the month before, after 26 years of operation. Martirano forced Miracle Meadows, a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school for “at risk” boys and girls from 6 to 17 years old, to close after a DHHR investigation found that school officials had failed to report an instance of sexual abuse of one student by another and that a school janitor had restrained students in handcuffs until their wrists bled and choked others who misbehaved.     The Department of Health and Human Resources had received 13 formal complaints about the school since 2009, four of which alleged sexual misconduct, according to an Associated Press report on records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Miracle Meadows’ former director Susan Gayle Clark, 69, pled guilty this year to three misdemeanors counts of child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury, failure to report by a mandated reporter, and obstructing a law enforcement officer. She was sentenced to six months and 30 days in prison.   Abuse at religious schools like Blue Creek Academy and Miracle Meadows is underreported and frighteningly prevalent, according to Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and author of God vs the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty. “These small institutions can be very dangerous to kids because they are isolated and fly under the radar,” Hamilton told The Daily Beast. Because some fundamentalist parents agree with physical abuse as discipline and sexual abuse is often dealt with internally or covered up, Hamilton said, it can be “easy for these groups to get away with it for quite a while, while endangering a series of children.” “This is a common problem, which calls for a National Commission on child sex abuse and for states to work more cooperatively on tracking entities that permit and foment child sex abuse and neglect.” Indeed, a lack of cooperation by states is the very thing that allows abusive Christian teen reform homes closed by authorities in one state to be reopened in another, sometimes using the same name, and frequently run by the same operators. via Facebook After Olin King pled “no contest” to charges in South Carolina stemming from the isolation, imprisonment, and beatings of children in his care at The New Bethany Baptist School for Boys in 1984, he packed up and moved, opening the aptly-named Second Chance Ranch in Danbury, North Carolina. A state bill that would have licensed such boarding schools proposed in response to New Bethany’s closing was protested by local pastors who called it an “intrusion into freedom of the church’s rights.” Today South Carolina is one of the states that exempts religious schools from licensing rules that govern other residential youth homes. In 2009, a Lester Roloff disciple, Pastor Jack Patterson, was forced to close his tough-love boarding school, Reclamation Ranch in Alabama, after allegations of torture and a police raid that turned up guns and shackles. As part of a plea deal, Patterson traded in a felony aggravated child abuse for a verbal harassment misdemeanor and a $500 fine. Though he did close Reclamation Ranch, Patterson opened a home for adult men in its place, maintained his school for girls nearby, and told a Mother Jones reporter in 2011, he planned to open more homes in Ohio, Florida, and Michigan.   In 2012, Alexandra Zayas, a  Pulitzer Prize finalist for her reporting on religious boarding schools in the state, wrote that Florida preacher Clayton "Buddy" Maynard was housing five children when, just two years earlier his isolated Heritage Boys Academy had been closed after a state investigation found that boys had been abused there, including one boy who was whipped 1,330 times. “None of the state agencies that oversee such facilities were aware the church was caring for children,” Zayas wrote. And Florida pastor Russ Cookston’s Lighthouse ministries school was closed in 2013 after being plagued with allegations of physical and sexual abuse and solitary confinement. According to his Facebook and LinkedIn pages, though, one month after he closed up his shop in the small town of Jay, he was working as an associate pastor at a Master’s Ranch, a home for troubled boys in Missouri, a state with notoriously lax child welfare laws. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Master’s Ranch administrator David Bosley confirmed Cookston’s position as a senior staff member, praising him as “almost too gentle for this job,” “extremely kind,” and “extremely patient.” “I do know when you get in this business—and I've been working with kids for almost 30 years—that you will always be accused of abuse by someone,” Bosley said. “I firmly believe every student should be heard and every allegation thoroughly investigated for the safety of all kids, but you're always going to have one or two disgruntled kids or parents who are trying to find a way out of the program or who just hate you for trying to help him.” The Government Accountability Office found thousands of allegations of abuse at teen reform homes and camps from 1990 to 2007, some of which involved the death of a young person. The 2007 report was unable to provide a specific number however, as “it could not locate a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects comprehensive nationwide data.” In fact, the only tracking of these types of homes and the abuse that often occurs in them, comes from bloggers and advocacy groups. Angela Smith, 42, runs HEAL, one of the most prominent organizations working to expose and ultimately close abusive youth facilities. Blue Creek Academy is one of some 500 past and present residential programs in the U.S. that currently make up HEAL’s watch-list of fraudulent and abusive programs in the U.S. “Abuse is rampant because many of these facilities operate with little or no oversight and accountability,” Smith said. Even in the states with licensing boards like Montana and Utah, she said, ”the people who own and operate these youth programs are the ones doing the oversight.”   “The fox is watching the hen-house so to speak.” Nobody seems to be watching JR Thompson. By the time the Department of Education mailed the revocation letter to Blue Creek Academy, principal Thompson had moved to Montana, to a three-bedroom single family house on 11 acres in De Borgia, a six-mile-wide town near the Idaho border that, as of the last census count, was home to 78 people. Within a year, and with the blessing of his “sending church” in West Virginia, Thompson had registered his new home as Canaan’s Land Baptist Church with the Secretary of State. By August 2015, the Canaan’s Land Boy’s Ranch, a non-public secondary school, was registered as a business. “Even though our name is Canaan’s Land Boys Ranch, we are not currently in a ranch setting,” Thompson says in a video advertisement for the $900-a-month boarding school running out of his new home. “We do plan to expand and move to a location where we will be able to acquire animals for the boys to work with.” There is space for eight children, according the Canaan’s Land Boys Ranch website, and so far, two boys, ages 14 and 15, currently live, go to church with, and are educated by the Thompsons. The minors both appear in promotional videos for Canaan’s Land Boys Ranch, where they decry their past lives of “doing the wrong things,” and being disrespectful to their parents. They’re wearing bowties in Facebook photos as they sing hymns with the Thompsons for a church audience. The existence of Thompson’s new endeavor came as a surprise to Montana school officials. “This is the first I’ve heard anything about Canaan's Land Boys Ranch,” said Mineral County Superintendent of Schools Mary Yarnall, who explained Thompson has yet to fill out the minimal paperwork the state requires from the operator of a boarding school. “I will try figure out an address and send him a packet. If he doesn’t acknowledge that, I can send the sheriff to at least make him sign, but in Montana there isn’t a whole lot of consequence for not registering.” Montana’s negligible yet unenforceable education requirements for religious private schools no doubt appeal to Thompson, who according to his pseudonymous activism on social media, seems particularly keen on separating himself and his boys’ home from any more government meddling. Thompson blogs under the the alias Nehemiah Flynt, “a Christian author determined to expose the evils of Child Protective Services,” according to his Facebook page, which he made private following a request for comment for this story. In a YouTube video reading from his book, “Legal Discrimination,” Thompson—speaking as Flynt, with his face blurred, but with his characteristic southern drawl intact—does speak to the controversy at Blue Creek saying, “Flynt took charge of a successful Christian-based facility for at-risk youths. He soon, learned, however, that the government of the United States is so narrow-minded that they would stop at nothing to close any facility operating under moral or religious principles differing from their own devilish agendas. ” “One allegation from a non-credible source changed everything," he says in the video. Now, attorney Troy Giatras says he’s representing at least three former students and their parents, who are hoping someone at Thompson’s former boarding school will have to answer for what went on there. Since being reunited with her son after the raid at Blue Creek, one of Giatras’ clients, Carolyn*, 32, from Evansville, Indiana, has written and called every local, state, and federal law enforcement office and lawmaker that she knows, looking for someone who will hold the operators of Blue Creek Academy accountable for the abuse she says her son withstood there for 17 months, and to make sure it doesn’t happen to other children. “They dodged my calls,” she said. “They told me that me and my son should be lucky, that I got him back and they don’t have time to do anything else, that their work is for active cases.” As for her son’s well-being, she said, “It’s a process. The damage is overwhelming. He’s been in counseling ever since he left.” Meanwhile, Thompson is being careful with his new school. The website for Canaan's Land Boys Ranch used to have his and his wife’s names on it, but they’ve since been scrubbed clean and a warning for prospective parents has been added: “Our Ranch Isn't For Everyone!” it says, along with the caveat that boys with a history of “sexual acting out (molestations, rapes, etc)” and “students who come from families who would not be supportive of the day to day operations of Canaan's Land Boys Ranch” will not be admitted.   *Names of children and parents have been omitted or changed to protect child victims of sexual abuse.  Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/12/rapes-daily-beatings-and-no-escape-christian-school-was-hell-for-these-boys.html?via=desktop&source=facebook
--> California’s Addiction Rehab System Desperately Needs a Fix Details Beth Cone Kramer 20 June 2016 -Last Friday, ABC’s 20/20 detailed the unfathomable saga of rehab mogul Chris Bathum, (photo above) subject of an April expose in LA Weekly written by Hillel Aron. Bathum’s company, Community Recovery, Inc., took in over $30 million in revenue last year, despite his record as a convicted felon and, by his own admission, that he is neither a licensed drug counselor nor a therapist.  Bathum doesn’t even have a college degree and the only certification he holds is from a hypnotherapy institute. His legal troubles had been the subject of an LA Weekly cover story back in December. The founder and board chairman of a chain of over 20 sober living houses and outpatient clinics in California and Colorado has been the target of three lawsuits in early 2016 for allegations ranging from wrongful termination to sexual battery. A pair of former patients at Bathum’s Community Recovery Los Angeles (CRLA) facilities alleges that Bathum had “isolated and targeted (the) plaintiffs and other women to prey on their addictions by using and supplying drugs around them, moving them to isolated hotel rooms and remote locations, encouraging them to use drugs with him, and sexually molesting them when they were high and/or incapable of consent.”  According to various reports, Bathum is the subject of over 50 lawsuits, including former client Amanda Jester who filed a suit that he had molested her in a sweat lodge during a meditation session. Another client, Erika Bruakis, claims he provided her with crystal meth and made sexual advances toward her. Dana Reardon, the most recent patient to file a suit, claims he provided her with meth and heroin, forcing her to watch him engage in sex acts with two of his other patients.  20/20 and LA Weekly both reported that Bathum overdosed on heroin and was taken by ambulance from a Malibu motel in December, which he denies. In fact, when questioned during the 20/20 report, he denied all charges and claimed his identity had been stolen. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department says he never filed a report. He is currently countersuing multiple women who have filed lawsuits against him for libel. Bathum’s troubles didn’t start at CRLA. Last July, one of his former patients, Julie Hluchota, died of an overdose. Hluchota had entered a Malibu rehab clinic, Seasons, where Bathum was the co-founder and the director. After spending 90 days in the program, she began to work at the facility and relapsed just two months later. Hluchota alleged that Bathum made unwanted sexual advances toward her, which is denies.  Just how does a convicted felon without a degree or credentials open and run a chain of sober living facilities and rehab clinics, preying upon young women in the most dire of conditions?  Kenneth Whoridaz Whitfield has a lot to say about it. The 46-year old military veteran has been in recovery since 1993 and has been sober for the past six years. He shares that he made some bad decisions and relapsed in 2008, serving time in County and as a result, awakened to what recovery really is and what it isn’t.  “People in the Inland Empire, San Bernardino, and other areas aren’t as affluent,” he says. “They might not have as many resources other than 12 step-programs. It was a real culture shock when I arrived in LA in May 2010. After I was incarcerated, I got clean and sober, thanks to the VA in West LA and Henry Waxman who was committed to staying on top of things to get veterans the best care possible,” he shares. “My experience at the VA wasn’t perfect but they did the best with limited resources and I’m back to being a productive member of society.”  Following his time at the VA, Whitfield got into the field of recovery, managing a sober living facility in Mar Vista and working in marketing for another facility. When his last contract was up, he says he “didn’t like the direction the treatment world was going.”  The U.S. is the most addicted country in the world, he says, and the consumer of 90 percent of prescription drugs worldwide. As a result, the addiction treatment centers and rehab have become a multimillion dollar industry. “Until society looks at prescription and illegal drugs as drugs anyone can get addicted to, nothing will change,” says Whitfield.  He continues, warning, “Big names in rehab are just about making money. It’s easier to get a license as a rehab owner in California than it is to get a contractor’s license. If you have a felony record, you just have to write to the governor. Doctors who have had their medical licenses revoked can open clinics and rehab facilities. There’s no process to make sure they are legit and they are given carte blanche to scam insurance companies.”  What can be done to change the broken system?  Whitfield points to the Governor. “When it comes to this issue, he’s dropped the ball. He needs to put his foot down and say if you’re a sober living facility, you need to be non-profit,” he advises. “The East Coast has far more regulations. In New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, they don’t have this stuff going on. To open a treatment center there, you have to get a license like a hospital or mental health facility.”  If someone owns an outpatient treatment clinic, he or she should not be able to open a sober living facility and the facilities need to be licensed, he suggests. There should be some oversight and regulation to check up on non-licensed employees handing out medication, as well. Residential treatment centers must have doctors and nurses present to provide the level of care necessary. Substance abuse and addiction come at a tremendous cost to individuals, families, and society. As the need grows for rehab and sober living facilities, it’s crucial that we don’t allow unscrupulous entrepreneurs to take advantage of Californians in the most dire straits. California should follow the lead of other states that place more restrictions on who can open and operate facilities, as well as how the facilities operate.  (Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Photo: LA Weekly. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.    Source: http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/the-la-beat/11315-california-s-addiction-rehab-system-desperately-needs-a-fix
Nurses at Illinois hospital file complaint over recent 'boot camp' training Written by Kelly Gooch | June 21, 2016 0 inShare Nurses at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill., are alleging that a recent "boot camp" training was punitive and humiliating, The Herald-News reports. The Illinois Nurses Association, which represents the workers, said the emergency room training involved forcing nurses to drink water without access to restrooms, as well as nurses sitting on a bedpan in a patient bed for 30 minutes in a public hallway while wearing goggles and headphones to simulate poor vision and hearing, according to the report. The union claims the training was disciplinary after certain patient satisfaction scores. In response to the experience, the union filed a petition with the hospital contending that the training session violated scheduling provisions in the union contract, The Herald-News reports. "I think they're looking for better dialogue on these kinds of matters going forward," Chris Martin, spokesman with the INA, said, according to the report. In a statement provided to The Herald-News, hospital officials said nurses "are held in the highest esteem," and participants found the training "a positive and productive experience." The hospital said the training provided "new best practice insights" that the nurses are eager to implement.  Source: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/human-capital-and-risk/nurses-at-illinois-hospital-file-complaint-over-recent-boot-camp-training.html
Mandatory treatment not effective at reducing drug use, violates human rights, researchers say Date: June 21, 2016 Source: Boston University Medical Center Summary: Clinician researchers assessed current global evidence and found that mandatory treatment for people with substance use disorders is not effective in reducing their drug use. S In an analysis recently published in BMJ, which coincided with the UN High Level Meeting on HIV in New York, Boston Medical Center (BMC) clinician researchers assessed current global evidence and found that mandatory treatment for people with substance use disorders is not effective in reducing their drug use. In addition, mandatory treatment, which is defined as treatment ordered, motivated or supervised under the criminal justice system, done without a patient's informed consent violates their human rights and does more harm than benefit to the patient. Bulat Idrisov, MD, MSc, and Karsten Lunze, MD, MPH, DrPH, from the Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit at BMC and Boston University School of Medicine, in collaboration with researchers in Canada and Malaysia, assessed global data and found that countries often lack the capacity to treat substance use disorders. This happens because they are not able to offer the diagnostic and therapeutic modalities and providers trained in addiction medicine that are necessary for effective treatment. The authors argue that in order to reach successfully reduced substance use disorder rates, countries should consider implementing approaches that have been shown to be effective in rigorous scientific studies. These strategies include community-based opioid treatment, including methadone and buprenorphine. In addition, they suggest that offering harm-reduction programs like needle exchanges and providing education about overdose medications such as naloxone to people with substance use disorders, as well as to their friends and family members. "The evidence presented in this article provides additional argumentation supporting the position of all UN organizations that mandatory treatment settings do not represent a favorable or effective environment for the treatment of drug dependence," said Fabienne Hariga, MD, MPH, senior adviser to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime during the recent meeting in New York. "The United Nations therefore calls on States to transition from mandatory drug treatment and implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community.''  Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160621115655.htm
How children in foster care could benefit from the new federal education law - The Washington Post How children in foster care could benefit from the new federal education law The inside track on Washington politics. Be the first to know about new stories from PowerPost. Sign up to follow, and we’ll e-mail you free updates as they’re published. You’ll receive free e-mail news updates each time a new story is published. You’re all set! Sign up *Invalid email address Got it Got it “We cannot allow the students who need our attention the most to be treated unfairly under the law,” Education Secretary John King Jr. said Wednesday. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press) By Emma Brown Education June 23 at 12:01 AM The Obama administration on Thursday released new guidance explaining what states and school districts must do to meet new legal obligations to students in foster care, who are often among the nation’s most vulnerable children. For the first time, schools, districts and states must publicly report on the performance of children in foster care, a requirement that advocates hope will help shine a light on the need for more attention and help. Also for the first time, schools are legally bound to work with child welfare agencies to ensure that children in foster care can stay in their school if it’s in their best interest, even if they move — a measure meant to provide stability for children who often otherwise lack it. If school district and child welfare agency officials decide that moving to a new school would be in a child’s best interest, then the receiving school must allow immediate enrollment, even if the child cannot produce the required paperwork. [These are the faces of America’s growing youth homeless population] The new provisions were written into the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind as the nation’s main education law in December. They are meant to protect the approximately 270,000 children in foster care who are enrolled in U.S. public schools; foster children are more likely than their peers to be retained in a grade level and to drop out of high school. “For far too long, we as a country have failed so many of our most vulnerable students,” Education Secretary John King Jr. told reporters Wednesday. “We cannot allow the students who need our attention the most to be treated unfairly under the law.” The new guidance, released Thursday by the departments of Education and Health and Human Services, explains with more specificity how states and schools should live up to the law’s provisions on children in foster care. local education Orlando Shooting Updates News and analysis on the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. post_newsletter348 follow-orlando true endOfArticle false Please provide a valid email address. You’re all set! See all newsletters It recommends, for example, that states, districts and child welfare agencies set up a process for dispute resolution in cases in which there is disagreement over whether a child would be best served by staying in their original school or moving to a new one. And it clarifies that if an agreement cannot be reached, then the child welfare agency should have the final say. The guidance does not, however, clear up an important ambiguity in the law: who must pay for transportation to a child’s original school if the child moves outside that school’s attendance zone. [Obama signs new K-12 education law] The law requires that transportation be provided but does not say what should happen if a school district and a child welfare agency disagree over who should cover the bill. The Education Department has proposed regulations that would require the district to pay if negotiations over sharing the cost fail. The department is accepting public comment on those draft regulations, and officials said they would incorporate feedback as they write the final rule. The department also issued guidance Thursday outlining how states and school districts should solicit feedback from their communities as they figure out how to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. The guidance is meant to ensure that everyone with an interest in education — including parents, teachers and members of historically underserved communities — have a chance to chime in.  Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/how-children-in-foster-care-could-benefit-from-the-new-federal-education-law/2016/06/22/397c409c-38ac-11e6-8f7c-d4c723a2becb_story.html
Former foster parents indicted for abuse, drug charges Forest Gove couple accused of child abuse Forest Gove couple accused of child abuse Share Video Researchers test vulnerability to major quake Brexit impact on stock market Top Stories: Sunrise 6-24-16 Top Stories: 11 p.m. 6-23-16 Patron and manager help stop bar robbery Man searching for stolen car and dogs Top Stories: 6 p.m. 6-23-16 Garden designed to give helpful tips Woman wants justice for dog shot in back yard Man shot by Portland homeowner is former NFL player Feds blame Union Pacific in Mosier derailment Forest Gove couple accused of child abuse Related Videos Share Video Related Videos 00:00 00:00   Forest Gove couple accused of child abuse KGW.com Staff and Christine Pitawanich, KGW 1:42 PM. PDT June 24, 2016 170 1 Darren and Dawnyle Durham CONNECT TWEET LINKEDIN GOOGLE+ PINTEREST A Washington County grand jury indicted two former Department of Human Services foster parents accused of abusing children and forcing them to ingest drugs. Dawnyle and Darren Durham were arrested June 9. They face charges including criminal mistreatment, delivery of a controlled substance to a minor and causing another person to ingest a controlled substance. Dawnyle Durham was also charged with possession of methamphetamine. The Durhams were DHS certified foster care providers from 2001-2013.  The couple adopted four of the foster children prior to their certification being revoked in 2013.  “There was yelling but they kept to themselves pretty much,” said neighbor Donnie Long. Long and other neighbors aren't surprised that Dawnyle and Darren Durham are in jail. The couple's four adopted kids, ages 11-17, were taken away earlier this year. Court documents described horrific living conditions. The children said the Durhams’ Forest Grove home was filled was with drug use, from meth to prescription pills. Neighbors, took note. “We had some challenges in the neighborhood with some unsavory characters coming in at early hours and so contacted the police a couple of times,” said Michelle Rydman, who lives behind the Durhams. The kids told investigators they found syringes inside their home, and that their mother Dawnyle hit them. The children described one instance where their mother used a belt and hit one of her daughters so hard "that one child was unable to stand." The children said one of the daughters was even forced to take percocet and do a urine test for her mother. In an interview with police, Dawnyle admitted to having her daughter to a urine test for her because she was using marijuana and would not be able to get any other prescriptions if it showed up in the test. When asked if she told her daughter to take Percocet, she said she could not recall.  Another child said he had thought about killing himself, telling investigators "hell would be better than my life." Washington County detectives learned that Dawnyle pawned off a wheelchair belonging to one of the children, along with some video games, according to Sgt. Bob Ray with the Washington County Sheriff's Office. “The kids were sad all the time,” said Long, whose children also played with the Durham’s kids. Long said the kids appeared lonely and didn't spend much time outside. “They weren't allowed to play sports, no after school activities, things that kids like to do,” said Long. “They were always very sweet and polite to us. They would say hi through the fence,” said Rydman. The children also said they didn't get enough food and sometimes would have to steal food from their home. The kids said they were made to stay home and clean before DHS came to their house.  “I hope the state helps these kids and … doesn't let this happen again,” Long said. Washington County investigators couldn’t go into many details, but said the case is complex. “They were foster parents from 2001-2013 so we have a 12 year time span there. During that time span they were foster parents for more than 50 children,” said Ray. Ray said they've contacted half of the kids so far and are looking for other possible victims. “We really don't know how far reaching it may be,” he said. DHS said they've asked for a review of the case because abuse in foster care continues to be an issue in the child welfare program. Both parents are still in jail. Bail for each of them is at more than $100,000. In court documents, Dawnyle denied the allegations. She said the syringes weren't hers and that they belonged to a homeless couple she allowed to stay in the family’s guest house. She said her kids had plenty of food and she did not abuse her kids. Though she told an officer she "is not a bad mother but she is not proud of what she's done." According to court documents, Dawnyle’s mother said her daughter’s son was murdered 16 years ago and she has also been going downhill ever since her brother died three years ago. She also said Dawnyle struggles with mental health issues. Washington County detectives are asking anyone with information about unreported crimes by the Durhams to call 503-846-2500.  Source: http://www.kgw.com/news/crime/former-foster-parents-indicted-for-abuse-drug-charges/254026103
City Files Lawsuits Against Two Alcohol and Drug Treatment Facilities by Dana Point Times on June 23, 2016 in EYE ON DP, News Headlines Leave a comment By Kristina Pritchett On Wednesday, the city filed two lawsuits against two properties that the city says are alcohol or drug abuse treatment facilities. Both lawsuits were filed with the Superior Court in Orange County, calling the properties public nuisances and stating they do not have required state license. On Tuesday night during the City Council’s closed session, Council members approved for the city attorney to file the two lawsuits against Capo By the Sea and Sobertec LLC. Capo By the Sea is an exclusive drug addiction and alcohol rehab center that offers customized recovery programs. Along with Capo by the Sea, John T. Kahal is also named as the defendant. The city states in the lawsuit against Capo by the Sea that the corporation has been operating a treatment facility at the property. In the lawsuit against Sobertec LLC, the defendants are listed as Sovereign Health Group, Sober Network Properties, Edward Smilde and Grace Smilde. In both lawsuits, the City also states the properties are located in city zoning areas that do not permit the use of a treatment facility. “Alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities are prohibited in certain zones and are allowed in other zones within the city with the issuance of a conditional use permit,” the lawsuit states and adds that the location of Sobertec is not permitted in the zone in which it resides. The lawsuits state “any facility that provides non-medical alcoholism or drug abuse recovery, treatment, or detoxification services to adults must obtain a license from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. Facilities licensed by the Department must comply with the requirements proscribed by state laws.” According to the lawsuits, some facilities that are known as “sober living homes” do not need to be licensed if they do not provide any care or supervision of the residents. However, if the home serves seven or more clients and provides “alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment service[s],” they must obtain a license from the state. The City believes that both of the properties are being used as a facility which provides recovery or treatment services to seven or more paying clients, who are either onsite or using the property as a residential component of a treatment facility. The city also believes the properties do not have the state-issued license. In the lawsuit against Sobertec, the city states they believe “the defendants are operating a Drug Abuse recovery or treatment facility that provides treatment services to seven or more clients in violation of state law, because it failed to obtain the necessary state-issued license, and in violation of the city’s zoning code, because such uses are prohibited in the zoning district in which the treatment facility is located.” During the Tuesday night meeting, City Attorney Patrick Munoz said the Council authorized for code enforcement activity against one particular licensed facility in the city. “We have reason to believe they’re not complying with their licensing requirements,” Munoz said on Tuesday. Munoz said the city cannot and will not discriminate, or take any action, against disabled persons. But, they can take action to ensure licensing requirements are met. They can take action to enforce laws that apply to all residences, and if the city has a legitimate reason to believe that licensing laws are being violated. Munoz said the city staff has been keeping watch on efforts made by other cities “to address the concerns that sober living home concentrations detract from the character of the community, as it is a current issue of statewide concern.” Munoz said the city has received multiple emails and phone calls related to several homes and facilities in towns, and have been investigating their compliance with city and state regulations. The city instructed staff to schedule a study session to be able to explain more details during a public forum.  Source: http://www.danapointtimes.com/city-files-lawsuits-against-two-alcohol-and-drug-treatment-facilities/
Foster Parents Under Investigation For Abuse By Genevieve Reaume Jun. 26, 2016  Video  Photos PORTLAND, Ore. -- Certified foster parents for dozens of children are now facing several charges for abusing their four adopted children. This is all according to court documents. One foster father, Darren Durham's record includes arrests for drugs, assault and harassment. Despite his record, DHS placed 54 children in his care from 2001 to 2013. In 2013, his certification was revoked, but by then he had adopted four children. One of the kids told investigators that she was beaten so badly she could barely stand. Detectives are now looking for more victims. - See more at: http://www.kdrv.com/news/Foster_Parents_Under_Investigation_For_Abuse.html#sthash.VaUTBgbz.dpuf 
Prison officials fail to review rape allegations Catie Edmondson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 2:19 p.m. CDT June 26, 2016 Federal authorities are investigating a range of potential crimes at Lincoln Hills School for Boys, including second-degree sexual assault, physical child abuse, child neglect, abuse of prisoners, and intimidation of victims and witnesses.(Photo: Mark Hoffman) - Officials at a troubled youth prison failed to properly oversee more than two dozen rape and sexual assault investigations as required by federal law, with one prison leader admitting to ignorance of even basic details about the facility's system to root out abuse. The security director at Lincoln Hills School for Boys acknowledged to state investigators that he had failed over 7½ months to review any investigations of sexual abuse and had met just once with the staff tasked with probing allegations of assault, according to documents released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel under the state's open records law. That official, Rick Peterson, was demoted in February after an investigation showed he was unable to correctly identify who on his staff was trained to investigate sexual assault allegations, the records show. With more than 30 internal sexual assault investigations open at the prison 30 miles north of Wausau, the facility's handling of abuse claims remains as critical as ever. "There are clear signals the institution isn't taking allegations seriously. They should be acting immediately (on reports of assault)," said Amy Fettig, the associate director for the Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union."When you don't have leadership and supervisors taking responsibility for what's happening, there's no way they're going to effectively prevent abuse from happening. It sends a signal to other people, both staff and those in custody, that nothing is going to happen, that (assault) is not serious." Fetting, senior legal counsel for a group that frequently sues state governments, said that any facility that fails to properly investigate abuse "is exposing itself to serious litigation liability." The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing alleged abuses at the prison, including sexual assault, abuse of prisoners and destruction of public records. The failure to review sexual abuse investigations under a key federal law could play a role in that probe or a separate U.S. Department of Justice investigation into whether the prison violated inmates' civil rights. A summary of the internal investigation of Peterson includes findings in keeping with critics' claims that allegations of sexual abuse are met with indifferent or botched responses. After he failed to provide oversight of investigations of sexual abuse under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, Peterson was demoted from security director to a supervisory position, and his pay was cut from about $76,000 to about $68,000 a year. A new security director — the No. 3 post at the facility — has not yet been hired. The Department of Corrections is currently developing a database that "will significantly enhance tracking and reporting of (sexual assault) allegations and investigations," according to agency spokesperson Tristan Cook.  According to the investigation report, Peterson told Department of Corrections investigators that the prison did not track ongoing investigations of rape and sexual assault. He said that no such mechanism was in place because the longtime security director before him, Bruce Sunde, also failed to track such investigations. Sunde, who retired last year, declined to be interviewed for this story and Peterson didn't respond to a request for comment. Peterson acknowledged to DOC investigators that someone needed to review investigations, but said he was unable to because "there were lots of stuff going on" at the prison and he was "busy putting out fires and pulled in different directions." Despite what Peterson told investigators, Cook contended there is a tracking system for abuse allegations at Lincoln Hills and its sister facility on its campus, Copper Lake School for Girls. "DOC strongly disputes any suggestion that (sexual assault) investigations at (the youth prisons) are not being tracked, as both institutions and DOC's PREA unit track PREA investigations," Cook said in a statement, using an abbreviation for the Prison Rape Elimination Act. When asked why the prison's security director and investigator as well as DOC investigators were unaware of such a tracking mechanism, Cook repeated that "allegations were being reported and routed for investigation, investigations were being assigned, investigations were being completed, and investigation information was being provided to the PREA unit for record-keeping purposes." The lack of oversight from correctional leaders is underscored in one instance described in the report. DOC investigators found that a staffer at the prison tasked with looking into allegations of assault took it upon himself to review and approve his own report on the subject. Investigators are not vested with that authority — they are supposed to present their findings for review to their supervisor. "That should never happen in a chain of command," the ACLU's Fettig said. "There needs to be oversight to guard against bias and, frankly, sloppiness in the investigation. The fact that they're not paying attention is a big problem." Though Peterson admitted he had not reviewed any investigations of assault at the prison, he told investigators he was unaware that reports were being finalized without his oversight. In violation of the standards established by federal law, the facility also failed to conduct formal sexual abuse incident reviews following each investigation of sexual abuse and did not annually review sexual assault data, a federal audit found in February. Those two practices are intended to compel senior management to consider whether the investigations and data indicate a need to change policy or practice to better prevent, detect or respond to sexual assault. Staff at Lincoln Hills were given 180 days to meet those standards. The auditor found that after her initial visit, the facility compiled a report of aggregate sexual assault data and began holding incident reviews. Even though Lincoln Hills worked to comply with those basic federal standards, multiple reports of failing to properly respond to allegations of sexual abuse open the state up to serious risk of litigation, according to Brenda Smith. Smith, a professor at the Washington College of Law at American University, served on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission from 2004 to 2009. "To the extent you don't take care of these things and there's a pattern of not following up on complaints, it puts the agency and the state in a place of peril with regard to liability," Smith said. "This is something that the governor's office should be looking at. There should be oversight not just from the federal level but local and state oversight." Gov. Scott Walker has defended or not commented on the way his administration responded to a year of warnings from county officials and judges about assaults at the prison. When asked if Walker was aware that staff at Lincoln Hills failed to track or oversee investigations of rape and sexual assault at the facility and whether he believed his office had appropriately responded to problems at the youth prison, spokesman Tom Evenson said that Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher "has Governor Walker's full support in addressing agency issues and instituting reforms." Last month in his first interview since returning to the Corrections Department after heading it from 1999 to 2003, Litscher told the Journal Sentinel that he believes the agency is getting past problems at the youth prison. The newly released records are the latest to document a pattern of what one judge four years ago described as "inexcusable" responses to sexual assault and inmate safety at the Northwoods facility. The Journal Sentinel reported in February that Racine County officials pulled their youth offenders from Lincoln Hills after the institution botched its response to the 2012 sexual assault of an inmate. Staff waited to take the victim to the hospital until after a basketball game finished and failed to inform law enforcement of the assault. It has also been reported that the facility has no central mechanism for tracking assaults, fights and other incidents. Many key reports are handwritten. When a female worker was groped by an inmate last fall, corrections officials initially did little in response, and instead subjected her to a seven-week probe into whether she invited the touching. Peterson, the security director, told a Lincoln County detective that he was considering formally referring the assault to law enforcement but did not provide additional paperwork for months, according to the Sheriff's Department. A former supervisor at Lincoln Hills reported that corrections officials mishandled a case of sexual assault when they dropped charges against a juvenile inmate accused of molesting his roommate after a witness claimed the act was consensual.  Source: http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/story/news/2016/06/26/prison-officials-fail-review-rape-allegations/86408746/
Report: More Sex Abuse at Understaffed Juvenile Facilities By rebecca boone, associated press BOISE, Idaho — Jun 29, 2016, 7:45 PM ET 22 Shares Email Star 22 Shares Email A new report from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that youths are sexually abused more frequently in juvenile detention centers that are understaffed, have more gang violence and more offender complaints. The report, released Tuesday by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, examined the impact juvenile facilities have on sex abuse rates as well as the risk factors for victims. The work was intended in part to measure how effective federal rules designed to stop sex abuse behind bars actually are at reducing victimization inside youth detention centers. The study found that lower rates of sexual victimization were reported in facilities with higher staffing levels, less violence and fewer overall complaints. Lovisa Stannow, the executive director of prisoner advocacy group Just Detention International, said the findings are encouraging and exasperating. "They are encouraging because they confirm that sexual abuse is a problem that strong youth detention leaders can solve, if they want to, and exasperating because so many leaders continue to insist, against all evidence, that sexual violence is outside of their control," Stannow said in a statement released Wednesday. Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, and experts across the country worked over the next decade to create rules designed to stamp out rape behind bars. All states were supposed to be fully compliant with PREA in 2014, but some, such as Idaho, initially refused to meet the standards. Idaho officials later reversed course, and in 2015 announced that three state juvenile detention centers passed audits showing they were compliant with PREA standards. The Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections is currently facing several lawsuits from nearly a dozen current and former juveniles who say they were sexually abused by staffers while at a detention center in Nampa. Compliance with many of the standards spelled out in the Prison Rape Elimination Act were associated with lower rates of staff sexual misconduct, the study found. Youth who have previously been sexually assaulted are more likely to be assaulted in detention, the study found, as were kids who identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Males and black youth were much more likely to be victims of sexual abuse by staff members. The study included mostly state-owned facilities for youth being held in custody, including residential treatment centers, detention centers, training schools, group homes, boot camp or farm programs and youth homeless shelters. The highest rates of youth-on-youth sexual assault were found in facilities that only housed females, and male-only facilities tended to have higher rates of staff sexual misconduct.  Source: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/report-sex-abuse-understaffed-juvenile-facilities-40235283
Richard Wexler: Family First Act Institutionalizes Institutions, Sets Up Prevention to Fail by Richard Wexler June 30, 2016 | Guest Writer Now that there finally is a bill, it is clear who has the greatest reason to oppose the so-called Family First Prevention Services Act: environmentalists. That’s because of how many forests will be destroyed to provide the paper for all the new plans, reports and assorted other documents that the bill mandates as a substitute for real change. In some respects, discussed below, the bill is an improvement over previous versions, and I’m sure those who worked so hard to craft this legislation meant well. But mostly, the Family First Act proposes to solve the problems of child welfare by throwing paperwork at them. Provide a plan for this, a certification for that, and a report on something else, and America’s foster-care-industrial complex can keep doing what it’s been doing for more than a century: failing vulnerable children. The bill also enshrines in law the double standard that pervades American child welfare: services to keep families together must meet tests that are almost impossibly high before being deemed “evidence-based.” But to keep right on using the worst form of care, group homes and institutions, no evidence is required; just more paperwork. So it’s no wonder most of the foster-care-industrial complex favors the bill, and those who don’t want to make it even weaker. One major supporter of the bill is the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a group that has little to do with either one. Rather, it is a trade association made up largely of private agencies that oversee foster homes and run group homes and institutions. These agencies typically are paid for each day they hold a child in foster care. They know a good deal when they see one. Institutionalizing Institutionalization In the earliest stages of developing what would become the Families First Act, there was an idea for dealing with the misuse and overuse of institutions that was simple and smart: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suggested simply refusing to fund such placements for any child under age 13. Other smart proposals over the years have included reducing federal aid for institutionalization month by month – the longer the placement the fewer the dollars. But once the foster-care-industrial complex got through with it, what emerged was a muddled mess. If the bill becomes law, the federal government would stop reimbursing states for part of the cost of group home and institutional placement after two weeks. But it creates a giant loophole: funding would continue for something called a “Qualified Residential Treatment Program.” What does it take to become a QRTP?  Very little: Write lots and lots of plans filled with appropriate buzzwords. (Drop the word “trauma-informed” into every third paragraph and you should be fine.) Hire nurses during working hours and have them on call the rest of the time. Get a rubber-stamp seal-of-approval from an accrediting agency. I say rubber-stamp because one of the groups a QRTP can choose is the so-called “Council on Accreditation.” COA is a creation of another agency trade association, the Child Welfare League of America. Its “site visits” are announced well in advance and “accreditors” interview people who can be hand-picked by the agency under examination. Everything else is based on the agency’s paperwork. COA doesn’t accredit agencies, it accredits file cabinets. Perhaps that’s why, in the 1990s, COA accredited a private agency in Ohio in which, the Dayton Daily News found, children lived in squalid group homes and the agency director had a conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. More recently, COA accredited this agency. Take these simple steps and voila! That cruddy old group home is now a “Qualified Residential Treatment Program”! Similarly, the Family First Act goes on for paragraphs about how an independent “qualified individual” will determine if a child needs to be institutionalized; unless, that is, the public child welfare agency gives its solemn word that someone associated with the institution itself can do the evaluation and still be objective. Then, the independence requirement can be “waived” by the Department of Health and Human Services. In short, the Family First Act institutionalizes the process of institutionalization. Perhaps that’s why the Congressional Budget Office estimates that, were it to become law, the Family First Act would barely reduce the proportion of institutionalized foster children on any given day. It would decline from the current 14 percent to 11 percent, over ten years. Yet even these minimal requirements apparently are too onerous for some providers of institutional care and their acolytes in government. Whatever Happened to “Evidence-Based”? What is missing in these requirements for becoming a “Qualified Residential Treatment Program” is anything forcing the “providers” to prove that what they provide actually helps children. There’s a reason for that, namely A review of the scholarly literature by the office of the U.S. Surgeon General found only “weak evidence” for the success of residential treatment. A second review, by the University of North Carolina, found “when community-based services are available, they provide outcomes that are equivalent, at least [to residential treatment].” Still another study, of children institutionalized for mental health problems, found that seven years after discharge from residential treatment, 75 percent of the children were back in the only settings they could understand: institutions. They were in psychiatric centers or jails. Even former CWLA President Shay Bilchik admitted there is a lack of “good research” showing residential treatment’s effectiveness and “we find it hard to demonstrate success…” (though he claimed this was only because foundations don’t want to fund the research and children aren’t institutionalized soon enough.) Some of those who think even the minimal restrictions in the Family First Act go too far don’t even pretend that institutionalization is good for children. Rather, they claim there’s no alternative because they can’t recruit enough foster homes. But, as I’ve noted before, the real problem is not too few foster parents, it’s too many foster children. For example, Los Angeles seems to be the epicenter of the whining about the congregate care restrictions. But Los Angeles takes away children at triple the rate of Chicago, even when rates of child poverty are factored in. Yet it’s Illinois where independent court-appointed monitors have found that reforms emphasizing family preservation improved child safety. No Real Help for Prevention That brings me to the second set of failings in the bill: the increased support for prevention is minimal and largely misdirected. For starters, while residential treatment programs need provide no evidence at all of effectiveness to be funded, 50 percent of all new prevention spending under the bill would have to go to programs that meet a standard, created for clinical trials in medicine, so high that almost nothing qualifies. (This is an improvement from previous drafts, where it was 100 percent.) Lisbeth Schorr, senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Policy, has several excellent articles on why this is an unwise approach in human services. And in child welfare, there is the additional problem of a profound bias among many of the “scholars.” Even worse, the kinds of programs that can be funded are limited to three categories, two of which, mental health and parenting skills, are precisely the “public health approach” that has failed for more than a century. So after the reams of new paperwork required under this section are filed and it turns out that this failed approach failed again, it will become an excuse for the advocates of traumatizing children with needless foster care to run back to Congress and demand even more money to warehouse even more children in foster care. This bill doesn’t aid alternatives; it sets them up to fail. In contrast, even though study after study finds that 30 percent of America’s foster children could be home right now if their families simply had decent housing, housing aid was eliminated from the bill early on. There is not even funding for the kinds of simple, sensible and very inexpensive approaches advocated by Joanne Samuel Goldblum in the Chronicle last month. So again, it’s no wonder the CBO thinks the new spending on prevention will be a drop in the bucket – an average of $130 million per year. Even with that new funding, the federal government still would spend vastly more on tearing families apart than on trying to keep them together. What’s Good About the Bill There is one thing the bill gets right: the third category of funds for which states could get reimbursement under the Families First Act is drug treatment. That almost certainly got into the bill, and probably has appeal to most members of Congress, because the latest “drug plague” – opioid addiction – has a whiter, more affluent face than the drug plagues that preceded it. The other argument for the bill is that it’s better than nothing, and a floor on which one can build in the future. But it’s not better than the waivers available to states now, which allow them to spend a lot more money on a much wider variety of alternatives to foster care. The waiver process, which is set to expire in 2019, also includes a vital incentive that Family First Act lacks: it caps the giant open-ended entitlement to foster-care funding. This bill is more likely to be a ceiling than a floor. Once the bill becomes law, all the pressure for real reform would go away, and the ceiling will only get lower. Because from here, the bill can only get worse. Having come so far, the members of Congress behind this bill are likely to appease those who want to make the congregate-care restrictions even weaker, rather than see the whole thing fall apart. Better Alternatives I’ve written elsewhere about the best long-term alternative: end the foster-care entitlement and turn it into grants indexed to inflation that states can use for foster care and for better alternatives. Short term, Congress should Salvage the one part of the Family First Act everyone seems to agree on and provide $130 million per year in additional funding for drug treatment – targeted toward families at risk of losing their children to foster care. Restore the federal government’s authority to grant child welfare waivers, which has expired, with current waivers scheduled to end in 2019. As for whether we ever can really get major reform, there is one hope: the lookback. That’s the clumsy, bureaucratic detail that has the effect of reducing the number of children eligible for federal foster-care assistance by a tiny amount each year. If nothing at all is done, the federal government will be out of the foster-care funding business in about half a century or so. The longer this persists, the greater the pressure on the foster-care-industrial complex to accept real reform, not a pale imitation like the Family First Act. Richard Wexler is Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, www.nccpr.org  Source: https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/opinion/family-first-institutionalizes-institutions-sets-prevention-fail/19342
New York is plagued by diploma-mill high schools By Post Editorial Board  June 30, 2016 | 8:59pm Modal Trigger Photo: Getty Images A landmark report by StudentsFirstNY just tore the mask off the supposed “success” of many city high schools: They’re graduating kids without actually teaching them. Mayor de Blasio touts a 70 percent graduation rate as proof his policies are working. Problem is, half the grads aren’t ready for college (or a career in the workforce). CUNY deemed only 35 percent of New York City high-school graduates college-ready last year. And some schools seem to specialize in awarding worthless diplomas to young men and women. The SFNY report flagged 65 schools with above-average graduation — but college/career-readiness rates 50 points lower. The HS for Medical Professions boasts that 95 percent of students graduate — yet only 15 percent are college-ready. The UFT Charter School sports a 78 percent graduation rate, but only 11 percent are college-ready. Chancellor Carmen Fariña just spoke at the Academy for Young Writers, whose graduation rate is 75 percent, yet with a college-readiness rate of just 6 percent. In short, the problem goes far beyond the grade-fixing and bogus credit-recovery programs The Post has exposed in recent years. It’s a citywide plague of diploma mills — many of which face no pressure to improve. Of the 10 high schools with the city’s worst college-readiness rates, only two are in de Blasio’s Renewal program for failing schools. CUNY Chancellor James Miliken calls the lack of college readiness his system’s top challenge. It’s a nightmare for the kids, too: They have to waste their first year (or more) in college on catch-up classes. We don’t blame de Blasio or Fariña or even the United Federation of Teachers for all the system’s failings. No, we blame them for their fight against reform, and all their lies and spin as they pretend everything’s just fine.  Source: http://nypost.com/2016/06/30/new-york-is-plagued-by-diploma-mill-high-schools/
Care worker at Northland Recovery Center abused two teens, DHS finds Report finds procedures are adequate but were not followed.  By Brandon Stahl Star Tribune July 1, 2016 — 8:09pm Melanie Lynn Peterson  A care worker at a northern Minnesota drug treatment center for juveniles helped two teen residents escape to get drugs, got high with them while at the facility, and had sex with them more than two dozen times, according to court and state records. The staff member, Melanie Lynn Peterson, 30, who court records say "was responsible for the care and well-being of juveniles housed at the facility," pleaded guilty in June to three counts of criminal sexual conduct and three controlled substance crimes. On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Human Services found Peterson responsible for sexual abuse of the two minors while she worked at the Northland Recovery Center's Adolescent Unit in Grand Rapids. Peterson's relationship with the two teens began sometime in March, according to court and DHS records. One of the boys, who was 15, had been at Northland Recovery since the start of the year. The teen told police ­Peterson would often help him leave the unit and not trigger the alarms so he could find drugs. He said they snorted pills and had sex about 20 times in the facility and four times at her home. When confronted, Peterson admitted to police that she used drugs with one of the teens and had sex with him. The other boy was 17 and considered a "smart and tenacious person" diagnosed with substance abuse disorders and considered vulnerable to neglect and abuse, according to the DHS report. He said Peterson helped him escape from Northland Recovery, that Peterson had sex with him at least twice in the facility and was "high for a week" from the drugs she gave him. The teen told DHS investigators that he suspected Peterson tampered with their drug tests because "none of us were getting in trouble." A staff member at Northland Recovery referred all questions to the Director of Services, Colleen MacKay, who was on vacation Friday. According to the DHS report, following an internal review Northland Recovery "determined that policies and procedures were adequate but not followed," and that "the incidents were not similar to past incidents." Still, Northland Recovery said staff members were trained on boundaries and that surveillance cameras would be "pursued." Peterson is scheduled to be sentenced at the end of the month. This is the second time in two months DHS has found a juvenile was sexually abused at a child residential center. In May, the agency determined that a staff member of a Minnetonka facility for troubled teenage girls raped a 14-year-old resident. That person was not charged.  Source: http://www.startribune.com/two-teens-sexually-abused-at-drug-treatment-center/385246471/
Texas Accused of Ignoring Mentally Disabled in Nursing Homes By betsy blaney, associated press LUBBOCK, Texas — Jul 3, 2016, 2:21 PM ET 0 Shares Email Star 0 Shares Email It took more than 40 years for Leonard Barefield to finally get to choose where he lived. The intellectually-disabled Texas native moved to a group home in Lubbock in September after he had first lived in near slavery conditions for more than three decades in a squalid house in Iowa and worked at a turkey processing plant there for 41 cents an hour. After being freed by social workers from that situation, he was sent in 2008 to a nursing home in Midland, Texas. His plight is not uncommon in Texas, where people with such disabilities are routinely warehoused in nursing homes, according to a lawsuit brought by Barefield and other disabled people. Advocates for the intellectually-disabled — a condition affecting reasoning and learning — say Texas is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws by denying services that could allow more than 4,000 people to live in the community. The state denies it is exploiting the disabled, saying it is committed to providing them with the highest quality of services. The 71-year-old Barefield has a developmental disability, suffers from depression and other mental health and medical conditions, and has high blood pressure, court records show. He wears a hearing aid and his speech is significantly impaired. But he can read, write and drive a truck. Barefield lives with three other intellectually disabled men in a well-maintained and spacious home. "It's better here," he said, nodding his head emphatically. Barefield leaves the home several days a week for a day center where he can play games and work on small projects. Even though he was exploited for decades, the outcome of Barefield's case is better than some. Andrea Padron, who suffered a severe head injury in a car accident when she was 10, died in 2013 after getting an inaccurate evaluation to determine the care she needed in a nursing home, court documents show. Padron's mother put her in a nursing home when she could no longer afford to care for her. Her mother then was deployed to the Iraq war with the military. The services promised for Padron were not provided during the mother's absence. When her mother returned to Texas, Padron couldn't even sit in her wheelchair. Padron was left to lie in bed for about 165 hours a week — without specialized services, including physical therapies. She eventually was unable to straighten her wrists, ankles, shoulders, legs or hips and developed a spine deformity, court records show. She was 29 when she died. The lawsuit against the state by Barefield and the other disabled patients was filed in 2010 and has crawled through the legal system. The federal Department of Justice joined the suit on the side of the disabled in 2012. In 2013, the state and lawyers for the disabled reached an "interim settlement agreement" that in part called for Texas to expand community services and create a service team for each disabled person. In return the suit was put aside for two years. But without explanation, the agreement was ended in 2015. Neither side will talk about why this happened because they say confidentiality rules prevent comment. The lawsuit has been reactivated. A federal judge in San Antonio ruled in May that the case could go ahead and granted class-action status to include more than 4,000 intellectually-disabled people in nursing homes. Barefield and the others aren't asking for any money in compensation. "All we're asking the state to do is comply with the (federal) law," said Robert Velevis, an attorney for the disabled clients. State aging and disability department spokeswoman Cecilia Cavuto declined to comment on the case but said the state is "committed to ensuring Texas nursing home residents, including those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, receive the highest quality services." She said Texas care providers do evaluations for each person entering a nursing home to determine what specialized services might be needed and whether a resident wants to transition into a community-based setting. Lawyers for the disabled say the state excludes them from "any meaningful access" to Texas's system of community-based services needed to be able to live in the community. Lenwood Krause, whose 36-year-old son has a condition related to a developmental disability from a traumatic brain injury, said the state has mishandled the care of his son for years. "I can't exactly express the sentiments I feel about them," the 72-year-old said. "It's that bad." Texas was ranked in the bottom one third of states for the comprehensiveness of evaluations conducted on intellectually-disabled patients, according to a federal report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last year. "Our belief is that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have just as much right to live in the community as anyone else," said Yvette Ostolaza, another attorney for the disabled clients.  Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/texas-accused-ignoring-mentally-disabled-nursing-homes-40314250
Man with autism beaten, allegedly by group home employee Posted: Jul 05, 2016 6:03 AM PDT Updated: Jul 05, 2016 11:23 AM PDT By Laura McCallister, Digital Producer Email Connect laura.mccallister@kctv5.com By Emily Rittman, News Reporter BioEmail Connect Biography Emily.Rittman@kctv5.com   Scottie, 25, lives at the Preferred Family Healthcare Kansas City’s south location off of James A. Reed Road. Staff members help him complete his day-to-day activities. (Richard Skillman) KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - A group home employee is under investigation, accused of beating a man who has autism with a belt. MOREAdditional LinksPoll The man’s family is sharing their story in hopes of raising awareness. They said staff members discovered the abuse Sunday night and reported it to Kansas City police. The victim’s brother also made a hotline call to state investigators. Scottie, 25, lives at the Preferred Family Healthcare Kansas City’s south location off of James A. Reed Road. Staff members help him complete his day-to-day activities. “He's very quiet. He likes to keep to himself. He enjoys his Legos,” said Scottie’s brother, Richard Skillman. Skillman said a staff member called his mother to report that another employee not only hit Scottie with a belt, but admitted to it. He said overnight staff took photos of Scottie’s injuries, sent them to his mother and filed a police report. “I was devastated. Scottie can't fend for himself. Not only that but he can't tell anybody he got hurt. He just doesn’t have that communication,” Skillman said. Scottie’s brother said the company fired the employee after calling him to ask about the marks discovered by overnight staff. “It’s kind of chilling to think when the manager called him and talked to him about it, I got the feeling he was very nonchalant about it,” Skillman said. Scottie was still at the hospital Monday night where doctors examined him. The Department of Mental Health is investigating. His brother hopes, after the police investigation is complete, the employee will be held accountable. “I hope he faces charges and understands how horrible of thing he has done,” Skillman said. If you suspect a senior or disabled adult is being abused or financially exploited, you can call 1-800-392-0210. Source: http://www.kmov.com/story/32372729/man-with-autism-beaten-allegedly-by-group-home-employee#
Sierra Tucson fined over deficiencies in psychiatric care By Stephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Stephanie Innes Updated Jul 5, 2016 (1) prev next The local rehab center Sierra Tucson has agreed to pay a state fine of $4,000 for failures in caring for its most seriously ill psychiatric patients. In its investigation, the state found that Sierra Tucson had repeat and ongoing deficiencies with the services provided in its acute psychiatric unit. The deficiencies “posed a high potential risk to the health and safety of patients,” a state survey says. The facility holds two state licenses — a medical license for its 15-bed psychiatric unit and a residential facility license for its lower-level, 124-bed residential treatment center. The for-profit center, owned by Tennessee-based behavioral health giant Acadia Healthcare, has paid prior fines to the Arizona Department of Health Services for violating its own policies. It is also the defendant in two pending wrongful death lawsuits involving patients. In agreeing to pay the latest fine, Sierra Tucson’s executive director, William D. Anderson, signed an enforcement agreement with the state, acknowledging that the facility is subject to frequent state monitoring visits and that further violations could result in further action, including losing its license. As of now, the facility is in compliance with all state rules and regulations, Arizona health officials say. In a statement to the Star on Friday, Anderson said the safety and well-being of its residents is Sierra Tucson’s “utmost priority.” Anderson also said his facility has a good working relationship with the Arizona Department of Health Services. “We are very proud of the care we provide and the thousands of lives that we have improved and saved because of the treatment received at Sierra Tucson,” the statement says. “All of our clinicians and staff are committed to our patients and continuously work towards providing higher quality, clinical care in accordance with Arizona Department of Health Services standards.” The latest civil penalty was determined after a state investigation conducted in January. The facility paid the fine May 9, state documents show. Five Sierra Tucson patients have died since 2011, all of them men. Autopsy reports concluded that three of them died of suicide. Autopsies on the other two — a man who died of drug toxicity and another whose body was discovered two weeks after he disappeared from the facility — were inconclusive. The facility helps patients with addictions, mood disorders, chronic pain, eating disorders and trauma through its “Sierra Model” of integrating therapies such as massage, yoga and acupuncture with traditional psychiatry. Sierra Tucson, on 160 acres north of Tucson, has earned a reputation as “rehab to the stars.” The cost to patients starts at more than $1,000 per day. Since not all insurers cover it, many families must pay out of their own pockets. The state’s findings about Sierra Tucson’s care for patients, outlined in its Jan. 6 survey and supporting documents:  Failed to ensure a patient with multiple medical problems, including a history of head injuries, had a physical examination within 48 hours of admission. This posed a “high risk” that the patient’s medical needs would not be met, the state report says. Failed its own policy on patient rights by threatening a patient with law enforcement if she did not follow a registered nurse’s instructions to be discharged and enter a transport vehicle. Failed to ensure a patient with anorexia nervosa was appropriately discharged from acute psychiatric care to a lower level of care. Failed to complete a medical discharge summary for three patients who left treatment against medical advice. Intake and meals for a severely anorexic patient were not recorded, and Sierra Tucson did not ensure a registered nurse assessed and directed the patient’s care. Did not ensure a registered nurse completed an updated assessment for a patient who was readmitted to Sierra Tucson’s psychiatric unit after transfer to an outside hospital. A patient was discharged and sent to an airport with no money and no identification. Sierra Tucson’s lower-level residential facility was on a provisional license, with stepped-up monitoring by the state, from June 10 through Oct. 31 of 2015 after state officials found it had not been following its own policies on keeping track of patients’ whereabouts. The state could have decided not to license Sierra Tucson at the end of the provisional period. Surveyors from the state ultimately determined there were enough improvements to restore the license. As part of restoring its license in October, Sierra Tucson had to pay the state $35,000 in civil penalties — $27,000 related to an investigation into the Aug. 27, 2015, patient suicide of a 59-year-old California man, plus $7,500 following an investigation into the Jan. 23, 2015, suicide of 55-year-old Richard Lecce, a Pennsylvania man whose family has since sued the facility for wrongful death. Sierra Tucson at the time also agreed to some new rules, including excluding certain patients from admission — those with a current or active diagnosis of schizophrenia; a current or active diagnosis of dementia; five suicide attempts in a lifetime; three attempts in the previous 12 months; or an attempt within 72 hours of the requested admission date. The facility has had to pay other, smaller fines to the state, including $1,000 for transferring Lecce from one of the high-level psychiatric beds to the lower-level residential facility. Lecce had been assigned one-on-one observation by a staff member while in the acute high-level psychiatric unit. When he was transferred to lower-level care, the one-on-one monitoring stopped, though there was no note in his record to discontinue it, a state report says. The other wrongful death lawsuit against Sierra Tucson was filed by the mother of a 20-year-old East Coast man who was at the facility for drug rehabilitation. He was found unresponsive at 8:45 a.m. on April 13, 2014, and died two days later. An autopsy report said he died from drug toxicity and that it was unclear whether the death was intentional or accidental. A 2014 state report into the young man’s death found problems with the facility’s pharmacy services, and found that staff members did not adequately check on his vital signs or follow the facility’s suicide assessment protocol. The state report did not offer any clues as to how the 5-foot-8, 162-pound man acquired a toxic level of drugs in his system while in treatment. Contact health reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or email sinnes@tucson.com. On Twitter: @stephanieinnes Sierra Tucson history Sierra Tucson was founded in 1983 by recovering cocaine addict William O'Donnell Jr. at the former Brave Bull Guest Ranch. The center has had a reputation as a rehab center to the stars, with reports of celebrity patients. Most patients are in their late 30s and early 40s. A majority of patients self-pay at a cost of about $1,300 per day or about $40,000 per month. In 2002, Sierra Tucson went from a publicly traded company to a private concern in an $82.5 million deal that consolidated ownership of Sierra Tucson and the Miraval, Life in Balance health resort under one company, NextHealth Inc. Sierra Tucson was sold to California-based CRC Health Group in 2005 for $130 million. The following year, CRC Health Group was purchased for $723 million by Boston-based Bain Capital Partners. In October 2014, Acadia bought CRC Health Group from private equity firm Bain Capital for $1.2 billion, according to Becker's Hospital CFO Report. Publicly traded Acadia has inpatient behavioral health facilities in the United States, England and Puerto Rico. In 2015 O'Donnell's younger brother, Jack O'Donnell, co-founded Sabino Recovery, a residential facility 15 miles northeast of Tucson that specializes in treating trauma as the core cause of drug addiction and other problems. Between 2002 and 2005, the younger O'Donnell served as the CEO of NextHealth Inc., the company that once owned Sierra Tucson. Statement from Sierra Tucson The safety and well-being of our residents is our utmost priority. As part of our continuous efforts to improve patient care, we conduct reviews of all facility policies and procedures and implement measures designed to improve patient safety in our residential programs. Sierra Tucson has a good relationship with the Arizona Department of Health Services and we continually work in partnership with this organization to understand guidelines for any changes with state rules and policies. Additionally, we implement extensive employee training on patient monitoring, transitioning communications and additional patient safety measures. Sierra Tucson has a longstanding legacy of clinical excellence and care for the past 32 years, resulting in recovery for thousands of people struggling with substance use disorders, trauma-related issues, eating disorders, chronic pain and mood and anxiety disorders. We are very proud of the care we provide and the thousands of lives that we have improved and saved because of the treatment received at Sierra Tucson. All of our clinicians and staff are committed to our patients and continuously work towards providing higher quality, clinical care in accordance with Arizona Department of Health Services standards.  Source: http://tucson.com/news/local/sierra-tucson-fined-over-deficiencies-in-psychiatric-care/article_8a709016-95fc-5245-a7e5-4d015f4d8a93.html
Storytellers: Teachers turn to the guitar to reach at-risk kids 9NEWS at 10 p.m. 07/10/16. Nelson Garcia, KUSA 10:50 PM. MDT July 10, 2016 89 1 Chris Van Noy and Steve Cram offer lessons to student Michael Gabriels. (Photo: Mike Grady)  JEFFERSON COUNTY - Sometimes the only way to reach a troubled teen is through the language they understand -- music. "A couple of years ago, I started working with some kids that were at risk, at risk from a lot of things, dropping out of school, running away from home," teacher Chris Van Noy said. Van Noy wanted to go beyond the walls of the classroom to try to change the path of students making bad choices. He teamed up with another teacher Steve Cram and they formed the Music Appreciation Project. "A lot of at-risk youth, they don't feel comfortable talking with adults," Cram said. Music Appreciation Project is a non-profit that provides instruments and lessons to students like Michael Gabriels. "I guess I get stressed out over a lot of things. I've always struggled with like depression, anxiety, stuff like that," Michael said. "It's very difficult for me to talk to people and express myself." But, when Michael plays guitar, he says, things change. "It just comes naturally to me and it feels like talking," Gabriels said. Van Noy says music can break barriers. "Working with the kids that we do, when they're depressed, when they're sad, when they're having a hard time, they put their earbuds in," Van Noy said. "They're listening to music and music helps them through difficult times." Michael used to just play at home.  He has can play all styles of music, but he has learned to solo on his electric guitar with the energy and creativity of a heavy metal band. "It's kinda like my escape, you know, cause, I don't feel emotionally or passionately connected to anything else, you know," Michael said. But, when he started working with Van Noy and Cram, things started to change. "The relationship piece is the deal maker," Cram said. Michael says he now cares about school and feels like his mental health is improving. "It's changed my life completely, something completely different, you know," Michael said. "I feel like a completely different person, even." His father Mike says the change since becoming involved with the Music Appreciation Program is astonishing. "It has flipped his entire demeanor and his life in general, night and day," Mike Gabriels said. "Bad grades to good grades, feeling horrible, feeling exhilarated." Van Noy and cram offer lessons to students. The nonprofit purchases equipment and instruments for needy students who cannot afford it. They want to give kids a chance to find the guitar hero inside themselves. "You can see the signs," Van Noy said. "You can see the signs that they need something else." Now, instead of just playing at home, Michael is actively pursuing a career in music. "Just a tremendous blessing to see that he's been lifted out of that place and using music as an outlet," Toni Gabriels, Michael's mother, said. Instead of being lost, Michael wants to mentor other kids who once felt like he did. "If we're teaching kids to give to help other people, that's beyond the scope of anything we could do and that's been amazing," Van Noy said. If you want to find out more about the Music Appreciation Project and its fundraising efforts, click here, http://www.musicappro.org/. "To give them something that they can be good at, I think is what really helps them a lot," Van Noy said.  Source: http://www.9news.com/news/local/storytellers/storytellers-teachers-turn-to-the-guitar-to-reach-at-risk-kids/239520746
16 placements in eight yearsTeen details life in foster-care system Story Comments (1) Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size 9 Previous Next Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake Johnny Perez Jr. Johnny Perez Jr., a 2016 Whitefish graduate, has spent most of his life moving from foster home to foster home. Posted: Monday, July 11, 2016 6:00 am Teen details life in foster-care system By HILARY MATHESON/Daily Inter Lake Daily Inter Lake | 1 comment Johnny Perez Jr. spent most of his life trying to be “normal” as he was moved 16 times in the foster-care system. Perez counts on his fingers, saying the name of each placement out loud during an interview at his current foster family’s Whitefish home on June 7. Subscription Required An online service is needed to view this article in its entirety. You need an online service to view this article in its entirety. “Yes, 16 placements,” Perez said. “I think throughout those 16 placements only five, possibly seven were in foster homes with foster families.” Despite his success as a recent Whitefish High School graduate, state track star and talented musician, the 17-year-old had to adapt to a feeling of impermanence. To get his diploma, Perez had to attend nine different high schools. “I’ve been in nine high schools — nine major moves. Some high schools I’ve been to twice [back and forth], so I guess 11 moves,” Perez said, noting that his freshman year alone he moved four times. “The last time I finished out a year at a single school was in third grade,” he said. “I attended Evergreen Elementary.” Because of his top achievements in sports and academics and plans to attend Grand Canyon University in the fall, Perez said he is considered a success in the foster-care world, but it hasn’t been easy. “I kind of get looked at as a success story,” Perez said noting that he went from punching holes in walls to playing sports such as football and competing at state in track. For a foster child to have more than 10 placements is unusual, Child and Family Services Family Resource Specialist Daniel Donnelly said, but it’s always a case-by-case basis. The average number of placements for foster children in Montana is three. “I teach foster-care classes as part of licensing. Our focus is not moving kids around because of the damage it causes,” Donnelly said. Underneath Perez’s positive and confident disposition are the damaging effects of moving from placement to placement and facing hopelessness. “It hasn’t always been the ‘I can succeed mentality,’” Perez said. “I attempted suicide twice.” Perez paused when asked what pulled him through, pondering the question. “If I knew I’d bottle it up and sell it — I think the strong people in my life,” Perez said. What he pinpointed were the staff members of various institutions in which he’s been placed in, and other kids like him. “I use the term ‘family’ loosely because my family is very large and I’m unrelated to almost all of them. They are mostly group-home staff and foster family and siblings and other kids in group homes I’ve built these life-long bonds with,” he said. Placed in foster care at 9, Perez became an expert at having his bags packed at a moment’s notice and moving to a group home or foster family. “When I got put in foster care my mom was put in jail,” Perez said. “That began my 16-placement journey throughout the foster-care system.” At first, Perez said he was upset at being taken from his family in spite of a rocky home life. “When you’re that young you want to be with your family,” Perez said. The ultimate goal, Donnelly said, is to reunite children with their biological families. “First and foremost, the goal is to create a reunification and treatment plan to help the family become a safe place and overcome obstacles,” Donnelly said. Reunification is attempted through supervised visits, working toward unsupervised visits and onto a trial home visit. Only if a parent makes significant progress or achieves treatment goals is reunification possible. Yet supervised visits, therapy sessions and a month back with his mother when he was 10 or 11 couldn’t mend a broken relationship from Perez’s perspective and he went back into foster care. He said a lot of anger remained, eventually leading to expulsion from school. “That was in the heat of abuse from my family. I was acting out,” he said. Perez had to learn how to make sense of and deal with emotions such as anger without parental guidance, which is something therapeutic youth group homes helped provide. “When I first got put in care, something a lot of kids go through is they have anger issues, so a lot of the stuff was for behavioral health,” Perez said. “Group homes try and help us with that, however difficult to get used to, they definitely were a significant help. Some of the staff were some of the most genuinely caring and influential people I’ve met in my life.” Being in a foster family was very different from the structured therapeutic youth group home environment. Perez described it as going from a “super tight ship” to a less-structured routine. “I’ve never had a foster family I didn’t mesh with. I did try very hard to make everything succeed because everybody wants that next placement to be their last placement. No kid enjoys being bounced around,” Perez said. For the rare occasions when children are moved to more than 10 placements Child Protective Services Specialist Melissa Cichosz said the goal is to convey to the child that the move is not their fault. “Sometimes a child is unable to understand why they are moved,” Cichosz said. The length of time a child stays with a foster family is dependent on a lot of factors that a child cannot necessarily control. “I’ve had foster homes fall apart because the foster family got a divorce and so all of us kids were disbanded. I’ve had foster homes where I just showed up after school one day and everything I owned was packed,” Perez said, noting one instance that happened after placed in a home for a long time. “I was told my case worker was coming in an hour and I had no idea why and that’s after I had been there for two and a half years.” Although he said he’s remained in contact with the family, Perez still seems hurt. “I beat myself up so much for that for so long [why it happened] I just don’t want to open that up again. It’s six years ago. I don’t mind,” Perez said glancing out a window. His current placement has spanned nine months with first-time foster mother Cheryl Sausen of Whitefish. With 3,206 children in Montana’s foster-care system, 6 percent are youths ages 15 and over and there is a need for families to foster and adopt teenagers. “People saying they’d only adopt 0 to 4-year-olds is very common. We’ve had people say ‘those teenagers are broken — too much trouble’ — which is not the way to be thinking,” Donnelly said. Fostering a teenager hadn’t occurred to Sausen, 54, until she met Perez, who had been a friend of her son, Tommy, the youngest of four children. “Tommy went off to college and I just still had Johnny in my heart to help him,” Sausen said. “When I met him I didn’t know if he was officially in foster-care system; I just knew I wanted to get him in a better place and get him through high school.” Sausen was able to take Perez in under kinship care. Eventually she took classes to become a licensed foster parent through Child Protective Services. “We’ve had good stuff, some not so good, normal teenage stuff,” Sausen said. She recalled one time when they had a “big blowout” where an average teen would see a disagreement or argument between parent and child as something that’s normal and bound to happen. Perez was ready to pack his bags. “He was already making his plans and knew he would have to move out and go somewhere, so I guess that’s kind of the norm that he was expecting; he would just have to move onto the next thing,” she said. Sausen said she knew Perez seemed to be stuck in “fight or flight” mode. “So we talked in the beginning, I’m sure you are used to fighting or flighting, I know you may self-sabotage, but hopefully, eventually you’ll learn you don’t have to go to that old stuff,” Sausen said. And so far, it’s been a good work in progress. Sausen said the classes were very helpful in opening her eyes to the reality of what some foster children are facing and how to handle different situations. “From my own background I kind of know how kids can react — even how adults react from not-so-good childhoods,” Sausen said. “The classes, whew, the classes really open up your eyes to the reality of some severe things.” And if she ever needed assistance there are caseworkers for families. To maintain what he considered a normal life, he kept his past and the fact that he was a foster child, to himself. “I kept very few kids from knowing my life — never told anybody any of the things I’ve been through. Never told them where I lived,” he said. “People would ask to hang out after school and I’d tell them that I couldn’t. I would say ‘oh I’m grounded,’ when it was because I was living in group homes where you weren’t allowed to have people spend the night,” Perez said. What gave him a sense of normalcy was playing sports such as football, basketball and track. He could simply be known as “Johnny the good athlete” rather than “Johnny the foster kid.” What Perez considered normal was “just that kid who could go to football games without having to get it approved a week in advance first. Or go do anything on [your] own in the community without having a staff member watch [your] every action, I mean, even down to the cliche of sitting down for dinner at night with your family.” Perez kept his life in foster care from most of his friends until he became a junior in high school, when he didn’t see a reason anymore to be self-conscious about stigmas. “When I moved back to Whitefish I chose a more open approach. If people asked about my past I would tell them,” Perez said. On social media he would share some of the hardships he went through, not always resulting in positive comments. “I started getting called Pity King. I just want understanding. There are kids who put on the facade of the happiest kid on earth when in reality they aren’t,” Perez said, petting his Chihuahua, Paca. “She was the runt of litter,” said. “Her mom wouldn’t let her feed ... I bottle-fed her; the first two months of her life she slept in my shirt to maintain her body heat.” Perez said his motivation for sharing his story is to tell the public there are talented and successful foster children out there. “I want to share that foster kids are normal kids and we exist,” Perez said. “You don’t hear the success of foster kids. You hear foster kids live in low-income housing, don’t go to college, drop out of high school, when there’s so many talented kids from the foster system.” In less than a month Perez will celebrate his 18th birthday and “age out” of foster care, but there are supports available such as the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, to help foster children transition into adult independence. “The foster-care system is trying to help me with college stuff and after high school plans,” Perez said. “They have independent living, which is what a lot of kids do, but I’ll be living in the dorms. I have my next four years basically planned out. In the summers I’ll live here with my foster family.” And Perez still needs a connection to the foster-care system. He doesn’t necessarily want to push the system behind him yet. Perez would like to help change the foster-care system. “Child advocacy is something I feel is not strong enough,” Perez said. In college, Perez plans on studying psychology and eventually working in the foster-care system to “help kids out like myself.” He would like to strengthen awareness and community involvement with foster children and families. Perez understands what the difficult job entails. “Do you think you have a heart to walk into a family and say ‘I deem you unfit as a parent and I have to take your child’? People who work at CPS have to do that. It is so difficult to do that job. It’s just gut-wrenching,” he said. For more information on becoming a foster parent call 1-866-936-7837 or visit http://dphhs.mt.gov/CFSD/Fosterparent.aspx. To report a possible case of child abuse or neglect, call 1-866-820-5437.  Source: http://www.dailyinterlake.com/members/teen-details-life-in-foster-care-system/article_4e4d1368-470f-11e6-a7db-abbac31d73d5.html
WA State Now Implementing E2SSB 6564: A law passed to protect the developmentally disabled from institutional abuse. This law reads in part: "Summary of Engrossed Second Substitute Bill: Within funds dedicated for this purpose, DDA must increase home visits for clients identified as having the highest risk of abuse and neglect. DDA must develop a process to determine which of its clients who receive an annual developmental disabilities assessment are at highest risk of abuse... and neglect. Factors which DDA may consider in making this assessment are specified in the bill. DDA must visit these clients at least once every four months, including unannounced visits as needed. If an unannounced visit takes the place of a scheduled visit and is unable to be completed, the case manager must schedule a follow-up visit." Read this new law now at: http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bill%20Reports/Senate/6564-S2.E%20SBR%20HA%2016.pdf
How Education Fares In The Democratic Party Platform Although education policy has not been a prominent issue in the current presidential race, the Democratic Party’s platform gives the subject some of its just due with a fairly extensive treatment. In the current draft, which will be finalized on June 8 and 9, there are numerous mentions of education and a special section with over 1,000 words devoted to the topic. Many are saying this platform “may be most progressive platform the Democratic Party may have ever had.” But is it progressive on education? Let’s weigh the evidence. First let’s examine how the Democratic Party platform differs from what’s proposed in the Republican Party’s platform. The Republican document gets education policy wrong from with the very first sentence by asserting, “Parents are responsible for the education of their children.” Although it’s true parents certainly need to be involved in their children’s education, have a voice in how schools are run, and take responsibility for encouraging and maintaining their children’s educational development, putting the sole burden for education on parents guarantees inequity of education opportunity and is, frankly, un-American. Relegating education opportunity to “consumer rights” and “choice,” as the Republicans do, ensures those who are the wealthiest and most enabled in the system have the most opportunity, while less-well-off parents have the least. And since our country’s founding, the American tradition is for education to be a shared burden taken on by the entire population. Virtually every state’s constitution asserts government’s responsibility to provide for an education for elementary and secondary students, a precedent established by the Ordinance of 1785, which predates our national Constitution. The rest of the Republican platform is studded with the usual bromides about “high standards,” “high expectations,” “accountability,” and “choice” with very little attention to governmental responsibilities for education. In fact, Republicans bash government’s role in relation to spending on education, making a false assertion that $2 trillion expenditure by the federal government since 1965 has resulted in “no substantial improvement in academic achievement.” According to the best measure available, the National Assessment of Education Progress, scores are up over the past 40 years, and black and Hispanic students have made the greatest gains over that period. Specific proposals in the Republican’s platform range from removing government financial support for higher education, to providing parents with vouchers to transfer their children out of the public system at taxpayer expense, to getting tough on teachers while leaving the profession open to un-credentialed, untrained recruits. In other words, remove government’s responsibility to provide for a universally accessible, high quality, and equitable education for every child. Nothing progressive here. Are Democrats any better? Unfortunately, the Democratic Party’s platform falls short of asserting a bedrock philosophy for education. Although, those who drafted the document include a statement about the federal government’s role in “working towards an America where a world-class education is available to every child,” what’s missing is a statement defining education as fundamental right and a collective responsibility. As public education advocate Jan Resseger writes on her personal blog, Democrats should, at the very least, declare education to be a “common good” and call for “a comprehensive system … that serves all children and is democratically governed, publicly funded, universally accessible, and accountable to the public.” But instead, the platform highlights a series of isolated issues that, although important, further the perception that education is mostly a technocratic endeavor rather than a moral and political imperative. So, without a rudder to guide its education positions, how do the Democrats fare in their treatment of specific policy points? The section devoted to education begins with higher education, which certainly has been a prominent issue in the presidential campaign. The writing is mainly focused on addressing the dramatic increase in the cost of higher education, calling it a “barrier” that government needs to help students overcome. Specifically, the platform calls for free community college, which would guarantee at least a basic access to higher education opportunity. This idea has some practical validity, as is being demonstrated by the free community college program currently being run in Tennessee. Nevertheless, the call for tuition free community college, without extending it to four-year university, falls short of the proposal made by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to provide for universal tuition free college. Although the party’s presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton initially eschewed what Sanders proposed, she has since reconsidered and embraced the idea. So on the subject of higher education, the Democratic platform needs to catch up with its candidates. On the subject of college student loan debt – a key issue in turning out the vote from millennials – Democrats call for a Student Borrower Bill of Rights and a pledge to allow borrowers with student loans to discharge their debts in bankruptcy. These are admirable proposals but again fall short of the student debt “jubilee” that would reflect both the values upon which this nation was founded and the economic principles that have sustained it through its greatest periods of growth and prosperity. The platform’s pledge to support “minority-serving” universities, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, is worthy, although as classroom teacher and popular blogger Peter Greene, on his personal site, advises those who drafted the document, “You guys may want to take a look at that whole ‘minority’ thing, since particularly in schools ‘minority’ also means ‘white’ at this point.” The platform’s pledge to crack down on predatory for-profit colleges is also generally worthwhile; although, it’s not clear whether this puts them at odds with the Obama administration’s current effort to include Navient – the loan servicing giant with one of the worst track records for ripping off students – as one of the finalists to help overhaul federal student loan collection practices. Regarding early childhood education and K-12, the platform lumps the two issues together, a mistake because states generally have no constitutional obligations to provide for ECE. For sure, providing high quality pre-K education to little kids is vital but not just for the sake of the “workforce,” as the platform seems to suggest. Much of what is stated about K-12 education amounts to generalities that few can object to but don’t have much of a basis in research and enduring practice. Having “great Pre-K-12 schools in every zip code” is important but not without some consideration of what makes them “great.” Few would object to high standards but standards do little to actually ensure outcomes. One of the few specifics in the platform is the call for mentoring programs, which certainly have some merit but seem an odd proposal to highlight in a document with national significance. One wonders, as Greene does in his assessment, “Which genius on the committee has a bunch of money sunk in some mentor-consultant business?” The Democratic proposal wraps up with attention to the issue of charter schools, declaring support for “high-quality public charter schools” (who would support bad ones?) and opposition to “for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources” – an empty rhetorical phrase because charters can operate as non-profits while being connected to all sorts of profitable enterprises. The issue of charter schools is complicated and hard to address in a broad document like a party platform. But here again, the platform authors could have reasserted the need for schools to be democratically controlled by and accountable to the entirety of the population that the school is intended to serve – which would be a clear statement of opposition to the rapidly expanding industrial approach to schooling being spread by large charter management companies. In sum the platform’s authors would be wise to consider advice of California education professor Julian Vasquez Heilig to focus on the solutions that have some basis in research. So does the Democratic platform support education policies that are progressive? Currently, the best answer to that question is, “Maybe.”  Source: http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/how-education-fares-in-the-democratic-party-platform/
Don’t Make Our Most Vulnerable Children Wait Longer! 07/12/2016 10:37 am 10:37:16 | Updated 3 days ago Marian Wright Edelman  In an important show of bipartisanship, Congress is on the cusp of an historic step to help many of the most vulnerable children in our nation who are abused and neglected and at risk of entering foster care and lingering in group care. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Family First Prevention Services Act (H.R. 5456) on June 21st to help keep these children safely with their families and out of foster care. I hope the Senate will do the same this week before it leaves for summer recess and not keep vulnerable children waiting and waiting longer. Alumni of foster care frequently say the most important step the state could have taken was to help their family early on to keep them out of foster care. They talk about what a difference it would have made if drug treatment or other supports were available to keep their families together and offer them needed stability in their lives. We often overlook the trauma children experience when they are uprooted from their home, family and school and are expected to adjust to new environments. My mother was a wonderful foster parent to nearly a dozen children, yet many of her foster children yearned for their birth families. This separation trauma can be intensified for children in group homes and lead to worse life outcomes than experienced by children in family foster homes. Many children who move frequently from family to family or one group setting to another and from school to school wish they could have a stable family all children need growing up. “You don’t age out of families,” they say, underscoring a fundamental problem with having only the state as a parent. Passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, identical to the Senate bill introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), will make historic and crucial investments in prevention for children and families. Currently major federal child welfare funding is available to states only after a child has been removed from their home and placed in foster care. This has created a disincentive to help families at the front-end. For many years state child welfare agencies and a range of other providers and advocates have challenged this misalignment in federal funding which undermines the best interests and outcomes for vulnerable children and urged federal investments in prevention. The Family First Prevention Services Act finally does that recognizing that mental health and substance abuse problems bring the majority of children into the child welfare system. It allows federal dollars to be used to prevent and treat such problems and to fund home-based programs to strengthen parenting skills for children in their own families. We know quality prevention programs work and are less costly than group and congregate care. So we urge the Senate to act now. The Family First Prevention Services Act also redirects federal fiscal incentives to states to help children who must enter foster care be placed with families rather than in more expensive and less effective group care. Over the years foster care alumni have shared their experiences in group home settings with members of Congress and explained how they needed the love and support of their parents or extended families, not rotating shifts of staff in a place that felt more like a business than a home. So this long overdue bill acts to reduce the unnecessary funneling of children into group care settings. Federal dollars are available for family foster care or quality residential treatment programs for children with special emotional or behavioral needs — often the most expensive care. The bill includes enhanced protections to ensure children remain in residential programs no longer than treatment requires. States will continue to receive federal support for programs serving pregnant and parenting teens and youth 18 and older transitioning from foster care to adulthood. After more than 35 years of federal support, states and localities will now have to pick up the full tab for the care of children in other group settings to better align federal dollars with prevention and the most family-like foster care settings that offer better outcomes for children. Recognizing that this is a big change, these new funds for prevention and restrictions on group care funding will not take effect until three years after the bill is enacted. This three year delay gives state and local agencies, private providers and child and family advocates ample time to prepare and work with the Department of Health and Human Services to build on the new law’s flexibility in defining who is eligible for prevention services, how the services are defined, and the definition, structure and eligibility for residential treatment programs. There is also initial funding to build on for recruiting and retaining quality foster homes. Could some states get less federal money for group care than they have been receiving? Possibly, but only if they maintain the status quo rather than supporting more family-like settings and treatment for children with special needs. And now all states will be able to use federal dollars for services and treatment to help keep children safely in their families and out of more expensive foster care. The bottom line must be what’s best for children. A number of states already have time-limited federal waivers allowing more flexible use of federal foster care dollars to show the benefits of investments in prevention. The new federal prevention funds in the Family First Prevention Services Act will become available in 2019 as those waivers end. The new federal reforms build on what Congress has learned from states’ efforts to increase prevention investments and move children in foster care to more family-like settings, steps that improve child outcomes. The Senate should approve H.R. 5456 before summer recess in four days. Attempts to change the bill, even technical amendments, will kill it and send a hurtful message to vulnerable children across the country that continued reliance on foster care over prevention is acceptable. I urge passage of this crucial bill to ensure long awaited services and protections for abused and neglected children.    Every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving family. The Family First Prevention Services Act is a critically important step toward this goal for hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable children.  Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/dont-make-our-most-vulner_b_10941914.html#
­ Charge: Group home leader punched, kicked resident in vehicle - Eau Claire Leader-Telegram Charge: Group home leader punched, kicked resident in vehicle posted July 13, 2016 12:00 a.m. (CDT) email article print font size - + by / Dan Holtz. bio | email 4 Enlarge Stoner prevnext A man who runs an adult group home in Eau Claire is accused of punching and kicking one of his residents in a vehicle in Fall Creek. The 46-year-old resident sustained a bruised and swollen left eye in the incident, police said. Clinten E. Stoner, 50, of 716 Kimberly Drive was charged Tuesday in Eau Claire County Court with a felony count of causing bodily harm by intentionally abusing a patient. Stoner is free on a $5,000 signature bond and returns to court Aug. 23. As conditions of bond, Stoner was ordered not to have contact with the resident or vulnerable adults and children. According to the criminal complaint: A Fall Creek police officer received a report of possible family trouble that occurred just after 4:30 p.m. Monday in the 100 block of Wisconsin Street in Fall Creek. The officer spoke with a witness who said she was sitting on her front porch when a vehicle pulled over. The driver got out, opened the back door and started punching and kicking the passenger and restraining the passenger from getting out of the vehicle. The witness also heard the driver yelling and swearing at the passenger. The altercation lasted about two minutes. The witness got the license plate number of the vehicle before the vehicle headed westbound on U.S. 12. A second witness told the officer the male in the back seat may have been mentally challenged. The officer then spoke with Stoner, the registered owner of the vehicle. Stoner said he runs an adult group home in Eau Claire, cares for two residents and had taken them swimming. Stoner took one of the residents to his mother’s house in Fall Creek to get a swimming suit. The resident wanted to stay at his mother’s house, which he was not allowed to do. Stoner claimed the resident started attacking him in the vehicle and he had to pull over to restrain him. Stoner said the resident pulled his hair and tore off his shirt. Witnesses told police the driver of the vehicle pulled off his own shirt. The resident, who cried when speaking to an Eau Claire police officer, said Stoner hit him with a closed fist. If convicted, Stoner could be sentenced to up to three years in prison. Contact: 715-833-9207, dan.holtz@ecpc.com  Source: http://www.leadertelegram.com/News/Front-Page/2016/07/13/Charge-Group-homeleader-punched-kickedresident-in-vehicle-nbsp.html
Report rips State Agency in charge of Group Homes Potential cases of neglect and abuse not reported By Ryan Walsh, 22News I-Team Reporter Published: July 14, 2016, 11:04 am Updated: July 14, 2016, 5:54 pm  BOSTON (WWLP) - An Inspector General report rips a Massachusetts state agency for not reporting potential cases of abuse and neglect of developmentally disabled individuals under state care.  The report found that the state and group homes staff did not report critical emergency room visits to investigators 58% of the time.  The Inspector General reviewed emergency room visits of developmentally disabled individuals living in group homes.  The Department of Developmental Services oversees group homes. The Office of the Inspector General found that the Department of Developmental Services did not comply with Federal waiver and State requirements for reporting and monitoring critical incidents involving developmentally disabled individuals. One unnamed woman with developmental disabilities was living in a group home with psychiatric disorders.  She was in the emergency room 10 times form May 2013 to May 2014.  She was in the hospital for swallowing batteries, screws, bolts, soda can tabs, and a part of a cell phone charger.  The Department of Developmental Services only reported one of the ten incidents to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC).  The state agency has to report reasonable suspicions of abuse or neglect to the DPPC. Another incident showed that a resident had cuts on their head due to being restrained by the group home's aides on two separate occasions. The state agency did not report that incident to investigators either. The Inspector General's report also says that the state agency did not make sure that Group Homes reported all critical incidents to the Department of Developmental Services.    The report says that Group Homes did not report 15% of the 587 emergency room visits reviewed to the Department of Developmental Services.  Group Home providers are required to do so.  Due to this, the Department of Developmental Services did not review and analyze data on the 88 critical incidents group homes did not report. One incident involved a group home resident who suffered second-degree burns on his shoulder.  Another resident was hit in the head with a metal chair by another resident and suffered a concussion.  Neither incident was reported to the state. The Inspector General went through 2964 emergency room claims from the Massachusetts Medicaid Management Information System that the state agency paid for developmentally disabled Medicaid beneficiaries living in group homes from January 2012 through June 2014.  Those individuals had 587 hospital emergency room visits that were diagnosed with at least 1 of 149 conditions that were high risk for suspected abuse or neglect. In letters to the Inspector General, the state agency disagreed with many of the findings, but did say they welcome the recommendations made in the report. In a statement sent to 22News on Thursday, the Executive Officer of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Department of Developmental Services had this to say; “DDS is committed  to protecting the health and welfare of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are receiving services, has carefully reviewed the findings in the OIG’s report and is in the process of implementing recommendations, including additional staff training practices and new guidance on critical incident reports, to ensure quality care for the 36,000 individuals it serves are safe and protected .” The Inspector General reviewed this data in several states, including Massachusetts, in response to a congressional request concerning the number of deaths and cases of abuse of developmentally disabled residents of group homes.  Source: http://wwlp.com/investigative-story/report-rips-state-agency-in-charge-of-group-homes/
Scathing report details failings at group homes E-Mail Share via e-mail To Add a message Your e-mail Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn 29 Comments Print The Boston GlobeTweet Share 29 Comments By Michael Levenson Globe Staff  July 14, 2016 A scathing federal audit released Thursday faults Massachusetts officials for frequently failing to alert authorities when developmentally disabled residents of the state’s group homes suffer broken bones, burns, and other injuries potentially caused by abuse and neglect. The audit, by the inspector general of the US Department of Health and Human Services, found that 58 percent of emergency room visits that involved reasonable suspicion of abuse and neglect were not reported to investigators between January 2012 and June 2014. Advertisement In one case, a developmentally disabled man had second-degree burns on his shoulder that neither he nor an aide at his group home could explain. In another case, a woman prone to seizures and defiant behavior was brought to the emergency room on two separate oaccsions with cuts on her head after she was restrained by group home staff. And in a third, an autistic man had a bed sore that was so infected it was possibly gangrenous and in need of extensive surgery and reconstruction. Curtis M. Roy, the audit manager who oversaw the report, said he was flabbergasted and disturbed by the findings. “I shake my head every time I read these reports because I don’t quite see how people can see somebody laying there with an infected gangrenous bed sore and not pick up the telephone,” he said. “I just don’t understand that. I really don’t.” Advertisement State officials said they disagreed with many of the findings of the report, which they said were overstated. Nevertheless, they said they had issued several new advisories to group home contractors on how to identify suspected abuse and neglect and are developing additional training for group home workers and state officials. The state “is committed to protecting the health and welfare of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are receiving services, has carefully reviewed the findings in the OIG’s report and is in the process of implementing recommendations,” said Michelle Hillman, spokeswoman for the state health and human services agency. Private contractors operate about 1,800 group homes in Massachusetts, while the state directly runs about 200, according to the Arc of Massachusetts, an advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities. They serve a total of 10,000 residents with disabilities. The federal audit found the lack of action by state officials and group home workers placed developmentally disabled adults – some of whom cannot speak, hear, or see, and many of whom have serious physical and intellectual disabilities – at risk of harm. The state’s failure to report the injuries to investigators also violated state and federal rules. “Personally, I would be at least moderately concerned, if not very concerned, if I had a relative in a group home,” Roy said. “I just don’t think there should be any tolerance of abuse or neglect of anybody, but in particular of developmentally disabled people.” US Senator Christopher Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, requested audits of several states’ group homes after the Hartford Courant reported in 2013 that abuse and neglect had been cited in the deaths of 76 developmentally disabled people in Connecticut between 2004 and 2010. As a result, the inspector general’s office reviewed the safeguards designed to prevent abuse and neglect in group homes in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Maine. Connecticut’s audit, released in May, found that state, like Massachusetts, often failed to report possible abuse or neglect to investigators, including cases involving a man who suffered a broken spine and a woman who repeatedly swallowed razor blades. Massachusetts’ audit f0und that state officials and group home workers, by not acting on possible cases of abuse and neglect, “failed to adequately protect” 146 of the 334 developmentally disabled residents whose emergency room visits were reviewed. The audit also found that the Department of Developmental Services, the state agency that oversees group homes, did not ensure that group homes detail the “action steps” they would take to prevent injuries from occurring again in 29 percent of cases. The report was based on a review of 587 emergency room visits made by 334 group home residents on Medicaid between January 2012 and June 2014 – cases that involved broken bones, burns, open wounds, drug overdoses, and swallowed objects. Christine Griffin, executive director of Disability Law Center of Massachusetts, said she hopes the report prompts officials to overhaul how the state handles potential abuse and neglect – including what she called the chronic underfunding and understaffing of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, which investigates possible cases in group homes. She said the state should also implement, as others have, a registry of group home workers who have abused or neglected residents, to ensure they can’t be hired again at another group home. “It’s startling to me that we’re this behind,” Griffin said. “Especially someone who is nonverbal, we just discount what happens to them in some way. If they can’t say, ‘Somebody did this to me and this is who that person is,’ then things that happen to them get ignored by everybody.” Nancy A. Alterio, executive director of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, said the agency fields 10,000 reports of potential abuse and neglect a year, has a $3 million budget and five investigators. Each investigator typically has 50 open cases. “In Massachusetts, we work very diligently and vigilantly to ensure the protection of persons with disabilities,” she said. “We’re far from a perfect system, but we’re often seen as a model across the country because of our collaborative efforts and focus.” Roy said it is essential that group home workers and officials understand that they must act if they are concerned that the injuries suffered by a developmentally disabled person might have been caused by abuse or neglect. “If you have to even think about it,” Roy said, “you should tell someone.” Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.  Source: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/07/13/scathing-report-details-failings-group-homes/gXx87GpHkixBJTuROkJL1L/story.html
--> --> 'This is not my room': The harrowing message a five-year-old girl wrote on the walls of a room her mother and stepfather locked her in as they subjected her to cruel bootcamp-style torture A man and woman will spend time in jail for torturing a five-year-old girl  The woman is the child's mother and the man is her step-father They began torturing the girl when parenting became 'over whelming'  Was forced to run behind a car in bushland to simulate being abandoned The torture was 'punishment' for the girl's misbehaviour, the court heard By Belinda Cleary For Daily Mail Australia Published: 09:30 EST, 15 July 2016 | Updated: 09:38 EST, 15 July 2016 View comments The parents of a five-year-old girl who exposed her to barbaric boot-camp torture and locked her in her room without toilet breaks will spend less than a year in jail. The Caboolture-based mother, 26, and step-father, 30, of the young girl executed a bizarre torture regime after they became 'overwhelmed' by the task of parenting, Brisbane District Court heard. The five-year-old was forced to run up to 6km, in bushland behind her parents car which would pull away whenever she got close.  SHARE PICTURE Copy link to paste in your message +3 The parents of a five-year-old girl who was tortured with an extreme exercise regime and locked in her room for up to 24 hours at a time will see less than a year behind bars This bizarre method of punishment was supposed to make the child feel like she was being abandoned and was a 'corrective treatment' for her behaviour.  Sometimes she would be joined by two other children on these runs. She was also forced to undertake up to four hours of other exercises including situps and stand ups,the Courier Mail Reports.  The abuse started after the parents turned to an older man for guidance and would be administered as a form of punishment when she misbehaved.  SHARE PICTURE Copy link to paste in your message +3 The parents appeared before Brisbane District Court where they were sentenced for the torture and abuse of the girl This older man would force the girl to eat curry powder if she did not exercise fast enough.  When the girl was at home she would often be sent to her room where the door handles would be removed so she couldn't escape. 'This is not my room, this is not my house,' she wrote on the walls of her room.  The words were a 'sad and poignant' feature of the shocking case, Judge Craig Chowdhury said in a hearing on Friday. 'The girl had also smeared her own excrement around the room and suggested her spartan room had become her personal prison,' he said. The step father was ordered to spend eight months behind bars and the girl's mother was given three months. SHARE PICTURE Copy link to paste in your message +3 The girl wrote harrowing messages on the walls and also smeared excrement around the room The couple, who are no longer together, had their full four and three-year terms suspended. The court heard the woman had also admitted to police she struck the girl across the face on several occasions - once so hard it had hurt her own hand. Summarising her treatment, which also included being forced to exercise excessively and being left outside with pet dogs, Judge Chowdhury said: 'The mind boggles'. 'These acts can only be designed to humiliate, demoralise and destroy whatever happy childhood this girl was ever going to have.' Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3691978/Queensland-parents-jailed-subjecting-girl-5-cruel-bootcamp-style-torture.html#ixzz4EX74DBnn Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Groundbreaking human rights of children bill introduced in Congress By Elizabeth Bartholet & Paulo Barroz • 7/16/16 12:03 AM The Washington Examiner Share Tweet Mail Print SMS More Tens of millions of children worldwide live without parents, with an estimated 10 to 14 million of these unparented children confined to institutions. And this number is growing. These children are denied their human right to grow up in a family and to be free from the cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, unnecessary detention, and denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of persons characteristic of institutionalization. Their plight is the largest unrecognized humanitarian and human rights crisis of the 21st century. Human rights legislation addressing this crisis was introduced in Congress recently by Rep. Tom Marino, R-Penn., and Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., H.R. 5285 amends the Congressional mandate to the Department of State to prepare and publish annually Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, requiring it to include in those Country Reports violations of the above-listed child human rights. This new legislation is simple. It requires no new resources, and no new office. It creates no new sanctions, and allows the Department of State the same discretion it has traditionally enjoyed in preparing the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. H.R. 5285 simply requires the Department of State to stop discriminating against millions of children worldwide by refusing to count as a human rights violation their denial of family life through adoption and their unnecessary institutionalization. While simple, this legislation would nonetheless be of enormous significance in the debate over whether unparented children should continue to be condemned to institutions whose destructive effects have been documented by leading social and medical sciences research, or allowed to find permanent families through adoption. Adoption gives children the permanent, nurturing, legally stable parents they need. However, few countries with large populations of unparented children have a robust domestic adoption tradition and many countries impose severe restrictions on or altogether prohibit international adoption. This deliberately denies millions of children in need their human right to grow up in nurturing homes. These restrictive adoption policies have resulted in the precipitous decline by 75 percent in the number of adoptions into the United States since 2004, and by more than 50 percent in the number of international adoptions worldwide. This represents the deliberate and unnecessary denial to well over 20,000 children per year of their most fundamental human right other than life itself — the right to grow up with nurturing parents. H.R. 5285 would help shift the U.S. position so that instead of undermining the child's right to family, the United States would take a leading role in advocating for this vulnerable population globally. This landmark legislation has the support of a broad coalition of leading human rights and child welfare experts and organizations, assisted in this endeavor by the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and Arent Fox LLP. This coalition includes the National Council for Adoption, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the Center for Adoption Policy, Saddleback Church Orphan Care Initiative, and Harvard Law School's Child Advocacy Program. We call on Congress to join the fight to secure the rights of unparented children worldwide who continue to be unnecessarily institutionalized and denied the opportunity to grow up in stable loving homes by geographical accident and the policies of governments. Also from the Washington Examiner NIH: Lack  Source: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/groundbreaking-human-rights-of-children-bill-introduced-in-congress/article/2596677
Editorial: More questions about group home care Greenville News Editorial Page 1:03 a.m. EDT July 17, 2016 5 CONNECTTWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE A three-day investigative report published last week by The Greenville News begs many more answers about the way South Carolina and its contractors manage the care of the state’s most vulnerable adults. Investigative reporter Rick Brundrett spent seven months poring over records and conducting interviews as he explored the deaths of three clients in group homes run by South Carolina Mentor, a division of a national company that operates homes for vulnerable adults. Mentor is overseen by the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. --> Play Video Play Mute Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 3:05 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% Stream TypeLIVE Remaining Time -0:00   Playback Rate 1 Chapters Chapters subtitles off, selected Subtitles captions settings, opens captions settings dialog captions off, selected Captions Fullscreen Brother and best friend lost in the care of Mentor.m4v This is a modal window. Play Mute Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% Stream TypeLIVE Remaining Time -0:00   Playback Rate 1 Chapters Chapters subtitles off, selected Subtitles captions settings, opens captions settings dialog captions off, selected Captions Fullscreen Brother and best friend lost in the care of Mentor.m4v Foreground Background Window Font Size Text Edge Style Font Family Skip Ad Ad Loading... x Embed x Share Michelle McCarroll talks about her brother, Jamie Rosemond, who died while living in a Mentor group home. Lauren Petracca The investigation looked at a very small sample of cases, but raises important questions about how well the state is fulfilling its duty to care for these adults who have very serious intellectual or other developmental issues, and how well the state is monitoring the companies it authorizes to carry out those duties. By law, the state has a responsibility to care for vulnerable adults. Even when contracted to private companies, the state’s responsibility extends to carefully overseeing those companies. Taxpayers have funded a $17.5 million annual contract (recently increased to $19.9 million) for Mentor alone, but Mentor is one of multiple companies that serve the state in this capacity. To ensure that money is being spent responsibly there needs to be a high degree of transparency over both the state and its contractors. That has not been the case. Brundrett ran into difficulty obtaining some public records – such as the addresses of group homes in the state. In addition, details about abuse reports and patient deaths in contractor-run group homes often are murky. Such a lack of transparency not only keeps the taxpayers in the dark, but also prevents relatives of vulnerable adults from having any assurance their loved ones are being properly cared for. One example from the Greenville News report provides cause for worry. Brundrett recounted the case of Jamie Rosemond who wandered away from his group home in Mauldin and was fatally struck by two cars in 2012. The window on Rosemond’s room had an alarm, but the alarm was disabled when he broke the window several days before his fatal escape, according to a lawsuit. Further, employees were supposed to be checking on Rosemond every 15 minutes, but apparently had not done so – logs showed group home staff had checked on Rosemond at 6:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on the day he died while police reports show he was struck by two cars at about 6:25 p.m. All of this despite that fact caregivers knew Rosemond was prone to wandering off. Families of group home residents as well as taxpayers should demand answers. Systems that are in place to protect group home clients need to be maintained and procedures followed. The state needs to follow up on maintenance. It also needs to ensure policies – those mandated by the state or put in place by the contractors – are being consistently followed. If a procedure is not being followed, it should not be used to give clients’ family members a false sense of security. There also are legitimate questions about the finances of these contracts. The state contract with Mentor averages to about $85,000 per client per year. That is a significant sum for the care of one individual, and though the cost may be legitimate, contractors’ books should be open so taxpayers can see how their money is being spent. Further, the quality of direct-care workers needs to be reviewed. Brundrett reported that the starting pay for direct-care staff in South Carolina is $9.79 per hour. Mentor’s workers, who average 3.5 years of service, earn $9.86 per hour on average. Those low wages are concerning given the responsibility these workers have. It’s easy to assume higher wages could improve the quality of care. If true, the state and its contractors should consider providing better pay for these important workers. These questions need to be answered. In the meantime, some help may be on the way. In a story on Tuesday, Brundrett reported that state Rep. Chandra Dillard plans to introduce or cosponsor legislation to improve accountability by requiring video cameras in common areas of group homes. That would be a good first step. Michelle McCarroll, the sister of Jamie Rosemond, told Brundrett she thinks the state also should ensure there are working alarms on the doors and windows of group homes. These both are needed changes. Dillard and the Legislature should also consider other steps to improve transparency for private contractors and tighten state oversight of privately run facilities to ensure group homes are maintained and procedures are being followed. Caring for vulnerable adults is a vital state responsibility. Families depend on the state to provide care they are unable to provide on their own. These vulnerable human beings deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else. There are simple steps that can improve care where needed or demonstrate to South Carolinians that these standards already are being met. Those steps need to be taken.  Source: http://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/opinion/editorials/2016/07/17/editorial-more-questions-group-home-care/87032796/
Foster care survivors fight to improve the system Story Comments Image (4) Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size Previous Next Foster care survivors fight to improve the system Foster care survivors fight to improve the system Rochelle Alvarado, right, and Palmira Ramirez speak with Nick Vottero, the community engagement coordinator for the New Mexico Child Advocacy Networks, a nonprofit dedicated to aiding foster children and youth who age out of the state’s foster care program. Alvarado and Ramirez are part of a group of youth who are playing a key role in improving policies that affect kids in the foster program. Cynthia Miller/The New Mexican Foster care survivors fight to improve the system Foster care survivors fight to improve the system Santa Fe native Lauren Huichan, shown with her therapy dog, says she and other youth who spent time in the state’s foster care system are working with the New Mexico Child Advocacy Networks to improve foster program policies ‘so that other kids don’t have to go through what we went through.’ Cynthia Miller/The New Mexican Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2016 11:15 pm | Updated: 11:58 pm, Sat Jul 16, 2016. Foster care survivors fight to improve the system By Cynthia Miller The New Mexican The Santa Fe New Mexican The night she was taken into state custody was a “big mess,” Palmira Ramirez said. “There were guns involved. There were policemen involved. There were bartenders involved.” She and her two half-sisters hid when they heard the commotion, knowing that child welfare caseworkers wouldn’t be far behind. Her two stepbrothers fled down the street to a relative’s home, missing the social workers “by minutes,” Ramirez said. The girls were discovered and divided, one sent to a great-grandmother’s home and two placed with an aunt they hadn’t seen in years. Ramirez, now 20, was 9 when she entered the state’s foster care system, beginning a journey that would shuffle her to nearly a score of foster homes and residential centers in cities around the state: Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Rio Rancho, Albuquerque, Mora. Like many children who grow up in state custody, she never found a permanent home. Caseworkers came and went. Adoption procedures fell apart. She was always separated from her siblings, and she had little voice in the important decisions about where she would live and who would care for her. But she and other young adults who have aged out of the state’s foster care system have been fighting to change that. Through New Mexico Child Advocacy Networks, a nonprofit dedicated to aiding foster children, these young people are playing a key role in improving policies that affect kids in a state system that operates largely out of the public’s eye. Case files on abused and neglected children and their families are kept confidential under federal funding rules. Family court hearings involving children are closed to the public. The confidentiality rules are meant to preserve children’s privacy, but they also shield deficiencies and injustices in a system that is meant to protect the nation’s most vulnerable young people. The experiences of Ramirez and other youth involved with NMCAN offer a glimpse into that system and the difficult years after they turned 18 and were suddenly on their own, young adults with no family support, few skills and little knowledge of how to navigate the state services and benefits still available to them. “Kids really do fall through the system,” said Santa Fe native Lauren Huichan, 24. State officials say New Mexico suffers from a combination of too few foster homes in some areas and overloaded social workers, despite heavy recruitment efforts to fill vacancies. A recent report by the Legislative Finance Committee said foster kids “are lingering in non-permanent care or have multiple placements meaning a lack of stability for children already experiencing trauma.” Exacerbating the problem, New Mexico, which leads the nation in the percentage of children living in poverty, has among the highest rates of child abuse and neglect, state and federal reports say, and a high rate of drug use among parents and other caregivers. Huichan’s advocacy work for foster kids began 10 years ago, through a youth program connected with the state Children, Youth and Families Department. She’s also worked with other organizations, such as the Gerard’s House program for grieving children in Santa Fe. Her efforts earned her some celebrity. In 2010, at the age of 18, she was invited to the TeenNick cable network’s HALO Awards in Los Angeles, where she received red-carpet honors for her activism, and mingled with pop stars and actors. In Los Angeles, Huichan was a long way from the 22 foster homes, group homes, shelters and psychiatric centers where she had spent her teen years, sometimes locked down and often medicated. She was diagnosed with depression and PTSD, she said. “I was moved around so much because I was considered a runaway,” Huichan said. “… I had just blown out of every placement.” She lost contact with her twin sister for six years. The foster system is a particularly tough place for kids with disabilities or mental health issues. Robert Carbajal, 25, who was diagnosed with a mild form of a developmental disability and bipolar disorder, said he spent years doped up on medication in a foster home that CYFD eventually determined was abusive. Not long after he was born in El Paso, Carbajal’s mother left him with some friends of her parents and then disappeared from his life, he said. His elderly grandparents took him into their home in Albuquerque, but they had a hard time caring for him. “I was a wild kid,” he said. “I wasn’t really controllable.” Unable to handle a growing child with behavioral challenges, his grandparents turned him over to state custody when he was 5. He spent a few months in a mental health facility and then went to live in the foster home, where he stayed for more than a decade before caseworkers removed him and a half-dozen other foster kids the couple had collected. Carbajal’s last two years in the foster system were spent in the home of a single mother and daughter. “There, I lived more of a normal life,” he said. A normal life can be hard to come by in the foster care system. But for Ramirez, the confusion and instability of that system was the “lesser of two evils.” As she was growing up in San Rafael, a tiny village in Cibola County not far from Grants, Ramirez and her motley pack of siblings — two half-sisters and two stepbrothers — were their own support system. Her mom had started using drugs and abusing alcohol, she said, “and not really caring anymore that she was our mom.” Her dad wasn’t around. She doesn’t know him. “None of me or my sisters know our dads.” The family had been investigated by state child protective services workers when she was 6, Ramirez said, but it was about a year later, when she was 7, that the troubles really began. That’s when a new boyfriend began to lure her mom away from the responsibilities of motherhood and into a drug-fueled decline. There would be weeks or months when Ramirez’s mom wasn’t around much, “leaving us to kind of fend for ourselves and take care of each other.” Ramirez had to help make sure the younger children got to school and that everyone was fed, she said, to fend off the social workers who had started coming around. The kids knew what would happen if their cover was blown: They’d be torn apart and put in foster care. “We were trying to keep the family together, because that was all we knew,” Ramirez said. But foster care was inevitable, she added, because of how careless her mother had become. When state caseworkers did arrive during a violent scene at the home in the middle of the night, they placed her and one of her sisters with an aunt in nearby Milan. But the woman, whom they barely knew, had an abusive husband, Ramirez said, and before long, the aunt fled the home while the girls were at school. It would become a familiar scenario, Ramirez said: “You come home from school, and all your stuff is outside in a trash bag.” She and her little sister bounced around to other caregivers, until it appeared they would have a permanent home with a former caseworker and his wife. The man had quit his job and took a new position in juvenile justice so he could take them in, she said. “We stayed there for a while. I was actually supposed to get adopted.” But the couple decided to separate, she said, and the adoption fell through. She was 13 at the time. “That was kind of heartbreaking,” she said. “I got shoved back into the foster system.” It wasn’t an easy transition. She said the foster mother who had planned to adopt her instead left her at a hospital. “I was shell-shocked. … I just got abandoned again. “They put me in a psych hospital because they thought I was going to go crazy.” She smiled. “But that ended up not happening.” Resiliency is a common trait among the young adults involved with NMCAN. They’re attending college and learning to live independently, and they’ve found a family there. Ramirez, who hopes to earn a degree in pediatric nursing, shares a home in Los Lunas with 22-year-old Rochelle Alvarado, also a native of the Grants area. “We call each other sisters,” Ramirez said. They’re both enrolled at Central New Mexico Community College. Alvarado is studying social work. She wants to work for CYFD some day. “I want to be that helping hand that my YTF is to me,” Alvarado said, referring to her youth transitional specialist, a state worker who, like NMCAN, is helping to ease her path to adulthood. NMCAN began in 1990 as the New Mexico CASA Network to provide court-appointed volunteer advocates for children in the foster system. While it continues to support CASA programs, NMCAN has expanded its mission in recent years to help former foster youth build life skills and job skills, further their education, find housing and employment, deal with their years of trauma and become their own advocates, using their experiences to push for policy changes to benefit the 2,300 kids in state care. They’re doing the work, Huichan said, “so that other kids don’t have to go through what we went through.” The group saw passage in 2014 of a bill that waives tuition and fees at state colleges and universities for students up to age 25 who have been in the foster care system. Their work also led to a “bill of rights” for foster children, legislation introduced by state Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, during the 2015 legislative session. The bill, which fell in line with the requirements for child welfare agencies under a 2014 federal law, would allow children in state custody to participate in normal activities, such as athletic and art programs, and attend sleepovers and summer camps. It also would give kids 14 and older a voice in creating a plan for their future, and it would require the state to give each child a list of their rights to education, health care, visits with family, safety, participation in court hearings and access to their own documents. It passed in the Senate but didn’t survive the House. Still, it inspired CYFD Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson, who had just stepped into the job, to meet with the youth and help them achieve some of their goals by changing policies and procedures in her agency. “It was a huge win to get it into administrative code,” said NMCAN Executive Director Ezra Spitzer. “… Young people had a very direct role in that process.” Jacobson said the new policies ease some of the restrictions for foster parents, giving them a greater role in making decisions for kids in their care, such as allowing them to join a sports team or simply go to the mall with friends. It also empowers the kids. “One thing I heard loud and clear is that they want a voice at the table,” Jacobson said. She meets with children in the state’s care, sometimes in groups and sometimes one-on-one, to listen to their concerns. One message from kids during such a session still sticks with her. “They said, ‘What we wish people knew is that it wasn’t our fault.’ ” Facing blame — from family members, foster parents and caseworkers — was a common thread in the stories of the NMCAN youth. Some of them are still battling the fallout as they try to build new relationships with their biological families. Jacobson said the agency is also working to increase the number of foster families in New Mexico, so that more kids can be placed in homes close to their biological families. Moving a child to a new city “should never happen,” she said. “That’s not best practice.” After adding 100 families over the past year, Jacobson said, the state now has about 1,200 homes for foster kids. “But we are always looking for more.” Her work in improving the system is far from over, she said. “In no way, shape or form do I think we’ve got it all figured out.” Spitzer said the nonprofit also has work to do. Its next mission might be drafting new legislation that creates a way for foster kids to file a grievance without being routed through their state caseworkers. “I really think that’s a missing ingredient,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been recently talking a lot about.” Ramirez said the group is also working on a measure that would allow foster kids to visit with siblings who live in other homes, separated by decisions beyond their control. Ideally, Spitzer said, a child taken into state care will be able to go home quickly. “But sometimes they don’t go home,” he said, “and they don’t get adopted.” Those who enter as teens rarely are adopted, he said, and tragically, some kids get adopted and then return to the foster system. “We do these things to protect kids, but sometimes there’s trauma inside that,” Spitzer said. “… We have to find solutions.”  Source: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/foster-care-survivors-fight-to-improve-the-system/article_1eb904ae-52b6-596e-9af3-304a3d2a8206.html
If Democrats Think Mike Pence Is An Extremist, Will They Stop Supporting His Education Policies? Soon after the announcement that Indiana Governor Mike Pence would be the vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party, word came from Democrats that he was an extremist – and not just your garden-variety extremist. “The ‘most extreme’ vice presidential pick in a generation,” an article in USA Today quotes a statement from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. Podesta elaborates, according to the reporter, calling Pence, “an early supporter of the Tea Party” and someone who “‘personally spearheaded’ a religious liberty bill that ‘legalized discrimination’ against gays and lesbians (which he later revised); and he was a leader in the effort to defund Planned Parenthood as a member of the U.S. House.” “Mike Pence is even worse than you think,” warns a report from left leaning news outlet Salon, arguing he has “the most virulently anti-gay records of any government official” and has “also built his career on restricting abortion rights.” According to an article in Alternet, Pence is a favorite of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who fund extreme right wing organizations such Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that writes extremist right wing laws that have been enacted in many states. Another opinion piece in the Washington Post criticizes Pence for “mocking” working moms. As for Clinton herself, according to Politico, because the announcement of Pence’s candidacy coincided with her appearance at the annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers, she focused some of her criticism of Pence on his record on education issues. In her address, Clinton “told thousands of cheering teachers union members that Pence is ‘one of the most hostile politicians in America when it comes to public education.’” Clinton accused Pence of cutting “millions from higher education while he was ‘giving huge cuts to corporations’ … Clinton also said Pence ‘turned away millions of federal dollars that could’ve expanded access to preschool for low-income children.’” A more dispassionate look at Pence’s education record by Chalkbeat Indiana reveals he “pushed for career and technical education, school choice, and changes to standards and tests.” Despite Clinton’s claim that Pence turned away “millions” in federal money for pre-k education, which is true, Pence also, according to the Chakbeat reporter, pushed “to create a small preschool pilot program” that got “Indiana off the list of just 10 U.S. states that spent no direct state funds to help poor children attend preschool.” What’s also on Pence’s list of education policy accomplishments are a repeal of the state’s adoption of Common Core Standards pushed by the Obama administration, a prolonged battle with the state superintendent over control of education policy, and lots and lots of “school choice” legislation, including more funding for privately operated charter schools and expansions of the state’s voucher program that allows parents to transfer their students to private schools at taxpayer expense. In other words, what Pence adopted as his education policies resemble a hodge-podge of what is commonly referred to as “education reform.” Indeed, organizations that espouse the reform agenda give Pence’s education record rave reviews. “Mike Pence Is the Veep Education Reformers Need,” declares the Center for Education Reform. CER leader Jeanne Allen declares in her statement, “Mike Pence is a true pioneer of educational opportunity.” Pro-reform American Federation for Children gushes, “Governor Pence is a longtime champion for educational choice, believing that every child, regardless of family income or ZIP code, deserves access to a quality education.” At Forbes, reform cheerleader Maureen Sullivan’s list of “seven things” to know about Pence’s education stance reads like a checklist from the reform movement, including charter schools, standardized testing, merit pay for teachers, vouchers, and curriculum geared toward workforce preparation. So, although Pence has strayed from reform orthodoxy at times – voting against the No Child Left Behind law passed under President Georg W. Bush and steering his state out of the Common Core (which he initially embraced) – he is generally recognized as an education reform leader, making him, in fact, aligned with many Democrats who’d never want to be caught dead supporting what Pence generally espouses. For decades, both Democrats and Republicans have dined at the salad bar of education reform, with Democrats taking a heaping helping of charter schools but light on the vouchers please, and Republicans insisting on standardization but hold the Common Core now that we’ve gotten a taste of it. Democrats eagerly sat alongside Republicans at the same education policy table in Indiana too. Most of the education policies Pence supported as governor have been a continuation of policies created by fellow Republicans – his predecessor Mitch Daniels and state superintendent Tony Bennett, who suffered a humiliating defeat during Pence’s tenure. But those policies often drew the praise of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In a visit to the state in 2011, Duncan and Bennett commended each other for their “efforts to overhaul education,” according to a local reporter. In another visit to the sate a year later, Duncan “complimented,” according to a local news source, Bennett and Indiana’s leadership on the state’s expansion of charter schools and state takeovers of local schools – another popular item in the reform salad bar. A New York Times article from 2013 lumps Duncan and Daniels, along with former Michigan Governor John Engler, together in the education policy arena, writing, “They all sympathize with many of the efforts of the so-called education reform movement.” Outside of the Obama administration, Indiana education leadership has drawn strong support from StudentsFirst, the education reform advocacy group created and formerly led by ex-Chancellor of Washington, DC schools and avowed Democrat Michelle Rhee. The leader of StudentsFirst Indiana state chapter has been “a key advisor to Governor Mike Pence,” according to a statement from the organization. Now that StudentsFirst has merged with reform advocacy group 50CAN, which is also led by avowed Democrats, no doubt that organization’s agenda will continue in the Hosier State. The organization Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) hail Pence’s education priorities and claim the influence of prominent Democrats, including President Obama, have had a lot to do with them. So why have so many Democrats shared the education agenda of an extremist the party now generally abhors? When education journalist and Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss recently asked education historian Diane Ravitch what she would most want to tell President Obama should they ever have a face-to-face meeting, Ravitch replied she would like to tell him, “I will never understand why you decided to align your education policy with that of George W. Bush.” The fact that Democrats have been supporting an education agenda that was to a great extent conceived in conservative Republican policy shops has been well known among careful observers and thoroughly documented by Ravitch in her books, The Death and Life of the Great American School, and Reign of Error. “The irony today,” Ravitch explains in her interview, “is that many of the leading figures in the Democratic Party support some of the same education policies as the right-wing extremists in ALEC.” In an email to me, Ravitch elaborates on more recent collusions between Democrats and Republicans on education policy. “President Obama pulled the rug out [from under public education supporters] by aligning with DFER,” she writes. “DFER money managers were big supporters of his. He was the inaugural speaker when they first met in NYC. After the election, they gave Obama a list of people they wanted in the Education Department. Top on it was Arne Duncan.” As Dana Goldstein documented for The Nation in 2009, Obama made a decision at the outset of his presidency to listen “to only one side of” the debate on education policy in the Democratic Party. On the winning side were DFER and its wealthy backers from Wall Street who, according to Goldstein, conducted a “highly coordinated media campaign to call into question the work of Obama education adviser Linda Darling-Hammond, once considered a top contender for the job of education secretary.” After “DFER’s anti-Darling-Hammond talking points,” got prominent attention in major media outlets, Goldstein explains, “Less than two weeks later, Obama appointed DFER’s choice to the Education Department post, Chicago schools CEO Duncan.” By the time Obama and Duncan rolled out Race to the Top and other education initiatives that directed the course of education policy across the nation, it had “become clear,” Goldstein writes, “that DFER’s idea of education reform is the one driving the Obama administration.” But the policy ideas never had roots in populist soil. As Goldstein explains, “Lacking a membership base, [education reform’s] lobbying arm is essentially top-down, financed by New York hedge-funders, supported by research conducted at Beltway think tanks, and represented on the ground by a handful of state and local politicians scattered across the country.” So for the past eight years, the Democratic Party’s education agenda has chiefly been based on an idea conceived in right wing policy shops then pushed into the party’s most powerful circles by a very small but wealthy group of individuals with the ability to push the right levers. Based on this understanding, it’s not a surprise that extremists such as Mike Pence have been eager to adopt much of this agenda. But in calling out Pence as an extremist, is Hillary Clinton signaling there may be “shifts in her party’s education agenda,” as American Prospect’s education journalist Rachel Cohen suggests? An op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, a consistent megaphone for education reform, seems to think so. Calling Clinton’s criticism “an opening,” the author seems to relish a debate on whether policies from an extremist like Pence are best for “low- and middle-income families.” Public schools advocates in the Democratic Party are eager to have that debate too.  Source: http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/if-democrats-think-mike-pence-is-an-extremist-will-they-stop-supporting-his-education-policies/
Audit: Kansas foster care system puts children at risk MARGARET STAFFORD, Associated Press Published: July 27, 2016, 3:44 pm Updated: July 28, 2016, 10:55 am Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) 21Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)21 Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) Phyllis Gilmore, Department for Children and Families Secretary, answers questions about the audit of her department at a Post Audit Committee meeting Wednesday, July 27, 2016 in Topeka, Kan. The Kansas Department of Children and Families continuing struggles to adequately oversee private foster care contractors is putting children in the system at risk, according to a state audit of the agency released Wednesday. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP) KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Children and Families’ continuing struggles to adequately oversee private foster care contractors is putting children in the system at risk, according to a state audit of the agency released Wednesday. Shortly after the 59-page audit was released, two Democratic senators called for department Secretary Phyllis Gilmore to resign. She defended the agency’s efforts to ensure children’s safety and said she did not intend to resign. The Legislative Post Audit found that the agency had implemented only one of nine recommendations it received after a 2013 assessment of services. The department also doesn’t ensure that background checks of individuals in foster homes, adoptive homes and those where children are returned to their families are as frequent and thorough as they should be; doesn’t complete all required monthly visits to foster homes; doesn’t determine if families have the financial resources needed to provide for the children; and approves nearly all requests for exceptions to rules governing foster care homes, auditors said. Phyllis Gilmore, Department for Children and Families Secretary, talks about the audit of her department at a Post Audit Committee meeting Wednesday, July 27, 2016 in Topeka, Kan. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP) Some state lawmakers had sought the audit after reports that children died or were mistreated while in the agency’s care. The audit did not address allegations that the agency discriminates against same-sex couples when deciding where to place children. A second audit addressing privatization efforts at DCF is scheduled to be released later this year. Auditors said their findings “indicate that DCF continues to take a hands-off approach to monitoring contractors and perhaps focuses too much on whether federal outcomes are met and not on the specific steps needed to meet them.” Frequent turnover of DCF staff has led to low morale and affected employees’ ability to do their jobs effectively, auditors said, and some case-workers also complained about inadequate training. Auditors also criticized the agency’s record-keeping. Five children in the foster care system died during the 2015 fiscal year, with only one death attributed to mistreatment, according to a November report. Other causes of fatalities included illness and car accidents. One child died because of mistreatment in foster care in the 2014 fiscal year, while another child in the DCF system died that year because of mistreatment while in a family member’s care. Five children in DCF’s system died in total that year. Gilmore conceded the agency has room for improvement but contended its safety record was among the best in the nation. She cited a Child & Federal Services Review that found Kansas ranked second in the nation in protecting children from abuse and neglect, although not all states have completed the review. “That is borne out in our records, which show very few child deaths of those in custody from maltreatment,” Gilmore said in an interview before the audit was released. “We absolutely want no deaths. One is too many and grieves our heart greatly.” She agreed the agency’s turnover is too high and hoped a salary increase approved by the Legislature and an emphasis on improving staff training will help retain employees. Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, asks DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore a question after learning the results of an audit of the department Wednesday Wednesday, July 27, 2016 in Topeka, Kan. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP) But Democratic Reps. Jim Ward and Jarrod Ousley said in a statement that Gilmore should resign. “I’m not comfortable gambling the future of our children in unsafe home environments,” Ward said. “Now is the time to step up and get serious about improving a broken system that is failing Kansas kids. The first step toward that is getting new leadership at DCF.” Gov. Sam Brownback defended the agency and Gilmore. “The men and women at DCF work hard every day to protect our children through these complex and very personal cases,” he said in a statement. “It is important that we all provide them with our full support. Secretary Gilmore will continue to have my full support as she works to address the legitimate record-keeping and contractor accountability concerns cited in the post audit report and, most importantly, to improve the overall foster care system for Kansas children.”  Source: http://ksnt.com/2016/07/27/audit-kansas-foster-care-system-puts-children-at-risk/
Ex-Children's Home staffer accused of sexually assaulting 3 Print Email By Pamela Sroka-Holzmann | For lehighvalleylive.com The Express-Times Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 26, 2016 at 3:59 PM, updated July 26, 2016 at 6:50 PM 347 shares A former staff member at The Children's Home of Easton is accused of sexually assaulting three teenage girls there over two years. Troy Bussey in 2008. (lehighvalleylive.com file photo)   Troy Lowell Bussey, 33, of the 100 block of North Third Street in Easton, allegedly committed the acts between Jan. 1, 2013, and Feb. 1, 2015, while a staff member at the home at 2000 S. 25th St. in Wilson Borough. Borough police said Bussey was in charge of the girls' care and welfare at The Children's Home during the time of the crimes. Anita Paukovits, executive director of the organization, said as soon as administrators learned of the accusations, Bussey was suspended and terminated. "This is totally against everything The Children's Home believes in," she said. "Safety is of the utmost importance for all of our children as we are in full cooperation with every possible authority so justice is served." A female victim who was under age 16 told police she was placed with the organization in 2013 and the pair had sex at least 10 times. A second victim under age 17 told police she was placed at the home in 2015. She told police the pair were in a back office of the Cordina Cottage when Bussey grabbed her buttocks and later touched her breasts above her shirt while the pair were in a dining area. When it was time for her to go to bed, the girl told authorities Bussey picked her up, placed her into the bed and touched her genital area. A third victim under age 18 reported to police the pair had sex and Bussey touched her genital area. Paukovits said the organization has since made modifications following the alleged sexual assaults. "Changes have been implemented to make sure nothing like this occurs again," she said. "The Children's Home works very diligently to protect all the children and families we serve. We make every effort to prevent incidents like this from happening." Bussey is charged with one count each of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of a person less than 16, and indecent assault of a person less than 16; and three counts each of institutional sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and corruption of minors. Bussey was arraigned before District Judge Richard Yetter III, who set bail at $150,000, $100,000 and $100,000 for all three cases, respectively. In lieu of bail, Bussey was sent to Northampton County Prison. The judge ordered Bussey stay away from all the victims and undergo a mental health evaluation. Bussey is tentatively due back in court for a preliminary hearing before Yetter on Aug. 5. According to its website, the Children's Home is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1885 that provides care for children in need. It provides foster care, residential and group home services.  Source: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/index.ssf/2016/07/childrens_home_employee_charge.html
Disturbed’ kids at city foster-care center ‘drugged’ at hospital By Susan Edelman and Rachel Petty View author archive email the author Get author RSS feed View author archive Get author RSS feed Name(required) Email(required) Comment(required) July 31, 2016 | 6:35am Modal Trigger The Nicholas Scoppetta Children's Center Photo: J.C. Rice Dozens of kids housed in a city-run foster-care center are labeled “emotionally disturbed persons” and hauled next door to Bellevue Hospital, where some get drugs to sedate them, The Post has learned. “We call it ‘booty juice’ when they’re acting out,” said a 15-year-old girl at the Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center in Manhattan, using a slang term for medication typically shot in the buttocks to calm psychiatric patients. “Nobody likes to be sent to the hospital.” Social workers and safety officers in the First Avenue holding pen, which is run by the Administration for Children’s Services, struggle to control outbursts and talk rebellious youths into cooling down. But in the last year, at least 50 kids were “EDP’d” and taken by EMS to Bellevue’s emergency rooms, internal reports show. “They’re doping them up,” an insider charged. ‘We call it “booty juice” when they’re acting out. Nobody likes to be sent to the hospital.’  - a 15-year-old girl at the Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center The Post’s findings come as Mayor de Blasio — who has pledged to protect the city’s most vulnerable children — fights a federal class-action lawsuit filed in Manhattan last year against ACS. It charges that children in the foster-care system suffer physical and mental abuse, and some get put on mind-numbing doses of psychiatric drugs. ACS said it partners with Bellevue for mental-health services. “If it is determined by doctors that a child requires medication, families are consulted . . . Children are not medicated to sedate them, but only for medically necessary reasons,” said ACS spokeswoman Carol Caceres. But ACS’s Psychotropic Medication Unit has the power to “override” parents unwilling or unable to consent to give drugs. And experts said drugs can be administered to kids in crisis. “If someone is so agitated and out of control that they’re hurting themselves or others, they absolutely could be given an injection,” said Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist and author of “Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER.” She said kids or adults who refuse to take oral medication may get shots of an antipsychotic such as Haldol plus sedating drugs such as Ativan and Benadryl in the arm or buttocks. Bellevue Hospital, where a city-run foster-care facility is allegedly shipping “disturbed” kids for treatment.Photo: R. Umar Abbasi The 55-bed Children’s Center houses wards of the city, from newborns to 21-year-olds. They can spend days to months in the chaotic and dangerous place. ACS insisted the center sees “very few incidents that require the attention of the NYPD,” but incident reports document many cases of assault and vandalism. Some kids kick, punch, bite, scratch and spit at staff. Some break windows, toss furniture and damage property. Most are physically restrained but not charged with crimes, even when a staffer is injured. “They refuse to arrest because it makes it harder to place these kids,” the insider said. “The agency is covering everything up.” Among the uncontrolled youths taken to Bellevue: A girl who screamed and banged on the walls, igniting “a riot” with eight roommates. When cops arrived, one girl was pepper-sprayed. The girl who started the mayhem was sent to the psych unit. A boy who ran through the building “in a state of emotional crisis” last December, ripped down a Christmas wreath and tossed garbage. He kicked a radiator, breaking it, and tried to shock himself with the inner coils. A 20-year-old man who banged his head against the window in a sleeping room, then tried to jump out a second-floor cafeteria window to kill himself. He flipped tables and wrestled with cops who handcuffed him. He suffered an eye injury. A 17-year-old boy told The Post he was sent to Bellevue after threatening to attack a worker who unplugged a TV he was watching. “I wouldn’t do that to him. Why should he do that to me?” he asked. He said he didn’t get any drugs, but other kids said meds given at Bellevue include Benadryl, which can help someone relax, and drugs for bipolar and anxiety disorders. A 17-year-old girl said she was sent to Bellevue and “they had to up the dosage of my medication.” Photo: Shutterstock Kids warehoused at the center have been abused, neglected and removed from their parents but not yet placed in foster homes. They include children with autism, conditions such as diabetes, and pregnant girls or teen moms with babies. “It’s not a jail, but it might as well be,” an insider said. Kids, who attend public schools, are searched with metal detectors upon entry, must turn over cellphones and cigarettes and sleep in rooms with up to 12 beds. “Some kids come and go in the middle of the night,” one said. Those who leave without permission or miss the midnight curfew and fail to return after 24 hours “go AWOL.” Since Jan. 1, the center has called 911 more than 600 times and filed 474 complaint reports — mostly for missing persons, NYPD Lt. John Grimpel said Friday. Guards often break up squabbles and fistfights among kids. “There’s some tension with me and a couple of the girls,” said a 17-year-old girl staying at the center for the second time. Three others tried to “jump” her because she spoke to one of their boyfriends, she said. Marcia Robinson Lowry, the lead lawyer in the federal suit, says she is appalled that kids are sleeping in what was intended as an intake center. “Foster kids don’t do well in shelters. These are troubled kids, and staying in a place like that is likely to exacerbate the problem,” said Lowry, who is also executive director of the advocacy group A Better Childhood. She said she believes the wide use of psychotropic drugs on the kids are “a form of behavior control.” Leticia James, New York City Public AdvocatePhoto: David McGlynn The office of Public Advocate Letitia James said Friday that it has received numerous reports of “overmedicated” foster kids. James, a plaintiff in the suit, faulted de Blasio’s management of ACS, which oversees some 10,300 children. ACS, she said, “has failed at its singular responsibility, with persistent reports of children placed in harm’s way while under its watch.” Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, the union that represents ACS safety officers, blasted de Blasio for “a pattern” of going easy on kids who break rules and attack others. “All that behavior is being excused by this administration,” Floyd said. “I’m not saying incarceration is the answer, but they need to acknowledge the problem and get them the appropriate treatment or it will only get worse.” ACS said it’s trying to move older kids out of the downtown center. It has a 12-bed “youth reception center” in Brooklyn for those 14 and above, and aims to add 18 teen beds in Brooklyn and Staten Island by the end of September. It also plans to open “host homes” in each borough where 30 teens can stay while awaiting a permanent placement.  Source: http://nypost.com/2016/07/31/disturbed-kids-at-city-foster-care-center-drugged-at-hospital/
Poor Discipline: Why Scared Straight Programs and Boot Camps Don’t Help Teens at Risk for Substance Use and Addiction POSTED: 8/2/16 TEENS AND FAMILIES ADDICTION MYTHS Comments(0) For over 30 years, programs like Scared Straight and juvenile boot camps for teens have been used as a way to try and help troubled youth. These programs utilize different methods that revolve around the same basic principle: that instilling a sense of consequence, discipline, fear, and pro-social behaviors in teens struggling with behavioral issues and substance problems will provide them with healthier, more structured lives, and deter them from committing crimes. Yet these programs have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Experts who study the justice system have questioned if they’re truly effective. Additionally, staff members in boot camp programs have been accused (and convicted) of abusing the teens they’re supposed to be helping. The History of Scared Straight and Boot Camps Scared Straight programs started in New Jersey in the 1970’s, and were popularized by the 1978 Academy Award winning documentary Scared Straight!, which followed a group of teens participating in a Scared Straight program. In this film – and in most of the Scared Straight programs – teens who are thought to be at high risk for delinquency are brought to a prison, shown the facilities, and then (often in screams), told by inmates the ways in which they’re destroying their lives by committing crimes and using drugs. These confrontational lessons reflect the inmates’ own experiences. In the documentary – and among many advocates of Scared Straight programs – it is claimed that there are low rates of re-arrest for teens who participate in these programs. In one study, it was suggested that 10 out of 12 adolescents remained offense-free in the three month follow-up. Teen boot camps – military-like training programs frequently located in rural areas – operate in a similar manner. Boot camps often revolve around grueling physical activities and tough discipline, intended to instill a sense of order in adolescents and stamp out non-conforming or oppositional behavior. Developed in Louisiana in 1985, boot camps gained immense popularity in the 1990’s. They were less expensive than putting juveniles in detention centers and thought to be more effective. Most adolescents in the boot camps complete the residential program without incident (i.e., without committing infractions that would have them removed from the program) – at rates as high as 96 percent. By 1995, 30 states had a form of adolescent boot camps for juvenile offenders. According to the Science, They Don’t Work Though a few studies suggested that Scared Straight worked, many others showed less successful results. In fact, research showed that the re-arrest rate after Scared Straight was actually higher than for teens who never participated in these programs. In other words, teens participating in Scared Straight were committing more crimes. The strict discipline provided by boot camps has also been shown to fail the troubled teens they’re supposed to serve. Re-arrest rates are high among graduates of boot camps, and many of these programs were – and continue to be – completely unregulated, without any mental health professionals on staff. There have even been a number of cases of physical and sexual abuse in boot camps and, tragically, a few teens have died while in the program. Some boot camps have been shut down as a result of abuse. By 2009 only 11 states retained boot camps for juvenile offenders. Scared Straight and boot camps fail for the reason they’re supposed to succeed: the threat or delivery of harsh negative consequences. Indeed, teens exposed to Scared Straight programs tend to idealize the structure found in prisons – an element that is often missing from juvenile offenders’ lives. For those attending boot camps, the rough conditions only seem to encourage more aggressive behaviors – obviously not what’s needed for teens already facing the legal system or suffering from a substance or behavioral problem. What You Can Do There’s no quick and easy fix for an adolescent struggling with substance use or a related behavioral disorder. Be proactive when helping your teen, and research what kind of program best suits their needs. There are many effective, safe treatment centers that offer help – but it’s important to make sure they have licensed health professionals on staff, and that the program uses evidence-based practices that take a health-promoting rather than a punitive approach. Addiction is a disease and, like other diseases, it cannot be cured through fear and punishment.  Source: http://www.centeronaddiction.org/the-buzz-blog/poor-discipline-why-scared-straight-programs-and-boot-camps-don%E2%80%99t-help-teens-risk
State accused of segregating Minnesotans with disabilities in group homes Group home system limits options, class action says.  By Chris Serres Star Tribune August 4, 2016 — 9:45am David Joles, Special to the Star TribuneScott Rhude, 33, sat in a field of garbage, reaching for a piece of trash while on a work assignment with a sheltered workshop "enclave" Tuesday, April 28, 2015, near the landfill in Wilmar. Text size comment51 share tweet email Print more Share on:Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Share on Pinterest Copy shortlink: Purchase:Order Reprint Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Minnesotans with disabilities are being forced to live in segregated group homes, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday that asserts that they are cut off from mainstream society and prevented from living in communities of their choosing. In a class-action suit against the state of Minnesota, attorneys with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid allege that the Department of Human Services maintains a “discriminatory residential service system” that funnels individuals with disabilities into nearly 3,500 group homes statewide, where they are surrounded by other people with disabilities and have little control over their daily lives, while depriving them of access to housing options that would enable them to live more independently. Advertisement: Replay Ad Ads by ZINC “People are stuck in these facilities, where they experience isolation, lack of control and an overall helplessness,” said Legal Aid attorney Sean Burke. “It’s no longer good enough.” A spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services declined to comment, saying Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper had not been served with the lawsuit as of late Wednesday. Minnesota has long stood out among states for its reliance on private group homes for adults who may have difficulty living independently. After the state began closing large public mental health hospitals in the 1970s, such small, four-bedroom group homes were seen as a more humane and cost-effective alternative. However, a Star Tribune investigation last year found that many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are sent to group homes against their will, even when they are capable of taking care of themselves. Hundreds are placed more than 100 miles from their families, in settings that leave them isolated from friends, relatives and support networks. The homes are indirectly subsidized through Medicaid, the state and federal health insurance program, which covers the cost of their services. One plaintiff, Marrie Bottelson, 41, is an artist who would like to create an art studio in her own home. However, Bottelson, who has cerebral palsy, has lived in a group home for 13 years where staffing has severely limited her ability to become more involved in the community, the lawsuit states. Because of staffing patterns in the facility, Bottelson is forced to go to bed at 7 or 8 p.m. because there is no other way for her to receive care for her disability. For several years, Bottelson has asked case managers and county workers for help moving into an apartment with her best friend, but has been told repeatedly that there are no options other than her group home. “This is a person who could really be flourishing if she could actually have an apartment and an art studio,” said Justin Perl, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s litigation director. Another plaintiff, Tenner Murphy, 32, has severe physical and cognitive disabilities as a result of a lifelong battle with degenerative brain cancer. Despite this condition, Murphy has developed hobbies, such as archery, and has many non-disabled friends in the community. When he moved to a group home, he was walking on a regular basis, yet the home’s managers made him use a wheelchair because they lacked the staff to assist him when he was unable to walk, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit alleges that such restrictions are a violation of a landmark 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, known as Olmstead, that requires states to ensure that people with disabilities receive services in integrated settings. Under the ruling, public entities are required to provide community-based services when such services are appropriate and when they can be reasonably accommodated. Under pressure from a federal judge, Minnesota last year became one of the last states in the country to adopt a blueprint — known as an Olmstead plan — to expand community-based options for people with disabilities. Under that plan, the state planned to move 5,547 people by June 2019 into more integrated housing and pledged to greatly expand community alternatives for Minnesotans with disabilities, though attorneys allege the state still lacks a detailed plan for how to reduce its overreliance on group homes. “Our clients just want to live where they want and with whom they want, just like people without disabilities,” Perl said. “Unfortunately, the system Minnesota has created for them has needlessly segregated them from the rest of the society.”  Source: http://www.startribune.com/state-accused-of-segregating-minnesotans-with-disabilities-in-group-homes/389129591/
Suit over NYC foster care system continues Hearing on state settlement on Friday Story Comments (1) Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2016 10:30 am Suit over NYC foster care system continues by Christopher Barca, Associate Editor Queens Chronicle | 1 comment Beatings, sexual abuse, neglect and malnutrition. That’s what countless kids in the city’s foster care system have experienced on a daily basis, according to Marcia Robinson Lowry. The executive director of A Better Childhood, Lowry is leading the class action lawsuit filed last July against the city, state and their respective agencies and commissioners that handle the foster care system. Despite nearing a settlement with the state and its Office of Children and Family Services — a fairness hearing, where a judge will consider any opposition to the settlement, is scheduled for Friday — she says the suit against the city continues. But instead of financial compensation, Lowry said all the 10 foster children listed as plaintiffs on behalf of the 11,000 kids in the system are reforms. “New York has some of the worst outcomes for kids in the country,” Lowry said. “Kids in New York City stay in foster care significantly longer than anywhere else in the country and are discharged at a far lower rate.” Some of the reforms being demanded are increased oversight, limitations on care agencies the city can contract with and an attempt to reduce caseloads of overburdened workers. In the proposed settlement with the state, many of those issues have already seen compromise. OFCS Commissioner Sheila Poole has agreed to hire a monitor to identify flaws in the system and cases of mistreatment, in addition to creating quarterly reports about the state of foster care in New York. A research expert will also be hired to review case records and evaluate the safety of foster children. City Administration of Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion, a defendant in the suit, told The New York Times in 2015 that the agency has taken “substantial strides” in reforming foster care in the five boroughs, an initiative that came directly from Mayor de Blasio.  Source: http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/suit-over-nyc-foster-care-system-continues/article_954882d5-e188-5626-b8c8-fdd23c87c6ab.html
Former group home worker faces new assault charge CAROLINE GRUESKIN Bismarck Tribune 5 hrs ago Additional charges have been filed against a former employee of Charles Hall Youth Services who's been accused of having sexual contact with a 15-year-old in the group home. The new charges against Ethmonia Barclay, 25, come as the result of a new interview with the victim. The incidents allegedly occurred about a year and a half ago.  The victim told police in April 2015 that he and Barclay had sex at the home. That story was corroborated by statements from other residents, according to an affidavit filed in the original case.  While preparing for trial, the victim told authorities about additional encounters between him and Barclay, according to a brief filed by Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Marina Spahr. The teen was then interviewed at the Sanford Children's Advocacy Center in May 2016, where he reported incidents of inappropriate touching, according to an affidavit filed in the newer case. Advertisement (1 of 1): 0:02 Pause Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Remaining Time -0:00 Stream TypeLIVE Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% 0:00 Fullscreen 00:00 Unmute Playback Rate 1 Subtitles subtitles off Captions captions off Chapters Chapters All of the alleged incidents took place from March 25, 2015, to April 14, 2015, when Barclay was employed at Charles Hall, according to the court documents. Barclay was responsible for supervising kids in the group home at the time.  Barclay was initially charged in May 2015 with corruption or solicitation of minors. Now she also faces charges of sexual assault and sexual abuse of wards. Barclay could face a maximum of 15 years in prison, if convicted. The cases have been joined, and she is scheduled to go to trial on all charges on Oct. 11. Barclay's attorney declined to comment on the case. Three calls and an email to Charles Hall Youth Services were not returned Friday. Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at caroline.grueskin@bismarcktribune.com  Source: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/former-group-home-worker-faces-new-assault-charge/article_4810d4fe-04db-5b9d-96e7-c5f7307feeba.html
THE DRUG DOCS California’s top foster care prescribers are fueling the medication of vulnerable kids. Now, lawmakers are on the cusp of reining in the practice Story by KAREN DE SÁ and TRACY SEIPEL Photographs and video by DAI SUGANO  PUBLICATION: AUGUST 7, 2016 THE DRUG DOCS California’s top foster care prescribers are fueling the medication of vulnerable kids. Now, lawmakers are on the cusp of reining in the practice Story by KAREN DE SÁ and TRACY SEIPEL Photographs and video by DAI SUGANO  PUBLICATION: AUGUST 7, 2016 PART 6 of 7 F or years, few questioned how doctors treated the emotional trauma of California’s abused and neglected children — and nobody monitored how often they handed out psychiatric drugs that can turn fragile childhoods into battles with obesity and bouts of stupor. Now, a Bay Area News Group investigation into the prescribing habits of the state’s foster care doctors reveals for the first time how a fraction of those physicians has been fueling the medicating of California’s most vulnerable kids. Tomorrow: Part 7 Abandoned as a child, Tasia Wright wanted love and understanding. But her foster care doctor had a different idea of how to treat her trauma. A mere 10 percent of the state’s highest prescribers were responsible about 50 percent of the time when a foster child received an antipsychotic, the riskiest class of what are known as psychotropic drugs — with some of the most harmful side effects. The startling numbers are revealed as part of a new analysis of Medi-Cal pharmacy data, which the news organization obtained through a public records request. These same doctors often relied on risky, unproven combinations of the drugs, a practice widely rejected by medical associations and other states.  In San Bernardino County, one psychiatrist prescribed antipsychotics to 328 foster children — 85 percent of the young patients to whom he gave a psychiatric drug in the five years the investigation examined. And when one antipsychotic didn’t work — or wasn’t enough — Dr. Warris Walayat routinely prescribed another. Many of the highest prescribers stand out for other practices that raise questions about their judgment or objectivity: A psychiatrist who oversees treatment at a Riverside County group home for troubled children is a self-proclaimed “spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies.” A doctor training psychiatry residents at a San Diego children’s center once prescribed an antipsychotic to an out-of-control kindergartner. And a veteran Visalia child psychiatrist touts a drug approved to treat mania and schizophrenia as an effective “sleep aid.” Growing up in the foster care system, Rochelle Trochtenberg spent much of her youth in a heavily medicated state. She says her doctors weren’t especially cautious about the drugs, and when she was 18, she had a reaction that sent her to the emergency room. She was suffering from a side effect that caused much of her body to seize up. “I literally didn’t have the ability to move my body,” she recalls. “I was terrified.” The findings come as state lawmakers consider stepping up scrutiny of foster care prescribers — one of the final pieces of sweeping reforms in response to this newspaper’s 2014 investigation “Drugging Our Kids.” The series found nearly 1 in 4 adolescents in California foster care received psychotropic medication, often to control their behavior — not address the serious mental illnesses that many of the drugs were approved to treat. In the cases of seven of California’s highest prescribers, the state has been put on notice before — all were identified in 2010 as part of a ranking in a U.S. senator’s nationwide hunt for doctors “prescribing mental health drugs at astonishingly high rates.” But no action was taken; in fact, the state appears to have never disciplined a doctor for excessive prescribing to foster children.  Rochelle Trochtenberg, a once-heavily medicated foster youth who now serves as California ombudsperson for foster care, called the reluctance to even monitor prescribers a failure of “staggering” proportions. “What I see in these numbers is: We don’t really treat, we use chemical restraints. We drug,” said Trochtenberg, who said doctors blithely prescribed multiple meds rather than help her recover from the deep pain and trauma of childhood abuse. “Medications are so overused — and so significantly — that it’s outrageous there’s such a lack of leadership in holding doctors accountable, and holding the system accountable.” The findings The prescription data, obtained from Medi-Cal benefit claims after more than a year of negotiations with state officials under the California Public Records Act, are limited. They omit dosage levels and diagnoses, which would reveal just how many of these drugs were prescribed for uses not approved by the FDA, a common and legal but sometimes controversial practice known as “off-label” prescribing. Nevertheless, the data reveal how the state’s most prolific prescribers helped sustain a drug-dependent system.  To identify outlying prescribers, this newspaper consulted more than a dozen child psychiatrists and academic researchers across the country, ultimately focusing on the most extreme forms of prescribing found in the database: Physicians who gave their young patients multiple antipsychotics, or three or more drugs at once. The risks of administering multiple drugs to children, especially to their developing brains, have not been well-documented. But the side effects of even one antipsychotic — excessive weight gain, diabetes, extreme lethargy and tremors — can be debilitating. The data from July 2009 to July 2014 show: A select group of doctors used the riskiest drugs as regular treatment and often in dangerous combinations — Despite widespread concern over the use of antipsychotics on children, more than 100 doctors prescribed the drugs to at least 75 percent of their patients who received a psychiatric drug — more than double the average rate. And 56 prescribers gave two or more antipsychotics for more than 60 days to at least 11 of their patients. “This is definitely an outlier practice group,” said Dr. Chris Bellonci, a longtime child psychiatrist and researcher at Tufts University School of Medicine, widely known for his studies of the use of psychotropic drugs in foster care. “You can see what happens if all we have is a prescription pad. We’ll use it, and in these cases, perhaps, abuse it.” Dr. Cynthia Hunt, a Monterey psychiatrist, was the most prolific prescriber of the lengthy regimen of multiple antipsychotics, resorting to the combination for 50 of her young patients, covering 7 percent of the foster children statewide who received a similar treatment plan. Pasadena psychiatrist Dr. Eliot Moon accounted for another 6 percent of the dual prescribing, according to the data. Affiliations of many high prescribers raise questions about objectivity — An intensive review of the backgrounds and affiliations of 25 of the highest prescribers revealed seven conduct research for drug companies that manufacture and market psychotropics; 14 have worked in an outmoded residential group home industry that relies on sedation to maintain order among the troubled youth it shelters; and eight are spreading their treatment approaches by teaching the next generation of psychiatrists in medical schools. Prescribing by nonphysicians may be violating state law — “Physicians” are the only professionals who can receive authorization from the juvenile court to prescribe psychiatric drugs to foster children, but more than 600 nurse practitioners and physician assistants have prescribed the medications to thousands of patients, an apparent violation of state law that has gone wholly unnoticed. While state officials suggest nurse practitioners have legal authority to prescribe under the supervision of a physician, judges and children’s advocates say the court authorization process does not, and was never intended to, account for that. Retired Los Angeles Juvenile Court Judge Terry Friedman, the architect of that law, condemned the “alarming degree of noncompliance” as an example of the lax oversight tolerated for years. “Everything just sort of falls between the cracks because there’s been no serious enforcement of this law.” Tisha Ortiz, a former foster youth now attending Cal State East Bay, says the constant medication left her “so zoned out I couldn’t understand what was going on around me.” Although she played softball and kickboxed, her weight ballooned. The medication made her face and legs twitch and left her so lethargic she often fell asleep in school says Ortiz, 23. Doctors: Drugs often needed Psychiatrists who treat foster youth describe their urgent needs, suicide attempts, aggressive acts toward caregivers, and the depths of their grief and depression. Many doctors say medication is often the safest and most effective way to help a child in a crisis. “It’s kind of like if someone comes into the emergency room and is bleeding from an artery on their wrist, you don’t do marital therapy on them – you stop the bleeding,” said Dr. Michael Barnett, a psychiatrist who treats foster youth at two Visalia group homes and is one of the state’s highest prescribers of antipsychotics to foster youth.  Eighty-five of the 104 foster youth to whom he prescribed a psychotropic drug received antipsychotics, the data show, and half were prescribed two or more for over a month. While the news organization reached out to more than two dozen of the highest prescribers, Barnett was one of only three who agreed to be interviewed. He said he wasn’t surprised to land high on the list because he prescribes low doses of the antipsychotic Seroquel as a sleep aid. “Whether the child is agitated because of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, withdrawal off drugs, or agitated because they’re in a group home, a lot of times it’s difficult to tease out why they’re breaking things or punching holes in the wall,” Barnett said. “But I’m going to stop that behavior as quickly as I can to protect the child, so I will use any medication that I think will help with that.”  However, as long-term treatments go, psychiatric drugs can be a blunt instrument, failing to address the source of a child’s pain and leaving scars that may last years, even a lifetime.  Tisha Ortiz, a 23-year-old former foster youth now attending Cal State East Bay, has testified repeatedly before the Legislature about the impact of being heavily medicated throughout her childhood as she grew up in residential group homes.  An examination of her foster care health records, which she shared with this news organization, revealed the names of psychiatrists who were among the state’s highest prescribers of aggressive combinations of medication.  Among them was Riverside County psychiatrist Dr. Michael Ilas, who was Ortiz’s doctor when she was 15 and prescribed four medications, including lithium, used for bipolar patients; trazodone, used to treat major depressive disorder in adults but not approved for pediatric use; and the antipsychotics Abilify and Geodon. Ilas, who resorted to multiple antipsychotics for his foster care patients more than three times as often as the average doctor, declined to comment. The combinations of these drugs left Ortiz “so zoned out I couldn’t understand what was going on around me,” she said. Although she played softball and kickboxed, her weight ballooned. Her face and legs twitched, and in high school, she slept through first and second periods, failing her favorite class. When she saw psychiatrists, “they were all about upping or adding on more medication, and not about what was really going on with my mental health,” said Ortiz, who first entered foster care at age 4 and suffered flashbacks from sexual and physical abuse. “You really can’t treat trauma with just medications. It doesn’t help a child heal.” Children in the foster care system are issued "health and educational passports" that, in part, track their various prescriptions. According to an excerpt from one of Ortiz's diagnosis and treatment documents, in January 2008, Ortiz, then 15, was diagnosed with bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders and was prescribed four medications at once: lithium, trazodone and the antipsychotics Abilify and Geodon. Ortiz’s testimony has helped propel legislation through Sacramento that would identify doctors who prescribe psychotropic drugs inappropriately. State Sen. Mike McGuire’s Senate Bill 1174 — which faces key votes in the Assembly and Senate this month — would for the first time establish routine monitoring of prescribers and alert the state medical board about individual physicians whose patterns warrant an investigation. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a series of bills to hold the state’s judges, social workers, public health nurses and care providers more accountable for protecting foster children from inappropriate medications.  But efforts to rein in prescribers ran head on into the powerful doctors’ lobby, delaying critical pieces of the legislative reform package. And the opposition this year has not wavered. Lobbyists for California psychiatrists fiercely defend their doctors’ treatment of foster children. They note that doctors already must undergo a newly mandated review process that state data suggest is reducing the use of antipsychotics and curbing questionable prescriptions. They also argue against identifying outlier doctors to the medical board, stating in testimony before the Legislature that the proposed law would single out doctors who work in juvenile halls, group homes or psychiatric inpatient units, and “may have a much higher prescription rate to children than a prescribing physician who provides services to the general population.” Hunt is one of those doctors. In a statement to the news organization, she said her high rates of prescribing multiple antipsychotics came as she was working with deeply troubled foster youth who were one step from being hospitalized or in a locked facility and suffered from serious mental illnesses. “I completely agree that it should be the exception that an adolescent has two or more antipsychotic medications,” said Hunt who worked in Merced at the time. “In these youth, the combination of medications was necessary to keep them stable and to avoid another hospitalization. The plan was, and always is, to lower the medications for these children. To discontinue medication too quickly can also cause significant side effects or a return of symptoms.” Walt Mancini/Southern California News Group Dr. Allan McDonald, a Los Angeles psychiatrist who landed among the highest prescribers of antipsychotics, said doctors can use more scrutiny: “We tend to operate in isolation.” Dr. Linette Scott, chief medical information officer for the state Department of Health Care Services, said prescribing rates differ among doctors in any area of practice, such as cardiology and neurology, because specialists “will prescribe the medications that are used more rarely and carry additional risk.” But Dr. Allan McDonald, a veteran Los Angeles County child psychiatrist who landed among the highest prescribers of multiple antipsychotics, said he welcomes more scrutiny. Doctors — and their patients — will only benefit from more feedback and review from peers, he said. “We tend to operate in isolation,” said McDonald, 78, who still sees foster children at two group homes. He said he was surprised to learn he prescribed multiple antipsychotics to 76 foster children during the period reviewed, acknowledging, “The general rule among child psychiatrists is not to do that.” There are explanations, he said. Sometimes a child is on two antipsychotics for a short period while a doctor switches drugs (the news organization’s analysis suggested that was the case with about 60 percent of the children who received dual antipsychotics from McDonald). Other times, the list of medications can grow if doctors feel it’s necessary to try new combinations to help a child who is not improving. But McDonald, who has treated some of the Los Angeles area’s toughest-to-reach children over nearly five decades, said he believes the state has its share of doctors who overprescribe without thoroughly evaluating a child. “They are not working smart enough, not collecting enough reliable information, to support a diagnosis,” McDonald said. “It is probably a sign that doctors are feeling desperate — you don’t know what to do, you’re throwing everything at it.” Dr. Michael Barnett, a psychiatrist who treats foster youths at residential group homes in Visalia, says when a child is in crisis, it can be “difficult to tease out why they’re breaking things or punching holes in the wall. But I’m going to stop that behavior as quickly as I can to protect the child, so I will use any medication that I think will help with that.” Where are the high prescribers? Many of the highest prescribers of psychiatric drugs to the state’s foster children can be found in California’s Inland Empire, a sprawling region of San Bernardino and Riverside counties stretching east of Los Angeles to the desert. Here, child psychiatrists can spend hours on the road, driving from far-flung medical offices to residential group homes that house tough-to-place foster youth.  NOT ENOUGH DOCTORS? Psychiatrists per 100,000 children: 4 in San Bernardino County 20 in Santa Clara County Number of high prescribers of anti-psychotics under one measure: 8 in San Bernardino County 2 in Santa Clara County This news organization’s analysis showed the region was home to 25 percent of the state’s highest prescribers in one measure — a group of 56 doctors across California who prescribed two or more antipsychotics to at least 20 children representing at least one-third of their foster care patients who received a psych drug. Twenty-three percent of the doctors from this high-prescribing group treated children in the Central Valley, and 16 percent practiced in Los Angeles. In contrast, only 10 percent from this group worked in the nine-county Bay Area. It isn’t clear what’s behind pockets of high prescribers, or whether doctors who choose to prescribe regularly influence colleagues to do the same.   Another factor that could be driving doctors to rely on medications: too many patients, too little time. For example, with a rate of four child psychiatrists for every 100,000 children, San Bernardino County is well below the statewide average of 11. In Santa Clara County, there are nearly 20 per 100,000 children.   But the news group’s investigation found one more potential driver for some of this region’s high prescribing: Many of these doctors are affiliated with clinical research firms that conduct paid trials for pharmaceutical companies interested in boosting sales of their drugs. Perhaps the most notable example was a group of doctors who, until recently, did business as Shanti Clinical Trials in an unremarkable medical office building, 2 miles west of Loma Linda University Medical Center.  ANTIPSYCHOTIC MEDICINES Antipsychotic drugs are approved to calm or sedate mentally ill patients during psychotic "breaks" and allow patients to sleep or help make them more compliant. But they are often prescribed "off-label" to control the behavior of patients with no diagnosis of mental illness. Here are some of the antipsychotics being prescribed to foster children: Abilify Brand name for aripiprazole Approved to treat: Manic episodes of bipolar disorder in adults and children ages 10 to 17, schizophrenia in adults and children ages 13 to 17, and irritability from autism in kids ages 6 to 17. Possible side effects: Include weight gain, diabetes, tremors Geodon Brand name for ziprasidone Approved to treat: Schizophrenia and acute manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar disorder; can be added to lithium for maintenance of bipolar disorder. Not approved for children under 18. Possible side effects: Include nausea, constipation, dizziness, restlessness, tremors, diarrhea, runny nose, cough, drowsiness. Risperdal Approved to treat: Schizophrenia in children ages 13 to 17 and acute bipolar mania in kids 10 to 17 years old. Possible side effects: Include weight gain, diabetes, bed-wetting and tremors. Seroquel Brand name for quetiapine Approved to treat: Schizophrenia in children ages 13 to 17, and bipolar mania in kids ages 10 to 17. Possible side effects: Include weight gain, diabetes and tremors. Zyprexa Brand name for olanzapine Approved to treat: Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults and children ages 13 to 17. Sometime used with other antipsychotics or anti-depressants. Possible side effects: Include trouble speaking or swallowing, uncontrollable face movements, confusion, hallucinations, weakness, chills, sore throat, stomach pain, rigid muscles, increased thirst, swelling in hands or feet. Two of the highest prescribers of psych drugs in the California foster care system, Dr. Warris Walayat and Dr. Salvador Lasala, are listed as investigators at Shanti, which ran medication trials for childhood depression, attention deficits and bipolar disorder, among other research sponsored by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. Walayat, who has offices listed throughout San Bernardino County and was a staff psychiatrist with the Riverside County Mental Health Department, was the state foster care system’s most frequent prescriber of both antipsychotics and the mood stabilizers lithium and Depakote.  None of the Shanti clinicians responded to repeated interview requests by phone, email or certified mail. And a visit in May to the clinic’s address in the city of Colton found the office had been taken over by a new psychiatrist. Two other psychiatrists who worked at Shanti showed up in the news organization’s data analysis, including Dr. Gurmeet Multani, who prescribed psych drugs to 196 foster children in less than two years. In 2010, he surrendered his medical license after being accused of having sex with five adult patients as well as the wife of a man he was treating for depression. The California Medical Board also accused him of writing prescriptions for drug addicts and people who were not his patients. He was found to have falsified his patient records in a failed attempt to deter investigators, state records show.  Multani also came under fire that same year when the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly found serious noncompliance issues in a drug trial he was conducting, including the underreporting of “adverse events” in patients. The drug, which combined antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, was being tested on children ages 10 to 17.   Leemon McHenry, a legal consultant in California who researches cases against drug companies that have misrepresented their scientific findings, described the role of high-prescribing pharma researchers — particularly those treating foster children — as “extremely problematic.”  “Given the vulnerability of this particular patient population,” he said, “we owe it to them to have less conflicted investigators.” Questionable connections Of all the juxtapositions of interests and influence, one raised the deepest concerns: the presence of doctors with drug company connections at group homes. Foster children in those homes are often the most emotionally damaged and difficult to manage, so the temptation to medicate them is strong — even without the potential intrusion of other interests. Dr. Eliot Moon, who treats foster children at Hillsides, a residential group home in Pasadena, also runs a firm out a storefront in the Riverside County city of Wildomar that conducts clinical trials sponsored by 13 pharmaceutical companies.  Moon and his firm received more than $1.2 million from 2013 through 2015 from drug companies to conduct his research, according to the government’s website that discloses pharmaceutical company payments to doctors. And Medi-Cal pharmacy records show he was the second-highest prescriber of multiple antipsychotics, using the combination on 46 foster children for more than 60 days in the five-year period examined.  Repeated interview requests to Moon by phone, email, certified letter and visits to his offices were not answered.  His dual role as a prescriber and paid researcher is not unique. About 80 miles to the south, Dr. Harinder Grewal oversees care for troubled youth “experiencing psychological, social, emotional and behavioral problems” at the Oak Grove Center in Murrieta. The group home’s website also describes her as “a spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.”  The state’s data show Grewal prescribed an antipsychotic to 115 foster children during the examined period; 26 percent of them received multiple antipsychotics for more than 60 days. From 2010 to 2013, she received $471,665 for drug company research, according to company disclosures compiled by the news outlet ProPublica.  An identified high prescriber of Seroquel — the brand name for the antipsychotic quetiapine — Grewal is also listed as one of the investigators in a 2013 study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology that found the drug “generally safe and well tolerated in youth.” Sponsored by the drug’s manufacturer, AstraZeneca, the study listed two of its four authors as drug company employees.  Seroquel is narrowly approved for older children and teens diagnosed with rare pediatric instances of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But doctors often prescribe the medication “off-label” to treat children for everything from aggression to attention deficits.  In 2010, AstraZeneca settled a federal lawsuit by paying $520 million to resolve the U.S. Department of Justice’s accusation that the company illegally marketed Seroquel to child and adolescent physicians and doctors treating the elderly. Discovery in the legal case revealed questionable science behind the Seroquel promotional campaign, including internal documents describing the “cherry-picking” of data, and unfavorable scientific findings that were “buried.” Grewal didn’t respond to repeated inquiries from a reporter about her work. But managers at Oak Grove and Hillsides said no foster kids in their care have been involved in clinical drug trials.   That assurance was of little comfort to foster children advocates who reviewed the news organization’s findings. “The prevalence of industry-funded, high-prescribing doctors at group homes may be the most troubling discovery,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based advocacy group. “Are doctors blind to a prescribing bias created by their financial ties to the drug companies? Or have group homes become testing grounds for some of the drug industry’s most lucrative products? Either possibility is chilling.” LINKS TO HIGH PRESCRIBERS Loma Linda University Medical Center State data shows a cluster of high prescribers of antipsychotics to foster children with connections to the university and hospital, including Dr. William Murdoch, the chair of the psychiatry department and an associate professor. Murdoch was surprised to see his name so high on the list of California prescribers, saying his philosophy on prescribing is cautious, especially among young patients.​ Oak Grove Center At this Murrieta group home, Dr. Harinder Grewal oversees care for troubled youth “experiencing psychological, social, emotional and behavioral problems.” Between 2010 and 2013, Grewal received $471,665 for drug company research, according to company disclosures compiled by ProPublica. The group home’s website describes Grewal as “a spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers, Squibb, Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.”​ Shanti Clinical Trials This office in Colton until recently housed a firm that ran medication trials for childhood depression, attention deficit and bipolar disorder, among other research sponsored by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. Two of the highest prescribers of psych drugs to foster children are listed as investigators at the clinic: Dr. Salvador Lasala and Dr. Warris Walayat, who state records show was the highest prescriber of antipsychotics to foster children from 2009-2014. Rancho Damacitas Tisha Ortiz, a 23-year-old former foster youth now attending CSU East Bay, has testified repeatedly before the Legislature about the impact of being heavily medicated throughout her childhood as she grew up in residential group homes. Ortiz spent two years of her childhood at this group home. The prescribing debate There is no dispute that many foster children have significant mental health needs, having been wrenched from abusive and neglectful parents, and then suffering the trauma of losing their families, no matter how troubled. But a fierce debate continues among psychiatrists about what medications are safe and appropriate to treat childhood trauma. Absent scientific evidence or research, prescribing often falls on a clinician’s preference and personal experience. And those who most frequently opt for nonapproved drugs say they believe they are doing the right thing for kids. “If I see a 4-year-old and several other doctors have seen this child, and they’re in the hospital because of out-of-control aggression, I may go ahead and prescribe medication even though it is not recommended,’’ said McDonald, the Los Angeles-area psychiatrist. “I would start with an anti-anxiety medicine, and if it does not work, then I would look to an antipsychotic like Risperdal. … If somebody called me up or wrote me a letter questioning my decision, I would explain the situation.” Barnett, the Visalia group home psychiatrist, said he has successfully treated “a lot” of children with two — and even three — antipsychotics at once. He describes the drugs as an effective sleep aid, an “augmentation” to antidepressants, and safer than mood stabilizers and other medications that can become addictive.  “I know it’s not approved by the FDA or recommended and all that stuff,” Barnett added. But he said the second antipsychotic can have a “booster effect,” enhancing the first drug.  “I cannot understand what is unsafe about two antipsychotics,” he said. However, the simultaneous use of two antipsychotics is widely rejected by medical professional groups and in many states. Citing “significant risks,” the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states “there is no clear evidence to support the use of more than one antipsychotic in either adults or youths.”  County mental health departments in the Bay Area and Los Angeles discourage the use of two antipsychotics, as do the states of Illinois, Washington, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.  If a child is on two antipsychotics for more than four weeks, “it’s negligence,” said Thomas Tarshis, an adjunct assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and treating psychiatrist on the adolescent inpatient unit at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in San Mateo. The news organization’s review suggested that many doctors are finding another way. More than 2,600 prescribers gave no more than one mental health drug to their patients, often stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Several psychiatrists did not prescribe a single antipsychotic, even those treating children in residential facilities.  Dr. Stuart Bair, of Sunnyvale, was one of them. With more than 40 years’ experience, Bair said psychiatric medication does nothing to address traumatic childhoods. “In general, they are worse than the benefit,” Bair said, “and do not deal with the pervasive underlying problems that these children have suffered.” One 16-year-old boy Bair treated in a group home recently was on so much Seroquel for an unspecified “mood disorder” that he was overweight, could barely keep his eyes open and slurred his speech. He sat slumped in a chair most days, barely moving. Over a month’s time, Bair tapered him off the drug and watched him come back to life, becoming a “lively and talkative” boy who cried and embraced Bair when the psychiatrist moved on to a new job. “There are doctors out there trying to do the right thing,’’ said Anna Johnson, policy advocate at the National Center for Youth Law, which has sponsored a series of bills on the issue, including McGuire’s. “But the good people in the system are being weighed down by the doctors who think multiple medications are the standard of care. That’s a big myth.’’ On two different occasions, Trochtenberg, the ombudsperson, received prescriptions for two antipsychotics when she was in foster care. Never, she said, did she feel that her doctors were especially cautious about the medications. Her clearest memory is a sudden reaction to a mix of Haldol and Trilafon when she was 18 that sent her to the emergency room. Suffering from what she was told was a common side effect known as tardive dyskinesia, her fingers seized up and became rigid, then her hands, arms and legs froze. “I literally didn’t have the ability to move my body,” she recalled. “I was terrified. I had no idea what was happening to me, and of course when I found out it was related to the medication, I wanted to stop it all.” Sen. Mike McGuire, left, is pushing legislation to closely watch foster care prescribers with SB 1174, which faces crucial votes this month in the Legislature. But Christopher Castrillo, center, a lobbyist for the California Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and Stuart Thompson, right, of the California Medical Association say the bill unfairly focuses on doctors who treat foster youth with the most severe needs. PROPOSED BILLS SB 253 Author: Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey Summary: Asks doctors to provide better justification for prescriptions before judges approve them.  SB 1174 Author: Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg Summary: Creates process for Medical Board to review and investigate doctors who prescribe psychotropic medications inappropriately. SB 1291 Author: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose Summary: Requires county mental health plans to gather data and submit annual plans on how they serve foster youth. BILLS PASSED IN 2015 Gov. Jerry Brown signed three bills curbing the use of psychiatric drugs in foster care: SB 238 Author: Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles Summary: Requires foster parents, child welfare workers, group home administrators receive training on psychotropic medication, trauma and behavioral health. Also requires Department of Social Services to alert social workers when multiple medications, high dosages or prescriptions for children 5 and younger are prescribed. SB 319 Author: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose Summary: Expands duties of foster care public health nurses to include monitoring and oversight of children prescribed psychotropic medication. SB 319 Author: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose Summary: Requires state to identify and inspect group homes that may be inappropriately administering psychotropic medications. What’s been done? In the legislative push for more scrutiny of doctors, McGuire, the North Bay Democratic state senator, is quick to point out that the California Medical Board received more than 8,000 complaints about doctors during the 2014-15 fiscal year. None of the reports, though, appear to have been made on behalf of a foster child.  “No one’s looking out for them,” McGuire said.  Seven of the high prescribers in the foster care data also turned up in 2010-12 as part of a broader U.S. Senate Finance Committee inquiry headed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, into the runaway costs and prescribing of painkillers and mental health drugs on the taxpayers’ dime. It appears that identifying those doctors is all officials did. Instead of cracking down on them, the state Department of Health Care Services cautioned Grassley in a letter not to misinterpret the data and jump to conclusions. Walayat, Lasala, Barnett and Grewal all appeared on that list, among Medi-Cal’s top prescribers of an antipsychotic.    Reforms to prescribing practices in the foster care system only took shape years later after the newspaper’s series “Drugging Our Kids” spotlighted the problem.   The same day the series launched in August 2014, the state medical board answered a lawmaker’s call to investigate high-prescribing doctors. But that one-time inquiry has produced no results to date. One reform affecting doctors has taken hold: In October 2014, California began requiring doctors to provide far more medical justification to prescribe antipsychotics to foster children and receive authorization from state pharmacists to do so. There are signs that the requirement is leading to fewer requests to prescribe the drugs amid hundreds of denials of unnecessary prescriptions.  And statistics suggest the overall number of foster children on psychiatric drugs is dropping as well. Data compiled by the UC Berkeley’s Center for Social Services Research show 12 percent of the state’s foster kids were on a psychiatric drug in the first quarter of 2015 — a 1.5 percentage point decline from 2012. The state also cut spending on antipsychotics for foster children in the 2014-15 fiscal year by 10 percent from the previous year, shelling out $22.9 million — its lowest bill in four years. But McGuire feels a more targeted approach is still needed. His SB 1174 stipulates that “repeated acts of clearly excessive prescribing, furnishing or administering psychotropic medications to a minor without a good faith prior examination of the patient and medical reason” should become priority cases for “investigation and prosecution.” Doctors would be selected for review based on annual reports of foster children on three or more psych drugs for at least 90 days.  In the most extreme cases, the state’s attorney general would file a challenge to a physician’s medical license.  Physicians are known in the state Capitol as one of the toughest professional groups to regulate. Their lobbies are well-funded and their members are particularly resistant to anyone challenging their discretion. As to foster care prescribing, they say the state has already done enough. “I think doctors have been getting the message that the practice of giving antipsychotic medications to foster children is at times problematic and will be subject to careful scrutiny,” said Dr. Saul Wasserman, a San Jose child and adolescent psychiatrist who co-chairs the government affairs committee of the California Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a doctors group that opposes McGuire’s bill. Nonetheless, McGuire’s bill is moving forward. In May it passed the Senate on a 35-3 vote but has been amended in the Assembly, so it requires approval in both chambers of the Legislature this month.  One opponent, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, echoed many of the lobbyists’ sentiments, saying that increased accountability would result in fewer doctors willing to treat foster youth.  “We have to be very careful we don’t get into a situation where we’re actually discouraging the few willing to take care of this population from deciding that they have even more reasons not to,” said Pan, a pediatrician. But McGuire countered that rather than doctors being under fire, “those being punished now are the foster youth.” From Trochtenberg’s unique view as foster youth turned state official, it is clear: Something more must be done. “These are kids that are hurting — these are children who have been through what we know war veterans have been through,” Trochtenberg said. “But where is the accountability? The person who has the authority to write a prescription is where we need accountability. “We still don’t have that.” How we gathered, reviewed the project data In the 2014 series “Drugging Our Kids,” the Bay Area News Group reviewed a decade of data that revealed the widespread use of psychotropic medication on foster kids. Shortly after the publication, the news organization returned to the state Department of Health Care Services to begin months of negotiations for a new set of Medi-Cal prescription data. The resulting database provides a unique look at how individual doctors prescribed these drugs to children in foster care. What we reviewed The data are drawn from Medi-Cal pharmacy benefit claims and name individual prescribers but do not identify their patients. Overall, the data included information on 1,280 psychiatrists, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other medical providers who prescribed psychotropic medication to foster children 17 and younger from July 2009 to July 2014. State officials excluded doctors who prescribed to 10 or fewer patients during the five-year period saying it was necessary to preserve patient privacy. For each prescriber, the data show the number of patients who received psychotropic drugs, how often those doctors prescribed multiple psychiatric drugs to their patients, and how often they chose the most powerful class of the drugs known as antipsychotics. Because of limitations in the data, it was not possible to learn whether the doctors saw patients to whom they did not prescribe drugs. For comparison, the state provided aggregate data for the overall pool of doctors and patients — 5,584 prescribers and 26,467 foster children — to yield a complete picture of average prescribing practices across California. How we defined ‘top prescribers’ To identify outlying prescribers, this news organization consulted more than a dozen child psychiatrists and academic researchers, and ultimately focused on what those experts deemed the most extreme forms of prescribing found in the database: Giving multiple antipsychotics or three or more psychiatric drugs at once to their young patients. The news organization reviewed doctors who prescribed two or more antipsychotics for 30-45 days and also for a longer period, 60-75 days, because the shorter period could represent a “cross-taper,” a period of time when patients on medications which cannot be abruptly stopped are transitioning from one drug to another. Antipsychotic use in children is narrowly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the rare pediatric cases of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism with irritability. Common side effects include rapid-onset weight gain and obesity, diabetes, irreversible tremors, and extreme lethargy. But in the foster care system, the drugs are widely used “off-label” — or outside of FDA-labeled approvals — a practice that is legal and common with many other types of drugs. The data did not include dose levels or diagnoses, but interviews with former foster youth, social workers, public health nurses, foster care providers and the doctors themselves reveal antipsychotics have been routinely used for behavior management, when children are difficult to control or threatening to harm themselves. While the use of even a single antipsychotic for children who are not mentally ill is increasingly questioned, the use of two at once is discouraged.  Source: http://extras.mercurynews.com/druggedkids/
Guards allowed fights at youth prison Patrick Marley and Catie Edmondson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 11:01 a.m. CDT August 7, 2016 Department of Corrections keeps quiet about log of prison incidents Lincoln Hills School for Boys is under investigation by federal officials for a variety of crimes, including abuse of juvenile inmates and intimidation of witnesses.(Photo: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Madison — A guard at the state’s troubled youth prison was fired in February after he got in a physical fight with a juvenile inmate and allowed other teens to throw punches at each other in an area that was out of the view of cameras, new records show. A second guard resigned amid the investigation, which found he had not stopped or reported fights at Lincoln Hills School for Boys. The Northwoods facility has been under criminal investigation for 19 months for suspicion of child neglect, prisoner abuse and misconduct in office. Another document recently released under the state’s open records law details dozens of incidents that occurred at the prison in the second half of last year, many of which raise troubling questions about the staff’s use of force and pepper spray. In one incident, staff sprayed a juvenile who was restrained. In another, staff blasted pepper spray into a room after an inmate prevented guards from seeing into the room. Top officials at the Department of Corrections kept mum for months about the log of incidents, even when directly asked if it existed. They didn’t produce it seven months ago in part because the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked for a log of conduct reports, rather than incident reports. Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook said in a statement the detailed accounting of hundreds of incidents at Lincoln Hills was a “tracking document” that was “not meant to serve as a comprehensive log of completed incident reports,” as the Journal Sentinel initially requested. “I think that’s completely absurd. The open records law does not require requesters to use magic words to get records,” said attorney Christa Westerberg, the vice president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. “The department should not tie themselves in knots to avoid producing records.” The Journal Sentinel recently acquired a copy of the log in response to a request for emails and attachments sent to and from John Ourada, who ran Lincoln Hills until he abruptly retired in December just days before investigators raided the facility. Ourada used the log to keep track of incidents at the facility, according to the Department of Corrections. Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers last year worked to sharply limit the public records law but backtracked in the face of public opposition. Since then Walker has emphasized the importance of open records and in March issued an executive order to speed up the release of documents requested by the public and news organizations. Despite that executive order, retrieving records from the Department of Corrections can be a months-long process, and the Journal Sentinel has had to retain lawyers to get some of them. The department says producing records takes so long because the newspaper has asked for large amounts of records, many of which include sensitive information about juveniles that must be blacked out. The log documents hundreds of incidents over six months, painting a picture of the extent and frequency of fights and assaults at Lincoln Hills. In one incident, an inmate was put in restraints after becoming disruptive and arguing with staff. The inmate was then pepper sprayed “for safety,” the log said. That practice appears to contradict widely established principles of when to use the chemical agent known as oleoresin capsicum, according to nationally recognized use-of-force expert Steve Martin. “Unless there is a high-level immediate threat, OC should not be used on a restrained inmate. There’s not enough information here that would justify the use of OC spray,” Martin said. “There may have been something extraordinary that compelled them to use it, but it’s certainly not in this description.” Martin, who served as a corrections expert for the U.S. Department of Justice for over a decade, reviewed the log at the Journal Sentinel’s request. Another entry describes an incident in which staff used pepper spray on an inmate who refused to go into a bedroom. In another case, staff deployed pepper spray into an inmate’s room after the inmate covered the window on the door to the room and became unresponsive. “(Pepper spray) should not be deployed unless there is a live, immediate threat of harm,” Martin said. Cook, the department spokesman, said pepper spray is used to prevent physical harm to inmates and staff. In cases where staff can't see inmates in a room and they won't respond to verbal directives, pepper spray is sometimes used to avoid incurring injuries when staff members enter the room, Cook said. While the log captures many fights, others at the institution went undocumented. Some of those incidents are described in reports on internal investigations into two guards, Lance Glisch and Peter Vandre, who worked together in one of the living units scattered around the prison’s campus. Glisch was fired in February and Vandre quit that month. An inmate and Vandre said they saw Glisch fight in the summer of 2015 in a part of the kitchen known as the “cut” that cannot be seen by the prison’s cameras. The inmate who witnessed it said he saw Glisch deliver two body punches to the inmate he was fighting, and that inmate admitted he received bruises on his back and ribs. No one answered the phone at Glisch’s home last week, but he described the incident to investigators as horseplay. Glisch acknowledged to investigators he knew two inmates were going to fight in November 2015, but decided to steer clear of it instead of stop it. “I didn’t want anything to do with what was going on, so I went to the kitchen,” he told investigators. Afterward, he said one of the inmates had injuries on his head and hand. He said he was present while Vandre and the inmate concocted a story about the inmate falling so he could get medical attention. In an interview, Vandre denied that, saying he suspected the inmates might have fought but had no way to prove it. He told investigators he did not report his suspicions to a supervisor because he did not think they would care. Vandre said Glisch and the inmates had conspired to make Vandre look like he had done wrong in that incident and others. Glisch “was the one doing all the bad things and I was just the collateral damage,” Vandre said. “I always suspected him of not being on the straight and narrow.” Asked by investigators if he had used a racial epithet at work, Vandre initially replied, “Not at this facility.” Glisch and inmates said they had heard him use the word many times at Lincoln Hills, where a large portion of the population is African American. “I didn’t try to use any of that, but it could have come out,” Vandre told the Journal Sentinel. “It probably slipped out once or twice.” Also in his interview with investigators, Vandre admitted visiting a “lingerie football” themed website at work “as long as no one was around.” Since those fights, the Department of Corrections has installed more cameras at Lincoln Hills, reducing the number of areas that aren't captured on film. Officials have also equipped staff with body cameras, provided more training and replaced leaders at the institution and Department of Corrections. The fights occurred in 2015, at a time when state Attorney General Brad Schimel’s office was investigating the prison. Schimel spokesman Johnny Koremenos said protecting children is a top priority of the attorney general but provided no explanation for how the fights could occur at a time when his investigators were supposed to have an eye on the facility. Schimel has since handed off the probe to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating whether there has been a pattern of civil rights abuses at the prison.  Source: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2016/08/06/guards-allowed-fights-youth-prison/88295652/
How Populism Is Rewriting The Charter School Narrative In a political season that’s been dominated by populism it should come as no surprise that a grassroots uprising is having an effect on education policy as well. Two recent events showcase exactly how the populist fervor in the nation is redrawing the education policy landscape, and more specifically, rewriting the story of the roll out of charter schools in our communities that’s been enabled by laissez faire lawmakers and the generosity of the Obama administration and wealthy private foundations. Both events – one which reflects a national response to the populist uprising, and the other, an example of the uprising itself – reveal how a grassroots rebellion against unregulated charter schools is shaking the foundations of the education policy establishment’s narrative about these schools. NAACP Calls For A Charter School Moratorium First, university professor Julian Vasquez Heilig broke the story on his personal blog last week that the national NAACP has called for a nationwide “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.” The NAACP resolution, which passed at the national convention in July but will not be official until the National Board meeting later this Fall, cites numerous problems posed by charter schools including their tendencies to increase segregation, impose “punitive and exclusionary” discipline policies on students, and foster financial corruption and conflicts of interest. (Disclosure: Heilig is a colleague of mine at The Progressive.) Around the same time Heilig made his revelation, The Atlantic reported another prominent civil rights group the Movement for Black Lives – a coalition of over 50 black-led organizations aligned with Black Lives Matter – also is calling for a moratorium on charter schools. Other civil rights voices soon joined in support of the moratorium. Journey for Justice – an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations in 21 cities across the country – declares in a statement that its constituency of largely African American local activists is “demanding the end of unwarranted expansion of charter schools.” Another voice for civil rights, the Internet-based collective known as Educolor, also issued a general statement in support of the MBL platform. At the Hechinger Report, Andre Perry, a university professor and one of the early advocates for charter schools in New Orleans, explains, “Why the Black Lives Matter movement has to take on charter schools.” Perry writes, “Many of the theories and practices many of us are fighting against in the criminal justice arena are still openly embraced by many charter schools.” Specifically, he cites the tendencies of charters to practice “no excuse” models of education that enforce strict behavior codes and produce high rates of out-of-schools suspensions. Nashville Defeats Charter School Dark Money While the reputation of charter schools took a hit at the national level, those schools and what they’ve come to represent in communities were also rejected at the local level in a school board election in Nashville. A year and a half ago, I reported firsthand from Nashville on how local schools in the district were under assault by the twin forces of a rightwing agenda driven by the Koch Brothers and a collusion of business interests and private foundations intent on privatizing the schools. In my article for Salon, I explained how three school board members – Will Pinkston, Jill Speering, and Amy Frogge – had determined to represent the will of their voters, rather than the interests of big money, and resist the onslaught of charters. “It’s immoral to force this kind of change on people who don’t want it,” Pinkston told me in my interview with him. “It also diminishes the odds of success.” In last week’s board election, the three incumbents plus an open seat were targeted for takeover by the wealthy interests behind charter schools. As local blogger TC Weber explains, charter advocacy groups and the local Chamber of Commerce invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars to knock off their opponents and elect a pro-charter majority to the board. One of the pro-charter interests is Stand for Children that classroom teacher and popular blogger Peter Greene identifies as an “astroturf organization” backed by rich foundations and wealthy individuals connected to the investment industry. SFC’s involvement included over $700,000 to pay for campaign mailers and phone-banking and direct orchestration of volunteer and paid canvassers, which likely violates federal election law. Despite the outpouring of cash and influence, as the Knoxville news outlet reports, the big money behind charter schools lost. “After spending a small fortune, all four candidates [charter advocates] backed in the Metro Nashville school board election and a handful of state GOP primary challengers lost their races.” The results of the Nashville election reverberated to the national scene where education historian Diane Ravitch, on her popular personal blog, called it, “A great lesson about how parents can beat Dark Money.” Rewriting The Narrative The way pro-charter advocates have responded to these two events is telling. Regarding the civil rights groups’ calls for a charter moratorium, the pro-charter response has been a hissy-fit driven by fiery rhetoric and few facts. Shaffar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, a Washington D.C. based charter advocacy financed by hedge funds, issued a statement declaring the NAACP resolution a “disservice to communities of color.” In a nationally televised newscast, Steve Perry, founder and operator of a charter school chain, lashed out at Hilary Shelton, the bureau director of the Washington, DC, chapter of the NAACP, for being a sell out to the teachers’ unions and for abandoning children of color. The contention that the NAACP has sold out to teachers’ unions holds little water since that organization has been a recipient of generous donations from pro-charter advocates as well. And any argument that curbing charters is a de facto blow to black and brown school kids is more a rhetorical trope than a factual counter to the evidence NAACP cites, showing where charters undermine communities of color. Regarding the defeat of big money-backed pro-charter candidates in Nashville, the usual outlets for charter industry advocacy – Democrats for Education Reform and the media outlets Education Post and The 74 – have been totally silent. These responses are telling because the charter industry has heretofore been such masterful communicators. Advocates for these schools have long understood most people don’t understand what the schools are. Even when presidential candidates in the recent Democratic Party primary ventured to express an opinion about charters, they horribly botched it. So for years, the powerful charter school industry has been filling the void of understanding about charters with clever language meant to define what these schools are and what their purpose is. The schools, we’ve been told, are “public,” even though they really aren’t. They’re supposed to outperform traditional public schools, but that turns out not to be true either. Even when the charter industry has tried to cut the data even finer to prove some charters outperform public schools, the claims turn out to be grossly over-stated. We’ve also been told charter schools are a “civil rights cause.” Now it turns out that’s not quite the case either. Of course, charter school propagandists still have plenty of rhetorical arrows in their quiver. But what’s  abundantly clear is that while they’ve been completely free to write the charter school narrative in their own words, now the people are telling their version of the story. And the ending is no doubt going to look way different.  Source: http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/how-populism-is-rewriting-the-charter-school-narrative/
Mercury News editorial: Rein in overdrugging of foster children Mercury News Editorial Posted:   08/09/2016 10:04:31 AM PDT Updated:   08/09/2016 08:14:18 PM PDT Drugging Our Kids The full Bay Area News Group investigation, including a documentary video. Since 2014, this newspaper has been working to expose the harm done to foster children by doctors' improper use of powerful antipsychotic drugs to control their patients' behavior. Progress has been made, but as investigative stories Sunday and Monday by Karen de Sá and Tracy Seipel reveal, much work remains to provide proper oversight. California's top foster care prescribing doctors are still fueling the medication of our most vulnerable children at an unacceptable rate. This abuse needs to stop. Three bills being considered by the Legislature will help rein in the practice. The Assembly and Senate should pass the legislation, and Gov. Jerry Brown should sign them into law. On Monday, de Sá told the heartbreaking story of Tasia Wright's experience growing up in foster care in Southern California. Tasia, who is now 27, entered a residential group home at the age of 6 after her mother developed drug problems. In the 13 years she was at the group home, she was prescribed 23 different psychiatric drugs by three psychiatrists. One of the doctors who treated her was responsible for giving two or more antipsychotics to 46 foster children for longer than two months over a five-year period. The drugs often come with debilitating side effects for children. In Tasia's case, by the time she left the group home at 19, de Sá reported that she was morbidly obese and had Type 2 diabetes and medication-induced tremors. Advertisement The doctors who are prescribing the unproven combinations of the drugs are engaging in a practice that is widely rejected by medical associations in other states. The most important bill to attack the problem is SB 1174, authored by state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg. The legislation, which goes before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, would require the state Medical Board to investigate doctors who inappropriately prescribe antipsychotic medications. As McGuire points out, none of the more than 8,000 complaints to the state Medical Board about doctors during the 2014-15 fiscal year was on behalf of a foster child. When California accepts responsibility for the welfare of children, it has an obligation to look out for their best interests. San Jose Sen. Jim Beall has for years worked to improve the lives of the state's most vulnerable children. His SB 1291 would require county mental plans to gather data and submit annual plans on how they serve foster children. The intent is to better identify problems and address them before they reach a crisis state. Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey, is pushing to get his SB 253 through the Legislature. Monning's bill would make doctors go to greater lengths to justify giving prescriptions before taking them to judges for approval. The reporting by de Sá and Seipel should be required reading for every member of the Legislature. Both houses should give bipartisan support to passing the bills for the governor's signature so that inappropriate drugging of foster children comes to an end.  Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_30224518/mercury-news-editorial-rein-overdrugging-foster-children
Arizona foster kids removed from 6 homes after sexual allegation Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Republic | azcentral.com 4:48 p.m. MST August 8, 2016 P.O.W.E.R. House Youth Facility(Photo: Screenshot) Story Highlights The operator of the facility said 47 children were removed DCS confirmed an investigation is ongoing State officials removed dozens of children in foster care from six group homes amid an investigation by the Arizona Department of Child Safety. The group homes are all run by the same operator, P.O.W.E.R. House Youth Facility. Doug Nick, a DCS spokesman, confirmed an investigation is underway and that the children have been "given other placements." Because of privacy laws he said he could not discuss the nature of the investigation, the timing of the removal of the children, when the probe began or other details. Glen Mayberry, CEO of P.O.W.E.R. House Youth Facility, told The Arizona Republic on Monday that P.O.W.E.R. reported to the state "alleged sexual contact" between two children at one of the homes. "Once we found out we followed all the mandatory reporting laws," Mayberry said. But Mayberry said state officials have not told him why they are investigating the facilities. He said one state official told him "there is an investigation for sexual contact" between minors. But "we have never been informed — officially — of what has happened," Mayberry said. Nick said 40 children were removed from the six homes. Mayberry said 47 children were removed. AZCENTRAL Fed up with excuses, red tape 3 Arizona foster moms forge new path at Capitol Mayberry said the facilities have been operating for 12 years, and during that time have not had claims of wrongdoing substantiated. Mayberry said the company operates five homes in the San Tan Valley area and one in Mesa. The number of children per home ranges from five to 10, he said. Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, "white vans started showing up and they started extracting the kids," Mayberry said. The process was traumatic for some of the kids, he said. Some cried, others posted angry messages on social media about their removal. He said multiple kids "ran away." Mayberry criticized the agency's approach to the children's removal, saying DCS forgot to remove seven children at one location. "They didn't have a plan. They came in and took all the kids, but left seven of them with us," he said. "We didn't get rid of those kids until Saturday night." He said the last of the children were removed at 9 p.m. Saturday. AZCENTRAL 4 fixes for Arizona's broken child-welfare system Across Arizona, hundreds of children under the state's care live in group homes, either because the state agency can't find relatives to take in the children or because there aren't enough foster families. Follow the reporter on Twitter, @yvonnewingett, and Facebook. Reach her at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4712.  Source:  http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/2016/08/08/group-home-operator-dozens-foster-kids-removed-after-sexual-allegation/88411762/
Investigation has resulted in 100 group homes in Prescott closing their doors By Cindy Barks Originally Published: August 12, 2016 6:02 a.m. Cindy_Barks PRESCOTT – The head of an insurance-fraud investigative team made a strong case this week against the allegedly fraudulent practices of many of Prescott’s sober living homes. Dan Kreitman, director of the special investigative unit for the Centene Corporation, told the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes Wednesday, Aug. 10, that his team had uncovered widespread insurance fraud, theft, and waste in Prescott. Photo by Cindy Barks Dan Kreitman, director of the special investigations unit for Centene Corporation, talks to the Prescott Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes Wednesday, Aug. 10, on the alleged insurance fraud at local group homes. The investigation has led to changes in the way the company pays its claims, Kreitman said, which, in turn, has brought about a dramatic drop in the number of group homes operating in Prescott. Kreitman estimates that as many as 100 have closed their doors in the wake of the investigation. Kreitman spent more than a half-hour Wednesday evening citing the instances of fraud, theft, and waste. Among his examples: • Sober living homes that were routinely charging as much as $2,000 for daily urine drug screens – tests that Kreitman said should have cost about $29. • Homes that were making claims for upwards of $5,000 a day for equine treatments – “to go out and pet a horse.” • Clients remaining in treatment for 14 or 15 months, “with no end in sight.” Regularly, Kreitman said, “We’re finding sober home living facilities with no end game. What we’re finding is our members who are being shifted from facility to facility and who are testing positive for heroin from facility to facility.” • Cases of brokers working with sober-living facilities “to bring members into your area for the sole purpose of making a dollar off of them – in our opinion not to help, but to hurt.” All of the fraudulent practices apparently added up. Kreitman said group home insurance claims in Prescott and parts of California spiked by nearly 500 percent during 2015. “That raised our flags,” Kreitman said after the meeting. Those red flags led the Centene Corporation, which recently acquired the previous major insurance provider Health Net, to send a team of investigators to Prescott twice in recent months. Kreitman attended Wednesday’s ad hoc committee meeting as a part of an eight-member team of investigators. That investigation is ongoing, and Kreitman told the committee: “We will be a presence in this town for the near future, which is something that probably we didn’t see from a Health Net perspective.” After the meeting, he said, “We plan to stay as long as it takes.” During the course of the investigation, Kreitman said Centene changed the “payment methodology” for sober living facilities, adding, “Since we have made those changes, I believe over 100 facilities in the Prescott area have closed their doors.” While the City of Prescott had long estimated its total group homes at about 170, officials recently adjusted that to about 110. City Attorney Jon Paladini said Wednesday that the number likely is even lower now, based on the information from Kreitman. “It’s probably under 100 now,” Paladini said. Along the way, Kreitman said Centene had obtained enough evidence to approach the offending facilities, and some of those facilities are now assisting the investigation to help determine “how this fraud was perpetrated in your area – the brokers involved in this fraud.” As the insurance company acquires that information, Kreitman said, “We will either give it to the Prescott Police Department or the FBI.” While several of the ad hoc committee members commended Kreitman for his team’s investigative work, committee member Doug Dolan, who operates licensed facility Recovery in the Pines as well as a sober-living component, voiced several concerns as well. “First off, thank you for cleaning up the ones that are abusing the system,” Dolan told Kreitman. “I believe there is fraud, theft, and waste that needs to be cleaned up.” For instance, he said, “If somebody’s taking an instant (urine) test read, and they’re charging $2,000, that’s asinine. And if somebody’s charging you $5,000 for some kind of equine treatment, I’ll tell you as a treatment center owner, that’s asinine.” But Dolan said he believes urine drug screens are a “medical necessity,” and that there are different levels of testing available. While an instant-read test is one of those options, he said, “That’s not as reliable as sending it to a lab, (where there are different levels of testing). $29 won’t cover that cost.” Dolan said his concerns center on the fact that “at the end of day, hopefully what we’re talking about is the quality of care for the patient.” He added that Centene’s investigation had resulted in a delay in claim payments industry-wide. “There are some good programs not getting their insurance claims paid, and they’re struggling because they’re not getting paid,” he said. Allowing that some sober living homes will take on any insured client with the attitude “let’s give it a shot, and take the money,” Dolan said others, such as his own Recovery in the Pines, take on clients based on whether they are ready to undergo treatment. Kreitman responded: “I feel like you are in the very small minority in this area. It’s very unfortunate that people in this area have taken advantage of people who need help and have dragged your industry down the gutters.” Meanwhile, Kreitman said Centene had resumed paying its claims under a restructured payment process that is a “Medicare-based payment structure.” After the meeting, Kreitman said he believes Prescott is unique in the amount of fraud, theft, and waste. “It is worse here than other places we have been,” he said. Although he was uncertain about the reason, Kreitman said the fraud likely stemmed in part from the fact that “there is not a lot of regulation.”  Source: http://www.dcourier.com/news/2016/aug/12/insurance-investigator-fraudulent-group-homes-have/
Albany police officer suspended after St. Anne Institute incident - Times Union Albany police officer suspended after St. Anne Institute incident Two Albany police officers suspended as brass looks into incident at St. Anne Institute By Brendan J. Lyons Published 10:55 pm, Friday, August 12, 2016 1 Albany An Albany officer has been suspended and another placed on administrative duty as the department investigates the circumstances that led to one of the officers allegedly slamming a girl to the ground last month during a police call at St. Anne Institute, group home for troubled teenagers. Officer Ervis Miftari is suspended without pay and Officer John Schueler is on administrative duty pending the outcome of the internal investigation, Chief Brendan Cox said Friday. "We're going to do a thorough and fair investigation and what comes of that I don't know at this point," Cox said. The incident involving the young girl and Miftari took place in late July and was captured on videotape, the chief said. A person briefed on the case said the internal investigation is focusing on statements Miftari made to internal affairs investigators in relation to what was portrayed on the videotape. St. Anne Institute offers "a structured and supportive environment for young women ages 12-21 that are unable to live at home, attend public school or function in the community," according to its website. In 2002, the group home on North Main Avenue installed multiple additional video cameras after sex abuse charges were filed against an aide at the school. At the time, the Times Union reported cameras were installed in hallways to help monitor more than 125 residents who ranged in age from 12 to 18 and stayed an average of six to eight months. The school for troubled women and girls often receives clients who are placed there by family courts throughout the state. Others are referred to the facility by school districts, and some of the clients attend classes at the school but don't live there. Albany police routinely respond to the school, often to help staff deal with an unruly student, officials said. Miftari is a uniformed patrol officer who joined the department almost three years ago. A spokesperson for St. Anne Institute did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Officer Kevin Flynn, president of the Albany Police Officers Union, could not be reached for comment. blyons@timesunion.com • 518-454-5547 • @brendan_lyonstu  Source: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Albany-police-officer-suspended-after-St-Anne-9140277.php
Drugging our kids: Which Inland facilities heavily rely on anti-psychotic drugs?    SHARE . More from this story SLIDE SHOW: Drugging our kids: Which Inland facilities heavily rely on anti-psychotic drugs? 4 Photos » Nakai Painting 877-769-4468 Riverside Yellow Pages THINGS TO DO     800-514-7253 ADVERTISE YOUR JOB OPENING HERE . STAFF REPORT Published: Aug. 13, 2016 Updated: Aug. 14, 2016 12:03 p.m. Drugging our kids: Which Inland facilities heavily rely on anti-psychotic drugs? Print Photo Share Pin It 1 of 4 More Galleries     Tisha Ortiz, a 23-year-old former foster youth now attending CSU East Bay, has testified repeatedly before the Legislature about the impact of being heavily medicated throughout her childhood as she grew up in residential group homes. Ortiz spent two years of her childhood at Rancho Damacitas group home. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group Related article » Editor’s Note: Southern California Group’s sister publications in the San Francisco Bay Area produced this report, the latest installment in their series investigating doctors’ use of powerful anti-psychotic drugs to control the behavior of the state’s foster children. The report can be found here and the complete series can be found here: extras.mercurynews.com/druggedkids/index.html For years, few questioned how doctors treated the emotional trauma of California’s abused and neglected children – and nobody monitored how often they handed out psychiatric drugs that can turn fragile childhoods into battles with obesity and bouts of stupor. Now, a Digital First Media investigation into the prescribing habits of the state’s foster care doctors reveals for the first time how a fraction of doctors has been fueling the rampant medicating of California’s most vulnerable kids. The Inland facilities heavily using prescriptions are: Loma Linda University Medical Center: State data show a cluster of the highest prescribers of antipsychotics to foster children had a link to the university and hospital, including Dr. William Murdoch,the chair of the psychiatry department and associate professor. Murdoch was surprised to see his name so high on the list of California prescribers, saying his philosophy on prescribing is cautious, especially among young patients. Oak Grove Center: In Murrieta, Dr. Harinder Grewal oversees care for troubled youth "experiencing psychological, social, emotional and behavioral problems." Between 2010 and 2013, Grewal received $471,665 for drug company research, according to company disclosures compiled by ProPublica. The group home's website describes Grewal as "a spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol Myers, Squibb, PfizerInc., AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson." Shanti Clinical Trials: This office in Colton until recently housed a clinic that ran medication trials for childhood depression, attention deficit and bipolar disorder, among other research sponsored by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. Two of the highest prescribers of psych drugs to foster children are listed as investigators at the clinic, including Dr. Warris Walayat and Dr. Salvador Lasala. Walayat, who was a staff psychiatrist with the Riverside County Mental Health Department, was the highest prescriber of 2009-2014. Rancho Damacitas: Tisha Ortiz, a 23-year-old former foster youth now attending CSU East Bay, has testified repeatedly before the Legislature about the impact of being heavily medicated throughout her childhood as she grew up in residential group homes. Tisha Ortiz spent two years of her childhood at this group home in Temecula.  Source: http://www.pe.com/articles/editor-810549-sister-produced.html
Foster home operators charged for not reporting alleged sex assault by Cody Combs Wednesday, August 17th 2016 Setup Timeout Error: Setup took longer than 30 seconds to complete. I-Team THREE RIVERS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – The I-Team is obtaining new information about the operators of an adult foster care facility that recently had its license revoked by state regulators. According to documents obtained by Newschannel 3’s I-team through the Freedom of Information Act, the operators of the adult foster care home are accused of failing to report allegations of sexual assault to authorities. A The adult care facility was located on 59296 Noah Lake Road in Three Rivers, and housed approximately 6 adults with developmental disabilities and/or mental illness. Shoheli Talukder and MD Talukder are both facing “failure to report abuse” charges as a result of the state’s investigation. “Resident A has been sexually abusing Resident B for months,” reads the report issued by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). “Resident B informed me that Resident A had been bothering her for approximately the last three months,” wrote Trooper Matthew Berry, who wrote about his on-site inspection of the home. The trooper then writes that Resident B said the told the Talukders about the alleged assault. “They asked Resident B not to call the police and yelled at Resident A,” he wrote. The report also claims that the Talukders likely knew about Resident A’s aggressive behavior as early as 2014. The charges faced by the foster care facility operators are considered misdemeanor. The Talukders are expected for a pre-trial conference on Friday. Newschannel 3 and the I-Team will continue to follow the case, and pass along any developments.  Source: http://wwmt.com/news/i-team/foster-home-operators-charged-for-not-reporting-alleged-sex-assault
Staffer accused of assaulting resident of local group home Comment 0  0 By Michael Randall Times Herald-Record recordonline.com By Michael Randall Times Herald-Record Posted Aug. 19, 2016 at 8:52 AM Updated at 9:08 AM John M. Walker By Michael Randall Times Herald-Record Posted Aug. 19, 2016 at 8:52 AM Updated at 9:08 AM  Zoom John M. Walker »  Social News By Michael Randall Times Herald-Record Posted Aug. 19, 2016 at 8:52 AM Updated at 9:08 AM SAUGERTIES – A staff member at the Ulster-Greene ARC residence in Saugerties was charged Thursday with assaulting one of the residents there. Saugerties police said staff members contacted them June 6 to report a possible assault on a resident. Saugerties detectives, assisted by the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, conducted a 10-week investigation. Police said the investigation concluded that John M. Walker, a residential specialist, had committed a series of attacks and abuse against one of the residents. Walker, 28, of Birch Street, Kingston, was charged with one count of first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a felony; two counts of third-degree assault and one count each of second-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person and third-degree menacing, all misdemeanors; and second-degree harassment, a violation. He was arraigned in Town of Saugerties Court and released on his own recognizance pending a future court appearance. Michael Randall   Source: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20160819/NEWS/160819391
Sex abuse, poor supervision alleged at Oregon foster program 1 / 6 foster care feb. 3, 2016 Oregon's then-interim human services director Clyde Saiki, left, and Dani Ledezma, a policy adviser for Gov. Kate Brown, prepare to testify to lawmakers in support of foster care reform legislation. Saiki is among those sued Thursday over treatment of two vulnerable preschoolers. Denis C. Theriault/staff Denis C. Theriault | The Oregonian/OregonLive Print Email By Hillary Borrud | The Oregonian/OregonLive TThe Oregon Department of Human Services is investigating accusations that workers at a residential program for boys and young men in Eastern Oregon provided poor supervision and failed to report alleged sex abuse by a female staffer. In its amended license for the facility, obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive, the department said it's investigating hiring practices and training at Eastern Oregon Academy, in Hines, which is about three miles from Burns. Officials cited concerns that staffers "may be inexperienced or immature and possibly colluding with children in care to elope from the facility, consume drugs and alcohol, and participate in sexual relationships."  But the department has decided not to pull the approximately half-dozen foster children in its care. Instead, it's stationed at the facility 24 hours a day since launching its investigation July 14. The department has previously assigned employees to monitor licensed care facilities. But in recent cases, those employees were present only during daytime hours, agency spokesman Gene Evans said. Eastern Oregon Academy also serves youth from the Oregon Youth Authority. But the Oregon Youth Authority decided to remove the 11 residents under its jurisdiction on Aug. 10, pending the investigation, a state officials said. "We plan to continue daily monitoring and will take further action if necessary," Reginald C. Richardson, the human services department's deputy director and interim head of child welfare, wrote to state lawmakers Friday. Richardson and Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, visited the facility in mid-August. "I had to see for myself what the situation was like," Richardson wrote. "Children's safety is our number one priority, and I will continue in this hands-on role to make sure the youth residing there are safe and their needs met." Eastern Oregon Academy provides behavioral rehabilitation services for boys and young men ages 12 to 25, according to its website. Problems at the facility do not appear to be new: It was on a "radar list" of troubled facilities the Department of Human Services maintained until December, although it was unclear Friday why or for how long human services officials included the facility on the list. Staff at Eastern Oregon Academy could not be reached for comment late Friday. The human services department faces a shortage of foster homes and space in residential programs, after losing about 400 foster homes and 100 residential beds over the past two years, spokeswoman Andrea Cantu-Schomus wrote in an email. Gelser said Friday that allowing youth to remain at Eastern Oregon Academy under human services supervision was appropriate given the shortage of other options. "When we're looking at the capacity issues in the system, if there isn't a direct danger to the kids, having them sleep in a hotel or DHS office isn't an ideal solution," Gelser said. "But having been out there, I believe at least in the short term having the 24-hour onsite supervision by DHS will help with the issue." Gelser championed legislation in the 2016 legislative session to improve oversight in the foster care system. The legislation followed several scandals and a massive shakeup of senior human services staff. Meanwhile, local law enforcement officials are investigating an allegation that a woman who worked at Eastern Oregon Academy had sexual contact with one of the boys staying there, according to the facility's amended Department of Human Services license. The state is also investigating reported bad behavior by managers at the facility. After the human services department launched its investigation, the academy's program manager allegedly "yelled and threw papers at a resident during transport, shouted loudly at two residents prior to discharge, and at one point 'shoulder checked' a resident," according to the amended license. On another occasion, Eastern Oregon Academy managers allegedly grew frustrated with a resident who refused to get into a vehicle after a nature field trip — leaving the youth alone, for more than two hours, in woods some 40 miles from the academy. Eastern Oregon Academy also allegedly failed to report these incidents to DHS. Gelser said the current situation stems, in part, from years of state officials failing to spend enough on quality programs for foster children and other youth in state care. "It's the consequence of a complete disinvestment in the system," Gelser said. "And in order for people to provide service and care for our most traumatized kids and kids with the most complex needs, it costs more than just food and some beds." — Hillary Borrud hborrud@oregonian.com 503-294-4034; @hborrud  Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/08/state_investigates_allegations.html
Youth prison staff were taught abusive tactics Catie Edmondson and Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12:10 p.m. CDT August 21, 2016 Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls are under investigation by the FBI for child abuse and neglect, intimidation of witnesses and other misconduct by officials.(Photo: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Madison — Staff at the state’s problem-plagued youth prison were taught to use abusive techniques when interacting with teenage offenders under the decade-long tenure of the facility’s lead training officer, new records show. Investigators with the Department of Corrections determined that Dustin Meunier’s failure to properly teach staff security techniques resulted in a “high volume” of injuries at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, including broken arms and wrists. Meunier, who was fired in May, hung up on a reporter without answering any questions. Documents released under the state’s open records law reveal that Meunier engaged in serious and sweeping misconduct at Lincoln Hills School — including showing a video of another officer using unjustified force to train workers, failing to stop staff he witnessed abusing teens, overlooking incidents where excessive force was used and falsifying records. Those documents also show Meunier left a juvenile inmate unattended in a room full of pepper spray for more than five minutes and dragged a handcuffed inmate out of a van by his feet. Meunier, who was supposed to be the prison’s sole use-of-force expert, was also unable to demonstrate an understanding of basic security techniques, investigators found. The records are among the first to provide insight into why incidents of excessive force — correctional officers breaking inmates’ arms and wrists, putting their knees into youth and using pepper spray excessively — became common occurrences at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, which share a campus north of Wausau and are being investigated by the FBI for assault, child neglect and other crimes. In recent months, top officials at Lincoln Hills and the Department of Corrections have been replaced and the vast majority of the institution’s staff has been retrained, said department spokesman Tristan Cook. The superintendent of Lincoln Hills was responsible for ensuring staff got proper training, and the superintendent, security director and trainers were responsible for the curriculum, Cook said. People in those positions have been replaced in the past year and a half. Wendy Peterson became superintendent in May and soon afterward fired Meunier for misconduct and negligence after an internal investigation comprised of more than 5,000 pages of interviews and incident reports found that Meunier: Failed to contact nurses to ensure inmates received medical attention. Modified techniques for securing inmates without getting permission from his bosses and trained his fellow workers in his new techniques. He also trained workers how to use pepper spray even though he went years without getting certified for such training. Reviewed incidents that “appeared abusive” but did not mark them as inappropriate. He told investigators he was too busy to properly review them. Frequently did not make staff fill out required paperwork documenting incidents in which force was used. Timothy Johnson, who worked for more than two decades at Lincoln Hills, said he had no idea Meunier had taught him improper techniques. Meunier never told him to be cautious with juveniles with the use of force because juveniles' bones are particularly fragile, as he was supposed to do, Johnson said. “It was taught if you’re going to use an application of force, go as hard as you possibly can. Don’t hold back,” Johnson said in an interview. “If he showed us a technique, we all assumed this is an authorized technique sanctioned by the state of Wisconsin,” he said. Johnson resigned in January as investigators looked into his involvement in incidents where juveniles were injured. He said he didn’t do anything wrong and argued his bosses were negligent and tried to make him a scapegoat. During training sessions, Meunier showed a video of Johnson putting his knee in the back of a young inmate and said it was the right way to control inmates. Johnson said he didn’t know what incident was depicted in the video and was not told it was being used for training. Department of Corrections investigators found that between 2013 and 2015, putting knees into the backs of inmates was “repeatedly used by numerous staff during numerous incidents” even though the method “was not reasonable or necessary and was not justifiable under the circumstances.” The probe of Meunier was sweeping, with internal investigators looking into 19 incidents that occurred between 2013 and 2015. They cleared him in three incidents, but found he violated numerous work rules for the others. Here’s a look at some of the incidents: Broken wrist. In December 2014, Meunier supervised as Johnson and another officer handcuffed a disruptive juvenile inmate, who cried and screamed and told officers his wrist was broken, according to other inmates. The incident occurred at 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday, when no nurses were on site. Meunier called and left a voicemail with the health services office, even though he knew no one would hear it until the next day, he told internal investigators in October 2015. Doctors confirmed that the youth’s wrist was broken and treated it the next day — but Meunier downplayed its significance. “There was no —  no gross deformity, nothing looking out of place, nothing at all,” he told internal investigators of the injury. He also said the incident was “nothing out of the ordinary” and “wasn’t that big of a deal at the time.” The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office reviewed the incident at the time, but found there was no evidence that Johnson intended to harm the inmate. Pepper spray. In July 2015, after an inmate barricaded himself in his room, Meunier and others briefly opened his door and two of them each blasted pepper spray into the room for one second. Meunier told the inmate to lie on the floor when he was ready to be removed. Several staff members exited the hallway because the pepper spray was so thick in the air. Others removed the inmate's roommate as the inmate laid on the floor. The inmate stayed in the room unmonitored for 5 and a half minutes and then crawled out when guards instructed him to leave, investigators found. He later became noncompliant, and officers directed him to the ground and removed his clothes so he could be searched, even though one of the officers was female. Meunier told investigators that he lost control of the incident, which he described as “being a cluster.” He said he didn’t know that two officers, rather than one, had used pepper spray and didn’t realize the inmate had been left in the room unmonitored. A use-of-force review conducted by the Department of Corrections in April 2016 found the use of pepper spray was not justified. Leaving the inmate in the room for so long after pepper spray was used “is abusive since it appears he was intentionally left in the room for this period of time and that he was willing to cooperate with staff and exit his room,” the review said. Use of force. Meunier conducted a use-of-force review of a September 2015 incident in which he was involved, even though such reviews are supposed to be independent. In that review, he wrote that all reports had been filed, but he and two others had not written required reports. Meunier did not document that officer James Schmidt had placed his knee on the head and neck of a juvenile inmate as he broke up a fight. “I must have overlooked it,” Meunier told investigators. His review said health officials had evaluated the inmate, however there is no record of that. A subsequent review done by the department in December 2015 using video of the incident found Schmidt’s actions were unjustified. Investigators concluded that by conducting a review of an incident in which he was involved, Meunier “placed himself and the facility in a position of undue scrutiny.”​  Source: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2016/08/21/youth-prison-staff-were-taught-abusive-tactics/89001716/
“Treatment Centers” for Troubled Teens Are Gothic Nightmares 228 60 254 By Nora Caplan-Bricker   "Troubled teens" don't need this kind of help. AntonioGuillem / Thinkstock Most residential treatment centers that promise they can turn around the lives of troubled teenagers are dangerous places with a proven track record of making things worse, according to a disturbing longread published Tuesday by the Huffington Post. Reporter Sebastian Murdock tells the appalling story of a facility in Utah, formerly known as Island View, and now, under new management, called Elevations RTC. But the takeaway from his extensive reporting is that the options pushed on struggling parents may be hurting, not helping, their at-risk kids. The authoritarian tack that most centers take won’t turn their charges into functional adults, Ira Burnim, legal director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, told HuffPo. “You can teach them to be compliant in an institution because they get the reward of ... getting out,” he said, “but once they get out, it’s the same old problem, and they haven’t learned how to better manage their condition.” Worse, these centers often deeply traumatize their inhabitants. A 2014 lawsuit against Island View’s parent company, Aspen Education, alleged that the center “maintained a prison-like environment where physical and psychological torture were used against students,” Murdock writes. As one former Island View resident, a 25-year-old named Michelle Lemcke, told him: “Long-term treatment facilities are like ... a jail without having done anything illegal.” Anyone who wishes to understand the gothic list of abuses suffered by Island View’s teenage residents should read Murdock’s piece, but even a brief perusal is enough to make the blood run cold. A former staff member named Vlad Diaz who quit in 2008 told the journalist that he “wouldn’t treat a dog” the way he was ordered to handle the children. He claimed he saw multiple kids attempt suicide at the facility. One former resident told Murdock about being strip-searched on arrival; when he refused to remove his piercings, he said, “They restrained me on my back and physically removed each one of my piercings, which tore my flesh open … I still have scars from it.” Teens were required to publicly criticize and humiliate one another during so-called Problem Solving Groups. They were harshly and physically restrained by staff; one family sued unsuccessfully in 2014 after the guards “mangled [a student's] arm, causing severe and irreparable orthopedic and neurological damage,” per the suit. Murdock also found that staff’s policy was to sedate students with high doses of antipsychotics—drugs whose efficacy at combating conditions like depression and bipolar in adolescents has never been established. Perhaps worst of all, though, was the “time-out room,” described by Murdock as a “small white chamber, approximately 4 by 4 feet, with a large metal door,” where students were subjected to solitary confinement—a disciplinary tactic whose use on juveniles is outlawed in federal prisons because of its harrowing psychological effects. The doors remained unlocked when the students were inside, but staff monitored them from the other side. A site inspector for the Utah Department of Human Services told Murdock that the rooms were a place for struggling students to “cool off,” not a punishment—but that’s not what the reporter heard from Island View’s former charges. One of his sources, Emily Graeber, told him she can’t expunge the mental image of her friends trapped in the tiny cells. “I’m still really haunted by the screams,” she said. “Sometimes I have nightmares just from the screaming.” Much of this torture was probably legal. “The troubled-teen industry is almost entirely unregulated,” Murdock writes. “In 2011, a federal bill that would have banned physically abusing or starving children at such facilities died in committee. … [L]ike most states, Utah has no rules outright prohibiting isolation, humiliation or physical restraint. So facilities like Island View still can—and do—isolate, humiliate and physically restrain children. In many states, they can withhold food and water as punishment.” So what should be done to reform nightmare institutions like Island View? Murdock suggests that the answer is to abandon this failed model altogether. Instead, parents of disturbed children should be able to get the support and expert guidance necessary to keep their young ones at home. There is a “virtual national consensus among people in the mental health field that children with mental health difficulties and behavioral problems should be treated at home,” Burnim, the mental health law expert, told Murdock. “I don’t think you need to legislate against RTCs. You just need to create an alternative that sells itself.” Of course, that’s easier said than done. Nora Caplan-Bricker is a contributing writer for DoubleX. Follow her on Twitter.  Source: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/08/24/the_huffington_post_publishes_a_horrifying_piece_about_troubled_teen_residential.html
John Oliver Slams Charter Schools And His Critics Totally Miss The Point Sometimes it takes a funnyman to make sense. Earlier this week, British comedian John Oliver devoted a “Back to School” segment on his HBO program Last Week Tonight to examining the rapidly growing charter school industry and what these schools are doing with our tax dollars. The Washington Post’s education blogger Valerie Strauss watched the segment and reports that while Oliver declined to address whether or not charters provide high quality education, he focused mostly on how often these schools are “terribly – and sometimes criminally – operated.” (You can see Oliver’s entire sketch here.) Editors at Rolling Stone watched Oliver’s broadcast as well and report Oliver focused much of his attention on three states – Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio – that have “especially depressing charter track records – including negligence in the approval process and school executives embezzling funds.” For some time now, I’ve reported on the alarming spread of charter school scandals in these states, and elsewhere, in numerous articles for Salon. So very little of what Oliver exposes is new to the public. But because of the reach of HBO, Oliver’s international popularity, and his ability to turn serious subjects into very funny – even if upsetting – material, advocates in the charter industry mustered a strong defense with numerous blogposts and press releases calling Oliver’s anecdotes “outdated,” his treatment of charters “uninformed” and unfair, and his opinions too disinterested in the needs of parents, especially from communities of color. None of Oliver’s critics seriously refuted the crux of his argument that there might be something fundamentally wrong by design, rather than by implementation or intent, with the idea that  a “free market” of privately operated and essentially unregulated schools is a surefire way to improve education opportunities for all students. Indeed, charter schools are “here to stay” has become a refrain among advocates for these schools, even though there’s no doubt the controversy caused by this new parallel school system is just beginning, and no one can predict what the ongoing conflict will lead to. The charter industry is currently responsible for educating a small percentage of students – just 6–7 percent nationally and barely measurable in many communities, especially more well-to-do metropolitan and rural areas. A minority of Americans and relatively few politicians completely understand what charter schools are. And most experts have mixed views on the purpose of the schools. However, what charter advocates generally won’t admit is that many of the problems these schools cause are reflective of what inevitably seems to happen when an essential public service is privatized. The charter industry claims its schools are “public” institutions because they get tax dollars, but that’s like saying a defense contractor is a public business because it takes in revenues from the federal government. Numerous experts point out charter schools blur the line from what it means to be a public institution providing a public good and that, by their very design, they expand opportunities to profiteer from public tax dollars and privatize public assets. People in communities affected by these schools are just beginning to see the conflicts these institutions cause, and it’s just a matter of time before government officials at all levels are forced to respond to the increasing concerns with these schools. Just consider recent actions taken by the Department of Justice to curtail the expansion of the private prison industry – a privatization trend that generally predates the rise of the charter industry. As Mother Jones reports, after “a damning report on the safety, security, and oversight of private prisons,” DOJ announced it would stop contracting with these institutions. Donald Cohen, who leads In the Public Interest, an organization that researches problems posed by privatizing public services, writes for Huffington Post, privately operated prisons are fundamentally flawed because the business model they must follow encourages the companies to “actively seek new prisoners to fill facilities they own.” As ITPI has previously reported, “in an effort to provide the service with fewer resources while also maximizing profits, [private prison] companies often cut corners, reducing the quality, effectiveness, and accessibility of the service.” “The more contractors can cut costs on running their facilities, the wider their profit margins,” writes Aman Banerji for the Roosevelt Institute. “No wonder … private prisons contracted by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) contain one or more security deficiencies, health service deficiencies, and a greater number of food grievances.” This clear and obvious conflict of interest – between serving the public and rewarding private enterprise – led to a misalignment with DOJ’s mission to hold an essential function of government to the high standards the public demands. If the charter school industry believes it can avoid this conflict, it’s kidding itself. More than one attentive blogger has noticed the striking similarities between charter schools and the private prison industry. In one of these posts, Mitchell Robinson notes that charters, like private prisons, differ from the public counterparts by not being locally managed or controlled, not providing the same level of services and programs, and not answering to the same level or degree of regulation and oversight. Over the years, the US Department of Education has rewarded charter schools with over $3.3 billion in federal funds, and with passage of the most recent federal education law, the every Student Succeeds Act, USDoE will send $333 million more to these schools before the current fiscal year is over. Remarking on the actions DOJ took to end tax dollars going to the private prison industry, Banerji concludes, “It offers an opportunity to contest the privatization of state services beyond the prison system.” Let’s hope reexamining the role of charter schools is the next step.  Source: http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/john-oliver-slams-charter-schools-and-his-critics-totally-miss-the-point/
Parents of disabled urge Malloy to scrap privatizing group homes By: Keith M. Phaneuf | August 23, 2016View as "Clean Read" ShareEmail Print Parents of intellectually disabled adults expected to be transferred from state-run group homes to private care reacted Tuesday with a mix of anger and appeals for compassion. About three dozen parents, unionized caregivers and their clients argued at SEIU 1199 headquarters in Hartford that the planned privatization of 40 state-run homes would weaken care and shatter the bonds formed between workers and clients. “We’re talking about love here; we’re not talking about money,” said Lindsay Mathews of New Haven, whose 51-year-old son, George, has resided at the state-run Brook Street group home in Hamden for the past 20 years. Keith m. Phaneuf / CTCMirror.org Lindsay Mathews of New Haven, whose 51-year-old son, George, has resided at the state-run Brook Street group home in Hamden for the past 20 years. George cannot perform simple tasks, such as putting toothpaste on a brush or adjusting the water temperature in the shower, Mathews said. “Almost everything that has to happen to him is done by someone else,” she said. “These are the people we depend upon to keep our children alive.” Critics of the private, nonprofit group homes for the developmentally disabled say they receive insufficient state funding to provide comparable care. They struggle with employee turnover rates that typically exceed 20 percent — which is a big problem given the close bonds clients seek to form with their caregivers. “To take the staff away would be death for Arthur,” Martha Carney of Hamden said of the staff at the Brook Street home, where her adult son, Arthur, resides. “Please, Governor Malloy, come visit our home.” Chris McClure, spokesman for the governor’s budget office, disagreed with the assertions regarding privatization. “Let's be clear — there should be no service level reductions involved here,” he said. “This is closely following national trends.” Since 2009, the number of individuals served directly by the state Department of Developmental Services in community-living settings have dropped from 15 percent to less than 10 percent, he said. “This step will save taxpayer dollars without affecting service levels,” McClure added. “We deeply value all the work of our employees, and while we know this transition will be difficult, we are doing everything we can to make the state operate more efficiently than ever before.” The Malloy administration unveiled plans last week to privatize 40 group homes and a host of services for the intellectually disabled and eliminate the need for 605 state jobs, saving Connecticut almost $70 million annually by next fiscal year. Those changes are planned to comply with a major reorganization and savings initiative the governor and the General Assembly ordered in May when they adopted the latest state budget. The administration, which already has laid off 113 DDS employees, would eliminate another 492 workers in two stages, most happening after Jan. 1.’ That means 25 percent of the full-time positions at the state agency are being eliminated. “Personally I think he (Malloy) should be arrested today and put on trial,” Mathews said. “These folks can’t speak for themselves.” Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror.org Martha Carney, whose son Arthur resides at the Brook Street group home. Carney said many parents are frustrated with legislators as well, adding that those she spoke with about the new state budget offered no assurances that things would change. DDS Commissioner Morna Murray said her department “is working very hard to maintain current levels of services for the individuals we support in a budget environment that requires we provide high-level services more efficiently,” adding that many states have turned to privatization. “While we know these changes are extremely difficult for individuals, families, and staff, they are necessary for us to maintain critical supports. We are committed to carrying out these transitions in the most effective and compassionate manner possible, and to maintaining the highest quality of care to the largest number of individuals we can support.” But Debbie Albers, an 1199 member who runs the department’s Manchester Supporting Living program, said state workers’ have knowledge of their clients built over decades of service. “I am their family,” said Albers, who has worked at the Manchester facility for 29 years. “We’re like a family and we really need these staffs,” said Robert Osborne, a client at Manchester. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.” Source: http://ctmirror.org/2016/08/23/parents-of-disabled-urge-malloy-to-scrap-privatizing-group-homes/
Foster care film questions priority of privatized system: Money or children? PRWeb   August 23, 2016 10:25am   "Foster Shock" gives former foster children a voice, to say what no one would listen to while they were in the system, and shows the salaries that swelled behind it all PALM BEACH, Fla. (PRWEB) August 23, 2016 The Florida Department of Children and Families has long been questioned by newspapers, lawmakers and families for the abuse, neglect and death of children in its care. Now one child advocate is asking to what extent do these tragedies fall on a privatized system. Florida became the first state to fully privatize child welfare, when Jeb Bush was governor, giving state funds to private companies, who subcontract with even more private companies. DCF has an annual budget of $3 billion, yet as many child advocates attest, most foster children live below the poverty line. In her documentary, "Foster Shock," Mari Frankel, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and board member of Adopt-A-Family, discloses the six-figure salaries of the CEOs of these private companies and gives a platform to executive directors of non-profit organizations, who say when child welfare becomes a business, children become dollar bills. The film, set to screen in Orlando Sept. 2, also tells the stories of children who grew up in foster care, looking forward to the day when they "aged out" of foster care, children who were dependent on the system, but say they were not protected by the system. "It is a Guardian ad Litem's responsibility to speak for the child," says Frankel, speaking to her stirrings for the film. "There is unacceptable and then there is horrendous. What has happened to these children goes way past unacceptable. It is horrendous." Her first case as a GAL involved an 11-year-old boy with developmental disabilities, who was taken from his mother because of drug abuse, Frankel says, and placed in a therapeutic foster home. She remembers visiting him one day with his therapist. She says the boy told them he was being sexually abused by a man who was living with the foster mother. She says when she asked the therapist if he was going to report the abuse, he said no, he did not believe the boy. "No charges were ever filed against the man. No charges were filed against the foster mother. No one was fired. No one was reprimanded," Frankel says. "That is why I did this documentary." Frankel did report the abuse and the boy was removed from the home, but the very next week, another boy was placed in the same home. Too often, Frankel says, she has seen that nothing a foster child says is believed, so the narratives she shares in her film, she verifies with case files and court documents. Foster Shock will be screened at the Central Florida Film Festival on Sept. 2. Five days later, DCF will hold its annual summit in Orlando. When asked if DCF would like to comment on the documentary or the issues it raises surrounding privatization, DCF Communications Director Jessica Sims shared a link to the department's website, saying the system is privatized, but did not comment further than that. Frankel says the intent of the documentary is not to cast blame, but to catalyze change. Too often stories of foster children are so hard to bare, many turn away, but Frankel hopes by making this film, legislators and citizens will fight for more oversight, so foster children stop being abused. Foster Shock will screen during the Central Florida Film Festival (CENFLO). The showing is on Sept. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at West Orange Cinema, located at 1575 Maguire Rd., Ocoee, Fla. The film is one hour. Moviewatcher Passes are tickets available through the film festival beginning at $25 per day. A Moviewatcher Pass includes admission to all festival screenings for the day purchased, a coupon to redeem one medium popcorn and one medium soft drink, and three ballots to case for your favorite short, documentary or feature film. Mari Frankel has served as a community advocate for the State of Florida Guardian ad Litem Program for the last six years. For the last 15 years, she has been on the board of Adopt-A-Family, a non-profit that assists formerly homeless and income-challenged working families. Mari specifically assists with their after-school program, Project Grow, which serves children in grades K through five, to build their social, emotional and educational skills. Foster Shock is a Miss Mari Film. Brian Bayerl is the award-winning cinematographer and editor of Foster Shock. His work has been seen on PBS, Showtime and in numerous feature films, as well as premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW in Austin. Bayerl's films have been screened at prestigious locations such as the Andy Warhol Museum, the Whitney Museum and the British Museum in London. Portrait of America was screened in three countries and won Best Film at London's Raindance Film Festival.  Source: http://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/16/08/p8382519/foster-care-film-questions-priority-of-privatized-system-money-or-child
Uganda to close the largest chain of commercial private schools over non-respect of basic education standards For immediate release Kampala, 12 August 2016 The Ugandan Minister of Education and Sports, Hon Janet Museveni, formally announced on Tuesday during a session of the parliament that the Government will soon close the schools operated by the largest and most controversial chain of commercial private schools worldwide, Bridge International Academies (BIA), which runs 63 nursery and primary schools in Uganda. Hon Museveni indicated having based her decision on technical reports from the Ministry that revealed that the schools did not respect national standards, in particular that “material used could not promote teacher pupil interaction” and that “poor hygiene and sanitation […] put the life and safety of the school children in danger”. “This decision, which is backed up by field visits of Ministry officials, confirms the grave concerns we have had about Bridge,” reacted Salima Namusobya, the Executive Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), a Ugandan NGO monitoring the realisation of the right to education in the country.  “We have long been worried that BIA schools did not respect the Government Guidelines on Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards for Schools for example regarding infrastructure, purposefully used unqualified teachers in order to reduce costs, in violations of Ugandan laws, and were developing a massive for-profit business without the agreement and proper oversight of the authorities.” Bridge International Academies is a for-profit commercial chain of low-cost private schools backed up by investors such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Pierre Omidyar (eBay), as well as the World Bank, and the US and British Governments. It aims at providing education to 10 million pupils by 2025 and already runs over 450 schools in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and soon Liberia and India. The company has been particularly criticised for using a non-transparent system of entirely scripted and standardised curriculum mostly designed in the USA, delivered by untrained teachers reading the script from a tablet, while selling this scheme as “world-class education” to poor people in developing countries in a bid to seek profits. The decision to close BIA schools follows several statements from United Nations (UN) human rights bodies as well as a report from a UK parliament watchdog that criticised BIA, suggesting that the development of these schools may lead to human rights breaches. “The Ugandan education system suffers from many shortcomings. However, it does not mean that any investors can come in and make profit out of the situation by delivering low-quality education while disregarding national authorities and standards. International treaties and a recent resolution from the UN Human Rights Council make clear that it is the duty of the government to close schools that are sub-standard or that lead to commercialisation of education, and we applaud the Government for upholding its obligations,” said Frederick Mwesigye, Executive Director of the Forum for Education NGOS in Uganda (FENU). “While it was unavoidable in this case, it is highly regrettable to have to come to the point where some schools have to be closed. The Government now has to ensure that all children have access to free quality education and no child’s education be disrupted. They made the wise decision to wait until the end of the term (early September) to close the Bridge schools, and we call on the authorities to use that time to help find alternative school for the children, while developing plans to build and improve the public education system,” added Saphina Nakulima, from ISER. BIA has faced a series of controversies in the last three months revealing some of the company’s corporate approach to education. Adding to a previous statement from May 2015 that demonstrated that, contrary to what it claims, Bridge charged fees that were unaffordable by the poorest and that there was no solid evidence about the quality of the schools, it recently emerged that the company: can be resorting to intimidation tactics such as the arrest of an academic researcher based on allegations which could not be proven, in order to avoid independent inquiry about its model; is considering using the data it collects on children for various commercial purposes, including “credit scoring and brokering to financial loan and other products” and “creation and brokering of low-cost health insurance”; is resisting requests from the Government of Liberia for an independent randomised analysis of its schools’ results in Liberia. The decision of the Ugandan Government is also relevant for its neighbour, Kenya, where BIA has the largest number of schools. A few months ago, the Kenyan Government halted the development of Bridge schools over similar allegations that the company was not respecting minimum national educational standards. According to Abraham Ochieng, from the East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights), “the situation in Kenya is unfortunately very similar to Uganda. It seems that only a handful of the 405 BIA schools in the country are registered, the curriculum they use has not been approved by the authorities, and they employ low-paid untrained teachers. Given that BIA started operating in Kenya in 2009 and seems to still not be complying with the Government’s requirements, and while recent revelations have shown the commercial motive of the company, it has become urgent to take action.” Camilla Croso, the President of the Global Campaign for Education, emphasised that “as they realise that commercialisation of their schools is far from being the solution to the education challenges they face, and is in fact detrimental, governments must now increase their funding to education in order to fulfil their obligations to realise the right to education, in particular by spending at least 20% of their budget or 6% of their GDP on education.” The 18 organisations that support this statement have declared that they are ready to work with the Governments of Uganda, Kenya, and other interested authorities to support the development of a quality public education system rather than a commercial system driven by foreign companies.  Source: http://globalinitiative-escr.org/groundbreaking-news-uganda-to-close-the-largest-chain-of-commercial-private-schools-over-non-respect-of-basic-education-standards/
Fort Worth mom questions how infant died in foster care Foster care death under investigation Foster care death under investigation  FORT WORTH — A young mother who had her children removed from her care following a Child Protective Services investigation is now asking how her 10-month-old daughter ended up dead while in foster care. Promise Waggoner died late Monday night, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner.   A cause of death is pending. The girl's birth mother, Trynisha Huey, says she's devastated. "It hurts because in two months she would've been a whole year. My baby is gone," said Huey as she fought back tears during an interview on Tuesday. The mother said she lost custody of Promise, and her older sister, Erica, after coming under scrutiny for allegedly having drugs in the home, and also not feeding her child. Although Huey denies the charges, the children were removed earlier this year in the 323rd District Court in Tarrant County. % Trynisha Huey    (Photo: WFAA) % A CPS spokeswoman said an email that a "...thorough and rigorous investigation" was underway by Residential Child Care Licensing into what happened at the foster care home in south Fort Worth. Fort Worth police confirmed that the Crimes Against Children Unit was leading the investigation but cautioned that no criminal charges have been filed. Huey said she was told by authorities her daughter was put to bed at about 7 p.m. and found unresponsive when an adult checked on her a couple of hours later. She said Promise was born premature but that her health was now fine. She fears for her older child's safety, who remains in foster care. "Can I have my oldest child back? Can I have her back?" she said. Her attorney, Oni Groves, said she's working to file paperwork that would ask for the court to revisit the case. "This tragedy is contrary to what anyone could imagine occurring on the Department’s watch," she said in an email. Police say their investigation is ongoing.  Source: http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/tarrant-county/mom-questions-how-infant-daughter-died-in-foster-care/306232220
Fort Collins disability board walks out during dad’s public comment about group home abuse Foothills Gateway board criticized after walking out during remarks by parent Keith Liddle  By Jennifer Brown | jbrown@denverpost.com PUBLISHED: August 25, 2016 at 5:41 pm | UPDATED: August 26, 2016 at 8:04 am YouTube Screenshot Keith Liddle addresses Foothills Gateway CCB. He spoke for 5 minutes & 16 seconds before he was interrupted and the subsequent walkout. They walked out on him before he was done speaking. The full version of this video is at the top of the playlist. Original recording date is 08/16/2016 in Fort Collins, CO Parents whose children have developmental disabilities are outraged after a community board that manages their benefit money walked out of a meeting while a father was speaking about his son’s treatment at a group home. The walkout by the Foothills Gateway board in Fort Collins was recorded by an audience member and posted on YouTube, then distributed by e-mail to hundreds of parents. In the video, board president John Haley  raises a hand and tells parent Keith Liddle that his “five minutes is up.” Liddle, a frequent speaker at board meetings, responds, “OK, let me go ahead and read this.” Haley repeats two more times that Liddle’s time is up and then abruptly calls for a recess. The entire board stood and walked out of the room while Liddle continued reading his prepared remarks for three more minutes. The exchange sparked uproar from parents and a letter to the board from Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat who sponsored legislation this year that requires periodic state audits of Colorado’s 20 community-centered boards that manage state and federal disability funds. The new law also requires boards to post financial documents on their websites and allow public comment at their meetings. “I encourage your board to develop alternative strategies to intervene in situations like this where families are having difficulty abiding by your expectations,” Aguilar wrote. “Despite your history with this parent, I found the behavior of the board disrespectful.” The senator said the board’s treatment of a parent “begs the question” of whether people with intellectual and developmental disabilities “are being treated better.” The board president, in a three-page letter distributed by e-mail to the parent group, said Liddle continues to bring up the same issues even though Foothills Gateway and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment resolved the neglect case involving Liddle’s son in August 2014.  “While the board is willing to listen to new issues of concern with regard to services and supports to the individuals we serve, we feel that this constant focus on incidents that are many years past are neither acceptable nor productive,” Haley wrote.  The board allocates 10 minutes at the beginning of its meetings for public comment, and did so prior to the new law. “Each speaker, at the chair’s discretion, may speak for up to five minutes,” the letter said. Liddle said he was the only person signed up to speak at the Aug. 16 meeting. Friction between parents and the state’s 20 boards have reached a high point this year after a Denver city audit of mill levy funds found misspending by Rocky Mountain Human Services, the board that serves Denver County residents with disabilities. The boards determine who is eligible for Medicaid and other public funds and help families arrange therapy, in-home care and group home placement. Highlands Ranch resident Dawn Caldwell, whose 15-year-old son has severe disabilities, said the video made her sick to her stomach. “How could you treat a human being this way, much less a taxpayer and a customer?” she said. “How are you treating people when there is not a camera?” “Really the message seems to be if you make waves at any given point in time then they’ll do their best to silence or ignore you,” said Stacy Warden of Broomfield, whose son has cerebral palsy.  Liddle’s 29-year-old son is non-verbal and has the function of a 2-year-old due to spinal meningitis as an infant. In 2014, a state investigation found his son was neglected at a group home and state officials asked Foothills Gateway for a “plan of action” to correct several issues. After staff noticed a rash on Liddle’s son, he did not see a doctor for 11 days and then was diagnosed with shingles. The state also found staff was negligent in placing him with an abusive roommate. During his public comment at the board meeting last week, Liddle was again asking the board for a copy of a “rebuttal letter” it wrote to the state after the investigation. Liddle said the board’s attorney told him Foothills Gateway is not required to release the letter. Liddle plans to return to the board’s meeting next month to finish reading his statement.  Source: http://www.denverpost.com/2016/08/25/fort-collins-disability-board-dads-public-comment-group-home-abuse/
Letters: Old-school TLC better than kids' boot camp Updated: August 26, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT Share Tweet Tumblr Email 1 Comment REPRINTS KATIE FALKENBERG / Los Angeles Times A student works on a painting at KinderPrep, a weeklong summer program in Santa Monica, Calif., for children who are about to enter kindergarten. ISSUE | EDUCATION Old-school TLC better than boot camp Many things separate the rich from the rest of us: mansions, yachts, private jets, and the $1,000 "weeklong boot camp" for their preschoolers ("Boot camp gets kids ready for kindergarten," Wednesday). I'd like to suggest another, equally good - if not better - educational tool: parenting. Read to your children daily from the day they are born; it bonds parent and child. Have them pick up their toys from the time they can bend over without falling on their heads; it teaches responsibility. Give them instructions and consequences when they don't follow through; it instills respect for authority. Discipline them when they misbehave; it demonstrates cause and effect. Talk and listen to your child; it imparts self-confidence and self-worth. Eat and do things with them; it gives them unconditional love. And turn off your cellphone; nothing says, "I don't care about you," like a parent who chooses his or her phone over his or her child. Children don't need a replacement parent, such as a prekindergarten boot camp, when parents are doing their jobs. |Carol Heim, Westmont  Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20160826_Letters__Old-school_TLC_better_than_kids__boot_camp.html
­ Morgantown foster care provider charged with felony abuse Posted by sunshinewiles on August 25, 2016 in Local News MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A foster parent faces felony abuse charges. A West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children unit investigation led to the arrest of a Morgantown woman. According to Sgt. Adam Scott, Kristina Singleton, 43, injured a 7-year-old girl living in Singleton’s foster care home. Scott received findings of a WV DHHR Institutional Investigation Unit report after Singleton’s foster home was investigated for abuse. The girl had severe, belt shaped, bruising on her rib cage and legs. Children in Singleton’s home told investigators she used belts, hands, flyswatters and plastics, wood and metal spoons to hit the children as punishment and that the victim was most severely punished. Singleton initially denied the abuse before Scott said she admitted to physically disciplining children but not causing injuries. She was charged with one felony count of child abuse resulting in injury. Source: http://wajr.com/morgantown-foster-care-provider-charged-with-felony-abuse/
Do Treatment Centers for Troubles Teens Inflict More Harm Than Good? By Abbie Kraft, Parent Herald | August 29, 9:11 PM A member of the gallery staff looks through a section of a rubber room which forms part of a new exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery on February 18, 2015 in London, England. ( Parents would only want what's best for their kids, thus those who are faced with troubled teenagers would opt for treatment centers. Though it may seem like the right thing to do, it was revealed that taking teens to treatment centers can do more harm than good. Advertisement One write up from Huffington Post revealed that troubled teens that were sent to treatment centers are actually going through tough times. It was then mentioned that treatment centers can actually do more harm than good especially when it comes to their mental health struggles. Sebastian Murdock noted that the treatment centers are making it worse for troubled teens, thus they don't tend to lie low when it comes to aggression. It was then mentioned that the staff treated the teenage patients so bad, up to a point that some of them would opt to commit suicide. Murdock mentioned that the treatment facility already lasted for a long time, yet nothing has changed over the years. Teenagers are still being tormented and parents were paying double for their child to be treated unjustly. Sebastian Murdock specifically mentioned Island View, which charged parents around $10,000/month for their kids. Though Murdock's write-up may only be one person's opinion, Vlad Diaz, an ex-employee from the facility backed his claims. According to Diaz, he already witnessed several suicide attempts during his 11 months of employment. Diaz also added that the treatment center's way of tending the confined teens is quite shocking. He then shared that one of the reasons on why the treatment facility was the fact that he can't stand to see the teens being treated like animals. Empowering Parents then added while sending a troubled teen to teen boot camps may be ideal for some parents, it was mentioned that one of the best ways to help a troubled child is to work with them in going through tough times. The website also noted that there are not guarantees that troubled teen programs "Your child isn't a digital camera that you can mail away and get fixed and returned to you in working order," the website mentioned. "You have to change the dynamic within your family if you want to see results."  Source: http://www.parentherald.com/articles/63974/20160829/parenting-talk-does-treatment-centers-for-troubles-teens-inflict-more-harm-than-good.htm
Widespread abuse uncovered during investigation into Rhode Island boarding school Published September 01, 2016 Associated Press Facebook0 Twitter0 Email Print St. George's School in Middletown, R.I. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) An independent investigator looking at sexual abuse at the elite Rhode Island boarding school St. George's issued a report Thursday documenting widespread abuse there in the 1970s and 1980s. ADVERTISEMENT Among the findings is that at least one in five girls who attended the school in the 1970s was abused by athletic trainer Al Gibbs. It also found 10 school employees sexually abused at least 51 students in the 1970s and 1980s, and at least 10 students were abused by fellow students. "In the 1970s and 1980s, St. George's School betrayed the trust of the many St. George's students who became the targets of sexual abuse when they came to the school, and likewise betrayed the trust of parents who sent those students to St. George's with the expectation that it would be a safe place for them to live and learn," according to the report by Boston lawyer Martin Murphy. Murphy was hired in January by the school and the survivors' group SGS for Healing. Gibbs was fired in 1980 after being caught taking photographs of a naked girl in his office, but the report found that he was paid a $1,200 annual grant for "distinguished service" that continued until he died in 1996. The school acknowledged in December that he abused 17 students, but the report said that number was at least 31. Another teacher received a recommendation from the dean of the faculty despite his firing in 1988 for inappropriate sexual contact with a student, the report said. The report also suggested that the school's current headmaster did not appropriately handle reports of sexual misconduct by a teacher in 2004 and should have fired him rather than put him on leave. It also criticized the current board of trustees for "victim shaming" by issuing a statement earlier this year that cast doubt on the credibility of a student who accused the teacher of molestation. Attorney Eric MacLeish, a St. George's alumnus who represented dozens of victims at the school, called the report the most comprehensive recounting to date of sexual abuse at an American boarding school. State police previously conducted their own investigation and said they wouldn't bring charges for a variety of reasons, including the statute of limitations and changes in the laws since some of the abuse occurred.  Source: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/09/01/widespread-abuse-uncovered-during-investigation-into-rhode-island-boarding-school.html
Gazette editorial: Don’t fall prey to high-priced, unregulated private ‘academies’ September 10, 2016 Good-hearted parents who pay large fees to send their troubled teens to fundamentalist residential “academies” need to be cautious. Some such schools have ominous records.Two years ago, state officials closed Miracle Meadows Seventh-day Adventist school, in Harrison County, because a teacher allegedly choked a student unconscious and locked another in handcuffs, and because student residents alleged sexual abuse by fellow students. Miracle Meadows chief Susan Gayle Clark pleaded guilty to misdeameanor child-neglect charges and was sentenced this year.ADVERTISINGinRead invented by TeadsRecently, a Kanawha County case was in the news. Parents are suing ministers who operated the former Blue Creek Academy, near Clendenin, alleging that students were starved, beaten and sexually abused. One student said he was beaten with a board if he failed a test or didn’t memorize scripture, and was put on a diet of beans and water.A long report on the Daily Beast site is titled “Rapes, Daily Beatings and No Escape: Christian School Was Hell for These Boys.” It says parents paid $1,000 a month to send sons to the unlicensed Blue Creek school, which promised in advertisements to “watch God move as he helps us snatch troubled souls out of Satan’s hand.”  The site says Blue Creek students suffered “isolation, physical beatings and mistreatment, and at least two students reported sexual abuse by another student.” It says boys were “bunkered in dilapidated quarters that were infested with rats and mice.” They weren’t permitted to speak in public, except to sing hymns for churches and the elderly; they weren’t taken to the doctor and their calls home were monitored.The national report continued: “Like thousands of other religious private schools around the country — many of which become havens for abuse — Blue Creek Academy operated unlicensed, unregulated, and wholly unmonitored by the state.”State schools Superintendent Michael Martirano forced closure of the academy two years ago — and its principal moved to Montana, where he opened a Christian “ranch” in a three-bedroom house.Parents must be extremely wary of unregulated schools that prey on parents’ worries and desires to give their children the best opportunities. - See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/gazette-editorials/20160910/gazette-editorial-dont-fall-prey-to-high-priced-unregulated-private-academies#sthash.ZlcCntq3.dpuf 
Tehachapi Mountain Boys Home closes following citations BY DARLA A. BAKER dbaker@tehachapinews.com Updated 22 hrs ago Amid a slew of health and safety violations, Tehachapi Mountain Boys Home closed its doors after voluntarily surrendering its operating license with the California Department of Social Services. The group home, located on Highline Road, was a privately held company operated by Annie R. Pritchard. It was licensed in April 2007 to serve six ambulatory boys between the ages of 12 and 17 with 24-hour, non-medical care and supervision, including two clients placed by Merced and Fresno counties. "They surrendered their license at the end of May following 12 complaint investigations," Michael Weston, a spokesman for the state Department of Social Services, said Thursday. As of May 31, the group home was assessed an estimated $33,150 in civil penalties resulting from cited violations issued in March and April 2016, according to the state Department of Social Services website. Also, according to its website, Department of Social Services-licensed evaluators made a total of 32 visits to the home since May 2012, which resulted in the group home receiving 15 Type A citations and 108 Type B citations. Type A citations are classified as having an immediate health, safety or personal rights impact, whereas Type B citations are classified as having a potential impact. According to Weston, the average number of annual visits per group home is based on many factors, including the number of previously issued citations. Weston stated that the number of citations issued at the Tehachapi Mountain Boys Home was "a high number." In addition, the group home was subjected to three unannounced inspections since opening, the latest on March 28. During this inspection, citations were written for faulty fixtures, furniture equipment and supplies, expired food and sanitation of building and grounds. In addition, civil penalties were assessed for lack of documentation, including minutes from the board of directors' meetings, posting of complaint procedures, a written disaster and mass casualty plan of action, personnel records on the administrator, records of cash resources and personal property of clients, and proof of mandatory training of child care staff members. "We did not receive proper training," said Becky Gage, who served as a child care worker for 19 months until the group home's closure. "In fact, I found a phony CPR license with my name on it, and I snagged a copy of it and gave it to Community Care Licensing." According to the CDSS website, on April 20, the group home received an additional citation for Pritchard's deficiency in maintaining the hours necessary to manage and administer the facility. "In the last eight or nine months prior to her shutting down, I did not see her (Pritchard)," Gage said. According to CDSS spokesman Weston, Tehachapi Mountain Boys Homes was classified as a Level 12 group home. The rate level is based on the experience and expertise of the staff at the group home. The higher the rate level, the higher the basic rate paid to the group home per child, per month, with Level 14 being the highest. "The average basic rate for Level 12 would be $9,182 per child, per month," said Weston, adding that this rate of pay had the potential to increase on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of the child, including therapeutic services. Weston said this money comes from a variety of sources, including federal, state and education funds, in addition to private parties who place their own children. Children in group homes who are under court jurisdiction may be placed there due to violations of law or as dependent children removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Weston stated that children are placed in group homes by placement agencies based on the needs of the child. According to Weston, even though the group home has closed and surrendered its license, Pritchard may still face further actions. "The department is still actively involved in the investigation of the group home," Weston said. As of press time, Pritchard had not responded to requests for comment.  Source: http://www.tehachapinews.com/news/tehachapi-mountain-boys-home-closes-following-citations/article_bcfc588a-76aa-11e6-a268-f79da2c9a316.html
Long Island Abuse Case Reveals Risks of Out-of-State Foster Care By NIKITA STEWART and JOSEPH GOLDSTEINSEPT. 13, 2016 Continue reading the main story Share This Page Continue reading the main story Share Tweet Email More Save Photo Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu’s house in Ridge, N.Y. Over the course of 20 years, he brought more than 100 children into his home. Credit Gordon M. Grant for The New York Times The website features photographs and short biographies of children, some with special needs. Choices can be narrowed by gender, age, race and ethnicity. The State of Washington turns to sites, like the Washington Adoption Resource Exchange, to help find adoptive parents for children. The state’s goal is to keep the children near family and familiar surroundings, but if officials cannot find a suitable match, they consider homes out of state — even across the country in New York. That is how Washington first found Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, who lives in Ridge, N.Y., on Long Island. He reached out after seeing children online in 2009. Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu eventually took in three boys from Washington, two of whom he adopted. They were among more than 100 children he cared for over some 20 years, a vast majority of whom came from New York City. But Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu, a foster parent trusted by so many social workers, is now in jail awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing five of his adopted sons and endangering the welfare of two foster children. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s arrest prompted questions about why it took so long for the alleged abuse to be revealed. But it also drew attention to the practice of sending foster children far from the communities they knew — in this case, nearly 3,000 miles — to find a home. Some states use such long-distance placement because their own systems are struggling to find a place for children with special needs. Advocates say such long-distance arrangements can be positive because they can help children find homes more quickly. But effective oversight of even local foster care providers has proved a difficult task for many child welfare agencies nationwide; distance adds another obstacle. Continue reading the main story Advertisement Continue reading the main story Records obtained by The New York Times show that social workers in Washington were confused about the status of a 2014 investigation into abuse in Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home across the country. At that time, they continued to actively guide Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu in his efforts to adopt a third boy because they did not know details of the investigation. “#1 Do you know anything about the investigation,” Amy Herring, a social worker in Washington, wrote in an email to Erin Coyle, who at the time was a director at SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit foster care agency in New York that monitored Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu on behalf of Washington. “#2 Do you know when the adoption paperwork may be done by?” Ms. Coyle “is no longer employed by the agency,” SCO said. Ms. Coyle did not respond to requests for comment through messages left by phone and sent via Facebook. For his part, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu, who was licensed to run a therapeutic home for special needs children, continued to be paid. From September 2010 through January 2016, when he was arrested, he received nearly $145,000 from Washington for caring for children placed with him, in addition to money he received from New York City for caring for local foster children. Photo Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. Credit New York Police Department Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. His lawyer, Donald Mates Jr., said the allegations were false. The first mention of Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s name in Washington State’s records was in late 2009, and was positive. He was interested in adopting a boy listed on an adoption website. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Lori Whittaker, a social worker, wrote in a case file in December 2009 that the staff thought he would be a “good placement.” Also, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had told them that none of the child’s special needs “scare me.” (The children’s names, as well as confidential information, were redacted from files given to The Times.) Soon after, on Feb. 3, 2010, another social worker, Veronica L. Mo, wrote something similar and said he had also asked about another child. Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu traveled to Washington to meet one of the boys, according to the records. He soon took another child. Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu was a one-man operation used by several different agencies that considered his home a safe haven for boys who were developmentally or physically disabled, or had severe behavioral problems. That dependency proved blinding for those agencies, law enforcement officials have said. Mr. Mates said that nothing was overlooked and that his client is innocent. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had been the subject of 30 to 40 complaints about abuse or other mistreatment of children, and the police or social services had investigated them all, Mr. Mates said. “Each and every time that an investigation was done, no charges were brought,” he said. Today’s Headlines Wake up each morning to the day’s top news, analysis and opinion delivered to your inbox. Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box. Invalid email address. Please re-enter. Receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services. Thank you for subscribing to Today’s Headlines. An error has occurred. Please try again later. You are already subscribed to this email. View all New York Times newsletters. See Sample Manage Email Preferences Not you? Privacy Policy And records suggested that the authorities at Washington’s child welfare agency were more directly involved in monitoring Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu than was New York City’s child welfare agency. Although New York’s agency sent more than 90 boys to him, it had outsourced oversight of Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu to the nonprofit SCO Family of Services. Through the years, there were several different agencies involved, like the boys’ schools, hospitals where they went for care, and a residential treatment center called Little Flower in Suffolk County. A developmentally disabled boy from Washington whom Gonzales-Mugaburu adopted left his direct supervision to live at Little Flower. There, in 2014, he told a psychotherapist about horrific abuses inside Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home on a quiet cul-de-sac. The therapist, Amy D’Antonio, alerted the authorities about the allegations, prompting an investigation by Suffolk County Child Protective Services. Ms. D’Antonio had helped the young man, who was 18 years old at the time, reconnect with his biological family in Washington. She said Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu objected, once approaching her in the parking lot of the treatment center and telling her that the teenager did not have the mental capacity to make such a decision. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu told her the boy was a “compulsive and pathological liar,” said Ms. D’Antonio, who in March sued Little Flower, her former employer, saying the agency should have acted more quickly to prevent further abuse of children in his care. Little Flower has disputed the claims in her lawsuit and says it “fully supported” her efforts to contact the authorities. Photo A car driving past the entrance to Little Flower, a residential treatment center in Suffolk County. A boy told a psychotherapist at Little Flower that Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had abused him. Credit Heather Walsh for The New York Times Yet while that investigation was underway, social workers in Washington were trying to place a third child with Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu. At the same time, Washington officials began to question why the state was paying Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu for a child who was no longer in his direct care. Questioned, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu became indignant, according to entries that social workers placed in his case file. He told Ms. Herring, the Washington social worker, that he resented being treated “like a crook and it hurts him.” “He reported that it also angers him deeply. They make him feel ‘dirty and undervalued,’” the entries read. Washington later found that Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had, in fact, been overpaid. But Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu continued to complain. On Jan. 12 this year, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu told Ms. Herring that he felt “once again insulted” over the disputed payments, according to records. But two days later, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu shifted the conversation. He told Ms. Herring that he was under investigation. “He reported that two ‘troubled boys’ are causing problems for him, and he wanted to make sure that the SW was aware of what is going on,” she wrote, using shorthand for social worker. At that point, one young man after another, including the 18-year-old adopted son from Washington, were coming forward with allegations of abuse. Two boys, 11 and 13, told the authorities about sexual misconduct in the home. Unlike allegations by boys in the past, theirs were believed, mostly because the boys did not have severe disabilities or emotional problems, said Detective Lt. Robert Donohue, commander of Suffolk County’s special victims unit. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Much of the blame for the failure to alert other agencies has been placed on SCO Family of Services in New York, which coordinated the placement of boys in Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home, with most coming from Long Island and the surrounding area. It has acknowledged that it could have taken more aggressive action after previous complaints. “Internal and external reviews have concluded that SCO had no knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct in this home,” the agency said. “Our review of this former foster parent, however, suggests that there were other issues with the home, and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made earlier.” It was child welfare officials in Washington who were most dependent on getting straight answers and accurate updates from SCO about conditions at Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home and the status of investigations. Norah West, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said, “We rely on information from the agency that is contracted to ensure the well-being of the child in that receiving state.” The mother of the 18-year-old boy, whom The Times is not naming to protect her son’s identity, grew up in the foster care system herself. She said she had struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, and could not believe her son had suffered in a system that she thought would help him. “I can’t believe they put him with someone like that,” she said. “Look what I did to my son.”  Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/nyregion/long-island-abuse-case-reveals-risks-of-out-of-state-foster-care.html?_r=0
Caregiver charged with abusing autistic teen in group home Updated Sep 13, 2016 (0) NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Delaware State Police have arrested a caregiver they say hit a 13-year-old autistic resident of a group home where she works. The agency said in a news release that the caregiver worked at the Manor Group Home, which is owned by the Christina School District. Police say the caregiver was seen repeatedly hitting the boy, who is autistic and doesn't speak. Troopers say another staff member intervened and stopped the assault. Authorities say a school nurse wrote on an injury report that she saw redness and bruising on victim's right upper arm and scratches on the back of his neck. Officials say warrants were obtained and on Tuesday, 53-year-old Harrietta Kanda of New Castle was arrested. She is charged with felony child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.  Source: http://www.dailyprogress.com/caregiver-charged-with-abusing-autistic-teen-in-group-home/article_36ff1483-7dbe-5a2d-ac60-0feaa7241d9b.html
Sitka Academy closes its doors Created on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 02:00 | Written by Colin Staub | inShare Share JW_DISQUS_VIEW_COMMENTS Loss of students from CYFS program prompts school district to shutter facility Sitka Academy, a program operated by the Newberg School District to serve youths in the care of Chehalem Youth and Family Services, is not operating during this school year due to a lack of students to attend its classes. The academy was attended solely by youths living in CYFS group homes, which a Department of Human Services spokesperson and an attorney for CYFS both confirmed are no longer housing residents. The state agency notified CYFS in June of its intention to revoke the Newberg care provider’s license to operate residential youth homes. The notice cited a number of incidents that came to light during a long investigation, including alleged neglect, maltreatment, lack of supervision, failure to follow procedures in mandatory reporting and protection of residents’ health and safety, and financial mismanagement. CYFS has since appealed the state’s decision and will contest the findings in a hearing set for this fall, but in the meantime DHS has relocated all residents of the three group homes that together housed 16 youths. “DHS began moving children upon filing an intent to revoke in June 2016,” DHS spokesperson Andrea Cantu-Schomus confirmed in an email. A fourth CYFS home was shut down by DHS last fall through the same process, with similar incidents cited for the closure. For several years young people living in CYFS homes who were enrolled in public schooling received education through the Long Term Care and Treatment (LTCT) program provided by the Willamette Education Service District (WESD). Admittance into that program was automatic for students living in the group homes, Newberg School District spokesperson Claudia Stewart said. Education service districts are used to provide programs that are in limited demand and may not be cost effective for an individual school district to hire full-time. ESDs serve multiple school districts, meaning personnel are shared in an effort to reduce costs for each district. The LTCT program aims to tailor teaching to the issues the youths in CYFS homes face. “To be admitted to a group home, it’s indicative that they have social, behavior and academic struggles,” Stewart said. But in April 2015, the WESD told the Newberg district it would no longer provide that program for Newberg students, and that beginning in the 2015-2016 school year the district would have to find another option to educate that population. The school district could not find another program to contract with, Stewart said, so it began developing its own in-house program to educate the youths. New employees were hired and trained and when the YMCA branch on Sitka Avenue closed in August 2015 the school district leased the building to open the LTCT program. The facility was remodeled and furnished with new equipment, and was dubbed Sitka Academy. It opened in September 2015 to 35 students, a number that Stewart said fluctuated by five or six students during the year, although those who left were quickly replaced. Staffing also fluctuated from 10 to 12 employees, based on how many students there were and whether they required an individual aide. All in all, startup and operational costs for Sitka Academy came to $800,000, made up of federal funding as well as from the Newberg School District general fund. The school district hoped to expand the program so it could serve other school districts as well (similar to the WESD). “We built this program to continue to operate,” Stewart said. But beginning in about April (two months before the state issued the intent to revoke notice) the numbers of students began to decline, Stewart said. In the intent to revoke notice, DHS said new admissions to the group homes were officially closed on May 19. The school year closed with 12 students at Sitka, Stewart said, only a third as many as the program opened with. The dwindling population raised questions about whether Sitka would have anyone to serve in the coming school year – questions that elicited few solid answers. Stewart said school district officials “were asking those questions for at least two months, and there was just not a clear answer.” And with about a dozen staff members slated to work in that program, a decision had to be made. There were vacant staff positions in other departments that the Sitka employees could be moved into if the program was going to shut down, Stewart said. Then the news of the state’s intention to revoke CYFS’s license came in June. With the Sitka program populated entirely by residents of those group homes, DHS told the district there would not be any students to serve, and the school district made plans to close Sitka and move the staff members into other departments. But once CYFS appealed the state’s move to revoke its license, a protective seal was ordered by the Department of Justice that barred release of most information about the case. At that point DHS stopped talking to the school district, Stewart said. In early August the school district received further confirmation from CYFS there would be no students to attend the Sitka program in the fall. All the staff members who worked in the one-year-old program have been reassigned to other school departments, Stewart said, adding that there are not yet any alternative plans for the Sitka building. There’s also no definitive answer on whether the program will start back up. After all, CYFS has not actually had its license revoked (see sidebar), and if it wins its appeal youths could potentially move back into the group homes. “We’ve been hearing mixed messages about the residential program starting up, meaning that (the Newberg School District) would need to start up the (Sitka) program to provide services for kids,” Stewart said Monday. “Despite efforts, there is no clear answer from CYFS or DHS because of the ongoing litigation.” Last week the Oregon Department of Education contacted the school district, Stewart said, advising it to hold off on taking action with the Sitka building due to the potential for the program to start back up mid-year. That would presumably be the case if CYFS wins the appeal and retains its license. “So the future of the Sitka (LTCT) program remains unclear and the school district remains in a holding pattern,” Stewart said. Attorney Connor Harrington, representing CYFS, said that while the residential services program no longer has any youth to serve for now, CYFS “is focusing on serving the community through its Chehalem Counseling Center, Youth Opportunity Occupation Program (YOOP) and (Lucky Finds) thrift store, which are all currently operating.” CYFS Executive Director Deborah Cathers-Seymour noted the YOOP program provides education to a population that was not served by Sitka Academy: youths who have dropped out and are not enrolled in public education through the school district, and who are working to earn their GED, to receive community college credit or other certifications. The program also teaches employment skills to help students enter the workforce, she said. YOOP has two facilities, in Newberg and McMinnville, and has more than 100 youth participants right now, Cathers-Seymour said. Many of those enrolled in YOOP programs “struggle with poverty, homelessness and behavioral concerns,” she said. “They have not been successful in mainstream public school settings and have typically dropped out.” As for the youths who were moved out of the group homes by DHS, it’s unclear where they have been relocated to. DHS declined to comment due to the protective order.  Source: http://www.pamplinmedia.com/nbg/142-news/322597-202390-sitka-academy-closes-its-doors-
Child dies in foster care; removed from home after falsified drug test By Brianna Smith Published: September 15, 2016, 3:19 pm Updated: September 15, 2016, 6:14 pm According to a new lawsuit, a 3-year-old died after being removed from his family because of a falsified drug test by Accurate Diagnostics of Laurens County. Elijah Jack Oberdier was removed from his parents home in January of 2015, after a hair strand drug test result given to Laurens County DSS said Oberdier had marijuana in his system. Elijah went to live with family members and was taken to visit other family in Western North Carolina. While there, Elijah died inside a house fire. A year and a half later, Elijah’s parents were charged with Unlawful Neglect of Child, even after it was proved Elijah’s test results were falsified by Lynn Craig, the owner of Accurate Diagnostics Laurens County. 7 other families have now filed lawsuits against Lynn Craig, Accurate Diagnostics, and DSS because of children being pulled from family members over falsified drug tests. Watch at 6 for a full interview.  Source: http://wspa.com/2016/09/15/child-dies-in-foster-care-removed-because-of-falsified-drug-test/
Long Island abuse case reveals risks of out-of-state foster care Originally published September 14, 2016 at 9:42 pm Back to story Restart gallery More  Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu’s house in Ridge, N.Y., last March. During the course of 20 years, he brought more than 100 foster children into his home. Gonzales-Mugaburu, a foster parent trusted by so many social workers, is in... (GORDON M. GRANT/NYT) More When the state of Washington can’t find local placement for children in need, it reaches out to out-of-state foster care. Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu from New York took in three boys from Washington, two of whom he adopted. Now he waits trial on charges of sexual abuse. Share story By Nikita Stewart and JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN The New York Times The website features photographs and short biographies of children, some with special needs. Choices can be narrowed by gender, age, race and ethnicity. The state of Washington turns to such sites, like the Washington Adoption Resource Exchange, to help find adoptive parents for children. The state’s goal is to keep the children near family and familiar surroundings, but if officials cannot find a suitable match, they consider homes out of state — even across the country in New York. That is how Washington first found Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, who lives in Ridge, New York, on Long Island. He reached out after seeing children online in 2009. Gonzales-Mugaburu eventually took in three boys from Washington, two of whom he adopted. They were among more than 100 children he cared for over some 20 years, a vast majority of whom came from New York City.  But the foster parent, trusted by so many social workers, is now in jail awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing five of his adopted sons and endangering the welfare of two foster children. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s arrest prompted questions about why it took so long for the alleged abuse to be revealed. But it also drew attention to the practice of sending foster children far from their communities — in this case, nearly 3,000 miles — to find a home. Some states use such long-distance placement because their own systems are struggling to find a place for children with special needs. Advocates say such long-distance arrangements can be positive because they can help children find homes more quickly. But effective oversight of even local foster-care providers has proved difficult for many child-welfare agencies nationwide; distance adds another obstacle. Records obtained by The New York Times show that social workers in Washington were confused about the status of a 2014 investigation into abuse in Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home. At that time, they continued to guide Gonzales-Mugaburu in his efforts to adopt a third boy because they did not know details of the investigation. “#1 Do you know anything about the investigation,” Amy Herring, a social worker in Washington, wrote in an email to Erin Coyle, who at the time was a director at SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit foster-care agency in New York that monitored Gonzales-Mugaburu on behalf of Washington. “#2 Do you know when the adoption paperwork may be done by?” Coyle “is no longer employed by the agency,” SCO said. Coyle did not respond to requests for comment through messages left by phone and sent via Facebook. For his part, Gonzales-Mugaburu, who was licensed to run a therapeutic home for special-needs children, continued to be paid. From September 2010 through January 2016, when he was arrested, he received nearly $145,000 from Washington for caring for children placed with him, in addition to money he received from New York City for caring for local foster children. Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. His lawyer, Donald Mates Jr., said the allegations were false. The first mention of Gonzales-Mugaburu’s name in Washington state’s records was in late 2009, and it was positive. He was interested in adopting a boy listed on an adoption website. Lori Whittaker, a social worker, wrote in a case file in December 2009 that the staff thought he would be a “good placement.” Also, Gonzales-Mugaburu had told them that none of the child’s special needs “scare me.” (The children’s names, as well as confidential information, were redacted from files given to The Times.) Soon after, on Feb. 3, 2010, another social worker, Veronica Mo, wrote something similar and said he had also asked about another child. Gonzales-Mugaburu traveled to Washington to meet one of the boys, according to the records. He soon took another child. Gonzales-Mugaburu was a one-man operation used by several different agencies that considered his home a safe haven for boys who were developmentally or physically disabled or had severe behavioral problems. That dependency proved blinding for those agencies, law enforcement officials have said. Mates said that nothing was overlooked and that his client was innocent. Over the past 20 years, Gonzales-Mugaburu was the subject of 30 to 40 complaints about abuse or other mistreatment of children, and the police or social services investigated them all, Mates said. “Each and every time that an investigation was done, no charges were brought,” he said. And records suggested that the authorities at Washington’s child welfare agency were more directly involved in monitoring Gonzales-Mugaburu than New York City’s child welfare agency. Although New York’s agency sent more than 90 boys to him, it had outsourced oversight of Gonzales-Mugaburu to the nonprofit SCO Family of Services. Through the years, there were several different agencies involved, like the boys’ schools, hospitals where they went for care and a residential treatment center called Little Flower in Suffolk County. A developmentally disabled boy from Washington whom Gonzales-Mugaburu adopted left his direct supervision to live at Little Flower. There, in 2014, he told a psychotherapist about horrific abuses inside Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home on a quiet cul-de-sac. The therapist, Amy D’Antonio, alerted the authorities about the allegations, prompting an investigation by Suffolk County Child Protective Services. D’Antonio helped the young man, who was 18 at the time, reconnect with his biological family in Washington. She said Gonzales-Mugaburu objected, once approaching her in the parking lot of the treatment center and telling her that the teenager did not have the mental capacity to make such a decision. Gonzales-Mugaburu told her the boy was a “compulsive and pathological liar,” said D’Antonio, who in March sued Little Flower, her former employer, saying the agency should have acted more quickly to prevent further abuse of children in his care. Little Flower has disputed the claims in her lawsuit and says it “fully supported” her efforts to contact the authorities. Yet, while that investigation was under way, social workers in Washington were trying to place a third child with Gonzales-Mugaburu. At the same time, Washington officials began to question why the state was paying Gonzales-Mugaburu for a child who was no longer in his direct care. Questioned, Gonzales-Mugaburu became indignant, according to entries that social workers placed in his case file. He told Herring he resented being treated “like a crook and it hurts him.” “He reported that it also angers him deeply. They make him feel ‘dirty and undervalued,’” the entries read. Washington later found that Gonzales-Mugaburu had, in fact, been overpaid. But Gonzales-Mugaburu continued to complain. On Jan. 12 this year, Gonzales-Mugaburu told Herring, of SCO, that he felt “once again insulted” over the disputed payments, according to records. But two days later, Gonzales-Mugaburu shifted the conversation. He told Herring he was under investigation. “He reported that two ‘troubled boys’ are causing problems for him, and he wanted to make sure that the SW was aware of what is going on,” she wrote, using shorthand for social worker. At that point, one young man after another, including the 18-year-old adopted son from Washington, were coming forward with allegations of abuse. Two boys, 11 and 13, told the authorities about sexual misconduct in the home. Unlike allegations by boys in the past, theirs were believed, mostly because the boys did not have severe disabilities or emotional problems, said Detective Lt. Robert Donohue, commander of Suffolk County’s special victims unit. Much of the blame for the failure to alert other agencies has been placed on SCO Family of Services in New York, which coordinated the placement of boys in Gonzales-Mugaburu home, with most coming from Long Island and the surrounding area. It has acknowledged that it could have taken more aggressive action after previous complaints. “Internal and external reviews have concluded that SCO had no knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct in this home,” the agency said. “Our review of this former foster parent, however, suggests that there were other issues with the home, and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made earlier.” It was child-welfare officials in Washington who were most dependent on getting straight answers and accurate updates from SCO about conditions at Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home and the status of investigations. Norah West, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said, “We rely on information from the agency that is contracted to ensure the well-being of the child in that receiving state.” The mother of the 18-year-old boy, whom The Times is not naming to protect her son’s identity, grew up in the foster-care system herself. She said that she had struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, and that she found it unthinkable her son had suffered in a system she thought would help him. “I can’t believe they put him with someone like that,” she said. “Look what I did to my son.” Nikita Stewart JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN  Source: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/long-island-abuse-case-reveals-risks-of-out-of-state-foster-care/
Teenage Girl Dies After Incident at For-profit Group Home The 15-year-old was a resident at a Delaware facility owned by AdvoServ, which has faced decades of reports of abuse. by Heather Vogell ProPublica, Sep. 20, 2016, 3:56 p.m. 4 Comments Print Print This is part of an ongoing investigation Restraints Do you know a child who has been forcibly restrained or secluded at school? Help us investigate by sharing your story.  Update, Sep. 20, 2016: The Maryland Department of Human Resources said late Tuesday that it has terminated its contract with AdvoServ after determining “it is in the best interest of the children in our care” to move the children to other providers. “Our Department is moving swiftly, and with great care and consideration, to evaluate and identify placements that are the best fit, and that meet the unique needs of each child,” spokeswoman Katherine Morris said in a prepared statement. She did not say how many Maryland children are still in AdvoServ’s care and how long it will take to remove them all. A teenage girl died last week after an incident at a group home in Delaware run by a for-profit company, AdvoServ, whose long record of problematic treatment ProPublica chronicled last year. Attorney Chris Gowen, who has a lawsuit against AdvoServ concerning a different teen, said he has learned workers were manually restraining the girl when she became unresponsive. He and his clients have spoken to current and former workers about the incident. “While we await further information we do hope that a full investigation into this latest incident occurs,” he said. AdvoServ did not answer questions about the death. A spokesman declined to say whether the girl was being held down – manually restrained – before staff called 911. “Our staff is heartbroken over the loss of a young woman in our care, and our deepest sympathies go out to her mother and extended family,” the company said in a brief statement. The spokesman said mechanical restraint devices, which include wrist and ankle cuffs, were not involved in the Delaware death and are not used in group homes in that state anymore. The girl, whose name state police did not release, died Wednesday in a Delaware hospital, two days after an ambulance took her from the home for youth with developmental or intellectual disabilities and serious behavior challenges. Delaware state police and regulators also haven’t said what happened to the 15-year-old from Maryland. The state medical examiner’s office is conducting an autopsy, but a spokeswoman said the results will not be made public. Maryland is one of several states that send difficult cases to AdvoServ because they cannot find beds and schooling closer to home. The company, which is owned by a private equity firm, is based in Delaware and reported last year that it cared for roughly 700 children and adults in that state, Florida, and New Jersey, and was expanding into Virginia. Gowen filed a lawsuit this summer in Delaware against AdvoServ , on behalf of a young resident who says he was left unsupervised and raped repeatedly by other clients at AdvoServ homes during more than four years there. His neck was also injured during a restraint performed by workers. “[W]e learned of a significant number of instances where improper restraints were used involving our client,” Gowen said. Delaware state police and the state agency charged with licensing group homes and investigating abuse in institutions are looking into the girl’s death. Asked whether Delaware regulators were taking steps to sanction the company or putting extra precautions in place to ensure children’s safety there, Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families spokeswoman Dawn Thompson said the agency had begun an inquiry: “Once completed we will determine any next steps if warranted.” The girl is not the first child to die under questionable circumstances at AdvoServ’s homes and schools. In 2013, Paige Lunsford, 14 and autistic, died at the company’s Florida complex after a night in which she was restrained – at times latched to a bed and chair – while she vomited repeatedly. And in 1997, 14-year-old Jon Henley, who was autistic and had epilepsy, was found dead in his bed one morning after an apparent seizure. An autopsy revealed low levels of anti-seizure medication in his blood. Regulators in multiple states have fielded decades of complaints of abuse, neglect and inadequate medical care at AdvoServ facilities. Leslie Seid Margolis, a managing attorney with Disability Rights Maryland, said she has raised concerns about AdvoServ’s care in Delaware dating back a decade. Her agency, which represents people with disabilities, has received multiple complaints about AdvoServ – including two that came in last fall alleging sexual and physical abuse. Margolis said that a few years before, she had obtained a copy of AdvoServ’s policies for its Delaware homes – which she described as “draconian.” They outlined the use of measures including wrist, waist and ankle restraints. Unrestrained While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability. Read the story. What Happened to Adam It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos. Read the story. “Every kind of restraint you could imagine,” she said. “It was horrifying.” Maryland eventually told AdvoServ it could no longer use mechanical restraints on children from the state. A former worker for AdvoServ in Delaware, who asked that his name not be used, said he left three years ago in part because he felt staff did not receive enough training in deescalating conflicts or restraining clients. The company had been trying out new restraint procedures that were supposed to make restraints less forceful by involving more staff members. But, he said, with too few staff often available to carry out the restraints as planned, “It just becomes unsafe.” In response to the worker’s comments, AdvoServ’s spokesman pointed out that he left three years ago, but did not elaborate further. The company is one of the few group home operators that still use restraint devices to confine clients who become aggressive. As ProPublica has reported, AdvoServ staff used such mechanical restraints on clients at its 200-bed campus northwest of Orlando roughly 28,000 times. Florida officials said in June that they were moving clients out of AdvoServ’s complex and stationing an investigator there to provide extra oversight during the transition, which they expected to take months. If you have information about AdvoServ, email reporter Heather Vogell. Like this story? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get more of our best work.  Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/teenage-girl-dies-after-incident-at-for-profit-group-home
Man accused of assault on group home resident pleads guilty The Associated Press Updated 22 hrs ago (2) PAPILLION — A man who worked at a Bellevue group home for developmentally disabled people has been convicted in the sexual assault of one of the residents. Adrian Galbreath, 39, pleaded guilty Monday to attempted sexual assault and two counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult. Prosecutors lowered the assault charge in exchange for Galbreath's pleas. He's scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 21. Court records say Galbreath worked at Hands of Heartland and had invited the group home resident to Galbreath's Bellevue apartment on Sept. 23 last year. Authorities say Galbreath pushed down and began to assault the man after the man became intoxicated. A Hands of Heartland official has said Galbreath is no longer an employee.  Source: http://journalstar.com/news/local/911/man-accused-of-assault-on-group-home-resident-pleads-guilty/article_79bf33ba-abe9-5d57-b167-c1a1c40d1803.html
Stories of abuse at N.J. group homes spark lawmakers to demand action 1 / 24 Bill would provide oversight for developmentally disabled TRENTON - Monday, September 19, 2016 Chaired by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the state Assembly Human Service Committee meets to discuss a bill that would provide stronger oversight and investigative power of group homes and other housing for people with developmental disabilities. Aileen Rivera, who has a son Daniel, now 31, who she described as "a little boy in the inside," shows a graphic photograph of her son after she says he was beaten while living at a Northern New Jersey development center. At left is Martha Cray, of Roselle Park, mother and advocate, with Family Alliance to Stop Abuse and Neglect, NJ, (Michael Mancuso | For NJ.com) Michael Mancuso | For NJ.com Print Email By Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger Email the author | Follow on Twitter on September 19, 2016 at 6:40 PM, updated September 19, 2016 at 11:51 PM comments TRENTON — If a child came home from day care or school with bruises, burns and broken bones, parents would rightfully demand an explanation and administrators would expect to be held accountable. So why do people with developmental disabilities deserve any less of a response?  Gus Egizi of Hammonton politely but firmly posed this question Monday to members of the Assembly Human Services Committee as they debated a bill that would impose stricter rules on state licensed group home operators. Egizi said his 37-year-old son, Michael, suffered a sunburn so bad he needed hospital care, as well as multiple bruises and injuries while under the care of group home and hospital staff. He's hired lawyers to get answers, but those requests have been ignored. "This would not be tolerated if it had happened at a day care center or a school," Egizi said. "This is a human rights issue. This is a civil rights issue." Aileen Rivera, a councilwoman from Wayne, said her 31-year-old son still suffers from the anxiety from enduring beatings, being restrained for hours and humiliated when a worker urinated on him. "There is an urgency to this bill," Rivera said. "Lives depend on it." The committee approved the bill by a 6-0 vote that would require: Six unannounced inspections at a group home every year; Drug testing for group home employees; Family and guardian notification within an hour after a medical emergency; Investigators to seek input from families or guardians and provide them progress reports during investigations. The bill (A2503) is named for Stephen Komninos, a 22-year-old man who died in 2007 when he was left unsupervised against medical orders, and choked to death on a bagel. Panel OKs new inspection rules for disabled Both bills require the state to make unannounced site visits, and in the event a disabled person is harmed, the agency responsible must in most cases notify the family or guardian within two hours "The protections afforded by this bill are too late to save Stephen's life. He did not survive the system," said Thomas J. Komninos of Upper Saddle River said of his son. "But today you will hear about others who have, so far, survived. Please do what is right for these people. Let's start giving them the same rights and protections enjoyed by all the other people in New Jersey. Tom Baffuto, executive director for The Arc of New Jersey, a statewide advocacy organization that has group home providers in each county, said he was "crushed" to hear the stories about their loved ones' abuse and neglect. But the remedy offered through this bill won't help and could make conditions worse, Baffuto said. The state Department of Human Services does not have the staff to perform six unannounced visits a year, and adding more inspectors will divert money away from services, Baffuto said. Three inspections is more reasonable and was included in the bill's first iteration in 2014, he said. The same committee passed a similar bill two years ago, but chairwoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) who is also the sponsor, said she abandoned that measure in order to meet with interested parties and develop "more comprehensive legislation."  It's hard enough to attract a group home workforce when the average starting salary is a meager $10.50 an hour. Requiring applicants pay for the test will deter applicants, Baffuto said.  "Sometimes even with the best of intentions, things that look good on paper are virtually impossible to operationalize," Baffuto said. Susan K. Livio may be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.  Source: http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/09/stories_of_abuse_and_neglect_at_group_homes_sparks.html
Child care home in Jackson County license suspended Jon Szerlag 3:52 PM, Sep 20, 2016 3:53 PM, Sep 20, 2016 A judge's gavel is seen on February 2, 2009 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle Copyright Getty Images After investigating complaints into a group child care home in Jackson County, The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and the Bureau of Community and Health Systems issued an order of summary suspension and notice of intent to revoke the child care group home license. In a press release it states, the department received a complaint on Sept. 16 on the location, at 3800 Dormay. The license that is suspended belonged to Lisa Riggins, who has held a license to operate a group child care home since Oct. 27, 2011. The license was for 12 children. The investigation into the complaint found violations of the Child Care Organizations Act and administrative rules regarding caregiver and child care home family and caregiver responsibilities, states the release. LARA took emergency action to protect the health, welfare and safety of the children involved. The summary suspension order prohibits Riggins from operating a group child care home at the location, or any other address or location. She also cannot accept children for care after 6 p.m. Sept. 16, according to the release. The order also requires Riggins to inform all of the parents of children in her care that her license has been suspended and that she can no longer provide child care. According to the release, Michigan law defines a group child care home as “a private home in which more than 6 but not more than 12 minor children are given care and supervision for periods of less than 24 hours a day unattended by a parent or legal guardian, except children related to an adult member of the family by blood, marriage, or adoption. Group child care home includes a home in which care is given to an unrelated minor child for more than 4 weeks during a calendar year.” Riggins has the right to appeal the suspension, and the case will be forwarded to the Michigan Administrative Hearing System for a hearing date.  Source:  http://www.fox47news.com/news/local-news/child-care-home-in-jackson-county-license-suspended
Courage House Claimed to Save Sex-Trafficked Girls. Instead, It Used Them As Funding Bait While Playing Evangelical Christian Missionary Courage House received about $9,100 in government support per month per girl it took in. Elizabeth Nolan Brown|Sep. 20, 2016 9:40 am Courage Worldwide/FacebookOnce girls arrived at the house, they were expected to hand over their cellphones. Internet access was also strictly limited—Jenny's rules. For "her girls" to stay in good graces, they were expected to do as she said, go where she told them to, and be available when she wanted to show them off in photos or at events. It's the kind of controlling, exploitative situation police warn us that runaway teens are likely to end up in at the hands of human traffickers. But in this case, control came via the people ostensibly helping—and accepting a lot of private and government money to help—these girls, under the auspices of an organization called Courage Worldwide. Founded in 2011 by Jenny T. Williamson (on direct orders from God, or so she claims), the Sacramento-based organization provided housing and services for formerly sex-trafficked young women at a California group home (Courage House) as well as a sister site in Tanzania. For her work as CEO of the nonprofit, Williamson paid herself $115,000 in 2015, according to the organization's tax report. The group reported net assets of $1.4 million that year. In addition to accepting donations from numerous local businesses, it received about $9,100 in government support per month per girl it took in. Most of the girls that lived at Courage House were referred by social workers or probation officers. Once at Courage House, the girls were supposed to be able to heal in comfort and privacy. Instead, they found themselves cut off from the outside world, with services and staff lacking (one former employee said she was told there was only money for two of the six girls per month to see a psychiatrist), while being subjected to the invasive publicity demands of Williamson, according to a Sacramento Bee expose on the group. "Public documents show that Williamson voluntarily closed the six-bed facility, effective June 14, amid a flurry of state inspections that found numerous violations, including inadequate staffing levels and no current administrator working at the home," the paper reported in August. "Williamson is appealing many of the citations, and is adamant that the closure is only temporary." So temporary, apparently, that Williamson didn't bother telling her donors about the shutdown until after the Bee contacted them. A former Courage House employee told the newspaper that the group had been cited by the state 16 times between January and June of 2016, for violations including breaching residents' privacy and inadequate staffing. Last fall, it was cited for giving tours of the group home and holding lunches there, for forcing residents to attend Christian church services every week, and for not respecting residents' freedom of religion. In interviews with The Bee, six ex-employees and a former business associate described a volatile environment for workers and high turnover among line staff at Courage House. The former workers singled out Williamson as a temperamental leader with no child-development background who micromanaged her trained staff and became so swept up in her own publicity and expansion plans that the core mission began to falter. The workers described a corporate organization in which staff members were frequently countermanded or abruptly fired for raising questions about "the vision," or for expressing concerns over the corporate office's sharing of clients' confidential information in fundraising or publicity efforts. Several ex-employees said they were upset by the use of identifiable images of Courage House girls on the company's Facebook page. It sounds like Williamson acted more like the proverbial controlling pimp or madam than someone truly dedicated to helping exploited teenagers. Which would be gross enough for the sheer hypocrisy of it, but imagine how much it could also have further messed up these girls, assuming they did come to her because they had been forced or coerced into prostitution. Now the people who "rescued" them are employing the same sort of isolating and controlling techniques they escaped, treating them more like Courage Worldwide products than people, and publicizing their images and past horror stories to the whole community. DeAnne Brining, a licensed therapist who had contracted with Courage House, described the situation as "abusive" and said Williamson routinely "paraded the girls around" for marketing purposes. Another former employee told the Bee "everything was a photo op." (Read the whole damning expose here.) The publicity efforts, at least, worked: Williamson can be seen on the Courage Worldwide website posing alongside people like former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt and actresses Julianne Moore and Eva Longoria. She's been honored by the FBI and L'Oreal. Williamson complained to the Bee that caring for trafficked youth has left her tired. "It is difficult to love someone that does not love themself," she said. Courage Worldwide's website still touts the organization's expansion plan, which includes opening 10 new cottages for underage sex-trafficking victims, in both the U.S. and Tanzania. "Sex trafficking has become a 'cause celebre' in the evangelical community," notes Broadly. And as it has, church-backed "abolition" efforts and Christian group-homes for "rescued" girls have proliferated, with many evangelicals seeing the sex-trafficking angle as a new way to attack long-time opposition to prostitution and pornography. "The numbers of [houses] have surged because the issue has for ten-plus years been promoted by entities like the US federal government, which provides significant funding for rescue efforts," Laura Agustín, anthropologist and author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry, told Broadly. "It is not surprising that opportunists leap on the bandwagon, with or without good intentions." In the past few years, a number of high-profile rescue groups have been exposed for shady behavior. The most well-known was Somaly Mam, whose fraudulent foundation had been celebrated by everyone from Hillary Clinton to Nicholas Kristof to Meg Ryan before it crashed in a haze of half-truths and distortions. Then Chong Kim, the poster-victim for several sex-trafficking rescue groups (and subject of the 2012 film Eden), was also found to be fudging many details about her alleged abuse. Think things are better in other countries? Anne Elizabeth Moore's excellent comic book Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking, published earlier this year, shows how rescue organizations in places like Cambodia "save" women from the sex trade only to exploit them in garment factories. A 2015 report from Truthout looked at 50 of the most prominent (and well-funded) anti--human-trafficking organizations in America—groups with a net worth of about $686 million, or $13.7 million per group, per year. "The US anti-trafficking movement seems to be one of the few reliable growth areas in the United States' post-recession economy besides low-wage service work," Truthout reported. Its analysis found many of the groups were secretive about budgets and funding, promoted unsourced or patently false statistics about human trafficking, and offered dubious claims about the services they provide and the impact of their efforts. "All in all," concluded Truthout, "the impact numbers presented by anti-trafficking organizations— their justification for existence and, of course, funding—are simply absurd."  Source: http://reason.com/blog/2016/09/20/courage-house-claimed-to-save-but
Why we should do everything possible to avoid foster care and keep kids with their families Facebook Twitter Email 7Comments Print 1/1 File Photo/Staff Advocates for foster children, including Dallas CASA, announced a Stand Up for Children campaign in 2008 in Dallas.   By Cherylee Gillispie Contributor Published: 20 September 2016 02:35 PM Updated: 20 September 2016 03:25 PM When I read about the crisis in Texas foster care system, all I can think about is my beautiful younger sister Nannette. Nannette got out of foster care, but she didn't survive. She became a statistic, a victim of the consequences of what experts call adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. Research has shown that ACEs accumulate over time, and the number of these experiences in childhood predicts morbidity and mortality in adulthood. It doesn't say it on her death certificate, but Nannette died from too many ACEs.  When I was 12 and she was 11, our mother needed treatment for alcohol addiction. But, in those days — as is true today — the foster care payment system gave priority to placing kids in foster care instead of providing treatment that their parents needed in order to care for the children themselves. What happened to Nannette and to me was unspeakable child abuse in the home of foster parents who were paid to take care of us. What we wanted was for our mother to get better and for her to take care of us. What we got from the foster care system was abuse from our foster father and neglect by the system.  A bill before Congress would turn those priorities around, helping parents who are in treatment to become clean, sober, and better parents, so they can keep their kids. The Family First Prevention Services Act has passed out of the House but hit opposition in the Senate from Texas group home providers who want to protect the status quo. The legislation increases standards for residential care so kids aren't warehoused in group homes without getting the care they need. Over time, the Family First Act shifts some funding from foster care to programs that can provide treatment for parents so that they can safely care for their own kids. That's exactly what Nannette and I longed for so many years ago.  My childhood experience drove me to succeed. I worked very hard to get through college and raise three wonderful boys. My family now includes a caring husband, beautiful daughters-in-law, seven fabulous grandchildren and even a new great-grandbaby. But my passion has become advocating for Texas abused and neglected children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for more than three years. I have the responsibility to make sure that children in foster care have a caring adult who advocates for what is best for them.  For the kids I work with, the best for them is to stay with their parents whenever possible. The trauma of separating from their parents just adds to their number of ACEs, and the vast majority of children who are removed in Texas are in the system because of their parents' substance abuse and mental health treatment needs, according to scientific reports and unpublished data presented by the Administration on Children Youth and Families officials.  It's no longer news that the Texas foster care system is in crisis. There are not enough foster placements so kids are sleeping in social work offices. More kids are coming into the system. It is astonishing to me that in the midst of this crisis, our state policymakers don't support legislation to prevent kids from needing foster care in the first place. We need a different track for families reported for neglect, with family-based treatment centers providing on-site substance abuse and mental health services. Various studies show that family-based treatment is not only more cost effective than placement in foster care. It reduces trauma and ACEs scores so children can thrive. This legislation will save money and lives. Cherylee Gillispie is an advocate for abused and neglected children as a court appointed special advocate and volunteer with nonprofit children and family agencies in the Dallas area. Email: Cherylee2177@gmail.com   Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20160920-why-we-should-do-everything-possible-to-avoid-foster-care-and-keep-kids-with-their-families.ece
Foster care system doesn’t meet two-thirds of requirements, audit finds Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Department for Children and Families, answers questions in July about the audit of her department at a Post Audit Committee meeting in Topeka. EMILY DESHAZER/THE CAPITAL-JOURN File photo i By Gabriella Dunn gdunn@wichitaeagle.com LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story Topeka The state’s foster care system complies with only about a third of the federal requirements assessed by state auditors, according to a report released Wednesday. The findings come after a July audit that found the state system failed to ensure the safety of kids in foster care. The July findings prompted some Democrats to call for the resignation of the secretary for the Department for Children and Families, which oversees Kansas’ privatized foster care system. Wednesday’s report found that the Department for Children and Families did not consistently meet requirements aimed at providing stability for children. For example, sometimes a child’s schoolwork is disrupted because the system does not try to keep the child in the same school district or school. The state also didn’t meet requirements for the percentage of children who should be adopted within one to two years after entering into foster care, according to the audit. But it did consistently meet federal requirements about placing children with relatives and siblings. Three-part audit These audits are part of a three-part investigation. The first audit focused on safety concerns. The second part, released Wednesday, focused on compliance with applicable state and federal laws governing the foster care system. The final portion of the audit will research foster care costs, resources and outcomes. That audit will be released next year. Wednesday’s findings showed the Department for Children and Families did not meet all federal requirements related to monitoring and paying the private companies it contracts with to provide foster care. And self-reported data showed Kansas met or exceeded about half of the federal outcome requirements for fiscal year 2016, which ended in June. A federal audit revealed the Department for Children and Families was in compliance with about a third of the areas assessed and “not in substantial compliance” with the other two-thirds.     The audit in July revealed that foster parents received initial background checks, but other people in the home did not; not all children received monthly case-management visits; and the Department for Children and Families did not ensure that licensed foster homes had enough money to care for the child. Addressing issues Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, spoke Wednesday to legislators about efforts to resolve the issues highlighted in the July report and ways it’s already working to resolve the issues brought up in Wednesday’s report. She talked about bolstering social worker recruitment and training and gave updates on regulation changes at the state level. One included expanding background checks for everyone over the age of 10 in a child’s home. The state previously required background checks only for foster parents. Gilmore also said the agency plans to receive real-time updates on arrests or charges against people living in the child’s home. And the department will submit an improvement plan to the federal government about how it will address areas where it was not in compliance. She also tried to address concerns from legislators by emphasizing lower rates of abuse and maltreatment. “Children are not suffering maltreatment while they’re in custody,” Gilmore said. “There’s lots of trauma when they’re removed from the home, (but) while they’re in custody in Kansas, children are safe by all measurements.” Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, disagreed. “I have to take exception with ‘children are not in maltreatment,’ ” Kelly said, citing a Topeka case in which a child was being abused. “You need to be very careful making those blanket statements that are not true.” Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article103311982.html#storylink=cpy 
Grand jury probing foster care; new charges filed in NY case By FRANK ELTMAN Sep. 22, 2016 2:09 PM EDT Share article   2 photos FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office in... Read more i By: FRANK ELTMAN (AP) RIVERHEAD, N.Y.Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 40.917-72.662 RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (AP) — A special grand jury has been empaneled to investigate New York's foster care system following the arrest of a Long Island man on child sex abuse charges. The man had welcomed dozens of boys into his Ridge home, dating back two decades, before allegations of sex abuse surfaced, creating questions about oversight over the foster parent system. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Thursday the special grand jury, which has been meeting since mid-August and may not conclude its work until early 2017, is "assessing all of the facts and circumstances involving how he was able to take all these boys in." It also is investigating other possible crimes involving the suspect. It was not clear if the grand jury would file additional criminal charges or issue a report on its findings, with recommendations for changes in the foster care system. Various governmental agencies and private foster care organizations are being examined. Spota also told reporters the grand jury would investigate how the suspect was able to obtain some of the children in his care from out-of-state foster care agencies, including Washington.  Undo Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was arrested last winter and charged with victimizing seven children as young as 8. One count in an indictment alleges he sexually abused a dog in front of a child. On Thursday, a new indictment was unsealed accusing him of abusing one additional child and added charges involving some of the children identified as victims in the initial charges. A prosecutor also said it was likely some charges from the first indictment may be dropped because some of the alleged crimes happened too long ago to fall under statute of limitations laws. Defense attorney Donald Mates entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client; Gonzales-Mugaburu is being held without bail. Mates told reporters after the arraignment that his client denies ever abusing children, and suggested the alleged victims were lying. Spota said previously that statute of limitations laws prevented prosecutors from filing charges involving other abuse allegations. Since the scandal erupted, separate investigations have been started by state, city and Long Island officials. Questions remain about how Gonzales-Mugaburu was able to keep getting children placed in his home despite years of concern about his conduct. Before his arrest, Gonzales-Mugaburu was the subject of nine previous investigations involving alleged abuse dating to 1998, according to a spokeswoman for Suffolk County. Each of those inquiries led to a finding at the time that the allegations weren't credible, and none of them immediately led to the removal of children from his split-level ranch home on eastern Long Island. A break came in January, when detectives said two brothers who lived in the house came forward with credible stories of abuse. Once Gonzales-Mugaburu was in custody, others felt more comfortable coming forward, authorities said. SCO Family of Services, an agency that placed 72 New York City children in Gonzales-Mugaburu's care over 20 years, said it never uncovered evidence of sexual abuse or improper sexual behavior in the home. But the organization's chief strategy officer, Rose Anello said in July that there were other issues with the home, particularly around 2013, "and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made at that time." She said those issues involved Gonzales-Mugaburu being uncooperative and unwilling to accept staff guidance on parenting style, but none of the issues then hinted at anything like the allegations uncovered this year. Following the Gonzales-Mugaburu arrest, the city's Administration for Children's Services temporarily halted placing children in SCO foster homes, but announced in July that a review of 370 homes operated by SCO uncovered no indications abuse was occurring at any of those sites. ___ This story has been corrected to show children stopped being placed in SCO foster homes, not SCO facilities.  Source: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/9540df69180c45008ea91bc9835498e4/ap-newsbreak-da-grand-jury-probing-ny-foster-care-system#
Fort Lauderdale Finally Shuts Down Troubled Group Home; Director’s $2.25 Million Mansion for Sale Friday, September 23, 2016 at 8:54 a.m. By Antonia Noori Farzan EXPAND Chrysalis Health executive director Manuel Menendez's home, which is currently for sale. Photo by Antonia Farzan A A Facebook 74 Twitter 4 More shares recommend reddit email - 1 For at least six years, Crescent House, a Fort Lauderdale group home for teenage boys, was the source of constant calls to the police. Neighbors found crack cocaine baggies littering the streets and said that kids pelted their cars with rocks. This summer, the city finally shut down the facility, which was run by Chrysalis Health, a for-profit company. But similar issues still persist at the five other group homes run by Chrysalis, Broward County public defenders say. “When I’ve visited in the past, I was shocked at the manner in which these homes are being run,” Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes says. “The lack of supervision, the autonomy that these children have to go out whenever they want, wherever they want… The kids could literally sleep all day and not go to school.” Kids who end up in a group home are typically there because they’ve been abandoned, abused, or neglected by their families, so placing them in a situation where they have minimal oversight and receive little in the way of therapeutic treatment is a recipe for disaster. (New Times documented the consequences, including rampant drug use and teen prostitution, in a lengthy investigation last year.) Related Stories After New Times Investigation, City Moves to Close Fort Lauderdale Group Home With Lax Supervision at State-Contracted Group Homes, Teen Prostitution and Drug Use Are Rampant “We’re talking about kids that are really on the cusp,” Weekes says. “They just shut them down and marginalize them, and as a result, they detach.” Meanwhile, as the city of Fort Lauderdale has been working to shut down Crescent House, Chrysalis Health executive director Manuel Menendez bought a mansion. According to Miami-Dade County property records, Menendez and his wife own a waterfront four-bedroom home in Coral Gables, which is valued just short of $1 million, as well as a South Miami mansion that’s currently for sale for $2.25 million. The listing on Zillow.com notes that it has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a home office, and a theater. Oh, and a “resort-style pool area” with a changing cabana, wet bar, outdoor kitchen, and tennis and basketball courts. So $2.25 million is a pretty good deal, considering. ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads Reached by phone, Menendez initially declined to comment, then admitted that he’d purchased the house with the intention of flipping it. “I’m a real estate investor,” he said. “I haven’t gotten a raise from Chrysalis in fifteen years.” Furthermore, he added, the money the company makes off group homes doesn’t even cover its administrative costs. (According to tax filings, Chrysalis receives more than $3 million a year from ChildNet, the nonprofit that contracts with the state to handle child welfare services in Broward and Palm Beach, for running residential group homes.) Menendez also claims that the City of Fort Lauderdale’s decision to shut down Crescent House was motivated by complaints from neighbors who were solely concerned about the group home’s impact on their property values. “Most of them don’t even live there — they’re just investing in the real estate,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because these kids need a place to go.”  Source: http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/news/fort-lauderdale-finally-shuts-down-troubled-group-home-director-s-225-million-mansion-for-sale-8104099
Payson woman sentenced for sexual abuse of 5 boys at treatment center By Gephardt Daily Staff - September 24, 2016 Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter Katherine Lynn Estep. Photo: Juab County NEPHI, Utah, Sept. 24, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — A former employee of Journey Ranch, a Mona residential treatment center for troubled teenage boys, has been sentenced to prison for sexually abusing five of the juvenile residents. Katherine Lynn Estep, 45, of Payson, on Friday was sentenced to seven terms of one to 15 years in prison, with those terms to run concurrently. Estep in June pleaded guilty to seven counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. Additional charges were dismissed. The original charges she faced were five counts of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony; 10 counts of forcible sexual assault, a second-degree felony; and two class C misdemeanor counts of providing electronic cigarettes to minors. Estep admitted touching boys age 16 and 17 inappropriately, according to court documents. Police said she also engaged in sex acts with the teens, and threatened two with “demerits” if they did not cooperate. The center, in Juab County, advertises that it treats boys, age 13 to 18, who suffer from moderate or severe behavioral problems and mental health issues. Estep rewarded the boys with use of her phone, e-cigarettes, pills or candy, according to charging documents. The court recommended Estep undergo therapy, according to sentencing documents: “Court recommends to the Board that the defendant participate in psychotherapy to address psychological nature of her physical symptoms as well as address her thinking errors through a cognitive restructuring therapy.”  Source: http://gephardtdaily.com/top-stories/payson-woman-sentenced/
Suit: Westchester Med Center 'taunted' young psych patients Michael Virtanen, The Associated Press 7:51 a.m. EDT September 27, 2016 Federal suit claims hospital staff provoked youngsters to justify medication, restraints that extended Medicaid-funded hospital stays  A doctor who trained for four years at the psychiatric unit of the Westchester Medical Center said in a lawsuit Monday that adolescent patients were routinely provoked and prodded into acting out, then restrained and drugged to extend their hospitalization and Medicaid payments. Dr. Alfred Robenzadeh said supervisors at the Valhalla hospital retaliated against him when he tried to address what he says was chronic patient abuse that increased the severity of diagnoses, with usual two-week inpatient stays often extended days or weeks. He alleges the practice defrauded Medicaid. When he complained, he said he was told to "keep your head down and do not make any more waves." LAWSUIT: Read the federal claims In his 22-page complaint, Robenzadeh charged that "the nursing staff's first and preferred response to the provoked behavior was to seek an order form a physician for the administration of chemical or physical restraints to sedate the patient." In one instance, he said he was called in to administer medication to a disruptive youngster and found that the nursing staff was "encroaching on the inpatient's space and using provocative and threatening language and tone." Instead, he said he used de-escalation techniques to calm the boy. "Great, now we can't even touch him," he said the nurse told him. Westchester Medical Center officials did not return calls for comment.  The lawsuit was filed under federal and New York state whistleblower laws. It seeks damages, including payment for lost employment and business opportunities, and litigation costs. It asks the court to order the hospital to certify his completion of four years of specialty training in psychiatry, saying the defendants have refused to do that. Robenzadeh said his training was terminated this year. He said allegations against him of improper moonlighting and later violating patient privacy in defending against those allegations were trumped up. His complaint named five doctors he says joined in retaliation against him and the hospital's director of labor relations. "The excessive use of force resulted in extended, unreasonable and unnecessary inpatient treatment days, for which the hospital is reimbursed by Medicaid," the lawsuit said. "Rather than using de-escalation techniques that would not require the administration of chemical or physical restraints, the nursing staff's first and preferred response to the provoked behavior was to seek an order from a physician for the administration of a chemical or physical restraint to sedate the patient." In addition, he said male patients, particularly those from residential treatment facilities who did not have parents, were particularly at risk. "Male patients were treated as second class and as troublemakers who were assumed to be aggressive and much more likely to be physically injured by staff," he said. "If the patient's complexion was any shade of brown, their concerns, e.g., pain, stress or hunger, were neglected because the culture of the unit devalued them as patients." Robenzadeh said that he proposed studying inpatient metrics to determine why stable patients were having incidents shortly before scheduled discharges and whether it was from policy and practice. Instead, he said, he was "marginalized," stymied in attempts to moonlight as other graduate trainees did, given more hospital patients than they had, and ultimately suspended and terminated from the fellowship program. Staff writer Jorge Fitz-Gibbon contributed to this report.  Source: http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/2016/09/26/westchester-medical-center-lawsuit/91130228/
Employee at Liberty Hill treatment center for children arrested for drug possession by CBS Austin Kathleen Redlin, 30, is charged with possession of a controlled substance in a drug free zone, a second degree felony. (Photo courtesy: Williamson County Sheriff's Office) An employee at a Liberty Hill treatment center for children was arrested Monday for possession of drugs. According to the arrest affidavit, Kathleen Redlin, 30, is charged with possession of a controlled substance in a drug free zone, a second degree felony. It happened at the Meridell Achievement Center, a private charter school which describes itself on its website as a residential treatment center that specializes in psychiatry and neuropsychiatry for children and adolescents. Court documents say an employee of the school contacted police after they received an anonymous tip that Redlin had drugs in her locker at the school. The locker was searched and several baggies believed to contain methamphetamine and marijuana were found. Redlin admitted to school officials that the drugs belonged to her, police say. The affidavit says officers questioned Redfin and asked if the purse found in the locker with drugs inside of it was hers -- and she admitted it and the drugs were hers, and that a glass pipe in the bag was used to smoke the meth. The meth weighed out to approximately 3.1 grams. The marijuana weighed approximately .05 ounces, according to court documents. Officials with Meridell Achievement Center says Redlin is no long employed by the center.  Source: http://keyetv.com/news/local/teacher-at-liberty-hill-treatment-center-for-children-arrested-for-drug-possession
Foster care is not good for children By Jessie Wagoner jessie@emporia.com Updated Sep 28, 2016 0 Last week the Department for Children and Families dealt with the controversy of a negative audit of the foster care services provided through the state. The report, released by the Legislature’s post-audit team, found many areas of concern regarding the safety of children in foster care in Kansas. After reading through the audit report, it is obvious there are areas for improvement. Is foster care good for children? No. No, of course foster care is not good for children. If foster care was good for children we would sign all of our children up rather than sending them to summer camp. Foster care is a system designed to be used in the most serious of situations as a temporary solution. It is not intended to be where children are raised for an indefinite period of time. Yet the number of children in foster care in Kansas continues to climb at alarming rates and they are remaining in foster care waiting for reintegration or adoptive placements for far too long. Could DCF make improvements to ensure children in foster care are safer? Absolutely! But, until the state begins to value children more than saving money, that is not likely to happen. Privatizing foster care has resulted in foster care agencies bidding against one another, each contractor promising to do more with less. This has led to higher caseloads and unrealistic expectations for front-line workers. In the end it is children and those front-line workers that pay the highest price while the state saves a buck. Governor Sam Brownback has led the state into a financial crisis that has resulted in cuts to preventative services that not only keep children in their homes, but also help to reintegrate children faster. Mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment and prevention services and programs like Parents as Teachers have all been cut. All services that promote healthy families. As the Legislature places blame on DCF, it is time they turn their pointed fingers back to themselves. It is our elected officials who determine the budget. It is our elected officials who have approved budgets that don’t meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens and it is now our elected officials who should bare some responsibility for the failures of a system they have created. Some day the children in foster care in Kansas will be old enough to vote. It is our responsibility to vote with them in mind in November. Jessie Wagoner Reporter   Source: http://www.emporiagazette.com/opinion/editorials/article_d9b61d7f-8563-5059-b8b7-0fff91720ba6.html
NYC juvenile detention aide faces 16 years for raping teen girl - NY Daily News Brooklyn juvenile detention center aide faces 16 years in prison for ‘repeatedly’ abusing, raping teen girl NYC juvenile detention aide faces 16 years for raping teen girl BY Leonard Greene NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 10:17 PMl Barry Proctor, 47, faces 16 years in prison for abusing and raping a teen girl "repeatedly for his own sexual gratification." (Frances Twitty/Getty Images/Getty Images) BY Leonard Greene NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 10:17 PM An aide at a Brooklyn juvenile detention center was convicted Wednesday on charges of raping and sexually abusing a teenage girl in his care. Barry Proctor, 47, of the Bronx, faces up to 16 years in prison for taking advantage of the girl, first by targeting the troubled teen, then by grooming her for sex. Proctor had been charged with abusing two other girls at the center, but was acquitted on those charges. The conviction stemmed from Proctor’s abuse of one of the underage girls over the course of several weeks in 2014, said Patricia Gunning, a special prosecutor for the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. Gunning said there were four separate instances during which he abused the girl. Teens incarcerated on Rikers Island will move to Bronx facility “This victim, already traumatized by violence in her life, was entrusted to the state’s care,” Gunning said. “In that setting, this defendant targeted her and abused her repeatedly for his own sexual gratification.” The Ella McQueen center serves as a 14-day processing facility for teens — generally between 13 and 18 — bound for a juvenile detention center, according to its website. The incidents were non-forcible, but the victims cannot legally consent to the sexual activity, according to the New York State Justice Center, which investigated the case.  Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/nyc-juvenile-detention-aide-faces-16-years-raping-teen-girl-article-1.2810906
Drugging Our Kids: Governor signs bills to curb psych drugs prescribed to California foster youth Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Click to print (Opens in new window) By Tracy Seipel | tseipel@bayareanewsgroup.com PUBLISHED: September 29, 2016 at 3:08 pm | UPDATED: September 30, 2016 at 5:07 am Capping years of efforts to stop California’s foster care system from overmedicating the state’s most vulnerable children, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a controversial bill that for the first time puts doctors who recklessly prescribe psychiatric drugs at risk of losing their medical license. The measure is part of a series of sweeping legislative reforms inspired by this news organization’s series “Drugging Our Kids” that disclosed the state’s dependence on psychotropic medications to control troubled children in the country’s largest child welfare system. Senate Bill 1174, by Sen. Mike McGuire, will require annual monitoring of high-prescribing doctors and allow the California Medical Board to crack down on violators — a major victory for foster youth advocates who for years had no voice to speak out against their doctors’ orders. “This bill ensures the state takes a no-tolerance approach to over-prescribing and that the Medical Board and attorney general get the data they need to protect California’s 66,000 foster youth,” said McGuire. The Healdsburg Democrat held a series of oversight hearings to champion the rights of foster youth who said they were being overmedicated. McGuire’s bill was the focus of a tense legislative battle in Sacramento with one of the state’s most powerful interests — psychiatrists who argued the bill would unfairly single out doctors who treat children with severe mental health needs. A Bay Area News Group analysis of five years of prescribing data revealed a fraction of the doctors may be fueling the medication use. A mere 10 percent of the state’s highest prescribers were responsible about 50 percent of the time when a foster child received an antipsychotic, the riskiest class of the drugs with some of the most harmful side effects. Veteran child psychiatrist Michael Barnett, whom the news organization’s analysis identified among the higher prescribers of antipsychotics, said he supports the new oversight but will continue to prescribe the drugs — even two at once — when he believes it will help his young patients. “There are definitely times where you could easily rationalize prescribing two antipsychotics to an individual,’’ he said. “I will still do that. And if they want to give me a speeding ticket (under the new law SB 1174) or ask me about it, I will tell them about it.’’ McGuire’s bill was one of three sent to Brown’s desk this year, after the governor signed three separate bills last year in the first wave of legislation spurred by this news organization’s series. On Thursday, Brown also gave his blessing to Senate Bill 1291, by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose. It will require more transparency and tracking of mental health services for foster kids in every California county. “We cannot allow our foster care system to strictly rely on dosing foster children with mind-altering medications to manage their behavior,’’ Beall said in a statement Thursday. “We must ensure that less invasive and safer available treatments are the first options for our children rather than a pill. The system must provide foster youth with the services that address their trauma instead of depending on drugs to mask their trauma.’’ Beall’s legislation responds to recent state audit findings that revealed the foster care system has failed to adequately oversee the use of psychotropic drugs on foster children. Advocates for foster youth, including the National Center for Youth Law, which sponsored the bills, celebrated the signings after years of pushing policy makers and state officials for reforms. Policy director Anna Johnson said the nonprofit group is “grateful to our legislative champions for holding accountable the doctors who are overmedicating foster youth” and counties that she said “failed to provide services that will help foster youth deal with trauma, abuse and neglect.” But the governor also vetoed one of the group’s measures, saying it was too similar to legislation he signed last year. Senate Bill 253 by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, sought to create more rigorous court oversight before doctors can prescribe potentially harmful psychotropic drugs to foster children. The governor’s veto was a blow to National Center for Youth Law attorney Bill Grimm, who has always considered SB 253 the linchpin of legislative reforms to curtail the inappropriate, harmful impact of psychotropic drugs — before they can be prescribed. Still, the new laws are especially meaningful to current and former foster youth, such as Sarah Pauter, of San Diego. Growing up in foster care, she was so over-medicated with antidepressants, anticonvulsants and mood stabilizers that she went from being a straight-A high school student to attending a center for the learning-deficient. She is particularly pleased that Beall’s bill will force counties to provide better mental health alternatives to medications, and she is thrilled that McGuire’s bill will finally “hold psychiatrists accountable’’ for dangerous prescribing. “Finally,” she said, “we have a law that says, ‘If you don’t do right by these foster kids, there will be consequences.’’’  Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/29/drugging-our-kids-governor-signs-bills-to-curb-psych-drugs-prescribed-to-california-foster-youth/
Brown signs two more laws to curb overuse of meds on foster youth - SFGate Brown signs two more laws to curb overuse of meds on foster youth Published 4:41 pm, Thursday, September 29, 2016 1 California Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday signed two more bills to protect traumatized foster children from psychiatric care that is overly reliant on risky medications — cementing what is now the most comprehensive set of laws in the nation. Following three laws passed last year, the additional legislation will subject overprescribing physicians to stepped-up investigations and ensure that counties offer mental health services for foster children that include non-drug treatments. Brown vetoed a bill that would have enhanced juvenile court oversight of prescribing. But the courts have already launched a sweeping set of new standards requiring doctors to justify their prescriptions before judges approve them, and ensuring that foster children have a say in whether they want to take the untested drugs. “Unfortunately, the excessive prescribing has become the norm and it has impacted thousands of lives of California’s most vulnerable youth — foster kids,” said one of the bills’ authors, state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg. “These five pieces of legislation will finally provide foster youth with the protections they need from serial overprescribers and these mind-numbing drugs.” Another bill author, state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said overmedication has for too long been overlooked as one of the major problems in the foster care system. Now, “it’s become clear that if you just keep medicating them, they can’t think clearly, they can’t study and they can’t be successful.” Beall said the new laws are necessary because “the medication was so overprescribed, in so many different ways, and with no controls and no monitoring,” adding: “So we hope to get that out of the way now, and frame a more successful foster care system in California.” Lobbyists for doctors and the group home industry pushed back against the bills, arguing they overreached and could potentially harm children who needed medications. But an equally powerful lobby of foster youth also consistently showed up at policy committee hearings, testifying about debilitating side effects they suffered from antipsychotics, antidepressants and mood stabilizers, including severe lethargy, rapid-onset weight gain and irreversible tremors. McGuire said the legislation “wouldn’t have been a reality without hundreds of foster youth mobilizing to fight.” The two bills signed into law Thursday add more heft to related protections passed last year in California. Those laws enhanced scrutiny of residential group homes where prescribing is the highest; expanded public health nursing to monitor prescriptions, and funded training for professionals who work with and care for foster children. The six-bill package resulting in five new laws followed an exposé published in the San Jose Mercury News and extensive advocacy by the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law. Lobbyists representing physicians and group homes argued against many of the legislative changes, saying they will drive professionals from the field and curtail their professional authority. McGuire’s bill — which will hold outlying physicians responsible for their prescribing practices through greater enforcement by the state’s licensing agency — led to the most bitter fights. Physician groups said the new law will unfairly affect psychiatrists treating youth in residential programs and juvenile halls. Sen. Beall’s bill will hold counties more accountable for providing mental health treatment for foster youth. That means more than just a bottle of pills, said California’s ombudsperson for foster care, Rochelle Trochtenberg, who was taken from her parents due to abuse, and spent her teenage years in the Los Angeles County child welfare system. “If you have a child with diabetes, you don’t just give them insulin and keep feeding them sugary foods that makes them sicker,” she said. “If you translate that to kids in foster care, their medical condition is often trauma, and you’re not treating that trauma if you’re not not treating an array of issues.” Karen de Sá is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kdesa@sfchronicle.com  Source: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Brown-signs-two-more-laws-to-curb-overuse-of-meds-9458861.php
Gagging Kentucky’s social workers won’t save its children Bevin administration inherited crisis in child protection, but concealing shortcomings makes things worse Satirical tweet about warning sent to employees of Cabinet for Health and Family Services. One of a few satirical tweets about warning sent to employees of Cabinet for Health and Family Services. 1 of 2 i LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story Governors come, governors go, but the secrecy and stonewalling around Kentucky’s beleaguered child-protection bureaucracy is forever. Latest example: A memo warning employees that unauthorized contacts with news media could result in disciplinary action including firing. The warning comes at a time when the opioid crisis is devastating Kentucky families and overwhelming the decimated ranks of social workers who risk their safety to rescue children from sometimes violent situations. State officials insist the memo, which went out Sept. 23, was just a routine reminder and not a response to child-protection workers’ recent public complaints about dangerous working conditions and untenable caseloads. All employees of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, not just those working in child protection, received the memo. Even so, the warning was clumsy and insensitive coming just two days after child-protection workers had testified about their concerns to a legislative committee. A social worker told lawmakers that she was “terrified” about speaking out because “most of us have been conditioned for retaliation.” Child-protection workers also are expressing concerns on a Facebook page. In response, cabinet officials pledged that “the days of retaliation for workers making constructive criticism are over” and promised openness and transparency. Bevin administration officials strengthened their credibility by saying that caseloads are higher than previous administrations have admitted. They said they are working on a more accurate count and on ways to better support case workers and children. But then out came that memo from a cabinet that fought, unsuccessfully, for years to keep secret the records of how it handled cases in which children died of abuse or neglect. No wonder the memo drew cries of hypocrisy. Stress and low pay have long taken a toll on child-protection ranks, but the turnover has worsened. In Louisville, one-third of workers have resigned or retired this year. Statewide a record-high almost 8,000 children are in foster care in Kentucky. A long overdue pay raise for child-protection workers (supervisors are now making $40,800 a year) took effect in September and is a step in the right direction. The state also should unfreeze funding for relatives who care for children of unfit parents and extend the aid to out-of-state family and qualified friends. The cost of foster care is more than double the $300 monthly stipend for Kinship Care which has been frozen for three years. Placing children in foster care because a grandparent on a fixed income can’t afford to take them in is the height of false economy. The crisis in child protection has been building for a long time and was inherited by the Bevin administration which has been in office less than 10 months. But falling into old familiar patterns of talk-without-action and trying to hide the cabinet’s shortcomings will only make a bad situation worse.  Source: http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/editorials/article104998836.html
WATCHDOG: Louisiana children sent out of state for psychiatric care Lex Talamo, alexa.talamo@shreveporttimes.com 12:03 p.m. CDT October 1, 2016 --> Due to a lack of facilities that can meet mental and behavioral needs of children, Louisiana is sending her children to out-of-state facilities. (Video by Lex Talamo) Buy Photo The Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center in Dubach helps children with mental and behavioral problems learn skills by connecting with nature.(Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times)Buy Photo Lonnie is a transgender adolescent with mental and behavioral issues severe enough to qualify for residential psychiatric care. But Louisiana doesn’t have a facility that is adequate for meeting his behavioral needs. So he will be sent to an out-of-state facility, according to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services – the seventh child this year the department has referred to another state. Lonnie is not the boy's real name. Privacy requirements prevent the department from identifying him or his home parish. “We don’t want to send children out of state. But if it’s in the best interest of the child, we will make that choice,” DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters said. “When we send a child out of state, it’s because we haven’t found a facility in the state.” It's been well documented that Louisiana lacks a sufficient number of mental and behavioral health care services for children. That means dozens of Louisiana children needing residential psychiatric or therapeutic treatments are sent each year to out-of-state facilities, which often are not required to adhere to the same standards for supervision or safety as in-state facilities. RELATED: Children's mental health service shortage puts them at risk State agencies said they place children in other states as a last resort and closely monitor the well-being of their out-of-state wards— though the number of out-of-state placements has declined in recent years. But several Louisiana child advocates voiced concerns about the safety of children placed in other states, citing previous litigation against out-of-state facilities alleging violations of children’s rights. “States should be developing their own resources,” said Rick Wheat, CEO for Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services in Ruston. “As long as Louisiana’s leaders are willing to accept gaps in services for children and are willing to fund out-of-state placements, the child welfare system in Louisiana will continue to languish, and our children will pay for it.” Buy Photo Rick Wheat, president and CEO of the Louisiana United Methodist Children's Home in Ruston (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) A children’s mental health crisis More than 70,000 children in Louisiana received mental or behavioral services through Medicaid in 2014, including 2,000 children in Bossier Parish and 4,000 in Caddo Parish, according to Louisiana Department of Health data. Children with needs severe enough to require residential treatment interventions are placed in therapeutic foster care homes, therapeutic group homes or psychiatric residential treatment facilities, none of which have been able absorb the need in the state. The state has 10 therapeutic group homes – with a total of 85 beds – for the entire state. And Magellan, the former single statewide management organization for Medicaid funded specialized behavioral health services, has been sending children to psychiatric residential treatment facilities out-of-state for years, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. RELATED: More homes needed for drug-exposed babies than ever before The number of children placed out of state fluctuates. As of July, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 15 children in out-of-state care, a decline from the peak of 41 children sent out of state in 2014. In the past five years, DCFS reported sending a total of 13 children out of state. Both departments said they closely monitor children in out-of-state facilities. “It’s not that we send a child out of state and abandon them. We have people check up on them,” Walters said. Buy Photo The Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center uses nature to help teach skills to children with severe mental and behavioral needs. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Yvonne Domingue, who heads DCFS’s Behavioral Health and Placement Services, said welfare staff travel monthly to see children in treatment and meet with members of the out-of-state team. “Although the face-to-face visits occur only once a month, communication between caseworkers and treatment facilities is fluid,” Domingue said. “Reports between the treatment provider and the caseworker can happen on an as-needed basis, as does communication between the worker and the youth.” LDH’s spokesperson Samantha Faulkner said staff from the Healthy Louisiana plans– the five Bayou Health plans available for children eligible for Medicaid – review monthly reports about children from out-of-state facilities to ensure children are receiving therapeutic interventions that meet their needs. Faulkner said the health department won’t place children in unlicensed facilities. Walters said she isn’t aware of a single facility DCFS has used that hasn’t met standards. But Wheat said out-of-state facilities may adhere to standards that are different from Louisiana's. The Louisiana Department of Health's requirements for the staff-to-child ratio for psychiatric residential treatment facilities is 1 to 4 during the day, whereas Texas requirements for the same types of facilities are 1 to 5 (if no child requires treatment during the day) or 1 to 8 (if at least one child requires treatment.)  Similarly, Louisiana requires a staff to child ratio of 1 to 6 at night, whereas in Texas the ratios can be up to 1 to 24 (if no children require treatment at night and the caregiver stays awake) or 1 to 16 (if no children require treatment and the caregiver sleeps during the shift), according to Texas licensing requirements.  Louisiana also requires all therapeutic group homes to have a ratio of 1 staff to 5 children at all times, with at least two staff present at any time. Wheat also cited several cases – including the 1974's Gary W. v. Louisiana and 2015's M.D. v. Perry – where U.S. District Court judges have ruled that out-of-state facilities violated children’s rights and did not adequately monitor children's care, resulting in “serious safety incidents.” As recently as December 2015, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that certain Texas facilities had to change child supervision or be shut down. “They were sending them to so called residential treatment centers,which we proved at a long trial to have been bad,” said Stephen Dixon, an attorney who worked the 2015 case."That’s where we were putting Louisiana children, into a system that had serious problems.” Buy Photo A children's room at a therapeutic group home in Louisiana. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Dixon, who also works as a lawyer  for the New York-based nonprofit Children's Rights, said children placed in any out-of-state facility face additional challenges to recovery, including more barriers to communicating with their attorneys, caseworkers and families. Beth Salcedo, co-founder of the state’s only therapeutic group home for adolescent victims of sex trafficking, was surprised to hear children were being sent out of state. Her home, which can house up to 10 girls, had vacancies as of September 2016. Salcedo said only one of the young women currently residing in the program had been referred by DCFS, though Salcedo frequently hears about underage victims of sex trafficking recovered by undercover police operations— or "stings." “You hear about stings, but no one calls and asks about placement. I’ve wondered where they go,” Salcedo said. “I didn’t know there were girls being placed out of state. I have no idea why that is happening.” Faulkner said the health department places a child in out-of-state facilities for two main reasons: state psychiatric residential treatment facilities have refused placement because they can't provide for the child’s needs, or a stakeholder in the child’s treatment plan thinks an out-of-state facility has better programming for the child’s needs. A solution that’s not a last resort The Louisiana Methodist Children's Home in Ruston is one of the in-state facilities able to provide care to children with severe needs. The home provides therapeutic care for children, in part, through its Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center, which offers a high ropes course, equine-assisted psychotherapy, kayaking and team-building activities from its location in Dubach. Buy Photo The Louisiana United Methodist Children's Home in Ruston (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Patrick Blanchard, director of development and public relations for the home, said the 800-acre outdoor center highlights the progress some of the most troubled children can make when given the right resources. “We had a 16-year-old boy who came to us with 51 foster care placements before he came here. But you take him and put him next to a horse, and he’s a kid again,” Blanchard said. David Wheeler, vice president of clinical services at the children's home, said a major benefit for Louisiana’s children placed at in-state facilities is proximity to their family, which makes routine family visits more feasible. Wheat said family involvement during children’s treatment – unless prohibited by the treatment center – is critical to the child. Buy Photo The Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center offers equine-assisted therapy to help children with emotional and behavioral issues engage in the world in a productive way. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) “The closer a child is to her or his family or foster family, the easier it is for the family to participate in treatment,” Wheat said. “What we know for certain is that the more a family participates in treatment, the greater chance of a successful outcome.” Karla Venkataraman, Deputy Assistance Secretary of Child Welfare for DCFS,  said the department chose to send "Lonnie" to another state because the out-of-state facility would better address his behavioral needs than the available in-state facilities, but also because the out-of-state facility had a history of successfully working with transgender youth questioning their identities. Walters said her decision to sign the waiver for Lonnie stemmed from the department's mission to always do what is "in the best interest of the child." “There isn’t a treatment facility in Louisiana that can treat that child. We are sending the child to a very specialized center,” Walters said. Following the state’s transition away from Magellan in January, all five Bayou Health plans for children have been tasked with identifying out-of-state networks— already. RELATED: Children's mental health service provider in transition Buy Photo Patrick Blanchard at the Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center's maze, which is used in team-building activities. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Joshua Brett, spokesperson for AmeriHealth – one of the state’s Bayou Health plans – said his agency has committed to keeping children as close as possible to family but also will ensure they receive quality care if an out-of-state facility is needed. “If a member needs treatment out of state, we will work with the member and their family to find a suitable accredited and licensed Medicaid provider,” Brett wrote in an email. Wheat said better alternatives to identifying out-of-state facilities would include: Increasing funding to established in-state therapeutic group homes and psychiatric facilities. Providing start-up funds and provisional licenses so more therapeutic group homes can be established in parishes. Recruiting more child and adolescent psychiatrists to the state, which currently averages less than eight  for every 100,000 children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Development Buy Photo The Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center in Dubach helps children with mental and behavioral problems learn skills by connecting with nature. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Richard Carbo, spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said the governor is aware that the state’s children are being placed out of state but said resources are limited because of the state’s ongoing budget crisis. “Often times, a child’s needs can best be met by an out-of-state facility,” Carbo wrote in a statement. “However, it is a priority of the governor to ensure Louisiana’s children get the best help here at home as possible, and he’ll continue to work with state agencies to make improvements.”  Source: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/news/2016/10/01/watchdog-louisiana-children-sent-out-state-psychiatric-care/85994498/
Foster Parent, Former Teacher on Trial for Child Abuse Nicole Gomez-Vilchis is former teacher at Van Dyke Public Schools. By Barb Hall (Patch Staff) - September 30, 2016 3:48 pm ET ShareTweetGoogle PlusRedditEmailComments0 MACOMB COUNTY, MI – A former teacher and foster parent is on trial for abuse that allegedly happened more than two years ago. Nicole Gomez-Vilchis, 29, is accused of abusing a 15-month-old girl in 2014. The child and her brother were placed in foster care with Gomez-Vilchis and her husband Hugo in 2013 when the children were removed from their parents' home due to drug use, the Macomb Daily reports. The trial, in Macomb County Circuit Court, began Wednesday and is expected to continue next Tuesday. If convicted, Gomez-Vilchis faces 10 years in prison. At one point, Gomez-Vilchis was ordered by a judge to have no contact with children, but that order was rescinded when she gave birth to her own child, the Macomb Daily reports. School officials say she is no longer employed by the Van Dyke Public Schools in Warren where she was a middle school teacher. Get free real-time news alerts from the St. Clair Shores Patch. Subscribe According to testimony, the incident allegedly occurred in June of 2014. The report states that Gomez-Vilchis abused the child, now three years old, by squeezing her very tightly when the child became fussy after being put to bed for her a nap. Gomez-Vilchis denied the abuse at first but, according to testimony of police officers, later admitted to squeezing the girl. The two children were removed from the home the day after the alleged abuse occurred.  Source: http://patch.com/michigan/stclairshores/foster-parent-former-teacher-trial-child-abuse
State revokes licenses of two St. Paul youth group homes Assaults, neglect and 911 calls were common at youth homes.  By Chris Serres Star Tribune October 5, 2016 — 9:03pm Text size comment share tweet email Print more Share on:Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Share on Pinterest Copy shortlink: Purchase:Order Reprint State regulators will shut down two St. Paul-based group homes for troubled children, citing a broad range of “serious and chronic” licensing violations that exposed youth to assaults, serious injuries and inadequate medical care. The Vintage Place Inc., a nonprofit with a long history of run-ins with state regulators, failed to report incidents in which residents ran away and assaulted one another, resulting in some cases in serious injuries and medical treatment. At times, children at one of the homes went completely unsupervised, with no staff on duty. In an extensive and unusual order issued Monday revoking the operator’s licenses, the Minnesota Department of Human Services cited more than a dozen incidents last year in which police or emergency medical personnel were called to respond to assaults, damaged property and threatening behavior. Employees also failed to report at least seven cases in which residents ran away or went missing from the two group homes. “The nature and severity of the ongoing violations unacceptably jeopardize the health and safety of children in your program to receive services that are crucial to their well-being and development,” the revocation order said. Established in 2002, Vintage Place cares for troubled boys at two group homes, each housing up to six children, on St. Paul’s East Side. It has a history of regulatory violations dating back more than five years. In a 2011 licensing review, it was cited for 27 violations, from failing to report critical safety incidents to lacking a daily schedule of residents’ activities. In more recent years, Vintage Place employees have gotten into fights with residents. In 2013, a staff member grabbed a resident by the throat and threw him onto a bed; later the next year, a staff member punched a resident in the jaw during an altercation, state records show. Roberta Opheim, state ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities, questioned why regulators had not acted sooner. “How many kids over these five years were subjected to substandard care?” she asked. “These types of citations and the chronicity of the problem should not be allowed, especially when [public] funds are being used to pay for it.” In early June of this year, state licensing investigators visited the Vintage Place North home at 1853 Cottage Ave. E. in St. Paul and discovered that no staff were present to supervise the children. An employee told investigators that if staff needed to leave the home while residents were away at school, they posted a sign on the front door telling children to walk to the other Vintage Place facility, approximately a mile away. In interviews, children told regulators that on several occasions they had returned to the home on Cottage Avenue E. and “no one was there.” State investigators also found the group homes repeatedly failed to provide adequate health care. Medical records indicated that one child went without lithium, an antipsychotic medication, for eight days after the child’s supply had run out, while another child did not receive anti-depressants as prescribed for five days. The licensing revocation takes effect Oct. 17, though Vintage Place still has 10 days to appeal the order and can continue to operate until the appeals process concludes. Telephone calls and e-mails to the group homes were not returned Wednesday. According to its website, Vintage Place “teaches youth the values necessary to become a well-adjusted and contributing member of society through a family setting.” The group homes target boys, ages 10 to 18, who have been involved in the juvenile court system or have been diagnosed with a behavioral or mental health problem. “Many of the youth have not had a fair opportunity to succeed in life,” the website says. The move to shut down Vintage Place is highly unusual. Since 2011, the state has revoked the license of only one other children’s residential services facility.   Staff researcher John Wareham contributed to this report. Twitter: @chrisseres  Source: http://www.startribune.com/state-revokes-licenses-of-two-st-paul-youth-group-homes/396028711/
Federal Government Continues To Feed Charter School Beast Despite Auditor’s Warning Politicians always promise they will rid government of “waste, fraud, and abuse,” so let’s hope at least one political leader or policy maker will denounce our federal government’s new gift of nearly a quarter-billion dollars to charter schools. The cash dump to charters, courtesy of taxpayers, is from the U.S. Department of Education. As Education Week reports, the money is going to eight states and 15 charter school networks from the Charter Schools Program, a federal government operation that doles out millions every year to start new charter schools. This money is the latest installment of an over $3 billion gravy train the federal government has funded to help launch over 2,500 charter schools across the nation. Regardless of how you feel about these schools, you should be concerned about how this new government outlay to charters will be used, based on the extensive track record of financial malfeasance in these schools. Indeed, shortly after the USDE announcement, the Department’s own auditor warned that the money is very much at risk of ending up in the pockets of fraudsters and con artists rather than in the classrooms of diligent students and dedicated teachers. Again Education Week reports, the audit by the agency’s inspector general’s office examined 33 schools in six states and concluded that because of a general lack of oversight of charters there was a “risk that federal programs are not being implemented correctly and are wasting public money.” The risk stems from the “cozy relationships,” the EdWeek reporter’s words, between charter schools and companies that operate them, called Charter Management Organizations (CMOs). Of the 33 charter schools the audit examined, 22 had examples, sometimes multiple examples, of how CMOs take advantage of the unusual business relationship they have with their client charters to exploit federal education funds and redirect precious taxpayer dollars to private interests that have nothing to do with education. In one of the more egregious examples the audit round, “the CEO of one CMO in Pennsylvania had the authority to write and issue checks without charter school board approval and wrote checks to himself from the charter school’s accounts totaling about $11 million.” At another Pennsylvania charter, a vendor that supplied services to the school was owned by the charter school’s CMO and received $485,000 in payments from the school without charter school board approval. In Florida, a charter and a CMO that shared the same board entered into an expensive lease agreement for the school building, then expanded the facility, extended the lease, and increased the rental payments to the CMO. One CMO the audit examined, which operated three charters in Michigan and one in New York, required the charter schools to remit all federal, state, and local funds to the CMO and gave the CMO total responsibility, with no oversight by the charter board, for paying school expenditures. The auditor’s report doesn’t provide the names of these schools, so we don’t know if they have received federal grant money in the past or are some of the ones getting the new money. However, three of the six states the audit looked at – California, Texas, and Florida – are the same states the Department of Education just decided to send more money to. The other three – Michigan Pennsylvania, and New York – have received federal money for charters in the past, either sent to the state or to charter organizations operating in the state. These states, and presumably many others the feds send charter money to, often don’t sufficiently track how the money is used, according to the audit. Of the six states examined, half could not provide consistent funding data on charter schools with CMOs, a third could not identify which charter schools used CMOs, and a third that tracked whether charter schools used CMOs had unreliable information because charter schools self-reported their operations. The federal auditor’s revelations on charter school waste, fraud, and abuse is yet another dose of reality in a long line of factual reporting about these schools. A study released last year by the Center for Media and Democracy found “charter spending is largely a black hole.” That’s because the “flexibility” charters have been granted by the government is often being used not to create education innovations but to “allow an epidemic of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in public schools,” the CMD report found. Based on its extensive research on charters, CMD examined the list of new award grantees and noted Florida, that’s getting a grant of $58,454,516, has closed over 120 charter schools in a little over a decade. Texas, which is getting $30,498,392, has “an unknown number” of charter schools “housed in churches’ and “closely tied to, religious groups.” Tennessee, which is getting $15,172,732, is famous for having a statewide online charter school that is so bad, the state education chief tried to get rid of it but couldn’t because of political maneuvering by the charter lobby and lack of regulatory accountability. California, which is getting $27,329,904, has some of the worst charter school scandals in the nation, according to a report from the Center for Popular Democracy, which uncovered over $81,400,000 in fraud, waste, and abuse in the state. CPD call the alarming figure “likely just the tip of the iceberg.” Louisiana, another grantee getting $4,836,766 from the feds, has been ripped off by “tens of millions of dollars in undiscovered losses” from charter schools in the 2013-14 school year, according to another CPD analysis. “The state has insufficiently resourced financial oversight,” CPD contends, and has yet to put into place adequate reporting, staffing, and auditing. Three other states – Georgia, Massachusetts, and Washington – are getting the money just when they are deeply embroiled in heated controversies over charter schools. Georgia has a ballot initiative in November on whether to allow the state to operate an Opportunity School District that would summarily take over local schools and hand them over to charter operators. Massachusetts also has a November ballot initiative, called Question 2, that would allow the state to lift the cap on the number of charters allowed to operate in the state. And in Washington, a charter school battleground for over 20 years, court rulings, legislative shenanigans, lawsuits, and counter lawsuits related to charter schools continue to rage across the state. No doubt, this new money – over $41 million altogether for these three states – may now sweeten the pot if pro charter forces get their way. Regarding the individual CMOs the Department is sending money to, one of them, Uncommon Schools, is a charter chain which used to be led in part by the current head of USDE, Secretary John King. Uncommon is getting $8,004,576. No conflict of interest there. Another recipient – the Denver School of Science and Technology charter chain in Colorado, with a grant of $4,043,361 – has paid out between $20 to $50 million to a for-profit corporation owned by two of the charter chain’s director, according to another CPD analysis. A charter school chain in Indiana getting $1,923,866 is plagued with financial problems, low enrollment, and controversy over how the CEO spends money. No doubt the infusion of federal cash will help. The federal auditor’s report recommends the convening of a formal oversight group to look into charter school financial malfeasance, more rigorous review of charter school operations by federal agencies, and legislative changes in Congress to firm up government oversight. Here’s another recommendation: Stop federal funding to expand these schools. Source: http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/federal-government-continues-to-feed-charter-school-beast-despite-auditors-warning/
Is foster care protecting children? Andrew Setterholm, asetterholm@postbulletin.com Updated Oct 8, 2016 (1) 6 remaining of 7 Welcome! We hope that you enjoy our free content. The tragic death of 4-year-old Eric Dean in 2013 shocked Minnesotans to make changes to the state's child protection system. Some of the bigger changes took effect statewide earlier this year, and in some cases, the results have been drastic — and some are cause for concern, according to child protection employees at Olmsted County and the state of Minnesota. +1  This photograph of Eric Dean was taken by his daycare provider, Mindy DeGeer, and presented as evidence during the May 2014 trial of Eric's stepmother, Amanda Peltier.  Eric's case came to light in 2014, after a series of articles published by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. At the time he was killed in 2013, Eric was living at home with his mother, despite more than a dozen reports of abuse. Pope County investigated just one of those reports and found no maltreatment. In May 2014, Eric's mother, Amanda Peltier, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Later that year, the state jumped into action to address the glaring inadequacies of the system. In the years following, increased attention on child protection has driven a sizable increase in the volume of reports of child abuse. The state's changes also have had noticeable effects in 2015 and 2016: county child protective services are receiving more reports of abuse and, with new guidelines for screening reports, they are investigating more of those cases. Olmsted County is seeing another effect of the changes: More children are being placed in foster care. The county last year placed 195 children in out-of-home care. Foster care placements related to child protection cases increased 50 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to Olmsted County Jodi Wentland, director of the county's Child and Family Services Department. The state's changes to the system have provided consistency said James Koppel, Minnesota assistant commissioner for child and family services. Would the state's child services department be concerned if out-of-home placements for children continue to rise? "Absolutely," Koppel said. Following changes to the state's child protection system, Olmsted County is receiving more reports of child abuse and investigating a greater share of those reports. County staff have noticed another trend: More children are being placed in foster care. The data period for this trend is short because the changes are so recent, but it is enough to worry staff members at both the county and state levels. "I would say that, in general, a foster care placement for a child or children is a trauma. We consider that a trauma," said James Koppel, Minnesota assistant commissioner for child and family services. In addition to the immediate trauma of foster placements, children can experience mental health effects and negative outcomes later in life, Wentland said. Children who "age out" of foster care have higher likelihoods of incarceration and unemployment. The leading cause of homelessness among 18- to 24-year-old Minnesotans is aging out of foster care, Koppel said. "That cannot continue," Koppel said. "We cannot let our foster care system fail the very children that we have chosen to take out of homes due to maltreatment. We cannot fail those children in our foster care system." Out-of-home placements also are more expensive for counties and the statewide system. Spending on child protection statewide has increased 20 percent since 2014, according to a report compiled by Olmsted County. But state funding to county programs has not kept pace with changes in the system; local tax revenue has paid for about 75 percent of the spending increase, the county report said. Olmsted County last month redirected $600,000 in funding from its Child and Family Services department budget to accommodate increased costs for out-of-home placements. More attention Reporting on Eric Dean's death placed intense scrutiny on the state's child protective services. Lawmakers were pressured to review which reports of child abuse were accepted for further review — "screened in" — by county child protection agencies for assessment or investigation, when law enforcement became involved in cases and whether past reports of abuse should be considered in determining responses to reports. In 2014, Gov. Mark Dayton assembled a task force to address the issue: the Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children. Department of Human Services Commission Lucinda Jessen chaired the task force, and Gov. Dayton appointed legislators and experts from across the state, including Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi. The task force made 93 recommendations for changes to state law and county policies. The first was to revise Minnesota's Reporting of Maltreatment of Minors Act to state "child safety" as the paramount consideration for decision making. A second significant change was to repeal a statutory provision that prevented consideration of dismissed reports when caseworkers reviewed a new report of abuse. The task force also revised screening guidelines for child protective services, the framework for deciding which cases are reviewed and investigated. The screening guideline was reviewed by the Minnesota Legislature and became law on Jan. 1. The most immediate effects of the screening change have been an increase in the number of reports accepted for review by county child protection agencies and the intensity of counties' responses to those reports. County caseworkers have two paths of action available when a report of child abuse is received: Caseworkers can conduct a family assessment or a family investigation. A family assessment focuses on connecting parents and children with social services. Investigations take a forensic approach and involve law enforcement. An investigation also results in a legal finding — or no finding — of child maltreatment. The state's new screening requirements already have driven an increase in investigations. More than 36 percent of reports this year have resulted in investigations, Koppel said, compared to about 26 percent last year. Of those investigations, Koppel said 47 percent of cases have resulted in a finding of child maltreatment. Many, but not all, of those cases where maltreatment was discovered led to a child being placed in a foster care situation. The combined effect of counties taking more reports, screening in those reports and handling more reports as investigations could be contributing to the outcomes Olmsted County is experiencing — more children being placed in out-of-home care. "We're seeing both things, so it's a compounding effect of more reports screened in and a higher percent of the reports screened in going to an investigation," Koppel said. Olmsted County still conducts more assessments than investigations, but the balance is shifting. In 2013, the county screened in 412 cases; it conducted investigations in 77 of those cases. In the first half of this year, it has conducted 78 investigations in 269 total cases. Child protective services statewide screened in about 19,500 reports in 2013 and 20,000 in 2014. The state saw a dramatic increase in 2015 with more than 24,000 screened-in reports, and this year is on pace to show another jump to about 26,000 screened-in reports, Koppel said. Philosophical shift Investigations and out-of-home placements are what child protection workers call "back-end" services — resource-intensive responses to serious issues. Front-end services aim to address serious issues before they occur by providing social, economic and health supports, Wentland said. "There's a philosophical shift, or a philosophical pressure that's happening, at a state level around the use of out-of-home care," Wentland said. Wentland has tried to balance the department's resources to cope with new requirements while also directing adequate funding to front-end services. "My perspective, from an Olmsted perspective, we need to do even more work to try to slow this entry into (out of home) placement," Wentland said. "In clarifying that, children need to be safe. It's paramount. So placement decisions need to be around (keeping) children safe." Investing in front- and back-end services is not a "one or the other" situation but a careful balance, Wentland said. The county's investments in workforce development, education and housing could have direct effects on reports of maltreatment and out-of-home placements. "We can't do that on our own," Wentland said. "It's not going to happen in six months or a year. This is a long-term commitment for us." Supporting prevention +1  Buy Now Paul Fleissner The state's changes have seemed reactionary, said Olmsted County Community Services director Paul Fleissner. "The whole system is moving toward a reaction of pulling kids (out of homes)," Fleissner said. While the county has seen past successes in focusing on front-end services, those services are not tied to reliable funding sources. Mandated changes, such as the screening guidelines, are directly tied to funding allocated to counties. "What I've been concerned about is we've spent more time looking at what's wrong than at what's working," Fleissner said. Koppel said the changes at the state level have provided consistency that was lacking in the child protection system. "I believe that we did not have consistent practices around the state on how we treated calls and how we screened calls, how we screened cases. I think there are more consistent responses now across the state," he said. As for front-end services, the state has one prevention program, the Parent Support Outreach Program. The program has an annual statewide budget of $2 million. "That's the part that to me we ultimately need to be focused on is preventing families from entering our child protection system that is very expensive and in which children have already received, or in many cases experienced, trauma — and in too many cases (will) experience more trauma," Koppel said. Reaction to changes Olmsted County's child and family services workers regularly have updated the county's decision-makers, the Board of Commissioners, said board member Sheila Kiscaden. The move toward foster placements for children is worrying, she said. "We generally don't believe that that out-of-home placement for children is the solution," Kiscaden said. "There's real consequences to children when you take them out of their home. You might be protecting their physical safety, but there are mental health effects," Kiscaden said. The state's reforms made it clear — child safety is paramount, Koppel said. As counties continue to enact the 93 recommendations of the governor's task force, agencies at the state and county levels will continue to monitor another measure, in addition to safety: well being. "(Well being) includes that a child is safe, but it's much more aspirational, which is that a child is actually developing and has assets and is headed in a much more positive direction," Koppel said. "We want to make sure nothing bad happens to a child, but we strive for the well being."  Source: http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/is-foster-care-protecting-children/article_6c3900e4-8e3e-5f20-b1a9-c471753c80ad.html
A Baby Nearly Dies in Foster Care, Reigniting Questions About Connecticut's DCF By Jeff Tyson & Lucy Nalpathanchil • Oct 10, 2016 Related Program:  Where We Live ShareTwitter Facebook Google+ Email  Connecticut DCF Commissioner Joette Katz with Governor Dannel Malloy Dannel Malloy / Creative Commons Listen Listening... / 49:04 The state Department of Children and Families is back in the news facing sharp criticism over multiple issues. This hour, we dig into them and we'll examine what, if anything, needs to change within DCF. The Connecticut Health Investigative Team reports that adoptive parents are being asked by DCF to give up custody of their children so the kids can receive intensive mental health care. We find out more about this practice of “trading custody for care.” Also -- the state Child Advocate will join us to talk about a recent and troubling report about the near death of a baby that DCF had placed with a relative unfit to care for him. The child advocate says the case shows major systemic failures within the department. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz declined to come on the show to talk about this issue and others, but we are still going to talk about them. And we want to hear from you. Who holds DCF accountable when cases like the near starvation of a baby surface? Are they really just “outliers” as the agency suggests? Plus, the United Way has put out a new report that highlights the economic challenges facing many working families in Connecticut. We talk with the report’s author about the findings and how Connecticut compares to other states.  Source: http://wnpr.org/post/baby-nearly-dies-foster-care-reigniting-questions-about-connecticuts-dcf
Mom Blames Youth Ranch for Son's Death By ERIK DE LA GARZA  ShareThis        WACO, Texas (CN) — A grieving mother sued a Texas youth ranch, claiming it created a "Lord of the Flies atmosphere" that culminated when her 16-year-old son was kicked to death.      Elizabeth Acevedo says in her Oct. 7 federal lawsuit that Brookhaven Youth Ranch did little to protect her disabled son from being kicked to death in 2014 at the nonprofit residential treatment center in West, Texas.      She sued Brookhaven Youth Ranch, its foundation, its executive director Dennis Cooke, five security guards, and the teenage boy, "A.S.," who she says was convicted of murder "and sentenced to a lengthy prison term."      Acevedo says her son, Cristian Cuellar, fought with A.S. in a violent game called "King Pin," in which the stronger child attempted to restrain the weaker child on the floor to pin them. She says A.S. was older than Cristian, 6 inches taller, and outweighed him by more than 45 lbs. "Moreover, he had a documented history of 'physical aggression and anger management difficulties," the mother says in the complaint.      However, she adds: "The staff at the youth ranch would simply observe this child-on-child violence, without making any attempt to intervene, creating a 'Lord of the Flies' atmosphere at the youth ranch."      After breaking up the initial fight and separating the boys, a security guard tasked with supervising Cuellar "lost track of him," setting up the fatal incident when, "predictably," A.S. attacked Cuellar "again, as staff at the facility routinely allowed," Acevedo says.      "Because the facility was understaffed, there were insufficient security officers to immediately break up the fight," according to the complaint.      By the time guards arrived, A.S. had thrown her son to the floor "then viciously kicked Cristian in the head, killing him," his mother says.      Brookhaven executive director Dennis Cooke told Courthouse News on Tuesday that he had no knowledge of the lawsuit and declined comment.      Cooke and others at the center were not issued summonses until Tuesday because of the Columbus Day holiday, according to court records.      Acevedo claims that Cooke knew that children at the center were regularly assaulted, but he and his staff did little to prevent violence.      Brookhaven describes itself online as serving up to 61 teens between the ages of 13 and 17, referred mostly by two Texas agencies and various counties.      Its mission is to provide a "therapeutic sanctuary where children feel safe, parents feel reassured and referral sources feel appreciated and included in the effort to provide a compassionate, healing environment," the website states.      A spokesman for the Texas Justice Juvenile Department noted in an email that it no longer contracts with the ranch, and Acevedo says state agencies have cited the center numerous times for resident-on-resident violence.      An investigation of her son's death by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services found that a staff member "was not aware of the child's ongoing activity" on the date of the attack.      "As a result, the child was involved in a physical altercation with another resident," according to the letter sent from a licensing investigator to Brookhaven's executive director in 2015.      The state recommended the center implement a system to ensure that all residents are accounted for.      Acevedo said that in her son's case, the measures taken, if any, "were woefully ineffective," and said the staff was "wholly untrained and incapable of preventing violence at the facility."      She seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence, gross negligence, and civil rights violations.      She is represented by Jeffrey Edwards in Austin.  Source:  http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/10/12/mom-blames-youth-ranch-for-sons-death.htm
Maryland’s Move to Pull Children From Group Homes Came Too Late for Teenager Who Died After unannounced inspections revealed deficiencies, Maryland stopped placing young people at Delaware facilities owned by AdvoServ. by Heather Vogell ProPublica, Oct. 13, 2016, 7:59 a.m. 0 Comments Print Print This is part of an ongoing investigation Restraints Do you know a child who has been forcibly restrained or secluded at school? Help us investigate by sharing your story. Spur Reform in 2016 Support ProPublica’s mission to expose abuses of power and corruption. Once again, government actions against a controversial for-profit company’s chain of group homes for the disabled may have come too late to protect a child. ProPublica has learned that Maryland had begun pulling about 30 children out of homes owned and managed by AdvoServ in August, but hadn’t yet relocated a teenage girl when she died a month later after being manually restrained by staff. Maryland’s Department of Human Resources had also stopped placing children in AdvoServ homes, following inspections that identified deficiencies in quality control, record-keeping, and conditions in residential and common areas. Last year, ProPublica chronicled AdvoServ’s long record of problematic treatment, its use of mechanical restraints, and its efforts to weaken regulation as it took in more people with developmental or intellectual disabilities and behavior challenges. Maryland, which plans to terminate its contract with AdvoServ at the end of this month, isn’t the only state to have increased its scrutiny of the company since the ProPublica series. In March, Delaware placed the company on probation, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families said. In June, Florida officials said they had begun moving clients out of the company’s facility in the state, and stationed an investigator there. Through a spokesman, the company declined to comment on the decisions by Maryland and Delaware regulators. AdvoServ’s shortcomings add to the growing concerns about for-profit companies taking over delivery of human services, from prisons to hospice care, that were traditionally provided by government or non-profit agencies. The teenager’s death, in particular, points to the limits of state officials’ ability to safeguard the disabled people they place in group homes run by private contractors — even when such care is paid for with public money. Kevin Huckshorn, a national behavioral health consultant, said it matters less whether care providers are public or private — and more whether the public agency paying for services is keeping a close enough watch. “It’s out of sight, out of mind,” she said. “If you’re not able to do due diligence on oversight and monitoring, anything can happen.” She added that, because of the problems that have surfaced publicly, regulators should have been on alert for issues at AdvoServ homes. “That should have upped the ante,” she said. Fractured authority and multiple players — which at times have included as many as a dozen government agencies — have clouded oversight of the company’s operations. AdvoServ has expanded in the past two decades despite a stream of complaints of abuse and neglect. As far back as the 1990s, the state of New York pulled its children from AdvoServ’s predecessor, Au Clair, because its inspectors had found children living in trailers that reeked of urine and feces. Officials elsewhere have repeatedly backed off from sanctioning the company, which is aided by well-connected lobbyists that include prominent former state legislators. In 2012, for example, Florida reneged on plans to bar an AdvoServ home, where both adults and a child had allegedly been punched and kicked, from accepting new clients for a year. Now owned by a private equity firm, Delaware-based AdvoServ reported last year that it cared for about 700 children and adults in that state, Florida, and New Jersey, and was expanding into Virginia. The company said then it had about 60 people age 21 or younger in its Delaware program. When Delaware officials put AdvoServ on probation in March, they established a new oversight committee with representatives from several state agencies. They also increased visits by state workers to the company’s facilities, strengthened requirements for reporting complaints involving children, and tightened rules about documenting when a child left AdvoServ grounds, Delaware spokeswoman Dawn Thompson said in an email. Eight Delaware youth remain in AdvoServ homes, Thompson said. She did not provide details on why the company was placed on probation. The state has received eight complaints this year regarding alleged abuse of children at AdvoServ, as well as two complaints that resulted from the teenage girl’s death, Thompson said. Most of the complaints were filed by the company. Maryland is one of several states that send difficult cases to AdvoServ homes in Delaware when they cannot find beds and schooling closer to home. Maryland’s contract allows the state to pay AdvoServ up to $7.5 million a year to care for children referred either from its foster care program or after their parents had sought the agency’s help. This past June, a lawsuit was filed against AdvoServ in state court in Delaware, alleging that a teenage boy from Maryland was left unsupervised and raped repeatedly by other clients during more than four years in the company’s homes. His neck was injured during a restraint performed by workers, according to his lawyer, Chris Gowen. The case is pending. In early August, Maryland assembled a team of officials to make an unusual unannounced visit. Unrestrained While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability. Read the story. What Happened to Adam It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos. Read the story. The inspections, conducted on three days, prompted the pull-out of children and moratorium on new placements. As of this week, Maryland officials had moved 20 people under age 21 to new placements, with nine remaining at AdvoServ homes. Officials expected to move most of them by the end of this week and will have all removed before the state’s contract ends October 31. About a month after the inspection, a 15-year-old girl from Hyattsville, Maryland, became unresponsive while being restrained at a group home in a quiet stretch of old Delaware farm country southwest of Wilmington pocked with new housing developments. The girl, whose name has not been released, died in a Delaware hospital two days later. Maryland then ordered its staff to visit AdvoServ homes every day. The girl was not the first teenager to die at an AdvoServ home. In 1997, a 14-year-old autistic boy with epilepsy was found dead in his bed with low levels of anti-seizure medicine in his blood. In 2013, a 14-year-old autistic girl died at the company’s Florida home after a night in which she was restrained — at times fastened to a bed and chair — while she vomited repeatedly. “The safety of our children is DHR’s top priority and we are taking this case very seriously,” Maryland spokeswoman Katherine Morris said in an emailed statement, referring to the 15-year-old girl’s death. The company said in a brief statement last month that it was “heartbroken over the loss of a young woman in our care.”  Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/maryland-move-pull-children-from-group-homes-too-late-teenager-who-died
In Privatization Battle, Unions Go To Court To Block Conversions Of Group Homes Jane Vasseur Of Enfield, Sister Of Group-Home Resident Parents, siblings and guardians rally against privatizing group homes Thursday in Hartford, as unions file for court injunction blocking the conversions. Parents, siblings and guardians rally against privatizing group homes Thursday in Hartford, as unions file for court injunction blocking the conversions. Josh KovnerContact Reporter Court filings are mounting in the battle to prevent at least 30 state group homes from going private. Two unions representing state workers who have, or face, losing their jobs in the conversion, asked a judge on Thursday to block the transfer at least until a labor board considers the unions' assertion that the contract prevents state workers from losing their jobs over privatization. Representatives of the private sector lamented what they said was an "obstructionist" position by the unions. Toting placards urging the state not to disrupt relationships between workers and clients that have formed over many years, parents, siblings and guardians of some of the group-home residents joined current and former employees of the state Department of Developmental Disabilities and union organizers at a rally Thursday outside the Superior Court's civil division on Washington Street. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has ordered the conversion of at least 30 state-run group homes and the closing of two regional institutions to save money, and to reflect a national trend toward the privatization of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Some parents whose loved ones are in state care have expressed deep opposition to the move, saying that in some cases relationships formed with state workers over many years have kept their sons and daughters alive, and they say they distrust the private contractors who have been chronically underfunded by the state. "And they want to do this around the Christmas holidays - rip our families apart?" said Jane Vasseur of Enfield, whose brother, Billy, lives at Grey Pond group home in Simsbury. "They're selling our kids at half price -- this is the way I see it as a parent," said Lindsay Mathews, whose son, George Griffin, lives at a state group home in Hamden. She was referring to the cost of care in private group homes, which is half the state rate. Nearly 90 percent of the roughly 16,700 clients of DDS already receive services through private contractors. There are examples throughout the private sector of people with highly complex medical needs, including feeding and respiration tubes, being well cared for in private group homes, say parents with children in private care. The private sector also cares for clients with a range of difficult behaviors, including self-injury and Pica disorder, which is an appetite for non-edible objects or substances, advocates say. Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union also represents workers in private group homes in Connecticut. Those workers haven't had raises in several years, and many qualify for Husky insurance, and must work at least two jobs to support themselves and their families. David Pickus, president of Local 1199 said, the union doesn't see this as a public-private battle. "If it was the private group homes that were being disrupted in this manner, we'd be furious at that as well," Pickus said. The state is "rushing ahead with this conversion without considering its obligation to bargain with the union," he said. The last contract, which has expired but has been extended, prohibits layoffs from private conversions, said Pickus, but state officials have argued that the provision no longer exists. The union has filed a prohibitive-practice complaint with the state Board of Labor Relations and has requested an accelerated hearing. In the petition for an injunction filed Thursday, the union is asking for a temporary halt to the conversions until the labor board can rule. Mathews has filed a separate request for an injunction on behalf of her son, and a hearing is scheduled for Monday at Superior Court in New Haven. Lawyers for advocates who support private care said a key issue is whether the state has neglected the private sector. "The idea that state-run facilities are inherently superior to private group homes is simply not supported by our experience in Connecticut," said lawyer David Shaw, who represented the Arc Connecticut in cases that closed the Mansfield Training School and helped dozens of former residents of the Southbury Training School move to private community settings. "I think the question for the court will be whether the state has provided sufficient support [to the private sector] to enable them to provide adequate care," Shaw said. Gian-Carlo Casa, a former state policy and budget official who now heads the trade group representing dozens of private group-home operators, said the private sector has demonstrated that it can match the state's quality of care and do it for significantly less money. "It is unfortunate that the union is taking an obstructionist position on a plan that experience and research shows will only benefit the individuals in state care," Casa said Thursday. He said the lower cost of private care "could allow the state to provide services for many more families who are languishing on waiting lists." The federal government is also pushing states to close outmoded institutions and place clients in less restrictive, community-based settings. Advocates in Connecticut who support private care nonetheless acknowledge that the state's underfunding of private vendors has caused high turnover and driven qualified and talented people out of the field.  Source: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-group-homes-private-state-injunction-1014-20161013-story.html
Local parents ask for public ratings of group homes By Bayne Hughes Staff Writer Updated 18 hrs ago 0 Buy Now By Bayne Hughes Staff Writer James Perdue prev next Two Decatur parents asked state Mental Health Commissioner James Perdue for better group home ratings and more notice of pending closures during his visit to Decatur on Wednesday. They did not leave the meeting satisfied. Suzanne Johnson and Jennifer Chase, parents of two group home residents who are developmentally disabled, said they were concerned after Perdue’s town hall meeting at the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama that the state Department of Mental Health is more interested in protecting group home providers than in protecting the disabled clients. Perdue also told Mayor-elect Tab Bowling that he would be willing to work with the city on the use of the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama’s request for a $30,000 city allocation. Chase told Perdue she received 12 hours' notice in April before the state shut down the group home on Diane Street Southwest, where her daughter was living. Chase said her daughter was happy and she was pleased with her care, so they were unaware the group home was even possibly facing closure. Her daughter has adjusted well to the new home, but Chase said she lives in fear she will be blindsided again after the traumatic experience. “We need to know when a group home receives a low rating,” Chase said. Johnson’s daughter wasn’t involved in the closure of nine group homes in Decatur, but she said the state Department of Mental Health’s website doesn’t include ratings or grades of the licensed group homes. This prompted Johnson to unsuccessfully call Perdue’s department. “They weren’t allowed to tell us or direct us to the good homes,” Johnson said. “It was like they didn’t want to be responsible.” Perdue said some people want a rating system for group homes similar to the health ratings for restaurants, but it’s not that simple, especially when there’s a shortage of group providers. “Ratings can be misleading,” Perdue said. “A restaurant can get a 97, but you’ve still got a problem if you find a fly in your soup.” Perdue said it’s important to make sure the ratings “don’t cause undue alarm. We also need to maintain the privacy of the individual provider.” Perdue admitted his department needs to do a better job of managing the group home providers. This includes making sure they follow rules like not hiring convicted felons and not allowing medication to be left unlocked in the refrigerator, he said. The Mental Health Center’s request for the city allocation has been a controversial issue since the City Council cut the funding in 2014 as part of budget reductions. The center’s last allocation was $28,000 in 2013. The council refused to add the allocation back in the fiscal 2016 and 2017 budgets. However, Bowling made funding the center’s request a campaign issue in the municipal election in which he was elected mayor on Oct. 4. At least two of the newly elected council members also have said they support adding the Mental Health Center’s request to the new budget. Bowling asked Perdue to help the Decatur mental health center get a match to a city allocation through the federal Medicaid program. He believes the $28,000 match would create almost $94,000 for the center. “A long-term healthcare facility isn’t an option, but that would be a lot of money to add to the bucket and help more people,” Bowling said. Perdue said he doesn’t want to micromanage the local Mental Health Center, but putting the allocation up for the federal match creates federal government oversight that might not be worth the trouble. New Mental Health Center Executive Lisa Coleman said her center would keep a city allocation local to help indigent Decatur residents with psychiatric care. She said it’s hard to say how many patients an allocation would help because the cost varies with the amount of care required for each patient. Coleman said her center would need permission from Perdue on the state level to submit the city allocation for the potential Medicaid match. “It’s a very complicated process,” Coleman said. bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.  Source: http://www.decaturdaily.com/news/morgan_county/decatur/local-parents-ask-for-public-ratings-of-group-homes/article_6a3eaeca-746b-5541-8d61-fd30b0f2385d.html
Grand jury probing foster care; new charges filed in NY case Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2016 @ 2:11 PM Published: Thursday, September 22, 2016 @ 1:50 AM By: Associated Press FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office in Riverhead, N.Y., shows Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu. The Suffolk County prosecutor tells the Associated Press that a special grand jury has been empaneled to investigate the foster care system and "all the facts" surrounding the Gonzales-Mugaburu case. Gonzales-Mugaburu was arrested in the winter of 2016 and charged with victimizing multiple children in Ridge, N.Y. (Suffolk County District Attorney's Office via AP, File) Riverhead — A special grand jury has been empaneled to investigate New York's foster care system following the arrest of a Long Island man on child sex abuse charges. The man had welcomed dozens of boys into his Ridge home, dating back two decades, before allegations of sex abuse surfaced, creating questions about oversight over the foster parent system. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Thursday the special grand jury, which has been meeting since mid-August and may not conclude its work until early 2017, is "assessing all of the facts and circumstances involving how he was able to take all these boys in." It also is investigating other possible crimes involving the suspect. It was not clear if the grand jury would file additional criminal charges or issue a report on its findings, with recommendations for changes in the foster care system. Various governmental agencies and private foster care organizations are being examined. Spota also told reporters the grand jury would investigate how the suspect was able to obtain some of the children in his care from out-of-state foster care agencies, including Washington. Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was arrested last winter and charged with victimizing seven children as young as 8. One count in an indictment alleges he sexually abused a dog in front of a child. On Thursday, a new indictment was unsealed accusing him of abusing one additional child and added charges involving some of the children identified as victims in the initial charges. A prosecutor also said it was likely some charges from the first indictment may be dropped because some of the alleged crimes happened too long ago to fall under statute of limitations laws. Defense attorney Donald Mates entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client; Gonzales-Mugaburu is being held without bail. Mates told reporters after the arraignment that his client denies ever abusing children, and suggested the alleged victims were lying. Spota said previously that statute of limitations laws prevented prosecutors from filing charges involving other abuse allegations. Since the scandal erupted, separate investigations have been started by state, city and Long Island officials. Questions remain about how Gonzales-Mugaburu was able to keep getting children placed in his home despite years of concern about his conduct. Before his arrest, Gonzales-Mugaburu was the subject of nine previous investigations involving alleged abuse dating to 1998, according to a spokeswoman for Suffolk County. Each of those inquiries led to a finding at the time that the allegations weren't credible, and none of them immediately led to the removal of children from his split-level ranch home on eastern Long Island. A break came in January, when detectives said two brothers who lived in the house came forward with credible stories of abuse. Once Gonzales-Mugaburu was in custody, others felt more comfortable coming forward, authorities said. SCO Family of Services, an agency that placed 72 New York City children in Gonzales-Mugaburu's care over 20 years, said it never uncovered evidence of sexual abuse or improper sexual behavior in the home. But the organization's chief strategy officer, Rose Anello said in July that there were other issues with the home, particularly around 2013, "and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made at that time." She said those issues involved Gonzales-Mugaburu being uncooperative and unwilling to accept staff guidance on parenting style, but none of the issues then hinted at anything like the allegations uncovered this year. Following the Gonzales-Mugaburu arrest, the city's Administration for Children's Services temporarily halted placing children in SCO foster homes, but announced in July that a review of 370 homes operated by SCO uncovered no indications abuse was occurring at any of those sites. ___ This story has been corrected to show children stopped being placed in SCO foster homes, not SCO facilities.  Source: http://www.whio.com/news/national/grand-jury-probing-foster-care-new-charges-filed-case/I7m4FFBabA14DnZruKzEaM/
Foster care worker convicted of sex crimes against foster child KSNW-TV Published: October 14, 2016, 9:03 am Updated: October 14, 2016, 10:24 am  WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A former family support worker with Saint Francis Community Services is being sentenced for child sex crimes. Bridgett Martinez was convicted of consensual sexual intercourse, lewd fondling, or sodomy with a foster child. The charges stemmed from an incident that occurred on May 23rd, 2016. Saint Francis Community Services of Salina says Martinez was placed on administrative leave when they found out about the charges back in July and was terminated on July 8th. Saint Francis Community Services released the following statement to KSN Thursday evening: A statement from The Very Reverend Robert N. Smith, Dean and CEO: “Saint Francis Community Services is aware of criminal charges filed against, and the sentence given by the court to, one of its former employees, Bridgett Martinez. Ms. Martinez was employed by Saint Francis Community Services as a Family Support Worker. Saint Francis Community Services placed Ms. Martinez on administrative leave immediately upon learning of her arrest. Her employment with Saint Francis Community Services ended July 8, 2016. The mission of Saint Francis Community Services is to serve those who are vulnerable and at risk. We condemn the actions of anyone who takes advantage of individuals and violates the laws which protect them. Saint Francis Community Services extends its heartfelt sympathy to the victim in this case.”  Source: http://ksn.com/2016/10/14/foster-care-worker-convicted-of-sex-crimes-against-foster-child/
Science backs how much foster care sucks — kids suffer more health problems  Science backs how much foster care sucks BY Nicole Lyn Pesce NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Monday, October 17, 2016, 1:14 PM facebook Tweet email Children in foster care are vulnerable to health and emotional problems. (Juanmonino/Getty Images) BY Nicole Lyn Pesce NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Monday, October 17, 2016, 1:14 PM Now it’s a scientific fact that foster kids have a hard-knock life. Children in the U.S. foster care system suffer significantly higher risks of emotional and physical health problems, the journal Pediatrics reported Monday, such as depression, asthma and obesity. University of California, Irvine sociologists surveyed more than 900,000 children. They found those in foster care were seven times more likely to be depressed, five times more likely to be anxious, and six times more prone to behavior problems than other kids in the general population, including those in single-mother and economically disadvantaged families. Foster kids were also three times more likely to have attention deficit disorder. “No previous research has considered how the mental and physical well-being of children who have spent time in foster care compares to that of children in the general population,” said study co-author Kristin Turney, UCI associate professor of sociology, in the report. Kate Middleton records children's mental health PSA And the suggested physical impact for the more than 400,000 kids in foster care was perhaps even more striking than the expected emotional fallout. Foster children were also three times more likely to have hearing and vision problems. They were twice as likely to develop asthma, become obese and experience speech problems or learning disabilities. “Foster care children are in considerably worse health than other children,” noted Turney. The report suggests this stems from any maltreatment they have endured, as well as risk factors such as poverty, parental drug and alcohol abuse and neighborhood disadvantage that likely led to their foster placement. The report advises pediatricians to take note of this in treating children who have been in foster care, and calls for more research for this vulnerable group. “This is typically a difficult-to-reach population, so having access to descriptive statistics on their living arrangements, physical well-being and behavior provided an excellent opportunity to help identify the health challenges they face,” Turney wrote.  Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/science-backs-foster-care-sucks-article-1.2833834
Kevin Morrison: Stop and understand the life of a foster child Story Comments Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size Share3 Previous Next kevin morrison Kevin Morrison, Tulsa County assistant public defender.  Editor's note Tulsa County’s public defenders help people accused of crimes who otherwise wouldn’t be represented in court. This is fifth in a series that takes a look at some of these men and women and their difficult jobs. Each is dedicated to provide the best legal representation possible. To read past stories, visit tulsabusiness.com. Posted: Monday, October 17, 2016 12:00 am Kevin Morrison: Stop and understand the life of a foster child By Ralph Schaefer TBLN Correspondent TulsaWorld.com | 0 comments Kids see the darnedest things but often suffer from those experiences. They end up on the deprived child docket in the Tulsa County Juvenile Court. They then face the possibility of being removed from their natural home. They just want and need to tell their story, and that responsibility falls to Kevin Morrison, Tulsa County assistant public defender. “We study the facts when the case is presented,” he said. “Our first order of business is to have a meeting with our clients — the children — to learn their viewpoint. “Our job is misunderstood by people. Our job is to make sure the child’s wishes are represented in court. Our position always will be to try to do what the child desires and get that outcome.” The child may or may not want to go home with the parent. There is an increasing trend to leave kids in the home unless there is a need for judicial intervention due to neglect, abuse or other unfitness at home. Unfitness is sexual or physical abuse and is the most commonly understood, Morrison said. But there is parental drug and/or alcohol abuse as well as domestic violence that has reached a point where there is a safety risk for the children. These conditions result in children having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) reactions, Morrison said. The court has the ability to order one or the other parent out of the home so the children can remain while issues are resolved, he said. The law allows parents no less than 90 days to take corrective action, but some cases are open ended. Oklahoma statutes provide that after a child has been in foster care for a defined period the state can file a motion to terminate parental responsibilities. The period out of the home could be as short as six months for very young children, but experience has shown that time extends to between nine and 12 months in difficult cases. Some cases last longer because parents are unable or unwilling to work on their issues. “Most kids want to go home,” Morrison said, “but they want their parents to get help. Something to change at home. They don’t want to be hit anymore. They don’t want mommy and daddy disappearing to the back room to use drugs.” Children react in different ways when they first meet with Morrison. He finds they will talk to him because he explains that he will represent them in the court proceedings so they don’t personally have to attend. He tells them that it is his job to get them back with their parents — if they want. By the time intervention occurs, most have a recognition there is a problem at home and many have a heightened awareness about their situations. “I tell people the children know their parents better than anyone and their viewpoint should be trusted,” he said. Morrison paused as he thought about the most significant challenge he has faced during his two decades at the Tulsa County Juvenile Court. That time includes working on the district attorney’s side. “I think the greatest challenge is avoiding burnout,” he said. “It’s not that we get burned out. It’s that we sometimes get overburdened. We deal with cases involving sexual and physical abuse daily. We look at pictures of children badly injured by parents or others. Some pictures include molestation by parents on a daily basis. That creates a pretty high level of stress. “Our legal system is adversarial by nature, and that is the way it is supposed to work. Everyone has an interest and an advocate that works against each other.” Morrison doesn’t get a lot of invitations to talk about his role at the juvenile court, but if he would, the message would be there are too many children in the foster care system. These children probably go to public schools, he said, and are likely struggling in class. “I live in Collinsville and am on the school board,” Morrison said. “There are many people in that community who are fostering children. It is a point of emphasis that I put into the schools — that they need to understand these are kids with troubles.” Many have PTSD and are acting out behaviors and symptoms, and people should be compassionate and help them. Morrison’s message would be to pay attention to what is going on around them. “We live in neighborhoods where we see children being neglected, children we suspect are being abused because it happens everywhere — not just in north Tulsa where everyone assumes that it happens,” he said. “Pay attention if you see something. Say something. If you see a child in need, try to help them, their parents. If you see something that looks dangerous to the child, call police. “Be vigilant. Not that I need more cases, but things to which people subject their children are surprising.” Adam Daigle 918-581-8480 Follow Adam Daigle on Twitter at @adamdaigleTW  Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/business/tulsabusiness/kevin-morrison-stop-and-understand-the-life-of-a-foster/article_4e841644-5e11-572b-9b83-d47db53e0fda.html
Foster care raises children's risk of mental, physical health problems Written by Honor Whiteman Published: Today Published: Today email Children in the United States who have been in foster care are at significantly higher risk of mental and physical health problems, including learning disabilities, depression, asthma, and obesity, compared with children who have not been in foster care. This is the finding of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers say children in foster care have much worse health than children in the general population. In 2014, more than 650,000 children in the U.S. spent time in foster care. On average, children in foster care spend 2 years waiting to be adopted. Previous studies have suggested that children in foster care may develop physical and mental health issues, primarily as a result of the trauma they have experienced, such as abuse and neglect. However, the authors of the new study - including Kristin Turney of the University of California-Irvine - note that no research has compared the health of children in foster care with that of children in the general population. With this in mind, Turney and team analyzed 2011-2012 data from the National Survey of Children's Health, which included more than 900,000 children across the U.S. Of these, around 1.3 percent had been in foster care. The researchers used logistic regression models to compare the risks of mental and physical health problems of children who had and had not spent time in foster care. Foster care 'a risk factor for health problems in childhood' On looking at the risks of physical health problems, the researchers found children who had been in foster care were twice as likely to have asthma and obesity and three times as likely to have hearing and vision problems, compared with children who had not spent time in foster care. When it came to mental health, children who had been in foster care were found to be at seven times greater risk of depression and five times greater risk of anxiety. Behavioral problems were six times more likely among children who spent time in foster care, the team reports, and they were also at three times greater risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and twice as likely to have learning disabilities and developmental delays. Turney says their study makes an "important contribution to the research community" by being the first to demonstrate that the health of children in foster care is much worse than children in other living conditions. "Our findings also present serious implications for pediatricians by suggesting that foster care placement is a risk factor for health problems in childhood," she adds. "This is typically a difficult-to-reach population, so having access to descriptive statistics on their living arrangements, physical well-being and behavior provided an excellent opportunity to help identify the health challenges they face. This study expands our understanding of the mental and physical health of these highly vulnerable children, but we must take a closer look if we are to understand how foster care really affects child well-being." Kristin Turney  Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313512.php
Panhandle group home director arrested on sex charges Photo: WJHG By Associated Press |  Posted: Tue 7:56 AM, Oct 18, 2016  |  Updated: Tue 7:57 AM, Oct 18, 2016 By: Associated Press October 18, 2016 PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- Authorities say the director of a group home for foster children in the Florida Panhandle is accused of having sex with a child. According to a Bay County Sheriff's Office report, 34-year-old Bryan Meeder was arrested over the weekend on lewd and lascivious battery. He's the director of Claire's House and officials say the alleged abuse took place while the girl lived in the home. The News-Herald reports the girl told investigators she came to live in the home when she was 13 and began a sexual relationship with Meeder when she was 14. She says it continued through her 18th birthday. Investigators obtained text messages and recordings of conversations between Meeder and the girl. An investigation is continuing. Records don't show whether Meeder has a lawyer.  Source: http://www.wctv.tv/content/news/Panhandle-Group-home-director-arrested-on-sex-charges-397425251.html
Families ask judge to stop planned privatization of group homes WTNH Staff Published: October 17, 2016, 6:08 pm Updated: October 19, 2016, 11:22 am Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) (WTNH) — Families of some developmentally delayed adults are fighting a move to privatize some of Connecticut’s group homes. One of those families has asked a judge to stop Gov. Malloy from going through with it. The state announced its plans to let private companies take over 40 of its 60 group homes, in an effort to trim money from the state budget. This comes after two unions announced they would file an injunction to stop the conversion of those state facilities into the private sector. In response, the head of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, Gian-Carl Casa released a statement saying; It is unfortunate that the union is taking an obstructionist position on a plan that experience and research shows will only benefit the individuals in state care. The high quality of care already being delivered by private providers to thousands of individuals with some of the most challenging and complex needs is equal, if not superior, to state facilities. And the lower cost of private care could allow the state to provide services for many more families who are languishing on waiting lists. Change is difficult. For the union to suggest that only state employees can deliver quality care is simply false, and ignores the fact that private providers already deliver care to the majority of individuals receiving state-supported services. We are confident that private, community-based agencies can provide care that individuals now living in state facilities need and deserve.” Some parents and guardians say they’ve had experience with private group homes, and that the move is not a good idea. “My brother was actually put in a private group home 20 years ago, and it was a total disaster. He was put into apartments, not supervised 24/7. He’s in no way appropriate to be unsupervised. He was roaming the community,” said Jefferey Wong. Group homes in line for privatization will do so by January 1st.  Source: http://wtnh.com/2016/10/17/families-ask-judge-to-stop-planned-privatization-of-group-homes/
Audit slams state agencies for drugging foster kids During a recent hearing at the Capitol, State Auditor Elaine Howle revealed the findings on her department's audit regarding the prescribing and oversight of psychotropic medications to children in foster care. (Oct. 19, 2016) Lilia Luciano, KXTV 6:22 AM. PDT October 20, 2016  During a recent hearing at the Capitol, State Auditor Elaine Howle revealed the findings on her department's audit regarding the prescribing and oversight of psychotropic medications to children in foster care. “The state authorized medications in dosages that exceed what’s in the guidance – multiple meds – excessive meds – than the guidance. Key overarching issues,” Howle said. Tisha Ortiz risked getting late to class to be at the hearing. She's studying criminal justice at California State University, East Bay. She sat among other former foster youth as she awaited her turn to testify.  “How is it my fault that I was abused? It's not,” Ortiz asked. “How is it my fault that I'm in a group home? It's not my fault. The foster care system is a pretty dark place.” California has, according to the auditor, the highest population of foster youth in America. Senator Mike McGuire, who called for the audit and led the hearing, noted that in 2006 only one percent of foster kids were on psych meds. That number has increased to 1 in 8 children today, McGuire noted. Often being the children of drug addicted parents, many foster children begin life at a disadvantage. Some of them are abused sexually, emotionally and physically and that’s how they end up in the hands of the state. For children like Ortiz, this life comes with increasing challenges. Ortiz said she suffered abuse at a group home. "My mom had just passed away,” Ortiz said. “She (a staff member at the group home) told me if she ever caught me crying, I'd be in serious trouble. I would hide in the showers just to cry. One time she got upset that I was crying and pulled me to the side and said, ‘Stop it, no one cares. No one is going to have empathy or sympathy for you ever. Why do you even care that your mother passed away when you weren't even close.’” Sometimes kids with behavioral problems, as many foster kids show, get into the mental health system, where they end up on prescription drugs that many say have no place in the body of a child.  Dr. Stuart Bair has worked with children in foster care for decades and has observed doctors resort to pills over therapy. “It's an easy fix or at least a superficial easy fix for a lot of systems, and a lot of doctors say, ‘Okay, here's the medication,’” Bair said. “’It will shut the kid up,' – very, very few of these kids have psychotic disorders for which these medications are clearly indicated.’” Ortiz’s case is not rare. According to Howle’s report, 12 percent of children in foster care are taking psychotropic meds, including antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, among others. When children under the age of 5 are excluded, the rate blows up, said Bill Grimm, a senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law. "Then you have a problem of about 25 percent or higher of every child in foster care between 6 and 17 being on one or more psychotropic medications, and that's a huge problem,” Grimm said. “Then when you look at the types of medications knowing that, at least our data seems to suggest, that half of those children are on antipsychotic medications that are only FDA-approved for a very, very limited diagnosis.” “The audit concludes that the state and its counties have failed to adequately oversee the prescribing of these medications,” Howle said. I asked Howle about those findings and she told me "we found that these children are receiving medications in excess of the dosages required or recommended in guidance.” “The prescribing was a problem and certainly the follow-up,” Howle said. “And then the other piece was in conjunction with receiving a medication like this, a child should be receiving mental health services, counseling services, and we didn’t see evidence of that happening for many of these children, so they were essentially being given medications, not being seen frequently enough and then not being provided the health services they need.” The audit found that in as many as 65 percent of cases, children are getting the meds without parental, guardian or court authorization, which, according to Grimm, is illegal. “In California, before a prisoner – before somebody convicted of a felony, somebody, in fact, who might have victimized and sexually molested a child in foster care – before that prisoner can be administered a psychotropic med against their will, we have a much more rigid process in place,” Grimm said. “Our prisoners are entitled to more protection of their rights than our children in foster care who'd done nothing wrong, nothing that would allow them to be punished in any way.” Ortiz said she often complained about the side effects of her medication. "They made me severely disabled. I couldn't wake up without wanting to go back to sleep,” she said. “I couldn't function on those medications. Even with just one medication, all I wanted to do was sleep all day. “One time when I was pretty drugged up, I couldn't wake up in the morning, I was feeling very sick,” she added. “I wanted to puke, and a staff member was upset that I wasn't waking up for school and decided to throw me and my bed against the wall because I wasn't waking up to go to school.” “The antipsychotics are clearly the biggest problem at this point,” Bair said. “Medication's side effects typically include serious sedation, movement disorders, and sometimes irreversible movement disorders. Sometimes where you just feel like you can't sit still and you're jumping around, which then looks as if you're more agitated when in fact it's a side effect of medication." I asked if this could possibly motivate another prescription. "Exactly. Exactly,” Bair said. “Then there are the long-term metabolic problems of increased risk of diabetes and obesity.” Ortiz said she went from 175 to 225 pounds while on the meds. “I still sometimes get the facial tics. I'll feel them; they're kind of embarrassing, especially around the eyes. I'll feel them mostly around the eyes, I'll get the facial tics. Definitely the heart problem I still suffer from, it's permanent now,” she said. “The weight gain, I've been fluctuating with weight. It wasn't until recently, like the last six months, I completely came off medications, because before it was really hard to come off all those medications." Ortiz decided to share her medical records with me. On her health and education passport, I noticed that at the age of 15, she was given Lithium, usually prescribed for bipolar disorder, which she wasn't diagnosed with. Simultaneously she was prescribed an antidepressant named Trazodone. I am far from an expert on medicine, but a simple Google search will show this drug has a major interaction with lithium. A drugs.com warning reads “The risk of interaction might outweigh the benefits.” Ortiz was also on Geodon, a powerful antipsychotic to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; none of these diagnoses appear on her records. Among its long list of side effects, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the drug may cause heart rhythm problems, a life-threatening neurological disorder, serious skin reactions, twitching, uncontrollable muscle movements, tiredness, sleepiness, increased hunger, thirst, weight gain and on and on. Dr. Bair described it as "trying to think through glue, so when you get these medications, your brain is fogged up and the things that kids need to do – they need to get educated, they need to learn how to develop peer relations." Bair thinks these side effects could significantly inhibit those processes. "We know things are not going well, so you have a kid who has essentially pharmacologically induced lack of development, immaturity,” Bair said. “And you also have a young person who may be 20, 30, 50 pounds overweight who wasn't able to learn anything in school because he or she was dead on her feet most of the time, doesn't know how to establish age-appropriate relationships either with his or her peers or with the adult world in general. It's not fair." Ortiz was also placed on Abilify, with its own long list of side effects, including specific effects for teenagers like increased mental and emotional problems and thoughts of suicide. I looked up her doctor’s name on the ProPublica Dollars for Doctors database, showing how much money doctors got from pharmaceutical companies, and just within a year of the study, her doctor had received $90 dollars in meals. Another doctor who switched her to a new antipsychotic, after she landed in the hospital likely from the side effects, got $168 dollars in food and beverage from the producers of this new medication. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money but research shows even a little incentive goes a long way. “Doctors who receive payments from the medical industry do indeed tend to prescribe drugs differently than their colleagues who don’t," according to the ProPublica study. It's that simple. “What happened a number of years ago was that there was move afoot to make doctors think that there was bipolar disorder all over the place in kids,” Bair said. “If you have bipolar disorder, it's kind of a straight shot antipsychotic. The pharmaceutical companies were really big on this and said ‘let's increase our market by having an entirely new patient population that is under 18.’” And that kind of medication isn’t cheap. “Out of the 12 most costly drugs nationwide, three of the 12 were antipsychotic meds,” Bair said. “That is one of the highest group of classes of drugs that are given to children in foster care. This is no doubt that these drugs are some of the most costly that are handed out to patients whose care is paid for by Medicaid. We don't even know how much money in California is spent on alternatives to medication." What we do know, thanks to a Mercury News study, is that over a decade, the state spent more than 226 million in taxpayer dollars on psych meds for foster children. "These are human beings. What we know is foster youth already have challenges related to their long-term success of their life,” McGuire said. “We are the guardians. The state of California are the guardians of these youth and we failed them. It's unacceptable." McGuire’s bill seeking to increase doctor accountability was recently signed by Governor Brown.  “It would confidentially turn over the medical records and prescription rates of California's foster youth to the Medical Board,” McGuire said. “The Medical Board would then be able to confidentially investigate serial over-prescribers via the medical and prescription records of foster youth. In addition, the bill would allow the attorney general to open up a case to go after a serial over-prescriber." I met with Jennifer Kent, Director of the Department of Health Care Services, which oversees the medical needs of children in foster care. She said her department agrees with the audit's findings. "I think, like all audits, it always provides room for improvement, points out places where we can make changes in our system to either deliver services in a better way or more efficient way,” Kent said. "In this particular audit, we agree with the findings, and so we’ve already made most of the changes. There are some that are still in process that we are making." Kent acknowledged that this population needs more scrutiny and that her department welcomes the opportunity to work with the Department of Social Services to gradually fix the issues.  Source: http://www.abc10.com/news/local/california/audit-slams-state-for-drugging-foster-kids/326887120
Maryland girl dies in Delaware facility for disabled youth Meredith CohnContact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun A Maryland girl died in a Delaware facility for disabled youth just ahead of being transferred. A 15-year-old Maryland girl died at a facility in Delaware for severely developmentally disabled youths, authorities said Tuesday, after the state already had decided to sever ties with the operators. The Maryland Department of Human Resources said that it had canceled its contract with AdvoServe effective Oct. 31, but had not found appropriate places to send all of the 31 youths housed in company institutions when the girl died. The unidentified girl died at the Bear, Del., facility in mid-September, authorities said. Neither AdvoServe nor the Department of Human Resouces would provide more information Tuesday. "Understandably, our agency and caseworkers were hit hard by this tragedy," Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Katherine Morris said in a statement. "The death of a child is never news that is easy to process," she said. "We are taking this case very seriously, as the safety and well-being of youth in our care is our top priority. DHR is in close contact with the authorities in Delaware who are investigating this incident." Sun Investigates: Group Homes A two-month investigation by The Baltimore Sun highlighted troubles at a LifeLine Inc. group home for disabled foster children, where a 10-year-old died in July. The Sun showed that state regulators were left in the dark about significant problems at LifeLine, including the founder’s conviction... A two-month investigation by The Baltimore Sun highlighted troubles at a LifeLine Inc. group home for disabled foster children, where a 10-year-old died in July. The Sun showed that state regulators were left in the dark about significant problems at LifeLine, including the founder’s conviction... Read more stories The Delaware State Police and the office of the medical examiner are investigating, according to the Delaware attorney general's office. There have been no charges. Morris said the Department of Human Resources had canceled its contract and instituted a moratorium on new placements "as a result of an intensive review of the program, including several unannounced visits DHR made to AdvoServ." She did not specify when the decision was made to cancel the contract, but said it was before the girl died. All but one of the Maryland youths has been placed elsewhere, Morris said. One was moved from a AdvoServ facility in Florida to another in that state.  Maryland's three-year contract with AdvoServ was approved in 2012 with two one-year extensions, according to documents provided by the Department of Human Resources. The contract was scheduled to expire in February. Payments to AdvoServe were not supposed to exceed about $7.9 million a year and were capped at about $39.8 million. It's unclear how much was paid to the company. AdvoServ declined to answer questions about the death. "Our staff is heartbroken over the loss of the young woman in our care, and our deepest sympathies go out to her mother and extended family," the company said in a statement. This is not the first time that a child has died in a group home managed by a state contractor. Damaud Martin, a 10-year-old Baltimore boy, died in July 2014 at a Laurel-area group home for disabled foster children. Maryland health regulators later said that they found serious violations at the LifeLine group home, including conflicting records on his care and miscommunication between staff and the emergency responders and medical personnel who labored to save him. However, they said none of the violations contributed to his death. That conclusion surprised child advocates who called the investgation flawed. Advocates for youth say the latest incident demonstrates the difficulty of providing services for children with the sometimes severe emotional and behavioral problems. Washington attorney Chris Gowen has filed a lawsuit on behalf of another Maryland child who he alleges was assaulted at a AdvoServ facility. "The state of Maryland has a real challenge to find alternative placements for youth with severe disabilities, and the answer to that challenge can't be to send them all out of state to a school that takes anyone," he said. Leslie Seid Margolis, a managing attorney with Disability Rights Maryland, said she's been warning the state of Maryland about AdvoServ's practices for years. She cited the company's use of a type of restraint prohibited under Maryland law. She said her group, a federally mandated advocate for people with disabilities, will investigate the death and determine what went wrong and how to prevent harm in the future. Maryland routinely sends children out of state when appropriate facilities are not available in the state. She called it a "system failure" that youths have to be sent away from home, in some cases far from home, for proper services and education. Margolis said some parents don't have the support or resources to care for their children and they have to allow them to be placed in facilities such as AdvoServ's. The company has facilities in Delaware, New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut. "I only wish Maryland had removed the kids sooner," she said. meredith.cohn@baltsun.com  Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/blog/bs-hs-child-death-20161018-story.html
Youth justice study finds prison counterproductive New report documents urgent need to replace youth prisons with rehabilitation-focused alternatives October 21, 2016 | Editor's Pick Popular Credit: iStock The youth prison model should be replaced with a continuum of community-based programs and, for the few youth who require secure confinement, smaller homelike facilities that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation, according to a report released today. Show more By Adam Schaffer, HKS Communications EmailTwitterFacebook A new report, published by Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), documents ineffectiveness, endemic abuses, and high costs in youth prisons throughout the country. The report systematically reviews recent research in developmental psychology and widespread reports of abuse to conclude that the youth prison model should be replaced with a continuum of community-based programs and, for the few youth who require secure confinement, smaller homelike facilities that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation. The authors, who are leading youth justice researchers and former youth correctional administrators, find that the current youth prison model, which emphasizes confinement and control, often exacerbates youth trauma and inhibits positive growth while failing to address public safety. Rather, the paper argues, programs work best when youths are in their home communities with rehabilitative programs or in smaller, homelike facilities that promote opportunities for healthy decision-making and development. Corrections agencies should provide a range of options depending on the individual’s needs, from smaller secure facilities to noncustodial programs. Annual youth imprisonment costs are approximately $150,000 per individual, yet recidivism rates remain close to 70 percent. The report examines the experiences of several states that have pursued alternative models and finds community-based approaches can reduce recidivism, control costs, and promote public safety. “Youth in trouble need guidance, education, and support, not incarceration in harmful and ineffective youth prisons,” said PCJ Senior Fellow Vincent Schiraldi, a co-author of the report. Previously, Schiraldi directed juvenile corrections in Washington, D.C., and served as commissioner of probation in New York City. “We now know from research and on-the-ground experience that youth prisons are not designed to best promote youth rehabilitation. This report offers concrete alternatives for policymakers across the country to maintain public safety, hold young people accountable, and turn their lives around.” “Juvenile-justice systems must have the clear purpose of giving each youth the tools he or she needs to get on the right path to a successful adulthood and to reintegrate into the community,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and chief executive officer of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a co-author of the report. Like Schiraldi, McCarthy is a former director of youth corrections — in his case, in Delaware. “By closing traditional youth prisons and leveraging increased political will to reform our country’s dependence on incarceration, states can use the savings to begin implementing a new, more effective approach to serving young people.” The report, authored by McCarthy, Schiraldi, and Miriam Shark, a former associate director at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is one of several emerging from the Executive Session on Community Corrections at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The Executive Sessions convene individuals of independent standing to take joint responsibility for rethinking and improving society’s responses to an issue. “The Future of Youth Justice: A Community-Based Alternative to the Youth Prison Model” will be presented today at the U.S. Department of Justice. A panel discussion with leading experts on community-based models for juvenile justice can be viewed via livestream from 10 a.m. to noon (EDT). This event is hosted by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.  Source: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/10/youth-justice-study-finds-prison-counterproductive/
Henry A. Giroux | The United States' War on Youth: From Schools to Debtors' Prisons Wednesday, 19 October 2016 00:00 By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis font size decrease font size increase font size Print Tweet (Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout; adapted from photo by US Government / Wikimedia Commons) Support your favorite writers by making sure we can keep publishing them! Make a donation to Truthout to ensure independent journalism survives. If one important measure of a democracy is how a society treats its children, especially poor youth of color, there can be little doubt that American society is failing. As the United States increasingly models its schools after prisons and subjects children to a criminal legal system marked by severe class and racial inequities, it becomes clear that such children are no longer viewed as a social investment but as suspects. Under a neoliberal regime in which some children are treated as criminals and increasingly deprived of decent health care, education, food and  housing, it has become clear that the United States has both failed its children and democracy itself. Not only is the United States the only nation in the world that sentences children to life in prison without parole, the criminal legal system often functions so as to make it more difficult for young people to escape the reach of a punishing and racist legal system. For instance, according to a recent report published by the Juvenile Law Center, there are close to a million children who appear in juvenile court each year subject to a legal system rife with racial disparities and injustices. This is made clear by Jessica Feierman, associate director of the Juvenile Law Center in her report "Debtors' Prison for Kids? The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System." In an interview with the Arkansas Times, Feierman said: Racial disparities pervade our juvenile justice system. Our research suggests that we can reduce those disparities through legislative action aimed at costs, fines, fees, and restitution ... In every state, youth and families can be required to pay juvenile court costs, fees, fines, or restitution. The costs for court related services, including probation, a "free appointed attorney," mental health evaluations, the costs of incarceration, treatment, or restitution payments, can push poor children deeper into the system and families deeper into debt. Youth who can't afford to pay for their freedom often face serious consequences, including incarceration, extended probation, or denial of treatment -- they are unfairly penalized for being poor. Many families either go into debt trying to pay these costs or forego basic necessities like groceries to keep up with payments. To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here. According to the report, sometimes when a family can't pay court fees and fines, the child is put in a juvenile detention facility. Such punitive measures are invoked without a degree of conscience or informed judgment as when children are fined for being truant from school. In her article in Common Dreams, Nika Knight pointed to one case in which a child was fined $500 for being truant and because he could not pay the fine, "spent three months in a locked facility at age 13." In many states, the parents are incarcerated if they cannot pay for their child's court fees. For many parents, such fines represent a crushing financial burden, which they cannot meet, and consequently their children are subjected to the harsh confines of juvenile detention centers. Erik Eckholm has written in The New York Times about the story of Dequan Jackson, which merges the horrid violence suffered by the poor in a Dickens novel with the mindless brutality and authoritarianism at the heart of one of Kafka's tales. Eckholm is worth quoting at length: When Dequan Jackson had his only brush with the law, at 13, he tried to do everything right. Charged with battery for banging into a teacher while horsing around in a hallway, he pleaded guilty with the promise that after one year of successful probation, the conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor. He worked 40 hours in a food bank. He met with an anger management counselor. He kept to an 8 p.m. curfew except when returning from football practice or church. And he kept out of trouble. But Dequan and his mother, who is struggling to raise two sons here on wisps of income, were unable to meet one final condition: payment of $200 in court and public defender fees. For that reason alone, his probation was extended for what turned out to be 14 more months, until they pulled together the money at a time when they had trouble finding quarters for the laundromat. Not only do such fines create a two-tier system of justice that serves the wealthy and punishes the poor, they also subject young people to a prison system fraught with incidents of violent assault, rape and suicide. Moreover, many young people have health needs and mental health problems that are not met in these detention centers, and incarceration also fuels mental health problems. Suicide rates behind bars "are more than four times higher than for adolescents overall," according to the Child Trends Data Bank. Moreover, "between 50 and 75 percent of adolescents who have spent time in juvenile detention centers are incarcerated later in life." Finally, as the "Debtors' Prison for Kids Report" makes clear, kids are being sent to jail at increasing rates while youth crime is decreasing. The criminal legal system is mired in a form of casino capitalism that not only produces wide inequalities in wealth, income and power, but it also corrupts municipal court systems that are underfunded and turn to unethical and corrupt practices in order to raise money, while creating new paths to prison, especially for children. Debtors' prisons for young people exemplify how a warfare culture can affect the most vulnerable populations in a society, exhibiting a degree of punitiveness and cruelty that indicts the most fundamental political, economic and social structures of a society. Debtors' prisons for young people have become the dumping grounds for those youth considered disposable, and they are also a shameful source of profit for municipalities across the United States. They operate as legalized extortion rackets, underscoring how our society has come to place profits above the welfare of children. They also indicate how a society has turned its back on young people, the most vulnerable group of people in our society. There is nothing new about the severity of the American government's attack on poor people, especially those on welfare, and both political parties have shared in this ignoble attack. What is often overlooked, however, is the degree to which children are impacted by scorched-earth policies that extend from cutting social provisions to the ongoing criminalization of a vast range of behaviors. It appears that particularly when it comes to young people, especially poor youth and youth of color, society's obligations to justice and social responsibility disappear. Modeling Schools After Prisons We live at a time in which institutions that were meant to limit human suffering and misfortune and protect young people from the excesses of the police state and the market have been either weakened or abolished. The consequences can be seen clearly in the ongoing and ruthless assault on public education, poor students and students of color. Schools have become, in many cases, punishment factories that increasingly subject students to pedagogies of control, discipline and surveillance. Pedagogy has been emptied of critical content and now imposes on students mind-numbing teaching practices organized around teaching for the test. The latter constitutes both a war on the imagination and a disciplinary practice meant to criminalize the behavior of children who do not accept a pedagogy of conformity and overbearing control. No longer considered democratic public spheres intended to create critically informed and engaged citizens, many schools now function as punishing factories, work stations that mediate between warehousing poor students of color and creating a path that will lead them into the hands of the criminal legal system and eventually, prison. Under such circumstances, it becomes more difficult to reclaim a notion of public schooling in which the culture of punishment and militarization is not the culture of education. Hope in this instance has to begin with a critical discourse among teachers, students, parents and administrators unwilling to model the schools after a prison culture. Many schools are now modeled after prisons and organized around the enactment of zero tolerance policies which, as John W. Whitehead has pointed out, put "youth in the bullseye of police violence." Whitehead argues rightfully that: The nation's public schools -- extensions of the world beyond the schoolhouse gates, a world that is increasingly hostile to freedom -- have become microcosms of the American police state, containing almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the "outside." Not only has there been an increase in the number of police in the schools, but the behavior of kids is being criminalized in ways that legitimate what many call the school-to-prison pipeline. School discipline has been transformed into a criminal matter now handled mostly by the police rather than by teachers and school administrators, especially in regard to the treatment of poor Black and Brown kids. But cops are doing more than arresting young people for trivial infractions, they are also handcuffing them, using tasers on children, applying physical violence on youth, and playing a crucial role in getting kids suspended or expelled from schools every year. The Civil Rights Project rightly argues that public schools are becoming "gateways to prisons." One estimate suggests that a growing number of young people will have been arrested for minor misbehaviors by the time they finish high school. This is not surprising in schools that already look like quasi-prisons with their drug-sniffing dogs, surveillance systems, metal detectors, police patrolling school corridors, and in some cases, police systems that resemble SWAT teams.   While there has been a great deal of publicity nationwide over police officers killing Black people, there has been too little scrutiny regarding the use of force by police in the schools. As Jaeah Lee observed in Mother Jones, the "use of force by cops in schools ... has drawn far less attention [in spite of the fact that] over the past five years at least 28 students have been seriously injured, and in one case shot to death, by so-called school resource officers -- sworn, uniformed police assigned to provide security on k-12 campuses." According to Democracy Now, there are over 17,000 school resource officers in more than half of the public schools in the United States, while only a small percentage have been trained to work in schools. In spite of the fact that violence in schools has dropped precipitously, school resource officers are the fastest growing segment of law enforcement and their presence has resulted in more kids being ticketed, fined, arrested, suspended and pushed into the criminal legal system. In 2014 over 92,000 students were subject to school-related arrests. In the last few years, videos have been aired showing a police officer inside Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina throwing a teenage girl to the ground and dragging her out of her classroom. In Mississippi schools, a student was handcuffed for not wearing a belt, a black female student was choked by the police, and one cop threatened to shoot students on a bus. Neoliberalism is not only obsessed with accumulating capital, it has also lowered the threshold for extreme violence to such a degree that it puts into place a law-and-order educational regime that criminalizes children who doodle on desks, bump into teachers in school corridors, throw peanuts at a bus, or fall asleep in class. Fear, insecurity, humiliation, and the threat of imprisonment are the new structuring principles in schools that house our most vulnerable populations. The school has become a microcosm of the warfare state, designed to provide a profit for the security industries, while imposing a pedagogy of repression on young people. According to the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, a disproportionate number of students subject to arrests are Black. It states: "While black students represent 16% of student enrollment, they represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest." Too many children in the Unites States confront violence in almost every space in which they find themselves -- in the streets, public schools, parks, and wider culture. In schools, according to Whitehead, "more than 3 million students are suspended or expelled every year." Violence has become central to America's identity both with regards to its foreign policy and increasingly in its domestic policies.  How else to explain what Lisa Armstrong revealed in The Intercept: "The United States is the only country in the world that routinely sentences children to life in prison without parole, and, according to estimates from nonprofits and advocacy groups, there are between 2,300 and 2,500 people serving life without parole for crimes committed when they were minors." The predatory financial system targets poor, Black and Brown children instead of crooked bankers, hedge fund managers, and big corporations who engage in massive corruption and fraud while pushing untold numbers of people into bankruptcy, poverty and even homelessness. For example, according to Forbes, the international banking giant HSBC exposed the US financial system to "a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing ... and channeled $7 billion into the U.S. between 2007 and 2008 which possibly included proceeds from illegal drug sales in the United States." Yet, no major CEO went to jail. Even more astounding is that "the profligate and dishonest behavior of Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis ... went virtually unpunished." Resisting Criminalization of School Discipline and Everyday Behavior Violence against children in various sites is generally addressed through specific reforms, such as substituting community service for detention centers, eliminating zero tolerance policies in schools, and replacing the police with social workers, while creating supportive environments for young people. The latter might include an immediate stoppage to suspending, expelling and arresting students for minor misbehaviors. Legal scholar Kerrin C. Wolf has proposed a promising three-tier system of reform that includes the following: The first tier of the system provides supports for the entire student body. Such supports include clearly defining and teaching expected behaviors, rewarding positive behavior, and applying a continuum of consequences for problem behavior. The second tier targets at-risk students -- students who exhibit behavior problems despite the supports provided in the first tier -- with enhanced interventions and supports, often in group settings. These may include sessions that teach social skills and informal meetings during which the students "check in" to discuss how they have been behaving. The third tier provided individualized and specialized interventions and supports for high-risk students -- students who do not respond to the first and second tier supports and interventions. The interventions and supports are based on a functional behavior assessment and involve a community of teachers and other school staff working with the student to change his or her behavior patterns. Regarding the larger culture of violence, there have also been public demands that police wear body cameras and come under the jurisdiction of community. In addition, there has been a strong but largely failed attempt on the part of gun reform advocates to establish policies and laws that would control the manufacture, sale, acquisition, circulation, use, transfer, modification or use of firearms by private citizens. At the same time, there is a growing effort to also pass legislation that would not allow such restrictions to be used as a further tool to incarcerate youth of color. In short, this means not allowing the war on gun violence to become another war on poor people of color similar to what happened under the racially biased war on drugs. And while such reforms are crucial in the most immediate sense to protect young people and lessen the violence to which they are subjected, they do not go far enough. Violence has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and bears down egregiously on children, especially poor youth and youth of color. If such violence is to be stopped, a wholesale restructuring of the warfare state must be addressed. The underlying structure of state and everyday violence must be made visible, challenged and dismantled. The violence waged against children must become a flashpoint politically to point to the struggles that must be waged against the gun industry, the military-industrial-academic complex, and an entertainment culture that fuels what Dr. Phil Wolfson describes in Tikkun Magazine as "fictive identifications" associated with "murderous combat illusions and delusions." Violence must be viewed as endemic to a regime of neoliberalism that breeds racism, class warfare, bigotry and a culture of cruelty. Capitalism produces the warfare state, and any reasonable struggle for a real democracy must address both the institutions organized for the production of violence and the political, social, educational and economic tools and strategies necessary for getting rid of it. Americans live at a time in which the destruction and violence pursued under the regime of neoliberalism is waged unapologetically and without pause. One consequence is that it has become more difficult to defend a system that punishes its children, destroys the lives of workers, derides public servants, plunders the planet and destroys public goods.  Americans live in an age of disposability in which the endless throwing away of goods is matched by a system that views an increasing number of people -- poor Black and Brown youth, immigrants, Muslims, unemployed workers and those unable to participate in the formal economy -- as excess and subject to zones of social and economic abandonment. As Gayatri Spivak rightly observes, "When human beings are valued as less than human, violence begins to emerge as the only response." At issue here is not just the crushing of the human spirit, mind and body, but the abandonment of democratic politics itself. Violence wages war against hope, obliterates the imagination, and undermines any sense of critical agency and collective struggle. Sites of Resistance Yet, resistance cannot be obliterated, and we are seeing hopeful signs of it all over the world. In the US, Black youth are challenging police and state violence, calling for widespread alliances among diverse groups of young people, such as the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), worker-controlled labor movements,  the movement around climate change, movements against austerity and movements that call for the abolition of the prison system among others. All of these are connecting single issues to a broader comprehensive politics, one that is generating radical policy proposals that reach deep into demands for power, freedom and justice. Such proposals extend from reforming the criminal legal system to ending the exploitative privatization of natural resources. What is being produced by these young people is less a blueprint for short-term reform than a vision of the power of the radical imagination in addressing long term, transformative organizing and a call for a radical restructuring of society. What we are seeing is the birth of a radical vision and a corresponding mode of politics that calls for the end of violence in all of its crude and militant death-dealing manifestations.  Such movements are not only calling for the death of the two-party system and the distribution of wealth, power and income, but also for a politics of civic memory and courage, one capable of analyzing the ideology, structures and mechanisms of capitalism and other forms of oppression. For the first time since the 1960s, political unity is no longer a pejorative term, new visions matter and coalitions arguing for a broad-based social movement appear possible again. A new politics of insurrection is in the air, one that is challenging the values, policies, structure and relations of power rooted in a warfare society and war culture that propagate intolerable violence. State violence in both its hidden and visible forms is no longer a cause for despair but for informed and collective resistance. Zygmunt Bauman is right in insisting that the bleakness and dystopian politics of our times necessitates the ability to dream otherwise, to imagine a society "which thinks it is not just enough, which questions the sufficiency of any achieved level of justice and considers justice always to be a step or more ahead. Above all, it is a society that reacts angrily to any case of injustice and promptly sets about correcting it." It is precisely such a collective spirit informing a resurgent politics within the Black Lives Matter movement and other movements -- a politics that is being rewritten in the discourse of critique and hope, emancipation and transformation. Once again, the left has a future and the future has a left.  Source: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38044-america-s-war-on-youth-from-schools-to-debtors-prisons
The Grandma Suing a Utah Prison Over Her Teenage Grandson's Suicide by Sirin Kale Oct 24 2016 2:11 PM Brock Tucker (left). Photo courtesy of Janet Crane Janet Crane alleges her intellectually disabled grandson spent most of his life being bullied, beaten and abused in various Utah facilities. Now she's fighting for justice. Before he hanged himself at age 19, Brock Tucker had experienced a life marked by instability and tragedy. As a toddler, Tucker was left brain damaged after a near fatal drowning accident. After an adolescence shunted between institutions ill-equipped to deal with his complex needs, he ended up in a federal penitentiary. According to the civil complaint filed by his grandmother, Janet Crane, Tucker was just five foot six and weighed 140 pounds when he was sent to the Central Utah Correctional Facility for auto theft and related charges at the age of 17. He resembled a child in both outlook and appearance: He had an IQ of only 70 and was highly impressionable, according to his neuropsychologist. Despite this, Tucker did have something going for him: A grandma who loved him tenaciously. Entering the Central Utah Correctional Facility (or Gunnison, as it is colloquially known), Tucker intended to use his time productively by studying for his high school diploma. Crane claims that she was not allowed to see Tucker once in his two years at Gunnison. Denied all visitation privileges, Tucker spent more than 154 days in solitary isolation. Court filings document how he spent his time: He tattooed himself; he converted to Hinduism; he contracted hepatitis. His mental condition deteriorated, and he was diagnosed in prison with unspecified psychosis and major depressive disorder. The complaint states that sometime in the afternoon of October 2, 2014—two months before he was due for parole—Tucker put a towel over his cell door's window and hung himself from his top bunk bed. He'd recently received a letter from Central Utah Academy informing him he'd be graduating high school. "Brock's siblings and I, we'll never be the same," Crane says over Skype. "It's with us every day. Someone will make a comment or I'll see a picture, and the memory of his youth will go through my mind." Her voice cracks. "He never even had a life." Now the 69-year-old is filing suit against the individuals and state agencies she believed failed her grandson. Read more: Here's Who Profits Off of Mass Incarceration After Private Prisons Close When Tucker was 12 years old, he began getting into trouble with the law, mostly for stealing cars: He'd recently moved with Crane and his two siblings to a deprived neighborhood. His grandma argues that Tucker was physically coerced into joining a gang, and that—as a result of the impulse control disorder resulting from his brain injury—he was impressionable and easily influenced. According to court filings, Tucker was in and out of juvenile institutions from the age of 13 after Utah's Division of Child and Family Services was awarded custody over him. Crane alleges that his time in two juvenile facilities in particular was characterized by repeated abuse. In 2008, he was sent to Futures Through Choice, a nonprofit that incarcerates juveniles on behalf of the state of Utah. Crane alleges that Tucker was physically assaulted by a staff member while in the care of Futures Through Choice. "One of the staff members repeatedly lifted Brock up," Crane's complaint reads, "and squeezed him until he could not breathe, then released Brock long enough to catch his breath." During the assault, the same staff member told Brock he was going to make him "cry like a bitch." According to Crane's court filings, the assault was substantiated by Utah's Child Protection Ombudsman. Brock with his nephews. Photo courtesy of Janet Crane. A 14-year-old Tucker later ran away from the facility. "He was on the run for almost a month," says Crane, bitterly. "This mentally challenged boy, running the streets. He was so hungry, and he slept behind trash bins. It was cold." In May 2009, Tucker found himself at Provo Canyon School, a for-profit facility run by Pennsylvanian-based corporation Universal Health Services. For most of the preceding year, Crane alleges that Tucker received no mental health treatment. Throughout Tucker's life, doctors and psychologists gave him different, and at times conflicting, diagnoses and treatment. After Tucker began exhibiting behavioral problems in early adolescence, Crane took him to Dr. David Nilsson, a neuropsychologist. "Truth is, I don't think anyone including Dr. Nilsson could ever give Brock a definitive diagnosis. He didn't quite fit this; he didn't quite fit that," Crane says. After tests, Dr. Nilsson ascertained that Tucker had an impulse control disorder, low IQ, and brain damage. According to Crane's civil complaint, Dr. Nilsson advised courts that a traditional reward/punishment system would exacerbate Tucker's illness, mandating a neurofeedback program instead. One time we went to see him and he could hardly talk and was shaking. Ostensibly, Provo Canyon should have been able to deal with Tucker's health needs—the school offered a neurofeedback program—but Crane alleges that this was not the case. "It was horrific. They would just randomly put him on different drugs. One time we went to see him and he could hardly talk and was shaking," Crane says. She also claims that Provo Canyon school staff physically abused Tucker repeatedly. On one occasion, Tucker was allegedly knocked unconscious after having his head repeatedly beaten into concrete by a staff member. The Child Protection Ombudsman again confirmed the assault allegation, but no protective action was taken. After two months at Provo Canyon, Crane alleges that Tucker attempted suicide for the first time. Between 2009 to 2011, Crane says that Tucker bounced between institutions and became involved in gang activity. In March 2012, Tucker found himself in a familiar place: a courtroom. This time, he was being tried as an adult for auto theft and related charges. Despite Dr. Nilsson's warning—reported in the civil complaint— to the court that a federal penitentiary would "break him" in August he was sentenced to a two to five year sentence in Utah State Prison. It's clear that Crane is haunted by her failure to save her grandson. "They never even gave him a chance," she says tearfully. Repeatedly, she tells me she "fought" for Tucker: But over time, he lost hope. "We walked outside [from one courtroom appearance] and Brock had tears in his eyes. He rarely cried. And he just said, 'Grandma, it doesn't do any good, no matter how hard I try. It doesn't matter. I give up.'" After serving just over two years in prison, Tucker hanged himself. For More Stories Like This, Sign Up for Our Newsletter Utah's suicide rate is consistently higher than the national average. No one is quite sure why, and explanations range from the Midwest's cultural history of self-reliance, high rates of gun ownership, or even lower oxygen levels on account of the altitude. What's certain is that Utahns are dying in their thousands, and many of them are young people. In 2014—the year Tucker killed himself—suicide was the leading cause of death for Utahns aged 10 to 17. The number of teenagers killing themselves has tripled in the last ten years. The World Health Organization identifies the following as indicators that someone might be at risk of committing suicide: A history of suicide attempts, mental illness, being incarcerated, and being a male aged 15-49. Tucker matches all these criteria. Crane directly blames the authorities at Gunnison for Tucker's death. "You're mentally ill, they've got you in solitary confinement and they're prescribing you drugs..." She tails off. "I mean, I have it in writing from Dr. Nilsson to the court, 'If you put this kid in prison he will wind up getting killed or will commit suicide.'" Despite this, Crane's court complaint states that the Utah prison system opted to keep Tucker in isolation for more than 154 days of the last year of his life. Crane alleges that Brock was alone in a cell and allowed out for at most an hour a day. He couldn't make phone calls, watch TV, receive visitors, exercise, or use the library. He couldn't even write letters, as his commissary privileges had been revoked—meaning that he was unable to purchase writing materials. No pens, no TV, no radios or books. How long is it going to take you to go crazy? "Imagine going into your bathroom," Crane asks me over Skype. "Maybe your bathroom is even bigger than Brock's cell. Now lock the door and have no contact with another human being. No pens, no TV, no radios or books. How long is it going to take you to go crazy?" Having worked variously as a nurse and paralegal throughout her career, Crane has many unanswered questions about Tucker's death. She recounts being told by medical workers after Tucker's death that he bled heavily in the emergency room. But if Tucker hung himself, why was there so much blood? "I went to the hospital where he was taken and they told me they couldn't resuscitate him because of all the blood. They just kept pumping up blood," Crane explains tearfully. "I'm like, Where did all the blood come from? You don't bleed when you hang yourself. No one can answer these questions for me." Janet Conway is from the Salt Lake City law firm that's taken on Crane's case. It's a huge case, involving ten separate suits against a mixture of institutions and individuals on the basis of federal and state laws. Crane is suing the Utah Department of Corrections, Futures through Choice, and Universal Health Services (which owns and operates Provo Canyon school). All were contacted by Broadly and declined or ignored requests for comment. She's also suing individuals who worked at Central Utah Correctional Facility and senior staff at Utah's child protection agencies, including the Division of Children and Family Services and Juvenile Justice Services. Conway tells me that were it not for Crane's scrupulous note-taking—a product of her career as a nurse and paralegal—the case wouldn't stand a shot. "Prisons have become the warehouses for the mentally ill, because we're not giving them proper support," Conway tells me over the phone. She says that the authorities repeatedly failed to give Tucker basic medical care, even after he was diagnosed with mental illness. It is estimated that 80,000 to 100,000 inmates are currently being held in solitary confinement in the USA, many of whom have serious mental illnesses. This form of imprisonment is known to devastate those with mental illness and exacerbate their condition. Given the circumstances of Tucker's confinement, Dr. Nilsson's warning that Tucker would attempt suicide didn't look like medical conjecture—it looks like a prediction. Crane tells me repeatedly throughout the course of our Skype that she's not doing this for the money—this is about change. "Children are dying across the USA in these for-profit programs," Crane argues. "I want all for-profit residential facilities for children abolished. I don't want any state to put a child in a for-profit program, because there are no safeguards, none." She stresses the last word. "And I want solitary confinement completely abolished. It's barbaric." I have to believe this is Brock's purpose in life. To change the world for the better. Although Conway's hopes are couched in stoic legalese, her ambitions are equally impassioned. "I'm going to fight the good fight, otherwise things will never change," she argues. "This is how we treat our mentally ill. It's got to stop. These entities are big businesses, and the only thing that gets their attention is a public embarrassment or a hit to their pocket book. That's what this case is about." Crane and Conway are taking on organizations with enormous legal resources—Universal Health Services, for example, is a Fortune 500 company. CEO Alan B. Miller is a leading figure in the healthcare industry, and has won prestigious awards. Conway estimates the civil suit will take between three and five years, and it's possible they won't win: The deck is stacked against them. "It's a little like Erin Brockovich," I comment unthinkingly. Conway laughs. "Yes, that's exactly what it's like. It is like Erin Brockovich."  Source: https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/grandma-janet-crane-suing-utah-prison-teenage-grandson-suicide
Foster Parent Pleads Guilty to 5 Child Sex Charges - Story Foster Parent Pleads Guilty to 5 Child Sex Charges Published 10/25 2016 03:37PM Updated 10/25 2016 03:37PM Clarence Garretson, 65/Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. FORT SMITH, Ark. – A Van Buren man pleaded guilty in court Tuesday morning to five counts of Interstate Transportation of a Minor with Intent to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity, his attorney announced. Clarence C. Garretson, 65, appeared with his attorney before the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith. The FBI began their investigation in May 2016, when the first minor came forward.  Minor #1: The first minor girl said that she had been raped by Garretson when he took her on a multi-state trip two years ago in 2014. Garretson was an over-the-road truck driver for C & T Trucking company in Van Buren, and he had requested and received a “rider waiver” from the trucking company so that the minor could accompany him on the trip. The girl was ten-years-old at the time of the incident and Garretson was 63. Garretson stipulated and agreed in the plea agreement that he transported the girl in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her, and the sexual activity he engaged in with her was Rape, a Class Y felony.  During the course of the investigation, it was learned that in 1998 Garretson and his wife were approved by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) to operate a foster home and later to become an adoptive home. The FBI Special Agent learned that DHS had received a report in 2002 from a foster child, living in Garretson's home at that time, that she had been sexually assaulted by him. Based on that information, the agent began locating individuals who had been in foster care at the Garretson residence. Minor #2: The second minor girl was interviewed in June 2016. This minor was a foster child in the home from 2000 to 2004. She said Garretson had taken her on over-the-road truck trips when she was his foster child. Garretson stipulated and agreed that he transported the minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her, and that the sexual activity he engaged in with her was Violation of a Minor in the First Degree, a Class C felony. At the time of the offense, she was between 13-18 years old, and the conduct engaged in was sexual intercourse. Garretson stipulated and agreed that the second minor was a foster child in his care, custody, and control when he transported her in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her. Minor #3: In 1999, DHS placed the third minor and his two older sisters in the Garretson home, and the third minor was legally adopted by them in 2001. This minor was interviewed by the FBI Special Agent in July 2016 and disclosed that Garretson had taken him on long distance truck trips starting in the summer of 2001 when he was 11 years old and that he had sexually assaulted him on multiple trips during summer vacation from school in 2002 and 2003. Garretson stipulated and agreed that he transported the minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with him, that the sexual activity he engaged in with him was Rape, a Class Y felony. Garretson stipulated and agreed that the minor was in his care, custody and control when he transported him in interstate commerce with intent to engage in sexual activity with him. Minor #4: In 1999, DHS placed the fourth minor and her two siblings in the Garretson home and she remained there until 2004. She was interviewed by the FBI Special Agent in July 2016 and disclosed that she was sexually assaulted by Garretson on an over-the-road trip to California during the summer of 2000 when she was 13 years old. Garretson stipulated and agreed that he transported the minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her, that the sexual activity he engaged in with her was Rape, a Class Y felony, and that the girl was in his care, custody, and control when he transported her in interstate commerce with intent to engage in sexual activity with her. Minor #5: This fifth minor was born in 1993, and was interviewed by the FBI Special Agent in September 2016. She stated that Garretson transported her and her siblings between Arkansas and California as a favor to her family since their parents lived in different states. She disclosed that in 2002, when she was 9 years old, Garretson had her sleep nude or partially nude in the bed with him inside the truck and engage in sexual activity with her. Garretson stipulated and agreed that he transported the girl in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her, and that the sexual activity he engaged in with her was Rape, a Class Y felony. He stipulated and agreed that the girl was in his care, custody and control when he transported her in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her. The aftermath:  Garretson was charged in a superseding indictment by a federal grand jury on October 4, 2016. Sentencing will be held at a later date. The maximum penalty for count one of the superseding indictment is a maximum term of imprisonment for Life; a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for 10 years; a maximum fine of $250,000; both imprisonment and fine. The maximum penalty for counts two, four, eight, and eleven are a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years per count; a maximum fine of $250,000 per count; both imprisonment and fine. The defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violations. "Today’s guilty plea sends a clear cut message to those who want to take advantage of our children. We will find you and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," stated Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI in Little Rock. "Garretson’s actions are horrifying and the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office will work doggedly to put these predators behind bars. I commend the FBI personnel and the USAO in their efforts to bring justice to these young people." This case was investigated by the FBI and assisted by the Van Buren Police Department.  Source: http://www.fox16.com/news/local-news/foster-parent-pleads-guilty-to-5-child-sex-charges
State shuts down Philly program after teen's death in fight with staff Updated: October 25, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT 162Share Tweet Tumblr Email Comment REPRINTS   The Wordsworth Academy's residential treatment program for troubled youths in West Philadelphia is ordered to be closed. by Chris Palmer, Staff Writer Chris Palmer Staff Writer Pennsylvania officials on Monday ordered the closure of Wordsworth Academy's residential treatment program for troubled youths in West Philadelphia, less than two weeks after a teenager died in a fight with staff. Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said the agency "issued an order for revocation of [Wordsworth's] license and emergency closure." She said department officials would be on site every day until all 83 residents are relocated. Debbie Albert, Wordsworth spokeswoman, said the process could take weeks. Launched in 2006, Wordsworth's residential program - just one aspect of the company's services - treats young people ages 10 to 21 who have emotional, behavioral, or academic difficulties, Albert said. In the Oct. 13 incident, a 17-year-old boy died after staff members tried to restrain him, according to police. The teen had barricaded himself inside a room, and had broken furniture and fixtures, police said. When staff members entered, the teen began "yelling and striking" them, police said. Staff members - whom police did not identify - tried to "gain control" of the boy but he lost consciousness, police said. Medics pronounced the boy dead at 9:36 p.m. Police have not identified him or said where he was from. No charges have been filed in the incident, and the Medical Examiner's Office said Monday afternoon that the cause of the teen's death had not been determined. The Philadelphia Defenders Association had been planning to ask a Family Court judge during special hearings this week to move or transfer all of its juvenile clients from the program. Keir Bradford-Grey, the association's chief defender, said her office was concerned about the safety of the approximately 30 young people it represents at the facility, each of whom was sent there by a judge for treatment after an arrest or due to family issues such as neglect or abuse. "One kid dying in a placement [facility] with staff not being trained well enough to handle issues involving youth is enough for us," Bradford-Grey said Monday. "To me, that place is not equipped to handle youth that need redirection in their life." Martin O'Rourke, spokesman for the First Judicial District, said those hearings would continue and would help determine where the affected youths would be sent. The courts had called for the hearings prior to the state's action, to determine whether children should remain at Wordsworth, O'Rourke said. Lisa Campbell, assistant chief of the defender association's juvenile unit, said the association had made similar requests for mass transfers in the past. In 2007, for example, it requested that youths be removed from the Chad Youth Enhancement Center near Nashville after a Philadelphia youth, Omega Leach, was strangled there by a staff member. Albert, the Wordsworth spokeswoman, said the rest of Wordsworth's services - which include special education schools, individual and family therapy, and foster care - would continue to operate. The residential treatment facility is at 3905 Ford Rd. in the River Park section. It is one of three Wordsworth campuses in the region, according to the school's website. cpalmer@phillynews.com 215-854-2817 @cs_palmer Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20161025_State_shuts_down_W__Philly_program_after_teen_s_death_in_fight_with_staff.html
Ex-Beacon Light employee accused of having relationship with student By RUTH BOGDAN Era Reporter r.bogdan@bradfordera.com Updated Oct 26, 2016 An ex-employee at Beacon Light Behavioral Health Systems has been criminally charged on allegations he had a romantic relationship with a student who lived there. Brian Malachi McLaughlin, 29, of 431 W. Washington St., Bradford, was not on duty Monday night, when the allegations took place, according to John Policastro, director of corporate Communications, Journey Health System & Beacon Light Behavioral Health System. Court records said on Monday night, Bradford City Police responded to a report that two juveniles females ran away from the Beacon Light shelter at 8 School St. It was one of these two girls — a 16-year-old — that McLaughlin was allegedly developing a relationship with. As Policastro explained, “Beacon Light maintains multiple group homes for children throughout the Bradford community. These homes treat children with various behavioral health challenges when they have been removed from their families by the court system or their home county. Beacon Light employs staff 24/7 in these homes, in therapeutic, night watch and direct care roles.” Regarding the search, “the staff on duty followed policy in notifying both Beacon Light management as well as the local police,” Policastro stated. “Within a few hours, both clients were located and safely returned to the group home. Our processes that are in place for when a client is absent from a facility were then followed,” he noted. Policastro indicated that employees learned one of the juveniles who ran away may have had contact with an employee when she left the group home. McLaughlin does not normally work at the home where the girl was living, Policastro said. Bradford City Police contacted Bradford Township Police when they learned one girl may have formed a relationship with a male employee who lives in Bradford Township, court records said. Bradford Township Police went to McLaughlin’s home, but McLaughlin was not there. He was asked by telephone to return home to talk to police about the missing teen. Court records said the teen told police she left 8 School St. and went to the home of another juvenile who lived nearby. They walked to McDonald’s, where the teen met with McLaughlin and went with him in his car. McLaughlin and the teen had discussed her running away before she did it, court records stated. The pair drove around for awhile, then parked at the McDowell Sports Center Fieldhouse parking lot on Campus Drive; they moved to the back seat and were kissing when he received the phone call from his father informing him the police wanted to talk to him, court records stated. He dropped her off in Bradford City and drove home. McLaughlin is no longer employed at Beacon Light. Policastro stated, “According to policy, when the accusations were made against an employee, the staff member in question was immediately suspended. Given the nature of the charges and subsequent arrest, the individual's employment was terminated.” In his statement, Policastro described the training Beacon Light staff members undergo, as well as the policies in place to keep group home residents safe. He explained, “We are confident that the group home staff followed policy and protocol during the initial runaway incident, but are deeply disturbed to learn of the charges filed against an off-duty staff member. We will continue to cooperate fully with the investigation and have a zero tolerance policy against any staff/client interactions insinuated in the charges. “We utilize multiple levels of supervision, policy, training and accountability in our staff, and want to stress that these criminal allegations were made to an individual not on duty at the agency at the time the incident occurred. We have treated and helped thousands of children with mental illness diagnoses in our group homes over the years and take every accusation against staff seriously. We employ nearly 600 people in our clinical companies, each of whom undergo extensive background checks prior to employment, and every two years after, along with undergoing dozens of hours of training each year. We take the safety and treatment of our clients with the utmost seriousness and will continue to work with local law enforcement and other oversight agencies in the ongoing investigation.” McLaughlin was arraigned early Tuesday morning before Magisterial District Judge Dominic Cercone on charges of interference with custody of children, a second-degree felony; institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor, all second-degree felonies, court records stated. He was committed to McKean County Jail in Smethport in lieu of 10 percent of $25,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in Central Court on Nov. 3.  Source: http://www.bradfordera.com/news/ex-beacon-light-employee-accused-of-having-relationship-with-student/article_008e9c68-9b25-11e6-8c2f-2bae3c968776.html
In wake of teen's death, Council to hold hearings on facilities for troubled youth Updated: October 28, 2016 — 1:09 AM EDT  The exterior view of Wordsworth Academy in West Philly. by Tricia L. Nadolny, Staff Writer Tricia L. Nadolny Staff Writer Three days after the state ordered a West Philadelphia residential treatment facility to close its doors following the death of a 17-year-old patient, City Council voted Thursday to hold hearings on that facility and others that care for troubled youth. "The question becomes: There were 80 kids there. What happens to them?" said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who visited Wordsworth Academy last year. The facility cared for youths with emotional, behavioral, or academic difficulties. It was closed after the Oct. 13 death of a teen who, state documents allege, stopped breathing when staff members restrained his legs and punched his rib cage. The reports describe hazardous living conditions, including broken heating and air-conditioning units, holes in walls, and rusted bathroom facilities. The documents also allege that staff members were not properly trained in restraining children. Jones, whose district includes Wordsworth and who called for the hearing, said he visited the facility after developing concerns about the private Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs) that the city's Department of Human Services contracts with to manage its cases. Wordsworth, which operates the residential facility as well as other programs, is one of those CUAs. Jones said his visit did not raise any red flags. "It was clean. The young people there seemed, on the surface, well taken care of," he said. "But that's when I was there." He said that if there were problems, he wished the facility had been open about them. "What concerns me is, that kid never gets a do-over," Jones said. In other business at Council's weekly meeting Thursday, members voted to hold a hearing on Rebuild, the program expected to launch next year that will pour an estimated $600 million into revitalizing parks, recreation centers, and libraries. Specifically, members are focused on ensuring those projects will be staffed with a diverse workforce. Though some on Council have long voiced concerns about a lack of diversity on city-funded projects, in particular those contracted to unions, Rebuild seems to be stimulating the discussions. "I want to make sure those individual projects are diverse and inclusive," said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who called for the hearing. "When people in the neighborhoods see we're doing ribbon cuttings and I'm asked the question, 'How can people from the neighborhood work on these particular projects?' . . . we want to make sure there's a strategic plan." Lauren Hitt, Mayor Kenney's spokeswoman, said in a statement that the mayor's office is working on an agreement with the building trades that would help increase diversity in the construction industry. She said Rebuild staff members are also working to better understand the challenges facing minority- and women-owned businesses, which also create barriers that keep construction managers, contractors, and unions from reaching diversity goals. "We concur with Council that diversity must be a core principle of Rebuild's implementation," Hitt said. In a rare move, Council members on Thursday also asked all Council staff, lobbyists, guests, and media to leave the caucus room so the group could discuss a matter in executive session. The members emerged after about 15 minutes. Council President Darrell L. Clarke declined to say what was discussed other than an "administrative" matter. Sources later said the group talked about the increasing number of honorary resolutions, which eat up time during each week's Council session, being introduced by members. Without discussing the topic, Clarke insisted the meeting was not in violation of the state Sunshine Act, which limits when public bodies can meet in private, because the group was not discussing legislation. Jane Roh, his spokeswoman, did acknowledge that Clarke failed to properly announce the executive session before it took place, as required by law. She said he did announce it, but so quietly that many people apparently did not hear him. "President Clarke recognizes that he should have announced more clearly and loudly that City Council was going into executive session to discuss an administrative matter," Roh said. "He regrets the error." tnadolny@phillynews.com 215-854-2730  Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20161028_In_wake_of_teen_s_death__Council_to_hold_hearings_on_facilities_for_troubled_youth.html
Treatment center president charged with DUI after crash Another employee of center faces drug possession charges Updated: 6:34 PM EDT Oct 27, 2016  Kristen Carosa News Reporter LEBANON, N.H. — The president of a residential treatment center in Plymouth has been put on a leave after he was charged with driving under the influence after a crash Wednesday morning. Advertisement Police said Jeffery Caron, 48, was arrested after he crashed into a utility pole in Lebanon. His passenger, Kellen Fitzgibbon-Bizel, 31, who is also an employee of the center, was also arrested. Police said he had prescription drugs that were not prescribed to him. "A single vehicle drove into a telephone pole on Dartmouth College Highway," Chief Richard Mello said. "Two occupants were in the vehicle. Both sustained injuries that were not life-threatening." A witness captured the crash on cellphone video. "Showing that it was traveling over the double yellow line," Mello said. "It nearly had a head-on collision a few moments before the actual accident, and then the video shows the vehicle trailing off to the right side of the road and then eventually striking and taking down a telephone pole." Caron was arrested at a hospital and charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and driving under the influence. Fitzgibbon-Bizel is facing five felony counts of possession of a controlled drug. Both men work for Mount Prospect Academy in Plymouth, an all-boys residential treatment center. Officials there said that the men been put on leaves of absence. According to staff members, Caron is the organization’s president and Fitzgibbon-Bizel is the director of facilities. The organization said it’s reviewing the incident, but wouldn’t comment further. "Certainly given the rush-hour commuter traffic, school traffic on a school day, there are a lot of things that could have happened, and we are fortunate that this wasn’t a lot worse," Mello said. The men were released after posting $10,000 bail. They are scheduled to be back in court in January.  Source: http://www.wmur.com/article/2-arrested-on-dui-drug-charges-after-slamming-into-pole-in-lebanon/7659846
Montco Child Care Agency Must Pay $5.35 Million in Child Sex Abuse Case After being sexually abused in her foster home, a 7-year-old girl was returned to the same home just months later, and was abused again. By Justin Heinze (Patch Staff) - October 28, 2016 3:21 pm ET  A Montgomery County foster care agency must pay $5.35 million in damages for repeatedly placing a young girl in a foster home where she was sexually assaulted, according to litigators. Lawyers with Kline and Specter P.C. said that Presbyterian Children's Village, based in twice placed the child, who was 7 years old at the time, in the home of Walter and Deborah Scott, where she was sexually abused. Walter Scott, now 61, later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three different children in his care. A Philadelphia jury ruled in a civil trial Friday that Presbyterian must pay $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages to the victim for placing her in that situation. “This verdict is a message that child safety must be protected," said Nadeem Bezar, who tried the plaintiff’s case with Emily Marks, both attorneys with Kline & Specter PC of Philadelphia. "This is a message from the jury to PCV and all foster care agencies that they must be diligent."  In November 2012, the child was placed in the care of Deborah and Walter Scott for three days, litigators said. When she was moved to a new foster home, she reported the abuse to her new foster mother. Despite knowing about the report, Presbyterian continued to place children with the Scotts, even after hearing another child make the same allegations, according to the suit. They then placed the original child with the Scotts for a second time in late February of 2013. The child reported abuse for a second time, and officials soon were able to identify two more victims.  Source: http://patch.com/pennsylvania/lansdale/montco-child-care-agency-must-pay-5-35-million-child-sex-abuse-case
Camera Catches Shoving Match with Group Home Worker Before Teenager’s Heart Stopped A video shows a healthy 15-year-old going into her bedroom at a for-profit AdvoServ facility. Thirty-two minutes later, she had no pulse. Nobody’s saying what happened. by Heather Vogell ProPublica, Nov. 2, 2016, 8 a.m. 3 Comments Print Print This is part of an ongoing investigation Restraints Do you know a child who has been forcibly restrained or secluded at school? Help us investigate by sharing your story. As she waited in a Delaware hospital for her daughter to die, Carla Thomas watched a silent video of the teenager’s last conscious hour. The video showed Janaia Barnhart, 15, bouncing down the stairs of the group home where she lived, Thomas said. The girl from Hyattsville, Maryland, had mental illness and threw tantrums, but on that September morning her expression suggested the mischievous laugh her mom knew well. Ahead of her carrying a black garbage bag was an employee of AdvoServ, the for-profit company that owned the home. The worker stepped toward the bedroom where the girl kept her most prized possessions — her MP3 player, movies, magic markers, karaoke machine. Seeing Janaia coming, the worker threw back an arm, shoving her hard against the hallway wall. Janaia, who was 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 227 pounds, shoved back. Both disappeared into the room, which was just big enough for a twin bed and dresser. Four more workers rushed in behind them. Thirty-two minutes later, according to Thomas, paramedics arrived to find Janaia on the floor, naked, with no pulse. Since then, Thomas has buried and mourned her daughter. But she has no idea what happened in those 32 minutes. “I still don’t have an inkling, nothing,” Thomas said in an exclusive interview with ProPublica. Janaia’s death represents another setback for AdvoServ, part of a growing, government-funded industry that provides housing and care nationwide for hundreds of thousands of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities.  Both Maryland and Delaware had already sanctioned the company, which is besieged with complaints about its treatment of a vulnerable population and the conditions of its homes. Thomas’s questions about her daughter’s death have only multiplied since AdvoServ chief executive Michael Martin played the video for her on his laptop. The footage didn’t show the inside of Janaia’s bedroom. And during four crucial minutes, a worker opened a closet door and blocked the view of the room’s entranceway. A photo of Janaia Barnhart, from a pamphlet handed out at her funeral. (Courtesy of Julia Arfaa) Staff at AdvoServ gave Thomas conflicting stories, acknowledging workers pinned Janaia down in her bedroom but never explaining why she lost consciousness. Doctors at the hospital told Thomas they did not know why the otherwise physically healthy teenager’s heart had stopped. Thomas and her lawyer, Julia Arfaa, say that Delaware officials have stymied their efforts to secure basic information. The state attorney general’s office told Arfaa that, while a police investigation was ongoing, it would not allow release of a recording of workers’ call to 911. “Releasing the 911 tape at this time could potentially jeopardize the investigation, because the call contains potentially sensitive information,” said Carl Kanefsky, spokesman for the attorney general’s office. The office will decide whether to file criminal charges after law enforcement agencies have finished their investigations, he said. A Delaware medical examiner refused Arfaa’s request for initial autopsy findings. Last week, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner said it has not completed the autopsy and will notify Janaia’s family when it does. Delaware state police won’t elaborate on the circumstances of the girl’s death or even release her name. “We’re blocked,” Arfaa said. Through a spokesman, AdvoServ declined to discuss what happened to Janaia. The company, which specializes in clients with behavior challenges, said in a statement at the time of her death that its employees were “heartbroken” over her loss. One worker who was in the home that day, Tosha Skinner, told ProPublica in a brief interview that Janaia was subjected to a “wrap-up behavior” intervention shortly before she stopped breathing. Skinner was present but didn’t participate, she said. It’s not clear what Skinner meant by “wrap-up behavior.” For years, AdvoServ has used “wrap mats,” which resemble full-body straitjackets, on some of its clients. Critics say such mechanical restraints traumatize patients, and most residential programs no longer use them. Delaware bans such tactics in most cases, and Maryland officials have instructed AdvoServ for years not to mechanically restrain children or teens. An AdvoServ spokesman said last week that no “wrap up” procedure involving mechanical restraints was used on Janaia that day. There were no wrap mats in the house, he said. For Thomas, the timing of her daughter’s death magnified the pain. The day after the incident, a Maryland official called to say the state had found Janaia a new home — something Thomas had been pushing for. Maryland began removing its 31 students from AdvoServ homes after an unannounced inspection in August found holes in walls, ripped mattresses, dirty kitchens, and broken furniture. One bedroom reeked of urine. A bathroom lacked hot water. Maryland’s contract with the company ended Monday. Janaia’s death adds to the tragic toll of the privately run residential programs, tucked away in neighborhoods across the country, that have largely replaced state institutions for the profoundly disabled and mentally ill. A ProPublica review last December found that at least 145 kids have died from avoidable causes in residential facilities over 35 years. At least 62 died after being restrained. In the last five years or so, however, as most group home providers adopted less hands-on methods for handling conflicts, restraint-related deaths became exceedingly rare — with news articles reporting only one or none a year. Owned by a private equity firm, Delaware-based AdvoServ reported last year that it cared for about 700 children and adults in that state, Florida, and New Jersey, and was expanding into Virginia. It had about 60 people age 21 or younger in Delaware programs. Delaware put AdvoServ on probation in March, and increased visits by state workers to company facilities. A lawsuit pending against AdvoServ in state court in Delaware alleges a teenage boy from Maryland was left unsupervised and raped repeatedly by other clients during more than four years in the company’s homes. Workers dislocated a vertebra in the boy’s neck while restraining him, according to his family. AdvoServ has grown in the past two decades despite a stream of complaints of abuse and neglect. As far back as the 1990s, the state of New York removed its children from AdvoServ’s predecessor, Au Clair, because its inspectors had found children living in trailers that smelled of urine and feces. Officials elsewhere have repeatedly backed off from disciplining the company, which is aided by well-connected lobbyists that include prominent former state legislators. The company in recent years successfully lobbied against a Congressional bill that would have limited the use of restraints in schools. Janaia was not the first teenager to die under AdvoServ’s care. In 1997, a 14-year-old autistic boy with epilepsy was found dead in his bed at the company’s Florida facility with low levels of anti-seizure medicine in his blood. In 2013, a 14-year-old autistic girl died at the same Florida complex after a night in which she was restrained — at times fastened to a bed and chair—while she vomited repeatedly. In that case, video of the girl’s final hours was accidentally deleted, AdvoServ officials said. Thomas, a certified medical assistant for the elderly who lives in a Maryland suburb, has learned more about the company’s problematic track record since her daughter’s death. “If I knew it was that bad, I would have signed her out,” Thomas said. Born in Washington, D.C., Janaia was diagnosed in first grade as bipolar and schizophrenic, with attention deficit disorder. She was hospitalized more than 20 times when she became a danger to herself or others, and lived in residential treatment centers in Maine, Tennessee and Maryland. At one facility about five years ago, Thomas said, a worker put Janaia in a chokehold and dragged her across the floor. Janaia sometimes attended schools, but they struggled to deal with her disorders. For all her troubles, Janaia had playful moods when she teased others and played pranks. She earned A’s in classes, when she tried. She loved Michael Jackson, animals, dancing and flowers. She was affectionate — a “hugger” — and needed to be reminded sometimes not to invade people’s personal space. She had no serious medical problems, having outgrown childhood symptoms of asthma. Her family called her “Nae Nae.” “She had her moments,” her mother said, “but she was very lovable.” In recent years, too, Thomas was pleased that her daughter was learning to recognize that her temper was about to flare. Janaia would let her mother know that she needed help. “It’s like a teakettle when you boil it,” Thomas said. “She knew when she was ready to explode.” Janaia’s mother, stepfather, brother and two sisters had started taking her out more, even bringing her with them on a skiing vacation last winter. Though AdvoServ bills itself as a last resort, Thomas said it was a less restrictive setting than earlier placements. She said the state sent Janaia there three years ago largely because AdvoServ offered schooling. Janaia Barnhart was living in this home on a quiet country road southwest of Wilmington when the incident occurred. (Heather Vogell/ProPublica) At AdvoServ, Janaia lived with other girls in a modest ranch home with white siding and maroon shutters on a quiet country road southwest of Wilmington, just a half-mile from the historic mansion where AdvoServ’s founder first opened a boarding school for autistic children in 1969. On a typical day, the home and its basketball court out back bustled with activity, as workers came and went and buses ferried the girls in the white house and an adjacent brick one to school. Sometimes, girls burst out of the homes and ran into the neighborhood, according to a local resident. Workers would chase them and often restrain them. Onlookers watched with unease, hoping no one would get hurt. “When I see that going on, I do try to keep my eyes on them,” one said. Thomas visited her daughter once a month, bringing electronics, music, supplies for arts and crafts, and foods, such as canned ravioli and instant oatmeal, that her daughter preferred over what AdvoServ provided. Sometimes, they’d stay in a hotel for the weekend and get her hair done, or go clothes shopping. This summer, Thomas worried that Janaia was backsliding. Other girls in the home were bullying her, Thomas said. During a fight with two of them, Janaia had grabbed a plastic fork and stabbed one in the ear. Police viewed Janaia as the aggressor and arrested her, her mother said. AdvoServ responded by having Janaia spend time after school in an adult home, instead of the youth home where she slept. Thomas wanted the state to find her daughter a new facility. The mother worried Janaia wasn’t supervised well enough and feared the consequences if she tangled with other girls again. Thomas didn’t like the adult language and behavior Janaia was picking up from the older clients. On the doorstep of her brick row house in Wilmington last week, Skinner — the AdvoServ employee — said she saw Janaia every day at the group home. “Janaia was my baby,” she said. “She was my child, every single day. This is crazy.” After Skinner cited the “wrap-up behavior” used on Janaia, she was asked to explain what the term meant. She said she had “nothing to hide” but didn’t know if she was allowed to talk to a reporter. After calling a supervisor, who advised her not to speak, she went inside her house and closed the door. Attempts to reach other workers involved were unsuccessful. On Monday September 12, Thomas was driving to work in Washington, D.C., when her cell phonerang. An AdvoServ staff member told her that when two workers went to Janaia’s room to help her dress, the girl had lost control of her bladder and bowels and passed out. Workers had called 911 and Janaia had gone into cardiac arrest. Thomas turned her car around, picked up Janaia’s older sister and drove frantically toward Delaware. En route, she learned that her daughter was being moved to the Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington. At the hospital, Thomas said she spoke to Janaia’s case manager at AdvoServ, who told her a different version of events: Her daughter, the case manager said, had been placed in a hold before becoming unresponsive. She then headed for the intensive care unit, where a phalanx of AdvoServ administrators greeted her at the elevator and expressed their sympathies. A doctor told Thomas that her daughter appeared to be brain-dead, and was on a respirator. For the next two days, Thomas kept vigil at her Janaia’s bedside. She didn’t leave to shower or rest. Unrestrained While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability. Read the story. What Happened to Adam It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos. Read the story. On the second day, a Delaware detective told Thomas he had watched the video and interviewed staff. According to the workers, as recounted by the police officer to Thomas, Janaia had been very aggressive that morning. Family visits were a privilege residents could lose, and workers were considering punishing her by not letting her see her mother that Friday as planned. She became angry. Ordered to clean her room, she attacked the staff member carrying the trash bag and grabbed her hair. The other staff members hurried to pull the girl off the worker, and put her in a hold until she calmed down and was talking to them. They were helping change her out of her soiled clothes. Janaia, who was lying down, asked them to take her glasses and put them on the dresser. She then turned her head to the side and passed out. Workers dialed 911. The workers told police they had done a proper hold with one worker on each arm and leg, and no one pressing on her chest. The detective told Thomas that the workers’ stories matched, and that it appeared there was no foul play, she said. Delaware state police declined comment on what the workers told them. Thomas, however, is skeptical. On the video, Janaia did not look angry until the worker shoved her. Thomas said that it would be unusual for her daughter to lose control and then suddenly calm down and start talking. And the bedroom was so small it seemed impossible that the four heavyset women she saw on the video could perform the restraint as they described it to police, Thomas said. “I’m not buying that,” she said. Workers were supposed to be trained to defuse such conflicts before they occurred — instead of escalating them, she added. “They’re trained to deal with behaviors like this.” She pressed AdvoServ officials until Martin showed her the video. He told her specifics such as the exact time when police had left the group home that evening. But he said he didn’t know what had happened in the fateful 32 minutes in her daughter’s bedroom. “It was amazing,” she said. “He had hands-on every single detail, but he can’t tell me nothing.” Thomas searched for clues as she waited in her daughter’s hospital room. She found a fingernail-shaped nick on one of Janaia’s fingers and a bruise on a knuckle. There was an unexplained mark in the center of Janaia’s chest that looked like a puncture wound. On Wednesday September 14, Janaia’s heart stopped. Thomas stayed with the body for five hours. She rubbed her daughter’s hair and cut a lock as a keepsake, noticing dried blood in one ear. As the hours ticked past, dark bruises emerged on her daughter’s left leg, below the knee. A nurse told her bruises often became more pronounced after death. The white house near the unincorporated community known as Kirkwood was silent on a recent day. A single SUV was parked in the driveway and no one came to the door. Thomas said AdvoServ returned Janaia’s clothes, neatly laundered, and other possessions. Among the items was a composition book her daughter kept as a journal. Thomas noticed several sheets had been ripped out. Scrawled on a remaining page was a haunting passage that reminded Thomas how hard her daughter had tried to curb her temper and pay attention to the adults in her life. “I listen to my mom and dad,” Janaia wrote, according to Thomas’s recollection. “Because if you don’t listen, you get hurt.”  Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/camera-shoving-match-group-home-worker-before-teenager-heart-stopped
Commentary: Wordsworth case shows it's time to rethink 'treatment' for juveniles Updated: November 3, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT Wordsworth Academy , a residential treatment center in West Philadelphia where a 17-year-old boy died on Oct. 13. by Mical Raz and Deborah Doroshow Mical Raz and Deborah Doroshow   A 17-year-old is dead. Assaulted in his room by the very adults responsible for his safety, he uttered his last words: "Get off me, I can't breathe." He died at Wordsworth Academy, a Philadelphia institution euphemistically described as a "treatment center" for children with behavioral problems. Currently housing 82 children and youth, the majority of whom were placed there by juvenile courts, Wordsworth Academy is responsible for providing rehabilitative treatment for this challenging population. Instead, according to state reports, children at Wordsworth are housed in unsanitary crowded conditions, abused physically and sexually, and now, a child is dead. In this case, therapy has proven worse than punishment. Unfortunately, this is the case with all too many treatment centers, to which children and adolescents are referred by courts and social services agencies. This child's death is not the first to happen in such a center, and sadly, it is unlikely to be the last. This wasn't always the case. Juvenile courts were created at the turn of the 20th century in order to rehabilitate, rather than simply punish, children whose illegal behavior was thought to stem from difficult home lives, poverty, or psychological troubles. By the 1940s and 1950s, a group of child-welfare experts founded small, progressive institutions called residential treatment centers to treat so-called delinquent and troubled children. They reclassified these children as "emotionally disturbed," tracing their problems back to difficult home lives and offering them intensive inpatient therapy, and ultimately, a chance at a better life. Fifty years before Wordsworth Academy, Walton Village in Philadelphia took such an approach to juvenile delinquency. There, boys received group and individual therapy, and were encouraged to set up a peer self-governance system. When they acted out, they were offered more treatment, rather than punishment. Unfortunately, such centers were small and often inaccessible, especially to racial and ethnic minorities. Instead, many poor African American children were sent to "training schools," punitive institutions where they often experienced verbal and physical abuse. By the 1970s, child mental-health and welfare experts were faced with an exploding population of emotionally disturbed children, many of whom were African American. Youthful offenders were increasingly viewed as dangerous, rather than emotionally disturbed. This coincided with a shift in racial demographics of arrests and imprisonment. More black boys were now involved with the juvenile justice system, and they received harsher treatment than their white counterparts. Fueled by racism and an unfounded concern over an increase in violent crime, the 1990s heralded the inflammatory rhetoric of "super-predators" and harsher sentencing. Still, rehabilitation remains the stated goal of the juvenile justice system. The therapeutic model gives the court a great deal of discretion, which is an opportunity for personal bias to come into play. Punishment does not need to fit the crime. Children can be sent for indeterminate periods of time to treatment institutions of questionable benefit until they are "fixed," a term with no clear definition. They can be moved from one institution to the other for "failure to adjust," which in Pennsylvania enables the system to place a child in a secure detention center until a new placement is found. There is little accountability as to what treatment entails, and when it is complete. Treatment centers, some of which are private for-profit companies, define measures of success, and have clear incentives to fill beds. But if centers like Wordsworth aren't the answer, what is? The success of the "Missouri model," a novel approach to juvenile justice, suggests that the residential treatment movement of the past can inform how we treat juvenile offenders today. In Missouri, youth offenders are sent by juvenile courts to small residential institutions, where they sleep in comfortable dorm rooms. When they feel upset or act out, the response is not strict punishment but rather a conversation with peers. This model seems to be working. Recidivism rates are lower than in states using a more traditional approach, violence has significantly decreased, suicides of youth in custody have stopped completely, and costs are down. Unfortunately, many "treatment centers" remain prisons by another name. Until juvenile justice is reformed, children will continue to suffer abuse and even death in the very facilities designed to treat them. Mical Raz (micalraz@mail.med.upenn.edu), M.D., and Deborah Doroshow (deborah.doroshow@yale.edu), M.D., are physicians and historians of medicine.  Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20161103_Commentary__Wordsworth_case_shows_it_s_time_to_rethink__treatment__for_juveniles.html
Texas urged to end foster care group homes, limit caseworker... | www.mystatesman.com Texas urged to end foster care group homes, limit caseworker workloads State & Regional Govt & Politics By Julie Chang - American-Statesman Staff 0  Posted: 6:48 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 Highlights The reports comes after a federal judge ruled that the Texas foster care system is unconstitutional. Court-appointed special masters issue dozens of recommendations. The special masters’ recommendations include better reporting, care and caseworker retention. Court-appointed special masters Friday released dozens of recommendations on how Texas should overhaul its troubled foster care system, including eliminating the use of foster care group homes, limiting the workload of caseworkers and proposing a plan to curb caseworker turnover rates. “This is a hugely important day for Texas children because this is the next step in crucial reform of the foster care system,” said Paul Yetter, a Houston attorney who is representing foster children suing the state. In December, U.S. District Judge Janis G. Jack of Corpus Christi found the Texas foster care system unconstitutional following a years-long case and suggested that foster children were better off before they entered the system. Jack ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services — which oversees the foster care system — to make some immediate changes and appoint special masters to recommend further ones. Those special masters, former New Jersey Commissioner of Children and Families Kevin Ryan and Francis McGovern, a Duke University law professor, made five dozen recommendations, which Jack will review and could force the agency to implement. READ: The entirety of the special masters’ report released Friday + Jay Janner Texas Department of Family and Protective Services chief Hank Whitman testifies at a Texas House Human Services Committee hearing in July. Jay Janner Texas Department of Family and Protective Services chief Hank Whitman testifies at a Texas House Human Services Committee hearing in July. Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the state’s child welfare agency, said the agency has been working to fix the foster care system, including finding more foster homes and ways to improve the health care of children, and ensuring caseworkers are spending more time with families and children. “The state of Texas has made improving foster care a priority and will continue to do so,” he said. Overhauling foster care + Jay Janner Mary Sweeney, left, is shown with her daughter Alexandria Hill, who was 2 years old when she was killed by her ... read more Jay Janner Mary Sweeney, left, is shown with her daughter Alexandria Hill, who was 2 years old when she was killed by her foster mother, Sherill Small, at a Rockdale home in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Mary Sweeney) The New York-based advocacy group Children’s Rights sued the state on behalf of foster children in 2011, accusing the state’s child welfare agency of maintaining insufficient numbers of caseworkers, moving children too frequently and putting them at risk of abuse and neglect. Attorneys representing the state argued that Texas’ caseworker turnover rate and rate of foster placements with relatives and adoptions were comparable to other states. The state is appealing Jack’s ruling. Eight foster children died from abuse or neglect in foster homes in fiscal 2013, up from two the year before. In 2014, three died in foster care. Kate Murphy with the advocacy group Texans Care for Children said that the special masters’ plan wouldn’t fix all the problems with the foster care system. She said the federal lawsuit and the special masters’ report only address children who are in foster care for at least a year and are permanently in the state’s custody — 10,795 of the state’s 30,000 foster care children as of Sept. 30, according to the state agency. “State leaders will have to do more to make sure that kids in foster care heal from the trauma they’ve already experienced and grow up healthy,” Murphy said. The state agency has reported that it has spent about $500,000 for the report. “The preparation of the report and the further billable hours it recommends come at considerable expense to Texas taxpayers. Though the litigation has brought attention to a broken system, it will not fix foster care,” said Brandon Logan with conservative Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation think tank. Recommendations The masters’ recommendations call for halting the use of foster group homes within 18 months of Jack’s potential court order. Ryan and McGovern said that until then the state should limit the number of children in group homes to eight, particularly for sibling groups. Foster group homes are supposed to have up to 12 children, but Jack in her ruling said that the limit isn’t enforced. She also cited several deficiencies in group homes, including the lack of round-the-clock supervision. She required all foster group homes to have 24-hour supervision, which the special masters echoed in their recommendations Friday. McGovern and Ryan also noted that they found that “children were not timely (or ever) examined by doctors to determine if they had been assaulted. Injuries went untreated. Necessary medical follow up did not occur. Incomplete and missing health care information was a common feature in the records.” They said foster care children needed better health care management, including regular doctors’ visits and establishment of health records. McGovern and Ryan also recommended that foster care caseworkers have a standard — not a fixed — caseload of 14 to 17 cases. They want the state agency to develop a plan to reduce the turnover rate of foster care caseworkers. The Child Protective Services caseworker turnover rate, which includes foster care caseworkers, was 25.4 percent in fiscal year 2016. Retaining caseworkers Last month, the commissioner of the state’s child welfare agency, Hank Whitman, asked for more state funding to hire 550 caseworkers and investigators — 105 of them for foster care children. He also recommended a $12,000 pay raise for them. Whitman said he was most concerned about the high numbers of children who had been reported potentially abused or neglected and weren’t seen by caseworkers in a timely manner. State Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has created a work group of five fellow committee members to consider Whitman’s plan and how to pay for it. “It is my strong belief that we cannot wait until the session to act,” Nelson said, referring to the legislative session that begins in January. State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, a member of the work group, said that if Jack orders the state to implement the special masters’ recommendations, lawmakers will have to find more money than what Whitman is requesting. “We have an unconstitutional system because these kids are not free of an unreasonable risk of harm. The way I hope we look at this is not with the first question being, ‘how much will it cost?’ Instead, ‘how do we protect these children?’” Watson said. Additional recommendations in the special masters’ report: Quality monthly face-to-face visits between foster care children and caseworkers. Centralized location for the child’s case records, including updated photos of the child. Better accessibility for foster children to report abuse. Better support services for children before they exit the foster care system. More transparency in investigations of foster homes. Ensuring that sexually abused or sexually aggressive foster children are separated from other children unless there is no documented safety risk. Reducing the risk of child-on-child abuse through better reporting, investigating and mental health assessments of children who have been sexually abused. Prohibiting placing unrelated children more than three years apart in age in the same room in a residential facility unless there’s a documented assessment that such a move is safe. Better tracking of the availability of foster homes that don’t have a child present. Decreasing the number of foster children who are placed outside of their home community. Submitting a plan to expand the number of foster homes. Stop placing foster children in agency offices or other unregulated facilities. Source: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/texas-urged-to-end-foster-care-group-homes-limit-c/ns4K5/
Peterborough foster parent charged with sexual assault Peterborough Police Lance Anderson next play/pause pre 1/1 Peterborough This Week By Lance Anderson PETERBOROUGH — A foster parent in Peterborough is facing several sexual assault charges following an investigation involving three victims. In October 2016 the Peterborough Police Service received information regarding several sexual offences that occurred between February 2016 and October 2016. The allegations involved three victims — two females under 16 years of age and one female under 17 years of age.   During all three incidents the suspect was providing foster care in the Peterborough area to the victims. On Friday, Nov. 4, officers went to the suspect's residence where he was placed under arrest. As a result of the investigation the accused was charged with the following: · Luring person under 16 years of age by means of telecommunication for the purpose of sexual invitation · Sexual assault on a person under 16 years of age · Sexual interference with a person under 16 years of age · Sexual exploitation The accused appeared in court on Nov. 4 and was remanded in custody and was scheduled to appear again in court on Monday (Nov. 7). The suspect’s name is not being released by police in order to protect the identity of the victims involved.  Source: http://www.mykawartha.com/news-story/6951916-peterborough-foster-parent-charged-with-sexual-assault/
Teen beaten unconscious at Dayton youth home is being relocated ODJFS: Teen beaten unconscious at Dayton youth home is being relocated Updated: Saturday, October 15, 2016 @ 11:28 AM By: Breaking News Staff 0 Share this on your timeline! From To Compose your message Thanks for sharing with your followers! ODJFS: Teen beaten unconscious at Dayton youth home is being relocated http://www.whio.com/news/local/odjfs-teen-beaten-unconscious-dayton-youth-home-being-relocated/UXsqBguFAi3QR7dJuOiZFN/ UPDATE @ 6:15 p.m. (Oct. 14): Cody Davidson is being relocated to a youth home facility in Columbus, an official with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said in a statement released this afternoon. The official also confirms that ODJFS is investigating the incident that occurred this week at Pilot House, on Salem Avenue. Davidson’s mother, Chasity Ranson, said she is continuing her campaign to get her son sent home to be with his family. FIRST REPORT (Oct. 13) A 16-year-old resident at Pilot House, a Dayton home for troubled youth, was beaten unconscious by another male resident and his mother wants to know why an employee watched the episode that left her son with a fractured skull and missing at least five teeth. Cody Davidson had been at Pilot House, on Salem Avenue, for five days when Chasity Ranson said he told her that on Monday night, people there gave him boxing gloves to spar with another young man at the facility. According to Montgomery County Children Services, the facility is a home that helps rehabilitate troubled youth. Davidson has aggression issues, according to his mother. According to Ranson, who has filed a complaint with police, the other boy took off his gloves and proceeded to beat her son as an employee looked on. Davidson was unconscious and bloody when police arrived, according to an incident report. “A shattered palette,” she told News Center 7’s Caroline Reinwald on Thursday night. “He’s missing five teeth. He’s going to have … reconstructive surgery to replace the teeth. He needed 36 stitches to replace his outer area of his mouth,” she said. Davidson — and the boy who administered the beating — are still residents at the facility. This news organization has asked children services for comment. Ransom said she is working to get her son out of the facility.  Source: http://www.whio.com/news/local/odjfs-teen-beaten-unconscious-dayton-youth-home-being-relocated/UXsqBguFAi3QR7dJuOiZFN/
Special-ed student confined 617 times in 6 months despite state laws Originally published November 12, 2016 at 6:04 pm Updated November 13, 2016 at 1:04 pm 1 of 5 Renay Ferguson, whose 10-year old son has ADHD, gave The Seattle Times school records that show her son was placed in isolation 148 times in the span of two years at two different elementary schools.... (Sophia Nahli Allison / The Seattle Times) More The effectiveness of a law limiting how often school officials physically restrain or isolate students is impossible to judge because nearly half the state’s school districts missed the reporting deadline. Share story By Ellie Silverman Seattle Times staff reporter During the first six months of 2016, staff members at Bellingham’s Sehome High School confined a student with a developmental disability alone in a room on 617 separate occasions — an average of about six times each school day. The extensive use of the approved but controversial technique occurred despite a 2015 state law that sought to limit how often school officials physically restrain or isolate students — tactics typically used to control outbursts from students with behavioral or emotional disabilities. The same law requires schools to report such incidents to state education officials, who “may use this data to investigate the training, practices, and other efforts used by schools and districts to reduce the use of restraint and isolation.” But a Seattle Times review of the fledgling attempt to collect this information found inconsistent compliance that makes it impossible to judge the effectiveness of the new legislation. Nearly half of the state’s 295 school districts missed a July 1 deadline to report incident numbers to Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. After questions from The Times about the poor compliance, state education officials extended the deadline and this month released a report based on data provided by 217 school districts. But even the numbers that state officials successfully compiled — showing 20,115 incidents over a six-month period — give no real insight into whether the restraint or isolation techniques were only used in an emergency where someone was likely to get seriously hurt, as the law requires. Therapeutic hold: Technique that pins a student’s arms across the chest or...  State Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, who sponsored the legislation, called the response rate by districts “dismal.” He said school districts resisted the new legislation from the beginning and as a result, he is still hearing “horror stories” from parents who consider the restraint and isolation techniques barbaric. “I have to say, we’ve got a long way to go to implement this properly,” Pollet said. “I don’t expect us to change the world by having the governor sign the legislation, but I think this has been tougher sledding than I had hoped for.” Linda Mullen, the communications director for the Washington Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said implementing the new requirements has been difficult because state lawmakers included no funding for training. “When I talk to teachers and paraprofessionals, they want their kids to be safe and they want to be safe,” Mullen said. “They want support from the district and the state to make sure they have the tools needed to do their jobs, which is to teach our kids.” Pollet said that if districts feel they need more resources to meet the requirements of the law, OSPI should assess the cost of adequate training and present a funding proposal to the legislature. However, education funding is already a contentious issue given the Washington state Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in McCleary vs. State of Washington that the state has neglected its financial obligations to schools. Several of the Puget Sound region’s largest school districts — including Seattle, Bellevue, Lake Washington and Edmonds — complied with the reporting requirements. Issaquah and Pasco were two of the largest school districts in the state to miss the initial reporting deadline, but both have since reported their data to the state. ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads Shelton is among the 78 districts that failed to report its incident numbers. Pam Farr, the executive director of teaching and learning at the Shelton School District, blamed unfamiliarity with the new requirement and noted that her district has undergone some staff turnover in the last few months. “It unfortunately was an oversight,” Farr said. The district is working to finish data collection now to either submit it late or prepare for next year, she said. Doug Gill, OSPI assistant superintendent for special education, said in August he did not know specific consequences for districts that did not report the data. But he expects districts to comply with the law limiting restraint and isolation techniques to emergency situations. “It is OSPI’s responsibility to help provide resources for districts to adjust practices, but it’s the responsibility of the district” to follow the law, Gil said. “I don’t think you can expect OSPI to monitor every classroom in the state.” The Sehome High School student with 617 isolation incidents stood out as the most extreme example in the OSPI data. The number was three times greater than a Valley View Middle School student whose 155 isolation incidents in the Snohomish District were the second most reported to the state for a single student. Michael Haberman, Bellingham’s special-education director, said the district does not restrain or isolate students outside of emergency situations. He said privacy laws prohibited him from commenting on the Sehome High student, but Haberman confirmed that the tally is accurate. “It’s not what we want to see,” Haberman said. “I don’t want to see any student restrained or isolated at all. There should be light shined on this.” New limits on techniques Federal law requires school districts to provide disabled students with a “free appropriate public education,” so a student in special education has specific academic and behavioral programs tailored to the individual’s needs. State data shows that 13.5 percent of Washington’s almost 1.1 million students have a special-education designation, and prior rules allowed teachers to include the use of restraint or isolation in their programs to correct disruptive behavior, even if it was not an emergency. Washington state’s House Bill 1240, which passed in 2015, requires school districts to limit such containment tactics to situations where there is an “imminent likelihood of serious harm.” The new law closely mirrors the U.S. Department of Education’s recommendation that restraint and seclusion should only occur when there is “a threat of imminent danger of serious physical harm to the student or others.” Washington’s law joined a growing movement around the country in which several states have pushed for limits on when students can be physically restrained — either in a hold by a school staffer or with a tether — or isolated in a special auxiliary room set aside for seclusion. Children’s control position: Another more aggressive hold that should only be... (Illustration by Kelly Shea) More The shift from what had been considered acceptable methods to discipline children with disabilities followed reports of injuries and even deaths of students restrained against their will. Parents, advocates and experts have also said that confining disabled students alone in a room can be a traumatic event. Renay Ferguson, whose 10-year old son has ADHD, gave The Seattle Times school records that show her son was placed in isolation 148 times in the span of two years at two different elementary schools. Each isolation incident ranged from two minutes to three hours, the records show. Ferguson’s son felt like he was “going to die” when he was in the Rose Hill Elementary isolation room in Kirkland, and he would take off his clothes to relieve the feeling of suffocation, he reported to his mother and doctor. While in the isolation room April 18, Ferguson’s son banged his head against the door and tied his shoelaces around his wrist and neck, according to district records. He suffered a concussion that day, according to a report from his doctor. Ferguson said she and her son no longer trust officials in the Lake Washington school district. “The school district cannot service these kids because they are different,” Ferguson said. Paul Vine, the district’s special services director, would not comment about Ferguson’s son specifically, but he said the Lake Washington School District policy aligns with the state legislation, and officials only use restraint or isolation when there is an emergency. Incomplete picture The OSPI data shows school staff isolated about 1,400 students and restrained about 2,400 others, although the same student may have been both restrained and isolated. Roughly 60 percent of those incidents occurred in elementary schools, according to The Times review of the state’s data. The data also tracks the specific method used against the student: closets for isolation, tethers for restraint, weighted blankets for calming and specific physical holds that restrict arm and leg movements. However, the data does not show what triggered the need for restraint or isolation and does not explain how it occurred in an emergency situation. In an effort to determine whether the reported incidents could all be considered an emergency, The Times obtained through the state’s public records law reports for more than 5,000 restraint and seclusion incidents from 10 districts. School officials must document each incident and provide those records to the parents, but the records are not reported to OSPI along with the district data. Some of the reports obtained by The Times included details indicating that students had turned violent, punched themselves, run into traffic or attempted to hurt another student or staff member. Others were vague or just had boilerplate language, leaving it unclear whether the techniques were used, as the law allows, to prevent serious harm. But many of the incidents, at least as they were reported, did not appear to justify the need for restraints or isolation. Team control position: A more aggressive hold that should only be used when a student is a risk to himself or others. (Illustration by Kelly Shea) For example, a ninth-grader in Puyallup was placed in isolation for 48 minutes on Nov. 4, 2015, because he had been yelling and wasn’t following directions, according to district records. Puyallup’s Executive Director of Special Education, Karen Mool, said she could not determine whether the case was an appropriate use of isolation based on only the report. “Every situation has its different uniquenesses. Were there other incidents during the day that added on to this?” she said. “It really depends on the situation and what’s happening in the classroom.” A May 6 incident report shows that Kent School District staff at Ridgewood Elementary School restrained and isolated a child for 30 minutes because the student threw glue sticks. The district’s report did not have more details on the incident. Chris Loftis, the district’s executive director of communications, clarified by email that although the incident originated with the student throwing glue sticks, “there was significant aggressive escalation from that point” that included the student punching the principal in the stomach. The district is currently revisiting its reporting forms to include more context for each incident, Loftis said. Two training programs, Right Response and Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), emphasize that physical restraint should be a last resort. The CPI training teaches educators to identify signs of anxiety, such as pacing, wringing hands or staring, and attempt to ease tensions by listening and giving the student some time to calm down. Two-person escort: Form of physical restraint used to move an agitated student from one location to another. (Illustration by Kelly Shea) If a student acts defensive by refusing to participate in activities or shouting, CPI advises teachers to ask the student to do something simple, such as standing up. The only time physical intervention should be used is if the student could hurt himself or others, such as hitting or self-injurious behavior, according to the training. Despite the uneven compliance with the new law, there does not appear to be widespread discontent with how education officials are using restraint and isolation techniques. State records show that OSPI completed 12 Special Education Citizen Complaint investigations concerning the techniques in 2016, with one case still pending as of mid-October. In one of those 12 cases, University Place School District staff put a first-grade student with high-functioning autism in seclusion “on a number of occasions” when there was no danger, according to OSPI files received in a public records request. The student told his mom that he “thought people hated him” when staff took him to the therapy room, according to the documents. Investigators found in that case and in four others that staff used restraint or isolation outside of emergency situations. Each time OSPI ordered school district officials to ensure its staff are properly trained, the records show. The Office of the Education Ombuds, an agency within the governor’s office that resolves complaints and makes policy recommendations, received a total of 34 complaints concerning the use of restraint or isolation techniques from July 2015 through June 2016, records show. Carrie Basas, director of the Ombuds office, said school district officials remain confused over how to implement changes and comply with the new law. “There’s just a mix of information out there that could be better supported through greater professional-development resources,” Basas said this summer. “Not everyone’s on the same page.” Seattle Times reporter Mike Baker contributed to this report. Mike Baker: mbaker@seattletimes.com. Ellie Silverman on Twitter @esilverman11  Source: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/special-ed-student-confined-617-times-in-6-months-despite-state-laws/
Advocate for troubled teens charged with fraud By Phil Fairbanks Published November 16, 2016 Updated November 16, 2016 SHARE TWEET EMAIL Umar Adeyola is well known for his work with at risk teens. Now he's the one in trouble with the law - again. Adeyola, head of the non-profit HEART Foundation, appeared in Buffalo federal court Wednesday to face allegations that he cheated local health insurers and a California non-profit group out of $365,000. Charged in a multi-count indictment, he is accused of submitting 4,000 fraudulent claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Univera Healthcare and Independent Health over a five-year period starting in 2009. Advertisement He also is accused of cheating the Latino Coalition for Faith and Community Leadership in California and its federally-funded program to help adults and high school dropouts prepare for employment. "There are 48 counts," Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura O'Donnell said of the charges against Adeyola. "It's going to be a complex case." Adeyola, who is well-known by judges and others for his advocacy on behalf of troubled teens, was released Wednesday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring device and limited his travel to Western New York. This is not Adeyola's first run in with the law. In 2001, he pleaded guilty to identity theft and admitted obtaining the personal information of General Motors employees in the Town of Tonawanda and using those identities to obtain fraudulent consumer loans. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Eight years later, Adeyola pleaded guilty again, this time in a case charging him with fraud and making false statements. He was accused of defrauding a local company. [Related: Funds pulled from city project tied to ex-con] For Adeyola, the allegations represent a sharp contrast to his reputation as an advocate for at-risk teens and youth diversion programs. His group, the HEART (Helping Empower At-Risk Teens) Foundation, is closed now but, for years, provided services intended to support young people, many of them in the criminal justice system. Founded in 2008, HEART provided a "full range of counseling, vocational and supportive services" with the goal of empowering teens to succeed, according to its web site. The group operated out of offices on Kensington Avenue. Prosecutors say Adeyola's non-profit organization also allowed him to bill local insurers for $228,000 worth of psychotherapy and other types of care that was never provided. They claim the defendant also cheated the Latino Coalition after the California group received $9 million in federal funding to start a jobs training program. Adeyola's group provided counseling, mental health therapy and other clinical services to the coalition but, according to prosecutors, fraudulently billed the coalition for $135,000 in expenses. The charges against Adeyola, which range from health care fraud to theft of government money, are the result of an investigation by the FBI, the U.S. dept of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Adeyola's defense lawyer declined to comment Wednesday. In 2011, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency awarded $2.18 million for a project to build housing for homeless veterans on Buffalo's East Side, a project that was sponsored by the HEART Foundation. The city agency later withdrew support for the project after reporters from The Buffalo News raised questions about Adeyola's background.  Source: http://buffalonews.com/2016/11/16/advocate-troubled-teens-charged-fraud/
Parents Of Child Who Nearly Died While In Foster Care Seek $20M From State Child Advocate Finds DCF At Fault In Near Starvation Of Infant A report by state Child Advocate Sarah Eagan finds that DCF workers assigned to the case of an infant boy placed with relatives in Groton were responsible for "staggering failure and omissions" in the child's near starvation. A report by state Child Advocate Sarah Eagan finds that DCF workers assigned to the case of an infant boy placed with relatives in Groton were responsible for "staggering failure and omissions" in the child's near starvation. Josh KovnerContact Reporter The biological parents of the child who nearly died of starvation, broken bones and head injuries while placed in foster care by the state are seeking permission to sue the Department of Children and Families for $20 million. In a 17-page notice filed with the state claims commissioner, the parents' lawyer, Shelley L. Graves, lays out a blistering portrayal of alleged malpractice and negligence on the part of DCF. With few exceptions, people looking to sue the state must gain permission from the claims commissioner. The foster mother, Crystal Magee of Groton, has been arrested and charged with child abuse, and the Office of the Child Advocate has issued a scathing report identifying breakdowns in care and oversight by DCF that endangered the child's life. Crystal Magee is a cousin of the boy's biological mother. The child, Dallas, was 13 months old when DCF, citing neglect, removed him and his siblings from the home of Kirsten Fauquet and John Stratzman, his biological parents, in June 2015. DCF supervisors and caseworkers placed the boy with Crystal and Donald Magee even though the Magees were not licensed foster-care parents, Donald Magee had a criminal record, and Crystal Magee had a history of child neglect, according to the notice of claim dated Thursday. The Magees also had no car to transport the child to medical appointments, neither had a job, both had significant medical problems, and Crystal Magee had a suspected substance-abuse issue, according to the claim. Many of the assertions in the parents' notice mirror the findings of Child Advocate Sarah Eagan's 64-page investigative report, released in October. After the attorney general's office files a response on behalf of DCF, Claims Commissioner Christy Scott will schedule hearings. Eagan and Associate Child Advocate Faith Vos Winkel called the DCF oversights in the case some of the most egregious they have seen. Several workers and supervisors were disciplined, and DCF Commissioner Joette Katz sent out memos that reaffirmed what appeared to be basic foster-care protocols and child-protection procedures. Dallas spent five months with the Magees – from June to November 2105, before he was removed. The lead social worker admitted in documents obtained by Eagan's office that he never saw the child awake during the times he visited the home. At one point, Crystal Magee called the Groton police and asked if she could get in trouble for allowing a child to cry nonstop for days on end. Crystal Magee also refused to allow child-development workers into the home on several occasions and the child missed medical appointments, according to the claim. Internal emails obtained by Eagan's office showed both an alarming sense of apathy about the case by some workers, and a deep concern by others about what the case said about DCF's foster-care practices in general. Under Katz, the department has emphasized placing children with relatives. Background checks and safety requirements are less stringent for relatives than they are for traditional foster-care families who are not related to the children they take in. The day after Dallas was removed from the Magee household, another foster parent rushed the boy to a local hospital. He was transferred to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford. Doctors found an extremely malnourished boy with broken bones and other traumatic injuries. The claim, drafted by Graves, of New London, lists Dallas' injuries. They included: A fracture of his left arm caused by trauma that likely occurred up to three weeks earlier; fractures of his right forearm, caused by trauma, that likely occurred up to six weeks before; traumatic head injuries, such as bleeding of the brain and a hemorrhage of his right eye; emaciation, sagging skin, loss of muscle mass, prominent ribs, sunken eyes, and wasted temple muscles that were "the result of severe malnourishment over a prolonged period of time"; bruises over his body; balding of the back of his head due to lying down for extended periods; burn marks; extensive developmental delays; and emotional trauma. Graves noted in the claim, as Eagan's office had, that the Magees never obtained their foster-care license during the time they had Dallas in their home, and that they lied on the foster-care application. Graves also pointed out that Crystal Magee repeatedly refused to submit to a substance-abuse evaluation requested by DCF. In addition, the claim identifies significant gaps in the electronic case record. Eagan's office found that a large number of entries were added to the electronic record in November, after Dallas' removal, that related to events weeks and moths earlier. Some of those events are suggestive of malpractice by DCF workers, according to the claim, For example, Graves writes that a social worker visited the Magee home on Sept. 29, 2015. He said in his notes that Dallas was asleep in his pack-and-play. But the worker "failed to assess Dallas' health at that visit, despite knowing that it had been 43 days since the worker's last visit," when Dallas was also asleep; that the Magees had been canceling medical appointments; that Crystal Magee had refused a drug-abuse evaluation; that outside counselors had expressed concerns about Crystal Magee's ability to cope; and that the Magees had failed to show up for two foster-care training sessions, which are part of the licensing process. Thirty days later, on Oct. 29, 2015, the social worker again visited Dallas, who was asleep in his pack-and-play. The worker wrote in his visit notes that he was "indeed able to confirm that Dallas was breathing," according both the claim and Eagan's report. The claim asserts that as a result of DCF's negligence, Dallas continues to suffer physical and emotional injuries and serious developmental delays. Source: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-dcf-abuse-claim-1116-20161115-story.html
SUFFERING IN SECRET: Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities Barbara Chyette holds up a picture of her late brother, Loren Braun, a group home resident who choked to death during a supervised outing. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) By Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan The house had no address; the dead man had no name. Illinois officials blacked out those details from their investigative report. Nobody else was supposed to learn the man's identity or the location of the state-funded facility where his body was found. The investigation was closed as it began, with no public disclosure, and the report was filed away, one of thousands that portray a hidden world of misery and harm. No one would know that Thomas Powers died at 3300 Essington Road in unincorporated Joliet, in a group home managed for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Or that his caregivers forced a 50-year-old man with the intellect of a small child to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor in a room used for storage. Or that the front door bore a building inspection sticker that warned, "Not approved for occupancy." Not even Powers' grieving family knew the state had looked into his death and found evidence of neglect. As Illinois steers thousands of low-income adults with disabilities into private group homes, a Tribune investigation found Powers was but one of many casualties in a botched strategy to save money and give some of the state's poorest and most vulnerable residents a better life. In the first comprehensive accounting of mistreatment inside Illinois' taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs, the Tribune uncovered a system where caregivers often failed to provide basic care while regulators cloaked harm and death with secrecy and silence. The Tribune identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases than publicly reported by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Confronted with those findings, Human Services officials retracted five years of erroneous reports and said the department had launched reforms to ensure accurate reporting. To circumvent state secrecy, the Tribune filed more than 100 public records requests with government agencies. But state files were so heavily redacted and unreliable that the newspaper had to build its own databases by mining state investigative files, court records, law enforcement cases, industry reports, federal audits, grant awards and Medicaid data. The Tribune found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. Residents fatally choked on improperly prepared food, succumbed to untreated bed sores and languished in pain from undiagnosed ailments. Other residents suffered forced indignities and loss of freedom, state records show. Some were mocked for their intellectual limitations, barricaded in rooms, abandoned in soiled clothing and deprived of food. A male group home resident, accused of stealing cookies, was beaten to death by his caregiver. Employees at one home bound a woman’s hands and ankles with duct tape, covered her head with a blanket and left her for several hours on the kitchen floor. For their own amusement, employees at another home repeatedly ridiculed residents to provoke outbursts, a game the caregivers called “breaking them.” And, all too often, vulnerable residents’ health and safety has been left to unlicensed, scantly trained employees. Front-line caregivers failed to promptly call 911, perform CPR or respond to medical emergencies that resulted in death. In hundreds of cases, the department allowed employees of group homes to investigate allegations of neglect and mental abuse in their own workplaces, the Tribune discovered. That alliance between group homes and Human Services’ investigative arm, the Office of the Inspector General, is not specifically disclosed in state investigative reports. Citing patient privacy laws, state officials maintain that the addresses of the more than 3,000 state-licensed group homes are secret. Illinois officials refuse to disclose the enforcement history of any home, even in cases of fatal abuse and neglect. In contrast, Illinois nursing homes must maintain copies of investigative reports and surveys for public inspection. Additionally, state health officials publish a quarterly report detailing violations accompanied by nursing home names and addresses. There are no similar disclosure requirements for group homes. In this culture of secrecy, even seemingly benign records get shielded from sight. For example, the Tribune requested a state-funded PowerPoint presentation that included a list of needed improvements to community care programs, including group homes. The state responded. Except for the word "Recommendations," the entire slide was blacked out. Citing the Tribune investigation, Human Services Secretary James Dimas has ordered widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations. "My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on," said Dimas, who was appointed last year. Dimas said he will push for legislative changes, if necessary, to allow public disclosure of group home enforcement histories. The shift in Illinois from large institutional facilities to less costly residential homes reflects the philosophy that these individuals, if supported, will lead fuller lives in the community, and more than 11,400 now live in group homes statewide. Known as Community Integrated Living Arrangements, or CILAs, these homes accommodate eight or fewer adults in ordinary apartment buildings or houses. The Arc of Illinois, a statewide advocacy group, reports that hundreds of people with disabilities have successfully transitioned into group homes in recent years. In 2011, a lawsuit brought by individuals who wanted to leave state-funded facilities resulted in a court decree that has forced Illinois to move more people into community settings. State officials have touted group homes as a preferred option, citing cost savings that can be used to fund more community care. The annual cost of care for an institutionalized resident is about $219,000 compared with $84,000 at a group home, according to state records. But Illinois has not increased reimbursement rates for group home staff wages in nearly nine years, leading to what industry leaders say are catastrophic conditions in which even the best operators are struggling to provide basic care. Illinois ranks among the five worst states for adequately funding community options, according to federal reports and studies by advocacy groups. Shirley Perez, who directs a family advocacy program for the Arc of Illinois, said: "Some of the phone calls I get from families are that they are afraid." Powers, born with a condition that led to brain damage, spent decades inside state institutions, unable to talk, unpredictable in behavior. When state officials promised him a better life in a real home and told his family he'd gain independence, Powers said yes the only way he knew how. He giggled. But this was not the life that Powers found. Nor did thousands of other adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, left to the mercy of a system designed to be invisible. Joe Powers talks about his late son, Thomas, at his daughter Kathy's home in Aurora. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) Failures of care In one Will County group home, state records show, a caregiver left a frail woman alone in the bathroom after filling the bathtub with water, unaware that it was scalding because a maintenance worker forgot to install a temperature-control valve. The woman tumbled into the tub and was severely burned. The Trinity Services caregiver put the woman to bed, later pulled socks over her peeling, bleeding skin and didn't seek medical help for more than an hour. The woman died days later. At a Springfield home owned by Sparc, a caregiver forgot to give a man his anti-seizure medication before sending him to a day program in 2013. Rather than deliver the pills, investigators found, the caregiver told a colleague to throw them into the trash. The man suffered a major seizure, turned blue and was treated at a hospital. A caregiver at a Macomb group home managed by Mosaic allowed a man to sleep with a stuffed snowman even though he had been diagnosed with pica — a disorder that compels people to eat nonfood items — and had a history of consuming stuffing, according to inspector general records. In 2012 the man tore open the snowman, ate the filling and choked to death. In case after case, group home businesses have delegated frontline care to inexperienced caregivers with negligible training, a cost-cutting combination that has led to harm, the Tribune investigation found. Indeed, when the newspaper reviewed more than 200 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect, it found the vast majority of injuries and deaths are linked to inadequate staffing levels and failure to closely monitor fragile residents. Records show caregivers trying to cover up mistakes, failing to understand dangers of missed medications and underestimating the complex nature of disabilities. Sparc's chief operating officer, Ryan Dowd, said his company fired the caregiver who directed a colleague to throw out anti-convulsant medicine, added more surveillance cameras in its group homes and switched from paper to electronic medication records so a nurse can better catch mistakes. Nancy Davis, a Mosaic vice president, said her organization dismissed the caregiver who allowed the man to sleep with a stuffed snowman, hired outside behavioral experts to address the needs of residents with pica and retrained caregivers on how to protect those individuals. Caring for adults with profound intellectual and developmental disabilities can be challenging. Some have the strength of a weightlifter with the impulsiveness of a child. In the blink of an eye, they can find themselves in crisis. Yet caregivers in group homes earn an average of $9.35 an hour, according to the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. That wage is below the federal poverty level for a family of three. Low pay is a contributing factor in high staff turnover — more than 40 percent annually in some homes. "Staff turnover — it's like a cancer that affects care," said UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago CEO John Voit, who has worked in the industry since the 1970s. Group home executives complain that inadequate state funding has not allowed the industry to increase entry-level pay or raise existing salaries to retain skilled supervisors. They say caregivers can earn more money in many other industries, citing the experienced employees who recently resigned to take higher-paying jobs at Amazon warehouses. To fill vacancies, business operators said they have turned to workers whose backgrounds would have disqualified them from jobs in the past. "You're scraping the barrel," said Little City Executive Director Shawn Jeffers, whose agency's services include group homes for adults with disabilities in the Chicago area. "I have some folks who do some really dumb stuff." Responding to what group home owners call a staffing crisis, state lawmakers in both houses this summer overwhelmingly approved $330 million in funding to boost pay for caregivers. But Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure in August, citing a lack of state funds. The Tribune also found that the group home industry is exempt from basic staffing standards required elsewhere in the state's long-term care system. Nursing homes, state institutions and other extended-care facilities are required by law to employ on-site registered nurses who can detect and react to sudden changes in patient conditions. Even low-level employees must be state-certified aides who update skills through continuing education. Group homes are not bound by these requirements. Many group home residents are not examined by a licensed nurse for weeks at a time, sometimes for many months, state enforcement records show. Instead, registered nurses often work from remote locations and supervise dozens of residents over the telephone. Some unlicensed workers also are allowed to pass out prescription medications — a practice prohibited by law at nursing homes and state-owned facilities. These and many other relaxed policies place group home residents at greater risk of undetected complications. Few daily activities underscore the dangers of thin staff or the critical role of competent caregivers like the simple act of eating. In 2014, a UCP Seguin group home resident attending the company's day program in Cicero choked to death on a marshmallow that a caregiver handed out as a treat. The victim had dysphagia, putting him at high risk of choking, and staff were supposed to give him only pureed or finely chopped foods, the inspector general found. UCP Seguin CEO Voit said his organization, one of the state's largest group home providers, has retrained staff on choking risks and revised safety protocols. That same year, a man at a Trinity Services group home in Peoria fatally choked on a cheeseburger, carrots and applesauce when a caregiver stepped away. The victim's medical files warned he often swallowed food too fast and needed close supervision, but staff members were not properly trained about his special needs, state records show. In response, Trinity Service officials said, they created a training manual for each group home that details how to monitor residents with diet restrictions and choking risks, including pictures that illustrate how to chop or puree food properly. For Loren Braun, death came from a McDonald's hamburger and an inattentive caregiver who had been hired specifically to watch him. At 61, Braun had no teeth and couldn't wear dentures. Born with developmental disabilities and diagnosed with schizophrenia, he had lived since 1997 in a North Side group home managed by Anixter Center. Braun had a history of choking. His food had to be soft and cut into tiny pieces, and someone had to coach him at every meal to eat slowly and drink water between bites. Braun's sister, Barbara Chyette, tried to protect her younger brother as best she could. Loren Braun, who had no teeth and couldn't wear dentures, choked to death on food during an outing away from his group home. (Family photo) As a former social worker at an Ohio psychiatric hospital, she saw the advantages of a small group home but feared that staffing levels were often inadequate for high-risk residents. Tapping a family foundation set up by her late father, a postal worker, she donated money to pay Anixter for an extra caregiver to shadow her brother three days a week. She also donated a van to the home for community outings. In November 2014, caregivers loaded Braun and four other residents into that van for grocery shopping, haircuts and lunch at a McDonald's. After returning to the group home, a caregiver discovered Braun unconscious in the back seat. A Chicago Fire Department paramedic reported that he removed "almost an entire hamburger" from Braun's mouth and airway but was unable to revive him. He had choked to death. State investigators cited his personal caregiver for egregious neglect. In a wrongful death suit, Chyette alleges that Anixter failed to address his choking risk, served her brother unsafe food and didn't protect him from neglect. Anixter executives declined to comment. "Loren was like a baby," Chyette said. "Like you would have to be with a 2-year-old or 3-year-old — that's the kind of supervision that clients like Loren need. And the system does not provide that kind of supervision." The attacker next door Illinois group homes were first licensed in the 1970s as state-funded community options for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the beginning of a civil rights movement to empty large institutions and nursing facilities. This shift offered freedom and independence to scores of people with disabilities who were inappropriately consigned to institutional care. But as state downsizing continues, group homes are also destinations for individuals with a history of profound problems, often compounded by mental illness, requiring round-the-clock supervision for their safety and the safety of other residents. A majority of group home businesses report that they cannot afford to provide that level of protection, according to industry trade groups. Fragile individuals with disabilities sometimes live alongside those who have a history of violence or sexual aggression, a risky mix that has led to injury and death, state records show. Group home owners are not required to report resident-on-resident assaults to the inspector general's office unless someone suspects that neglect was a factor, according to state law. But law enforcement and state investigative reports reveal a troubling pattern of violence at group homes since 2010, including three homicides. At a Trinity Services group home in Peoria in 2010, John Vogel, 45, was fatally beaten by a resident whose acts of violence had sent two employees and two housemates to the emergency room months earlier, according to inspector general and coroner records. At a Bolingbrook group home managed by Individual Advocacy Group, Eduardo Formanski, 30, suffocated after another resident, who weighed nearly twice as much as he did, lay on top of him during a fight in 2011, according to police, court and medical examiner records. That same year, Tramayne Yarbrough, 35, died of head injuries after a housemate pushed him down the stairs of a Palos Park group home operated by St. Coletta's of Illinois, according to medical examiner and inspector general records. The assailant had a history of physical aggression and had pushed someone else down the stairs about two months earlier, the inspector general's office found. Responding to questions about the Vogel homicide, Trinity Service officials said they had provided extensive behavioral therapy to the resident responsible for the attack. Afterward, they said, group home employees received enhanced training to better deal with aggressive residents. Addressing the death at the Bolingbrook home, an official for Advocacy Group said it was the only fatal incident in the group home's 17-year history. Attempts to reach St. Coletta's of Illinois for comment were unsuccessful. Residents have also been victimized sexually by other residents, records show. At a West Side day program operated by group home provider Habilitative Systems, a 33-year-old man had a behavior plan that addressed his history of sexually inappropriate behavior, including "engaging in sexual activity without consent." The staff was supposed to make sure he remained at least 3 feet away from program participants, and his care plan called for employees to accompany him even to the restroom. But in July 2010, the man wandered away unnoticed and entered an unlocked restroom where he allegedly persuaded a 27-year-old man to perform oral sex, according to a state report that cited a witness account by a third man who entered the restroom and discovered the pair. An investigator with the inspector general's office termed the sexual act consensual, even though the younger man had profound disabilities, wasn't able to speak and "could not provide any information for this investigation." The office did cite the business for neglect. An official for Habilitative Systems declined to comment about the case. State law allows group home providers to mix defenseless residents with those who have histories of violence as long as businesses maintain adequate supervision and staffing. It's hard to imagine anyone more vulnerable than 36-year-old Aaron Stanley. Born with cerebral palsy and excess fluid in his brain, Stanley has the cognitive capacity of a 2-year-old, his mother said. Spastic quadriplegia restricts movement of his arms and legs, so he can't propel his own wheelchair. At a Berwyn group home managed by UCP Seguin, he was fully dependent on the staff. Colleen Stanley didn't know that her son's bedroom was next to that of a man who not only had an intellectual disability but also was diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder. A UCP Seguin employee later told police that Stanley's housemate was prone to episodes of unprovoked explosive violence and had "insurmountable strength." In October last year the housemate walked into Stanley's room during the pre-dawn hours and nearly pummeled him to death while he lay in bed — beating him repeatedly in the head with a fire extinguisher, a television and a picture frame before stabbing his face with glass from the broken frame, police records show. Stanley's swollen face was so covered with blood that first responders could not see his eyes. The sole UCP Seguin caregiver on duty that night — a woman alone in the house with seven disabled men — told police she tried to intervene but Stanley's housemate became more violent, and she was afraid he would attack her. No charges were filed against Stanley's housemate, whose psychiatrist told police the man could not comprehend his actions. Instead, Human Services admitted him to a state-run institution for individuals with developmental disabilities, police records show. Stanley, who had to undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries on his face, no longer lives at the UCP Seguin group home. His family is suing the provider for failing to protect him. Citing the lawsuit, UCP Seguin's Voit declined to comment on the specifics of the case. In a written statement he said that, in general, when a person is harmed, his organization figures out the causes, retrains staff, revises safety protocols and disciplines employees to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. "Ultimately, however," the statement said, "there are some occurrences or encounters that can neither be predicted nor prevented, even with the best of training, protocols and processes." In an interview before her death from breast cancer in August, Stanley's mother said the system has to change. "You can't put someone that's violent in the same house as someone that can't even get out of his way," she said. A suspicious death Even as a toddler, it was clear Thomas Powers would need a lifetime of care. He never learned to speak, use a toilet or hold a spoon. He could walk, even run, but he was awkward and crashed into walls and furniture. He couldn't comprehend simple gestures or words, and at times he had trouble recognizing his own family. But he loved to have his hand stroked and his back patted. And he seemed most happy when traveling in a vehicle and staring out the window, family members said. Thomas Powers as a child, front row, second from right, and as an adult with his sister Kathy at her home. (Family photos) Powers, one of nine children, had a rare inherited disorder – phenylketonuria, which can cause severe intellectual disability and medical problems. The condition is readily detected and treated today, but the test did not exist when he was born in 1960, and his disease went untreated as a child. His father, Joe Powers, 83, said the family made the agonizing decision to institutionalize Thomas at age 6, when he had become an oblivious danger to himself and others. In one of many frightening incidents, he held an infant sibling above his head and made a throwing motion. Thomas Powers spent four decades in state institutions, but in 2008 state officials pressured the family to move him because of planned downsizing at his facility, according to one of his sisters, Kathy Powers. She said they promised he would receive more individualized care. A state contractor then steered them to Trinity Services, the state's largest operator of group homes for adults with disabilities. Two years later, however, Trinity Services officials reported that Thomas Powers had become too much to handle. Caregivers complained that he was a whirlwind of motion and mayhem, running from kitchen to bedroom, tossing pans from the stove, breaking lamps, drinking water from the toilet, sometimes stripping naked to express displeasure. "He was just out of control," a Trinity Services supervisor later said in a court deposition. "He was like an animal." To better control Powers' behaviors, Trinity Services officials transferred him in May 2010 to another home, a 2,100-square-foot ranch house on Essington Road in unincorporated Joliet. Following the move, most of his daily activities would take place inside. Thomas Powers, born with a condition that led to brain damage, was found dead in 2010 in a group home in unincorporated Joliet, three days after being transferred from another group home. He was 50. (John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune) Canceled were Powers' weekday trips to a community day program where he had participated in arts and crafts projects with dozens of other people with disabilities. There would be no more of his favorite activity, riding in a transport van. When Powers arrived, three other men were living in the house, state records show. None of them should have been there. Two months earlier, a Will County building inspector had posted a "not approved for occupancy" sticker on the door after determining that Trinity Services had converted a residential property into a group home without proper permits and safety improvements. County officials charged that Trinity Services ignored that order to vacate the home. While Powers' bedroom was being renovated, he slept in a cramped room jammed with boxes of other people's belongings, according to state records. He should have never been left unsupervised with loose objects, medical records show, because he suffered from pica and indiscriminately stuffed items in his mouth. On his third day in the home, he was found dead. His caregiver told state investigators that Powers, wearing pajamas, had rested through the night on a fully assembled bed, according to police and court records. But sheriff's deputies found Powers dressed in blue jeans and belt, lying on the floor next to a mattress so stained that it was hauled away as garbage. The room was cluttered with ripped-open storage boxes, and a box spring with built-in bed frame leaned against a wall. Thomas Powers was living in a group home in unincorporated Joliet in 2010 when he was found dead lying next to a stained mattress in a cluttered room used for storage. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune; Will County sheriff's office) The caregiver first told deputies that she found Powers with a plastic bag "laying over his face, covering it." She later changed her description, saying "it was like a sheet of paper." Dr. J. Scott Denton, who conducted the autopsy for the Will County medical examiner's office, ruled the cause of death undetermined. But later, in a deposition, Denton testified that "it's more likely than not that something unnatural happened," citing Powers' suspicious bruises and cuts, the plastic bag or sheet, the room in disarray and other unusual circumstances. Powers' family, who maintained close contact with group home employees, filed a wrongful death suit and reached a confidential settlement last year. "We will never know what happened for sure," said Kathy Powers. "But something wrong happened." Trinity Services CEO Art Dykstra, a former state director for mental health and disability programs, said Powers thrived for years without incident but experienced sudden and unexplained weight loss and health complications in the months before his death. Caregivers transferred Powers to the Joliet home because it had fewer residents than the home where he lived and might offer a calmer environment to counter his increasingly disruptive behaviors, he said. Most of the building code violations in the Joliet home represented renovations that were underway or completed without proper permits, Dykstra said. "Everyone at Trinity Services feels terrible about this death," he said. "We've tried our hardest to help people with complex needs like Thomas." Records show that the Office of the Inspector General took five years to close the case, issuing its report after the Powers family settled its civil suit with Trinity Services. Investigators cited the business and the caregiver for neglect, noting that residents were placed in a home with code violations and that Powers was forced to sleep on a mattress placed on the floor in a room full of debris. But the state took no further action against Trinity Services. Under Illinois law, the inspector general's office is required to send a notification letter to families or guardians if neglect or abuse is found. But members of Powers' family said they were unaware of the state's investigation until contacted by the Tribune. Inspector General Michael McCotter acknowledged that his office had failed to notify them. Last summer, the Powers family received an apology from McCotter in the mail. mberens@chicagotribune.com pcallahan@chicagotribune.com Twitter @mjberens1 Twitter @tribunetrish Illinois' transition to group homes Illinois has been moving toward a group home model for decades. Here are some major factors behind that transition: Beginning in the 1970s, Illinois downsized state-funded institutions because scores of people were inappropriately confined there. In the late 1980s, state officials created a special license for group homes that provide care for eight or fewer adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These homes were designated Community Integrated Living Arrangements, or CILAs. There are more than 3,000 such homes today. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that people with disabilities have the right to live in the least restrictive setting possible. Known as the Olmstead decision, the ruling also stated that unnecessary institutionalization violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The decision forced states to fund more community services. In 2007, Illinois launched the Pathways to Community Living program, a federally funded initiative to transfer thousands of people with disabilities into group homes or other community placements from state institutions or nursing facilities providing long-term care. In a federal settlement known as the Ligas consent decree, Illinois agreed in 2011 to fund community access for adults with disabilities who lived in private intermediate-care facilities with nine or more beds, and those who lived at home but had sought community services or placement. Also in 2011, a federal court approved a sweeping agreement — the Colbert consent decree — that required Illinois to fund more community options for Medicaid-eligible nursing home residents with disabilities. In late 2011, then-Gov. Pat Quinn announced a cost-saving plan to close multiple state institutions and move hundreds of adults with disabilities into group homes. The Jacksonville Developmental Center was closed, but state officials shelved plans to shutter the Murray Developmental Center following a court fight with parents of residents.  Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-group-home-investigations-cila-met-20161117-htmlstory.html
When Home Feels Like Prison: My Year In A Group Home November 17, 2016 by Noel Anaya Featured on KQED Photo by: Denise Tejada Listen Now Download Share this story: Noel Anaya spent a year in a group home when he was 12 years old. I was put into foster care when I was two years old, and I’ve been in the system ever since. The moment I stepped into a group home when I was 12, I felt like it was a mistake. There I was, with about a dozen other teen boys. On my very first day, I got into a fight during a basketball game. I was physically restrained by a staff member and put on “lockdown.” That meant except for school, I had to stay in my room, eat alone, and keep apart from the other kids for seven days. I didn’t feel like a kid in time out. I felt like an inmate. Even on a regular week, our lives were super regimented. At night, staff walked the halls with flashlights, looking into the rooms. In addition to heavy security, I met regularly with a therapist who prescribed me medication. I remember almost all the kids there were on something. We lined up for our medicine, which was given out in those little, paper, condiment cups. The drugs made me feel like a zombie. After a year, because of good behavior, I was eventually returned to my foster family. It took me a long time to adjust to normal life. Because for so long, I couldn’t rely on anyone and I was always afraid of getting in trouble. We were sent to the group home to turn our lives around. But for some of us, we ended up worse off than when we started. That’s the problem: group homes are supposed to be a safe haven for kids. But often, they’re not. Our adolescent behavior was penalized harshly. New California law requires that starting next year, the state move away from placing teens in foster care in group homes. I have my doubts. But it’s a step in the right direction to rethink how we treat kids in foster care. With a Perspective, I’m Noel Anaya. Featured on KQED  Source: https://youthradio.org/journalism/when-home-feels-like-prison-my-year-in-a-group-home/
Investigation finds widespread abuse of the disabled in Illinois group homes THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 4 hrs ago 0 Getty Images prev next CHICAGO — A newspaper investigation found more than a thousand cases of abuse and neglect of Illinois adults with disabilities who were placed into private group homes. The Chicago Tribune says its investigation revealed mistreatment inside Illinois' taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs, with caregivers failing to provide basic care while regulators conceal harm and death with secrecy and silence. The investigation found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show. The Chicago Tribune's investigation also shows 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois' Department of Human Services. Thomas Powers was one of those unfortunate cases. He died in a Joliet group home for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Grieving relatives of Powers didn't know there was evidence found of neglect, which included an instance of the 50-year-old, with the intellect of a small child, being forced to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor in a room for storage. Other incidents similar or worse than Powers' experience have also been revealed. Advertisement Play Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Remaining Time -0:00 Stream TypeLIVE Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% 00:00 Fullscreen 00:00 Mute Playback Rate 1 Subtitles subtitles off Captions captions off Chapters Chapters A male group resident was beaten to death by his caregiver after being accused of stealing cookies. Employees at another home abused a female resident by binding her hands and ankles with duct tape, and covering her head with a blanket and leaving her on a kitchen floor for several hours. In many of these cases, the health and safety of residents has been left to unlicensed and scantly trained employees. The death toll has risen due to caregivers failing to promptly call 911, perform CPR or respond to medical emergencies. Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox TheSouthern.com Daily Headlines Obituaries I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site consitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy. The department in many instances let the group homes investigate allegations of neglect and mental abuse in their own workplaces, the Chicago Tribune found. Human Services officials retracted five years of erroneous reports after confronted with The Chicago Tribune's findings and said the department had launched reforms to ensure accurate reporting. The investigation results from the Chicago Tribune have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations. "My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on," Dimas said.  Source: http://thesouthern.com/news/local/state-and-regional/investigation-finds-widespread-abuse-of-the-disabled-in-illinois-group/article_251e7d20-f09a-5dbf-9810-66faba934032.html
Man who raped 15-year-old boy gets 18 years in prison Jeff Rumage , jrumage@gannett.com 8:01 a.m. CST November 23, 2016 Group home operator Jermarro Dantzler has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for second-degree sexual assault and felony bail jumping.(Photo: Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office) CONNECTTWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE Brown Deer - The group home owner who raped a 15-year-old boy at gunpoint behind bushes on Brown Deer Road in July 2015 was sentenced on Monday, Nov. 22, to 18 years in prison. Jermarro Dantzler, 38, of Brown Deer pleaded not guilty to second-degree sexual assault and felony bail jumping. In addition to the prison sentence, Dantzler was also sentenced to eight years of extended supervision. The 15-year-old victim told Brown Deer police he was walking home on July 19, 2015, when Dantzler allegedly grabbed him by the arm in the 6700 block of West Brown Deer Road. The boy said Dantzler was holding a gun, and warned him to "do exactly what I ask you," according to a criminal complaint. Dantzler led the boy behind some bushes and made him lay in the grass. He also asked the boy his name and where he went to high school, according to the complaint. After having sex with the boy behind the bushes, he gave the boy two $20 bills. More than a month after the alleged rape, the boy told Brown Deer police that he received a Facebook invitation from Dantzler, who he recognized as the alleged rapist. Dantzler was granted a group home license in 2009 to operate Rights of Passage Living Center, 7911 W. Beechwood Ave., Milwaukee. The group home's license was revoked on April 10, 2015, due to financial improprieties, but when Dantzler appealed the revocation, he was allowed to continue to operate during the appeals process. The Department of Children and Families shut down the group home after learning about his arrest.  Source: http://www.mynorthshorenow.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/11/22/man-who-raped-15-year-old-boy-gets18-years-prison/94306416/
Lawmakers to tackle human trafficking-foster care connection By Phil Prazan Published: November 20, 2016, 9:59 pm Updated: November 21, 2016, 5:41 am  AUSTIN (KXAN) – Monday, lawmakers at the capitol will tackle a growing issue in Texas, sex and human trafficking. Child advocates say a common victim are children in and out of the Texas foster care system. Steven Phenix looks through the blue prints and sketches of what will soon be “the refuge.” The longtime residential facility just broke ground and will soon house 40 teenage girls – a safe place after being rescued from the sex trade industry. “We’re failing our kids. They’re going after the most vulnerable,” said Phenix. If current statistics hold up, he says he expects three out of every four sex trafficking victim to be a product of Texas foster care. Texas is the second highest in the nation for number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resources Center. In 2015, there were 330 cases of human trafficking in Texas. Most of the victims were women and more than one hundred were minors. “It’s easier for them to grab a kid off the street who’s just run away, who’s run away from four, five, six times already from four or five, six different types of abuse – not as many people are out there looking for that kid unfortunately. So that’s the reason they are a target,” said Phenix. Texas’s child welfare system has been in the spotlight as a federal judge ruled it violated children’s civil rights. Hundreds of calls of abuse and neglect go un-responded to every day. Lawmakers hope to stem the flow of foster kids into sex trafficking circles. Phenix says more training and awareness can go far but to tackle the big picture it will take more money for more people to find vulnerable Texas children before they’re trafficked. Monday the House Human Services and the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues committees will have a joint hearing to: “Study and evaluate the practice of youth being recruited into human trafficking. Specifically, evaluate the scope of the pipeline of potential victims from foster care, including methods and means used to lure youth into trafficking. Evaluate the types of services that are available to support children and youth in the conservatorship of DFPS who are victims of human trafficking. Make necessary recommendations to assist DFPS in identifying, recovering, serving, or caring for children and youth who are victims of human trafficking prior to placement in foster care.”  Source: http://kxan.com/2016/11/20/lawmakers-to-tackle-human-trafficking-foster-care-connection/
Flawed investigations ignore neglect in Illinois group homes The Associated Press LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story CHICAGO A newspaper investigation has found that self-policing played a role in determining whether neglect has occurred in investigations of Illinois group homes serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2geSVt2 ) reports group home employees handled at least 550 cases and helped clear their own group home of wrongdoing in the majority of instances. Federal regulators say no other states have given caregivers at group homes full-fledged investigative powers. The examination of the state's network of 3,000 group homes also found Illinois Department Human Services officials routinely obscured evidence of harm from the public. The inspector general's office sealed more than 3,200 cases in the last six years in which it found some evidence of abuse or neglect. No one, including family members or even group home residents, are allowed to know the nature of those investigations, the strength of the evidence or what reforms, if any, were mandated or made. In one such case, the Tribune found, the inspector general's own investigators overlooked obvious clues pointing to neglect and were easily misled by a group home employee who later admitted she made up her story about what had transpired. Human Services Secretary James Dimas says he'll seek to make public the records of all unsubstantiated cases. "We're working hard to push the envelope to become more transparent," he said. "And we're prepared to seek a change to the legislation if we decide that becomes necessary."  Source: http://www.kentucky.com/living/health-and-medicine/article116242748.html
A third of Texas foster care runaways remain missing: CPS By Robert Maxwell Published: November 21, 2016, 6:08 pm  AUSTIN (KXAN) — A grim reality is adding to the ongoing shortage of foster homes in Texas. State lawmakers are now hearing a third of the children who ran away from foster care this year have not been found — some as young as 11. In Texas, 973 foster kids ran away this past year, sometimes simply because they didn’t like the house rules, others wanted to return to their parents. A third of those kids — 340 vulnerable young people — have simply disappeared. “We’re still looking for them. So that [973] was a number that was a point in time,” Angela Goodwin, director of Investigations for CPS told KXAN. “We always need the support from law enforcement to help look for missing runaways.” But Goodwin says some police departments won’t add a runaway 17 year old to missing kids’ databases since the law considers them an adult. Those who are found spend an average six weeks on their own. Goodwin told lawmakers Monday at a joint hearing of the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues and Human Services House Committees. That makes the kids prime targets for child sex traffickers and lifelong trauma, advocates say. Last legislative session, a law emerged that mandates CPS to interview rescued foster runaways to find out if they’ve been abused while on the run. This past year, 32 rescued foster runaways admitted they were sexually trafficked. It’s believed the true numbers are higher since some recovered children will not want to share all of what happened to them during their flight. 32 rescued foster runaways admitted they were sexually trafficked And while CPS now assigns a special investigator to each foster runaway to scour social media channels for instance, child safety groups warn sex traffickers can be luring a wayward teen within hours – not days. Some pimps will hang out at a neighborhood convenience store, a place they know teens will gravitate, lawmakers heard. East Texas Rep. James White, R – Woodville, urged CPS leaders to do more before the new legislative session. “My local constable [or sheriff’s deputy or game warden] could act proactively and go to [that road] where the [known] human traffickers are and shut them down today.” Long road to recovery And for those who are rescued, it’s not as simple as returning them to any foster family. Child advocates say these traumatized kids need intensive help. Right now in Texas that kind of safe, therapeutic foster home does not exist – fewer still are emergency beds for rescued foster kids. The Refuge near Austin is a soon-to-open option for sex trafficking survivors along with faith-based non-profits. “This is happening to the most vulnerable children in our community,” says Dixie Hairston, Children At Risk, a Dallas-based non-profit. “If law enforcement goes out, they do a sting operation and they do recover a child, where are they going to take them after they recover them there are just not those places out there.” Child safety groups such as Children at Risk are asking lawmakers to further fund CPS to it can hire specialized caseworkers who deal with only foster kids who have been sex trafficked. CPS also says it has trained thousands of its caseworkers as well as DPS troopers to recognize if someone is being trafficked. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has also created educational materials for law enforcement and teachers around the state.  Source: http://kxan.com/2016/11/21/a-third-of-texas-foster-care-runaways-remain-missing-cps/
Troy foster care agency raided | Dayton news Troy foster care agency raided Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2016 @ 2:26 PM By: Breaking News StaffTroy Police executed a search warrant Wednesday afternoon at Isaiah’s Place, a private state-funded foster care agency. Officers removed several documents from the agency, located at 1100 Wayne St. No arrest was made, said Capt. Joe Long of Troy police. He said officers acted on an anonymous tip that as much as $100,000 could be missing. They’ve been investigating the case for about two weeks, Long said. Source: http://www.whio.com/news/crime--law/troy-foster-care-agency-raided/Wo6oxLcn15a4lFnUI6jTpL/
South Carolina mother demands answers after son drowned in foster care By Nickelle Smith, WSPA Published: November 27, 2016, 10:48 am Updated: November 27, 2016, 10:52 am  GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — A South Carolina mother is demanding answers after her son drowned while in foster care. Njamena Wilcox says she still remembers getting the devastating phone call that her two-year-old son Za’Marion Wilcox drowned at a community pool in Greenville County, while under the care of foster parents. “I just kinda lost everything,” she said. “He was just full of life. He was my only little boy.” Wilcox held a press conference alongside Bruce Wilson, founder of the organization ‘Fighting Injustice Together.’ Since her son’s drowning, the Department of Social Services has been investigating what happened. “All we asked was to be included, for this investigation to be transparent so this mother can know what happened to her baby,” said Wilson. “That didn’t happen.” Media General affiliate WSPA learned the DSS investigation concluded this week and revealed Za’Marion’s death was caused by neglect due to lack of oversight by his foster parents. The foster parents are appealing that decision. “I was mad because no one called to let me know anything,” said Wilcox. “No one still hasn’t called to let me know what’s going on.” The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating to see if charges will be filed. Wilcox now wants her 7 year-old-daughter out of DSS custody, and back with her relatives. “They’re supposed to protect your kids but then when they get your kids, stuff like this happens like what happened to my son,” she said. “I don’t know what could happen to my daughter so I want her to be with family.” The Office of Administrative Hearings will now review the DSS decision after the foster parents’ appeal. If that outcome is not reversed the foster parents will be placed on the central registry of abuse and neglect, barring them from working in childcare positions and adopting or fostering again. Source: http://wric.com/2016/11/27/south-carolina-mother-demands-answers-after-son-drowned-in-foster-care/
Illinois agency revokes group home provider's license The Associated Press LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story CHICAGO The Illinois Department of Human Services has revoked a group home provider's license and cited the state-funded business for safety issues and rights violations of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. On Monday, the department's chief licensing official, Felicia Stanton Gray, told Reuben Goodwin Sr. she was revoking the license for his eight group homes and daytime training program, all under the name Disability Services of Illinois, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2fLA7zI ) reported. "I think we do a good job to make sure people are safe and that the staff is trained," said Goodwin in an interview last month.  Goodwin can appeal the decision by requesting a hearing before Dec. 23, but the department will still move 45 adults to other community-living options in the next two weeks. Human Services spokeswoman Meredith Krantz said the state agency will work toward changing the way group homes "are held accountable in order to ensure individuals with disabilities receive high levels of care." The move comes after Disability Services was spotlighted in an investigation by the newspaper this month that revealed the inspector general's office mishandled a 2012 investigation into neglect allegations at Goodwin's business. The investigation found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show. The probe also identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois' Department of Human Services. Results from Chicago Tribune's investigation have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations. "My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on," Dimas said previously. The newspaper's attempts to reach Goodwin for comment were unsuccessful. Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/news/article117933753.html#storylink=cpy 
Foster care agency funds may have been used for gambling | www.mydaytondailynews.com Foster care agency funds may have been used for gambling, vacations The director of Isaiah’s Place has resigned and her brother, the financial officer, has been terminated. Crime & Law By Nancy Bowman - Contributing Writer 0  Updated: 8:06 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016  |  Posted: 7:42 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 Investigators who seized computers and boxes of documents during a Nov. 23 search of the nonprofit Isaiah’s Place were looking into allegations of conversion of at least $100,000 in agency funds for personal uses, according to court documents. Isaiah’s Place at 1100 Wayne St. is a foster care agency based in Troy. No charges have been filed. Steven Justice, a Troy lawyer representing Isaiah’s Place, said the financial issues at the organization came to light during the past two weeks. The agency director, Kelley Gunter, resigned since the search warrant was served and the financial officer, Matthew Gunter, was terminated, Justice said. The Gunters are sister and brother. Employee Irene Early has been named interim director as Justice and board members work with the state on ensuring the agency continues operations, the attorney said. “The others who work there are very hard working people who do a fantastic job of running the agency,” Justice said. “This is a good agency. It has done good work.” An affidavit filed in Miami County Municipal Court outlines allegations of an agency employee who told police in November that agency funds had been used for gambling, casino trips, home repairs, vacations, clothing and tanning sessions, among other expenses. The alleged misuse was revealed to police by an employee before an audit because the employee said the audit would disclose the problems, according to the search warrant. Isaiah’s Place was founded in 2003 and is a Christian-based agency that works with foster agencies in 10 counties, according to its website. In the search warrant inventory, police reported seizing computers along with payroll and bank records, receipts, tax paperwork, board meeting information and other paperwork, according to the inventory from the search filed with the court. Troy Police Capt. Jeff Kunkleman said investigators contacted the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for advice due to the amount of documents seized. Source: http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/news/crime-law/foster-care-agency-funds-may-have-been-used-for-ga/ntGxW/
Illinois agency revokes group home provider's license Published: Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 10:27 a.m. CST By Chicago Tribune CHICAGO (AP) – The Illinois Department of Human Services has revoked a group home provider’s license and cited the state-funded business for safety issues and rights violations of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. On Monday, the department’s chief licensing official, Felicia Stanton Gray, told Reuben Goodwin Sr. she was revoking the license for his eight group homes and daytime training program, all under the name Disability Services of Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported. “I think we do a good job to make sure people are safe and that the staff is trained,” said Goodwin in an interview last month. Goodwin can appeal the decision by requesting a hearing before Dec. 23, but the department will still move 45 adults to other community-living options in the next two weeks. Human Services spokeswoman Meredith Krantz said the state agency will work toward changing the way group homes “are held accountable in order to ensure individuals with disabilities receive high levels of care.” The move comes after Disability Services was spotlighted in an investigation by the newspaper this month that revealed the inspector general’s office mishandled a 2012 investigation into neglect allegations at Goodwin’s business. The investigation found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the past 7 years. Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show. The probe also identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 – hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois’ Department of Human Services. Results from Chicago Tribune’s investigation have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations. “My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on,” Dimas said previously. The newspaper’s attempts to reach Goodwin for comment were unsuccessful.  Source: http://www.saukvalley.com/2016/12/01/illinois-agency-revokes-group-home-providers-license/arzkc8y/
Our prison restraint techniques can kill children. Why aren’t we using alternatives? Children’s prisons use the MMPR regime which is not humane, not safe and not the only option. Our government is responsible for appalling abuses ‘A risk assessment carried out by an independent medical adviser concluded that 28 of the 66 sanctioned restraints had a 40% to 60% chance of resulting in injuries.’  The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that the Ministry of Justice had been told that the restraint techniques it had approved for use on children in custody could kill them. A risk assessment carried out by an independent medical adviser concluded that 28 of the 66 sanctioned restraints had a 40% to 60% chance of resulting in injuries involving the airway, breathing or circulation that could have catastrophic consequences – catastrophic being defined as “death or permanent severe disability affecting everyday life”. It also revealed that many restraints are likely to result in so called “minor” or “moderate” injuries – such as fractures/dislocations and ligament/tendon damage. As well as explicitly chronicling the dangers we are subjecting our children in custody to, the risk assessment table demonstrates another important truth – that bad practice in secure training centres (STC) and young offender institutions (YOI) does not begin and end with G4S, or whichever private security firm is running them. The government itself is responsible for the appalling abuses carried out in the name of restraint because, quite simply, it sanctioned them in the first place. When Panorama and the Guardian exposed dangerous restraint techniques used in a children’s prison run by G4S earlier this year, there were howls of outrage from the prison establishment. First, Panorama secretly filmed a boy being squeezed by his windpipe by a guard in Medway secure training centre shouting out that he couldn’t breathe. Then the Guardian spoke to two women who had been detainees at Medway five years earlier who also said that they struggled to breathe while being restrained. A number of guards have been charged with misconduct in public office and taking photographs inside the prison. The stories you need to read, in one handy email Sign up to The Guardian Today and get the must-read stories delivered straight to your inbox each morning Read more Soon enough, the Ministry of Justice and the Youth Justice Board, which oversees the safety and security of children in detention, appeared to conclude that G4S itself was the bad apple. Having ordered the company to come up with an improvement plan to prove it was fit to run the STC, in May it announced that the private security company would be stripped of the Medway contract, and that the government would take over its running. In its final report, the Medway improvement board concluded that Medway’s leadership team “has driven a culture that appears to be based on control and contract compliance rather than rehabilitation and safeguarding vulnerable young people”. It also suggested that official figures on restraint could not be believed because of the allegation that they were being falsified downwards to ensure that G4S complied with its contract. The damning report was perfectly fair. G4S could not have made a bigger botch of running Medway. (In 2015 it also lost the contract to run Rainsbrook STC after a joint report by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and the chief inspector of prisons into the centre condemned it for a series of failings.) But what the Medway improvement board never acknowledged was the government’s role in nurturing this culture. Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% Mute This is a modal window. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Panorama exposes teenage prison abuse Perhaps this is unsurprising. After all, until the risk-assessment table was obtained through one of the many freedom of information requests made by the indefatigable children’s rights campaigner Carolyne Willow, we never knew that the government had been advised by an medical expert that its restraints could result in catastrophic injuries. Or to take one particular example, there is a 60% chance of a child being moved through a doorway while being restrained and wearing a waist restraint belt suffering injuries involving the airway, breathing or circulation that can be potentially catastrophic. The irony is that this relatively new restraint regime, known as Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint (MMPR) was only introduced in 2012 as a result of the death of two boys in secure training centres following restraints. (Fifteen-year-old Gareth Myatt choked on his vomit while being restrained by three officers; 14-year-old Adam Rickwood hanged himself after being restrained by four staff, one of whom inflicted a painful restraint on him known “nose distraction”.) MMPR was supposed to be more humane and safe. So what did the government do when it discovered that it wasn’t? It classified the risk-assessment table and heavily redacted the MMPR manual that is publicly available, concluding with absurd Kafkaesque logic that if everything about MMPR was publicly known, children would learn how to resist it and put themselves at more risk of being harmed. For four years, Willow has fought, unsuccessfully, to see the uncensored manuals. In refusing her most recent request, the MoJ wrote: “It is considered that on balance, the likely threat to the good order and security of YOIs and prisons and the safety implication of this for young people and staff in both YOIs and prisons favours non-disclosure of the unredacted version of the MMPR training manual.” When we approached the Youth Justice Board about the risk-assessment table, and the fact that it had only praised MMPR without mentioning the dangers, there was much off-the-record handwringing. What’s the option, it asked; tell us if a better system exists? Tough love: is this a model prison for children? Last month, 14 young people were compensated for their mistreatment in British prisons. What can we learn from a groundbreaking scheme for young offenders in Spain? Eric Allison and Simon Hattenstone find out Read more So we did. One better system already exists in England and Wales. Secure children’s homes are run by local authorities rather than the MoJ, and they house some of the country’s most severe child offenders as well as some of the country’s most vulnerable non-criminal children. MMPR is banned in secure children’s homes (yet shockingly private security guards taking children to and from them can use it). They are expensive to run, but have low children to staff ratios, are learning-focused and are regarded as the closest this country has to model institutions for children in custody. Advertisement Meanwhile, Spain offers an even more impressive model. In 2014 we visited children’s prisons in Spain run by a non-profit organisation Diagramma. Some of the buildings we saw were frankly terrifying – old-fashioned Victorian prisons surrounded by barbed wire. But the attitude of staff within them could not be more different to that too often found in the YOIs and STCs of England and Wales. In Spain, the prison officers are called educators, they all have degrees, are relatively well paid, and all have the children’s best interests at heart. There were guards on site, but they were rarely called to action. The educators and detainees called each other by first names, ate with each other and treated each other with respect. Love, even. Whereas there is an alarmingly fast turnover of staff in children’s prisons in the UK, in Spain we were told that staff rarely left. We asked the director of one institution we visited when restraint had last ended in injury, and he looked at us as if we were mad. Never, was the answer. In fact, he could not remember the last time restraint had been used, full stop. The way in which the staff in these prisons transformed dangerous and feckless youths into responsible young adults looking forward to a bright future was astonishing. If Spain can achieve something so miraculous, there is no reason why we can’t.  Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/06/prison-approved-restraint-techniques-kill-children-alternatives-prisons-mmpr
Dozens rally against plans to create joint Hennepin/Ramsey juvenile facility About 100 people disrupted a meeting in Richfield, holding signs with slogans such as "No Cages for Kids." The meeting ended with several people yelling.  By Kelly Smith Star Tribune December 6, 2016 — 9:47pm Kelly Smith, Star TribuneAbout 100 protesters came to Tuesday night's meeting in Richfield, the fourth of seven community input meetings on Hennepin and Ramsey counties' plans for a joint juvenile treatment center.  Dozens of protesters rallied Tuesday against plans for a juvenile facility for teenage criminal offenders in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, saying they preferred to place the youths in community-based programs instead. About 100 people disrupted a meeting in Richfield, holding signs with slogans such as “No Cages for Kids.” The meeting ended with several people yelling, ripping up poster boards and chanting “Foster us, don’t criminalize us.” Advertisement: Replay Ad Ads by ZINC 3 “We know this program doesn’t work,” said Tonja Honsey, who helped start a local campaign called Youth Prison Blockaders. “The systems are old. We need to start taking care of these youth.” Tuesday’s meeting was the fourth of seven community input meetings the counties are holding on the proposed joint facility. County leaders say that no final decision has been made on a new facility, where it would be located or whether there would be only one building. A final vote from both county boards isn’t expected until April, when a final report will be released. The next public meeting will be held in January, followed by ones in February and March. The joint facility would replace the Hennepin County Home School in Minnetonka and Ramsey County’s Boys Totem Town in St. Paul, which Honsey’s organization and other activists want shut down in favor of more community-based programs for young offenders. Activists have referred to the counties’ residential treatment centers as “super juvenile prisons” or “youth prisons.” Community input meetings • 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 10, Arlington Hills Community Center, 1200 Payne Av., St. Paul. • 6 to 8 p.m. Feb 7, Hennepin County Home School, 14300 County Rd. 62, Minnetonka. • 6 to 8 p.m. March 7, Neighborhood House, 179 E. Robie St., St. Paul. But Chet Cooper, Hennepin County community corrections director, said that’s a major misconception. He said that the nonsecure facilities, which provide therapy and behavioral treatment, are needed to help a small group of teens who have committed violent or sexual assaults make their way back to the community. “We’ve heard loud and clear that a big infrastructure, prison-like environment ... is not what the community wants and that’s not what we want,” Cooper said of community input. “We are not a youth prison ... we are a treatment facility.” For more than a century, courts have ordered juveniles committing felonies to attend the Home School and Totem Town. Both state-licensed facilities have aging infrastructure and have seen demand for their services decline as more juvenile offenders have been shifted to in-home treatment. Cooper said that it isn’t realistic to get rid of such facilities just yet. “Public safety is still No. 1,” he said. “We still have a small number of our youth that need a facility.” But he said that community input so far has resulted in helping the counties scale down plans and aim for a campuslike model with no more than 100 teens. IN Equality, which advocates for police and court reform, in November presented the Ramsey County Board with 1,000 postcards signed by people opposing the joint facility. The group is concerned about the disproportionate number of children of color who are sentenced, as well as Hennepin County’s 49 percent recidivism rate. In Ramsey County, District Judge Patrick Diamond is one of the juvenile court judges who see the same teens return. “It’s not working,” he said of a large residential treatment center. “It’s frustrating at times there aren’t more and better alternatives available.”  Source: http://www.startribune.com/dozens-rally-against-plans-to-create-joint-hennepin-ramsey-juvenile-facility/405127716/
Baldwin County group home teens asked neighbor for help By Grace Tennyson Thursday, December 8th 2016 SBALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WEAR) — No criminal charges have been filed against a boys group home in Baldwin County but the sheriff's office is now involved. The Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) removed 25 boys from Blessed Hope Boys Academy over the weekend. All the boys are from out-of-state. A neighbor told the news she alerted authorities after two teenagers from the academy came to her for help. “They had to do exercises some days up to 9 hours if they were bad,” said Tina Boyington. “They weren't allowed to tell their parents anything negative over the phone or their phone call would get cut off.” DHR investigates allegations of abuse or neglect but the department has not provided any details on this investigation. The sheriff’s office met with the department on Wednesday, no information has been released from them either.  Source: http://weartv.com/news/local/baldwin-county-group-home-update
Teen says foster parents locked him in basement for months, poured salt on his open wounds - The Washington Post Teen says foster parents locked him in basement for months, poured salt on his open wounds The inside track on Washington politics. Be the first to know about new stories from PowerPost. Sign up to follow, and we’ll e-mail you free updates as they’re published. You’ll receive free e-mail news updates each time a new story is published. You’re all set! Sign up *Invalid email address Got it Got it By Travis M. Andrews Morning Mix December 8 at 7:16 AM Alabama teen says he was locked in basement and tortured for months Embed Copy Share Play Video0:34 Last month, a 14-year-old boy was found close to death after being locked in an Alabama basement for months. The boy's brother Eddie Carter spoke out about similar abuse from their foster parents, who are now both in jail. (Reuters) Last month, a 14-year-old boy was found close to death after being locked in an Alabama basement for months. The boy's brother Eddie Carter spoke out about similar abuse from their foster parents, who are now both in jail. Eddie Carter, the brother of a teen found close to death in a Helena, Alabama basement, says he too suffered abuse from his foster parents. (Reuters) “It gets to that point where you’re like an animal. You feel like an animal.” These are the words of Eddie Carter, an 18-year-old reflecting on the years of abuse he told AL.com that he suffered, years during which he claims his parents would lock him in the basement, sometimes for several months straight. He spoke out to the news organization after his foster parents, Richard and Cynthia Kelly, were charged with aggravated child abuse for keeping his 14-year-old brother trapped in the basement of their Alabama home for much of two years. When the boy was found, he weighed 55 pounds. That’s half of the average weight of a 14-year-old boy, 110 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Associated Press reported the boy was in critical condition on Nov. 15, and the Helena Police Chief Pete Folmar called it the “worst case of neglect” he’s ever seen. The two will appear in court on Dec. 14 and 15 for preliminary hearings. They have not yet entered a plea. But Eddie Carter said he too was mistreated. The teenager was his younger brother, and Carter alleged that the couple once held him in the basement as well. He told AL.com that he and his brother were two of five siblings born to a woman in Huntsville, who eventually lost parental rights to all of them for reasons he did not explain. The five were passed around from foster home to foster home, but Carter and his brother were never separated. “I took care of him a lot, changing his diapers and stuff, making sure he was eating. When he was sleeping, I’d check his chest to make sure he was breathing,” Carter told the newspaper. “My little brother was like my golden egg. I just had to keep him safe. It was my main goal not to be separated ever.” When was 11 years old and his brother was 7, a Christian adoption agency brought them to the Kellys. Carter remembered feeling excited at the time. “It’s a big shot to get adopted,” he said. “It’s really exciting.” It didn’t take long for that to change, though. “Like people say, the true colors came out,” Carter said. “The honeymoon cycle is over and, after that, everything went to crap.” He claimed the couple sent him down to the basement as a punishment after about 18 months, where there was a bed but no bathroom. The light-switches didn’t work — they were controlled from the outside. The door to the outside world was locked, and the door to the house was equipped with a motion sensor, prepared to alert the family should he try to leave. Sometimes, he alleged, he would be locked down there for months at a time. If he needed to use the bathroom, he’d do so in a corner of the room, on the floor. “The room stank like piss,” he said. “It was really horrible.” Sometimes, they would feed him vegetables, which he hated, down there. Sometimes, they would only give him bread and water. “They would say, ‘Jesus survived off bread and water, so you can too,”’ he said. “It was like a torture method. They were upstairs eating pizza and Chinese, and I’d be eating bread and water.” He began chewing his lips until they would bleed, and he claimed the couple would pour salt on the open wounds as punishment. Eventually, he would show his anger. “I would bang on the walls just to keep people awake in the house,” Carter told AL.com. “I got aggressive, like, ‘I’m not about to stay down here. Hell no. I wasn’t having it, and think I said I was going to do something to somebody.” Wearing a hooded letter jacket and a baseball cap in his recorded interview with the newspaper, Carter  said, “I felt like a wild animal at any type of affection, after a while. I didn’t really trust anybody.” In 2013, Arizona rapper Nick Carter, who goes by Murs, adopted Carter. But not his brother. “I thought about him every single day,” Carter said. “At that point, I was blaming myself for getting sent away.” But there wasn’t much he could do, so he “prayed it didn’t happen to him.” But more was rotten in Carter’s life. A year after his adoption, Murs returned him to the foster care system after he claimed the boy filed false claims of neglect and abuse against him and his wife. “Nothing was substantiated,” Murs told Contact Music. “We definitely were able to clear it up once we went to court and they came to the house and also saw the damage he did to my property, and they quickly changed their tune.” Added Murs, “Even though he filed a false claim on us, I know he’s just angry, I tell him, ‘When you hit rock bottom, I’m there for you so call me.’” Now, Carter lives alone in Arizona. Murs and his wife remain Carter’s legal parents. The couple bought him a planet ticket to fly from Arizona to Alabama after his brother was found. The Kellys were not arrested for any of these allegations, but for the alleged child abuse of his brother. The arrest warrants alleged he was “subjected to forced isolation for extended period of time.” Two days after the teenager was found, a prayer vigil was held for the boy. Eighty people came to pray on a baseball field in the Helena Sports Complex. “We wanted to raise awareness to the unknown things that are going on in our community,” Amanda Shannell told the paper. “When we come together and pray together, miracles can happen.” For Carter, it seemed as if one did. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for his brother, who WHNT reported remains hospitalized at Children’s of Alabama. Richard and Cynthia Kelly are both being held at the Shelby County Jail, their bonds set at $1 million each. Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/12/08/teen-says-foster-parents-locked-him-in-basement-for-months-poured-salt-on-his-open-wounds/
Boot camp failures scored by judge Michael Moser Michael Moser Dec 8, 2016 Timothy Joel Boles pleaded guilty to methamphetamine selling charges and theft of property of more than $1,000 in January of this year and was supposed to four years in prison. In July, Boles was released to boot camp probation by the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He met with TDOC probation officer Chad McCaleb on July 6. Boles tested positive for meth — and admitted taking meth — on July 14. Assistant Public Defender Ellie Putman represented Boles in a probation violation hearing Friday and argued that he had completed the boot camp program and that most of his probation violations were “technical” ones. She asked that if his probation were to be revoked, that he be placed under house arrest supervision of community corrections and allowed to remain free. Assistant District Attorney Amanda Worley countered that Boles agreed to the four-year sentence when he pleaded guilty and th