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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.

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 that he “had weeks to get his problem in check.” Judge Gary McKenzie agreed with Worley, commenting Boles “was obviously in violation.” The judge then shared his feelings about the TDOC’s boot camp program.  “It is my experience that the boot camp program doesn’t work … I have very little faith in it.”  McKenzie added that his concern was that the boot camp program “is setting people up to failure.” The judge then revoked Boles’ probation and ordered him to serve the balance of his four-year sentence. A similar hearing was held for Douglas Keith Jackson, who pleaded guilty on Jan. 27 of this year to possession of more than .5 grams of meth and received an eight-year sentence. Jackson also had a misdemeanor probation violation in Roane County where he served 30 days in jail. Jackson, too, was released into the TDOC’s boot camp program.  Once released from boot camp, Jackson failed to report regularly to his probation officer and on one occasion, refused to let his house or room be searched by deputies, despite knowing the refusal could cause his probation to be revoked. Putman argued that Jackson allowed a personal search but did not grant a search of the house or the room in which he was staying because the house belonged to another family member. Putnam asked he be allowed to remain on probation. McKenzie noted that Jackson signed a form before being released from prison stating he understood all the rules and requirements of probation. While failure to report is a low standard in probation violation hearings, McKenzie said it was important that all rules be observed at all times. “All you have to do is report,” McKenzie said. He then ordered Jackson to serve the balance of his eight-year sentence. Michael Moser may be reached at mmoser@crossville-chronicle.com  Source: http://www.crossville-chronicle.com/news/local_news/boot-camp-failures-scored-by-judge/article_946dcb16-bd85-11e6-8371-1b13a257ab09.html
News Opinion Op-Eds No study needed to know DJS shackling of children is inhumane Susan Villani Op-ed: Md. child psychiatrist urges DJS to end shackling requirement. Here's why. The state Department of Juvenile Services says it is collecting data in order to determine whether the inhuman procedure of shackling children every time they're transported should continue. This strikes me as absurd. I work as a child psychiatrist at a residential treatment center for boys who are in the custody of DJS. These youth most commonly come from detention centers where they have spent months waiting for a determination of what should happen next. Some are released back to the community after serving their time, others are referred on for intensive treatment. Our residents have had numerous evaluations with many pages of reports to convince the court that treatment in a residential treatment center is warranted. By the time they are ordered to a treatment facility, the crime they have committed is months in the past. This is not to minimize the fact that many youth have been involved in significant criminal activity, such as breaking and entering, stealing a car, taking a gun to school, robbing someone with the use of a weapon, and assault and battery. And their criminal records are often not just made up of one offense, but a string of charges occurring over the preceding two to three years. However, when they come to us, they have agreed to participate in treatment. They will live for months on our campus and move daily between locked buildings, their residence, the cafeteria and school, while accompanied by staff. After a period of time of safe behavior, being compliant with the rules of living together, and being respectful to staff and each other, they earn the privilege to go off grounds for staff supervised activities. After weeks of consistent good behavior and family participation in therapy, they can earn passes home, to test how they do with less supervision and to bring back examples of stressful times in order to further examine and work on them in therapy. Family members are also participating in therapy in order to have their children return home. Residents may also need to go to appointments elsewhere. This brings me to the most recent example of shackling. A 15-year-old youth came to us with court ordered testing for fetal alcohol syndrome. He has a court date to review his progress and the status of the testing. Here is a an abbreviated version of discussion from a treatment team meeting: Me: How is JD doing this week? Therapist: He has had a good week. No aggression, compliant on the unit and doing well in school. Mother is requesting a pass home before his court date. If he comes home, she can take him to court, and he won't have to be transported by DJS in shackles. Me: What? Why shackles? Therapist: Oh, it is department (DJS) policy that whenever they transport, the kid has to be in shackles. This is when my ire comes up. The youth has been walking to and from the cafeteria, to and from school, going on staff supervised outings and going home on passes home without shackles. Now in order to be transported by DJS to and from court, he would be put in shackles. I sat there wondering about the irony that as his treating psychiatrist, I approve that he is safe enough to go off grounds with staff and sign pass requests for him to go home with family, but to go to court, he needs to be shackled. Each time the youth is shackled, the message he is receiving is that he is unsafe and cannot be trusted. We are saying that we are concerned that he might run away. We are saying that the only way to prevent this is to lock his ankles together in heavy metal shackles. But the treatment team working with him has already decided differently. We have observed his behavior, worked with him to develop trust and are sending him out into the community safely. The purpose of policies within organizations is to have consistent practices that ensure safety. But shackling a youth for transport to and from court from a treatment facility where there is a treatment team assessing safety is unnecessary. No study is needed to determine this. DJS can and should change their shackling policy today. Dr. Susan Villani is a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry; her email is vsusanvillani@gmail.com.  Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-djs-shackling-20161213-story.html
Special needs Texas teens rescued from home released from hospital (File) Updated: Tue 12:58 PM, Dec 13, 2016 HOUSTON (AP) Seven special-needs teenagers found living in isolation amid squalid conditions at a Houston-area home have been released from a hospital after a nearly three-week stay. Tiffani Butler, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, says the teens were released Tuesday and will be kept together under the state's care. The children aren’t related, but were adopted by 54-year-old Paula Sinclair and her former husband in 2003 and 2004. Butler says the lengthy hospitalization was due to hospital staff wanting to monitor their eating habits and also to time it took to arrange housing that could keep them together. Sinclair and her husband, Allen Richardson, 78, remain jailed on charges that include causing injury to a child. Online jail records don't indicate whether they have attorneys. A 7-year-old special-needs child died at the same home in January 2011, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman Tiffani Butler told The Associated Press Tuesday. She declined to discuss the circumstances. She said the other seven children were in the home at the time, but were not removed. Butler told AP that no charges were filed in the younger child's death. Investigators determined that all seven of the malnourished children removed from the home last month stayed in one room in the home and that when Sinclair took Richardson to see a doctor, all seven were locked in a closet that measured roughly five feet by eight feet that was filled with clothes and boxes, leaving even less room for the children. “Quite often the adults were gone so long that the children would urinate on themselves,” the press release said. “The larger room smelled of urine and feces and the children wore shabby clothes. One of the children suffers from Down syndrome and was wearing a dirty diaper when he was removed from the home,” the press release said. Investigators determined that all seven children have learning disabilities and that none had ever attended school. Sinclair was also operating a group home for adults in the same house and three men lived downstairs, authorities said. Investigators went to the home on Nov. 23, Nehls said. Sinclair and Richardson were arrested Saturday. Sinclair and her husband were described as the adoptive parents of the seven children, but the husband did not live in the home and has not been charged, authorities said. The children were removed from the home and were taken to the Fort Bend County Children’s Advocacy Center in Rosenberg for interviews and then were transferred to a Houston hospital for treatment.  Source: http://www.kwtx.com/content/news/Special-needs-Texas-teens-rescued-from-home-released-from-hospital-406326525.html
Sexual Battery at Bradenton Group Home: More Charges Filed The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office says two men accused of sexually battering people at a group home also had a 15-year-old male victim. By Sherri Lonon (Patch Staff) - December 14, 2016 12:23 pm ET BRADENTON, FL — As the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office continues its investigation into alleged sexual misconduct at a Bradenton group home for special needs people, the two men arrested in the case face more charges. According to the agency, a 15-year-old male victim has been identified. Both men arrested in the case now face additional charges, as a result. Jeremiah Damsgaard, 25, was charged with four additional counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a victim age 12 to 16 on Tuesday night. David Makynen, 30, now faces one additional count of lewd and lascivious battery on a victim age 12 to 16, the agency reported in a Wednesday email to media. The investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct began on Nov. 14. That investigation led to the initial arrest of Damsgaard on Nov. 17. At that time, Damsgaard was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious battery on a victim age 12 to 16. He was also charged with four counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim age 12 to 16. Deputies added a count of sexual battery on an adult victim on Monday, Dec. 12. According to the sheriff’s office, Damsgaard’s initially identified victims are both males, ages 14 and 29 years. Damsgaard, sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow said, is friends with Makynen, who worked at several group homes over the past 12 years as a contractor for the State of Florida. Makynen, the sheriff’s office said, worked as a support coach for special needs adults. Deputies say Makynen provided Damsgaard access to his alleged victims. Makynen was initially arrested Monday, charged with three counts of sexual battery on adult victims. The victims the sheriff’s office originally identified were all men, ages 25, 29 and 50. . The two men are also under investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s Office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the sheriff’s office noted in a Tuesday email to media. Additional charges against both men are pending. The sheriff's office is not releasing the name or location of the group home involved to protect the identity of the victims. Both men are from Bradenton. Bristow confirmed the home where the batteries allegedly occurred is also in Bradenton. Anyone with information about the case or possible additional victims is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS. Both Makynen and Damsgaard remained in the Manatee County Jail Wednesday. Booking photos of Makynen and Damsgaard courtesy of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office  Source: http://patch.com/florida/bradenton/sexual-battery-bradenton-group-home-more-charges-filed
Former Hope House employee accused of raping teen in his care by WRGB Staff ALBANY, NY (WRGB) An Albany man, once employed as a Respite Worker at Hope House in Albany, is accused of raping a teenage girl in his care, according to authorities. The Special Prosecutor for the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs says that James Whetstone is accused of having sex with a resident under the age of 18 while working an overnight shift at the Hope House. “People receiving treatment at residential centers are there to recover from chemical addictions and dependencies,” said Special Prosecutor Gunning. “Employees who abuse these individuals for their own sexual gratification, especially by targeting a teenager who is trying to get help for addiction, are not only breaking the law but they risk undermining and causing a setback to a person’s recovery. For such misconduct, they have to be held accountable.” Whetstone was arraigned in Albany City Court, accused of Felony rape, Sexual Abuse and Sexual misconduct. Error OK Error OK LEARN MORE Officials say Whetstone was terminated from his position prior to his arrest. BELOW IS THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT FROM HOPE HOUSE Upon learning of the alleged incident, Hope House notified the New York State Justice Center and the Albany City Police. The employee was suspended immediately, and subsequently terminated. Hope House has cooperated with the Justice Center’s investigation, and continues to do so, and provided counseling and emotional support to the resident. Hope House submitted the individual’s name for a pre-employment background check through the Justice Center and the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and there were no allegations that would disqualify him for employment. “The safety, security and well-being of our residents is our utmost priority, and we have further expanded our oversight with additional cameras in group rooms and common areas,” said Kevin Connally, Executive Director of Hope House, which treats individuals with substance abuse addictions through programs including a residential treatment facility. Mr. Connally went on to add, “Hope House treats any allegation of impropriety extremely seriously and we work cooperatively with the Justice Center and NYS OASAS to do what we can to ensure the safety and well being of our clients.”  Source: http://cbs6albany.com/news/local/former-hope-house-employee-accused-of-raping-teen-in-his-care
Hennepin, Ramsey facility for troubled youth is no more after public outcry  By Sarah Horner | shorner@pioneerpress.com PUBLISHED: December 15, 2016 at 8:48 pm | UPDATED: December 15, 2016 at 9:38 pm Hennepin and Ramsey counties are abandoning plans to build a joint center for delinquent youth following public outcry that the proposal was not in the best interest of teens and ignored the will of the community. Members of an executive committee comprised of staff and commissioners from both counties met last Wednesday and agreed that halting the building discussion was the right move for all involved. Hennepin and Ramsey will continue to discuss how they might collaborate on programs to better serve area juveniles who run into legal trouble, Ramsey County commissioners said. The decision came a week after a tense and loud public meeting held in Richfield on the proposed merger. Some in the audience held signs and chanted slogans articulating their opposition to the process and discussion to date. Several threatened to shut down future public meetings scheduled across both counties as well. Hennepin and Ramsey officials have been meeting for the past couple years on how they might work together to improve and broaden services for delinquent teens in the metro area. Part of the discussion included building a joint facility to replace Ramsey County’s Boys Totem Town facility and Hennepin’s Home School. No final decision had been reached on the merger or where such a facility might be built, but an architect had been hired to begin predesign work. That roughly $240,000 contract will now be terminated. “I wasn’t at the Richfield meeting, but the feeling around the table (Wednesday) was that, unfortunately, the messaging around this (merger) … wasn’t focused on what it should be, which is how to provide the best continuum of services for our kids,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega. Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough said the building had become “a distraction” to the counties’ broader intent on how to get best help for kids in the community while keeping the public safe. McDonough added that intense emotions and misinformation about the plans complicated the ability to have productive public discussion. “I had people telling me not to build a 160-bed prison. Well, no one was ever thinking anything like that … but that was one of the perceptions out there,” he said. McDonough added that both counties are committed to doing a better job of taking care of juveniles who wade into the criminal justice system and that talks to date between Hennepin and Ramsey will still help both do that. OPPONENTS OF MERGER CELEBRATE  Damon Drake, a vocal opponent of the building merger and a past employee at Totem Town, called the decision to abandon building plans “great news.” Drake is also a member of In Equality, a community group that had mobilized against the plan. “Throughout this whole process, we were told our efforts were a nonstarter, that we should just get used to this and that this facility was going to be built, … so, for me, this is a very big win for the community,” Drake said. The biggest flaw with the plan was that the community wasn’t included early enough in the discussion, Drake continued. He said any plans for changes to the local juvenile system need to address the disproportionate rate of kids of color within it, do a better job of keeping teens close to their communities and make sure that juveniles are not treated the same as adults. Drake added that it never made sense for the counties to build a larger facility given the decline each has seen in the number of youth served. He also pointed out that the collective narrative coming out of the research community is that detaining kids in locked facilities often just leads to reoffending. Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman has been against the merger since the outset. Rettman cheered the news last Wednesday and said she hopes it can be a lesson to both counties about the importance of public engagement. “It’s easy to say we read this report or we’ve done that or we’re going to look at that other thing and then we’ll take it all to the community to see what they think. … No, community first, people come first,” Rettman said. “They should be a part of the solution at the outset not after some groundwork has been laid about where somebody wants to go.” FUTURE OF JUVENILE SYSTEM UNCERTAIN Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter said best outcomes for juveniles was always the driver for her and her colleagues on the board but that somehow that mission and commitment got lost in translation. “We may have been having one conversation about services and alternatives to prevent out-of-home placement, but if we … (were) unable to connect that with the other conversation about replacing an outdated and inadequate facility then we need to listen to our community and find a different way to have that (discussion),” Carter said. “So that is what we are doing.” None of the commissioners reached said they know what comes next for Totem Town in light of the development or when its ultimate fate will be decided. Some said it still undoubtedly needs to be replaced; one said it should at least be updated. The building, located on more than 80 acres in St. Paul’s Highwood Hills neighborhood, is more than 100 years old and has significant maintenance needs, staff have said. Hennepin’s counterpart, Home School, also needs repair. That reality, combined with gaps each county has in its youth programming, propelled the merger discussion. Hennepin’s program, for example, serves girls and sex offenders, while Totem Town offers after-care and day treatment options. By combining, the thinking was, the two counties could offer a broader spectrum of services to all area-youth instead of sending some out of the region or state to get their needs met. Ramsey County sent more than 100 kids outside the county for services in 2016, according to county data. Those discussions on how the two can work together to plug holes in the system will continue, commissioners said. The Ramsey County Board is expected to receive a report on those findings in the weeks to come, staff and commissioners said. From there, the county will likely decide its next steps.  Source: http://www.twincities.com/2016/12/15/plans-to-build-a-shared-facility-for-troubled-youth-in-hennepin-and-ramsey-counties-scrapped/
Report: Foster care has unhappy ending for many By Linda Conner Lambeck Updated 6:17 pm, Thursday, December 15, 2016 1 Ronaele Williams was 16 when she entered the state’s foster care system. She wasn’t thinking about anything but getting through high school as she bounced from placement to placement, four in all. “It was really scary, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” said Williams, who ended up being one of the lucky ones. Now 20, she’s living with a friend and her family in New Haven and making her way through college. Most foster children aren’t as lucky, and continue to need significant support once they turn 18 years old and leave the system, a report released Thursday by Connecticut Voices for Children says. More Information What the future looks like for foster care youth In 2016, 79 percent of those who aged out of foster care had a high school diploma, compared to 90 percent of all Connecticut adults. Only 42 percent leave care with a job, and half of those are working just part time. On average, only 15 percent will go on to get a vocational certificate or licensure. More than 13 percent leave care pregnant or parenting at least one child. Follow-up with youth who age out found at least 29 percent had been incarcerated between the ages of 19 and 21. Source: Connecticut Voices For Children. At least half of the aged-out youth rely on public assistance, one in five leaves the foster care system without a high school diploma and only 11 percent go on to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree. “The state needs to do more to prepare them to be self-sufficient,” said Nicole Updegrove, an associate policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, and one of the study’s authors. The report suggests that though some progress has been made in recent years, it is not enough. The state Department of Children and Families, Updegrove said, now manages to keep more children with their families or relatives. More, however, needs to be done when such arrangements can’t be made, the study says. Cut loose at 18 or 21 Over the past five years, 1,374 youths have aged out of the state’s foster care system. For many, the cut-off age for receiving services is 18. Those who are still in school, or who meet specific guidelines can stay to age 21. Most who age out leave without a job. By age 21, only 16 percent are working full-time. This year, 565 foster care recipients are enrolled in some post-secondary program. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz, who participated in a youth forum Thursday at the State Capitol, said the success of foster children once they leave the system is perhaps the most important measure of how well the agency is serving youth. “Nationally, we know that the outcomes for children who leave foster care are not good,” Katz said. “(There is) lower educational achievement, greater poverty and homelessness, less success in employment, and greater involvement in adult mental health and criminal justice systems. Unfortunately, Connecticut foster care faces these challenges as well.” Katz said the state needs to build on existing strengths. “We need to continue to work to engage youth, to listen to them, and to remove barriers to their success,” she said. Also during the public forum, several lawmakers said they are focused on making the system better. Strengthening protections State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, said a law passed in the last session could begin to address some concerns. “It has three components that will be effective as of Jan. 1,” Bartolomeo said. The law gives children age 12 and older a stronger voice during hearings, requires youth advisory councils at certain child care facilities, and will survey foster children exiting the system to better recruit, train and retain high-quality foster parents. Williams, who knows the foster care system from the inside, said there needs to be a safety net for young people like her. “I constantly felt I was bothering people, taking up their time when I had questions,” she said. “You feel like a burden sometimes when you don’t want to be.” Williams, who is in the process of transferring from Gateway Community College to the University of Connecticut to study human development, said foster youth need more help to prepare for their future and to maintain connections. She also wants access to someone who can answer questions, even for those who have officially exited the system. “so we don’t freak out,” she said. “There may be something we forgot to ask.” The Voices report recommends that DCF adopt innovative policies in case planning, and better educate youth about post-secondary policies and support once they leave the system. The group recommends a guaranteed 90-day transition period, homelessness prevention and better data collection so those aging out don’t “face an abrupt cliff once they become legal adults.”  Source: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Foster-care-an-unhappy-ending-for-many-10799389.php
2016 Baltimore Sun pictures of the year News Maryland Sun Investigates Maryland state agencies stop sending youths for treatment to Good Shepherd, group home Erica L. GreenContact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun State agencies put a moratorium on youth care at Good Shepherd, group home. Two state agencies have placed a moratorium on sending youths in their custody to Good Shepherd Services, a Baltimore County residential treatment center cited by regulators for not providing proper supervision after one patient reported being sexually assaulted and others showed signs of overdose after taking medicine stolen from a medical cart. The Department of Juvenile Services contracts with Good Shepherd, a nonprofit organization, to provide intensive mental health services to young offenders who have been committed. Agency officials said the program failed to comply with departmental policies and standards.  The Department of Human Resources, which oversees the state's child welfare system, including foster care, declined to say what prompted their moratorium but noted that the agency "strives to ensure that each program complies with applicable laws and regulations designed to protect children." Lack of supervision and other problems were documented by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which regulates residential treatment centers, according to public records obtained by The Baltimore Sun. Regulators investigated a number of incidents this year, interviewing staff members and residents and reviewing surveillance video from the facility. In the case of one resident who reported to staff that she was sexually assaulted on two occasions by another resident, the regulators noted in a report that "failure to enforce facility policies and procedures designed to protect residents may have put [a resident] at risk for the alleged assaults." Maryland task force recommends limits to juvenile shackling policies Erica L. Green A legislative task force on Thursday recommended limiting the situations in which juveniles accused of crimes in Maryland can be bound in restraints, but it stopped short of proposing sweeping reforms that would drastically curtail the controversial practice. The group of 19 — comprising state... A legislative task force on Thursday recommended limiting the situations in which juveniles accused of crimes in Maryland can be bound in restraints, but it stopped short of proposing sweeping reforms that would drastically curtail the controversial practice. The group of 19 — comprising state... (Erica L. Green) After three residents exhibited signs of overdose and surveillance video showed that one of them had raided a medicine cart, the regulators concluded that "the facility staff failed to safely store medications, which affected the health and safety of all residents on the unit." In another incident, several youths attacked other residents who were on a "hit list," according to a report. Michele Wyman, president and CEO of Good Shepherd Services, declined to discuss the incident reports but said her staff is highly trained and that the center has taken steps to address the problems. The coed treatment center houses as many as 75 young people, ages 13 to 21, who are suffering from severe emotional and behavioral problems. Juveniles in Maryland's justice system are routinely strip-searched and shackled Erica L. Green The Baltimore girl, 15, stood in front of the judge that spring day two years ago. She'd stolen toilet paper, laundry detergent and clothes because her grandmother was sick and they had little money. The judge said it was time for the serial shoplifter to learn a lesson. He ordered a weekend stay... The Baltimore girl, 15, stood in front of the judge that spring day two years ago. She'd stolen toilet paper, laundry detergent and clothes because her grandmother was sick and they had little money. The judge said it was time for the serial shoplifter to learn a lesson. He ordered a weekend stay... (Erica L. Green) "We consider ourselves a learning organization," she said, "which means you look at any kind of deficiency as an opportunity to examine and improve." The departments of juvenile services and human resources also imposed moratoriums on sending youths to Mary's Mount Manor therapeutic group home in Anne Arundel County. State officials declined to specify problems there. Health department officials, who respond to complaints at residential treatment centers and group homes, said no incident reports have been filed this year at Mary's Mount. The group home, which houses up to eight teenage girls, is under contract to house and provide counseling to young offenders and foster children. Chloe Perez, CEO of the nonprofit Hearts and Homes for Youth, which runs Mary's Mount Manor, declined to comment on the moratoriums. Youths at both facilities have been diverted to other locations. State officials declined to say how long the moratoriums would last. Both programs are part of a network of treatment centers and group homes that care for young people who have been committed in the juvenile justice system or are in foster care. There are about 5,000 children in the state's foster care system. An average of 575 juvenile offenders are committed on any given day, many of whom are placed in group homes or residential treatment centers for long-term commitments. Group homes are designed to provide a family-like setting and are regarded as an alternative to institutionalization. Residential treatment centers provide psychiatric and psychological treatment for adolescents who need 24-hour-supervision and a restrictive environment. These centers have come under increasing scrutiny nationwide from children's advocates and government agencies that are demanding better outcomes and lower costs, a group of trade associations for residential treatment centers acknowledged in a statement earlier this year. The group said it would work to identify best practices. "The consensus view is that kids with behavior issues can and should be treated in their own homes, or somewhere else in the communities," said Ira Burnim, legal director of the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a Washington-based group that advocates for adults and children. Burnim said the treatment centers often keep children away from their homes by putting them in places with a potential for abuse and where they can learn unhealthy behavior from other teens. He also said many have insufficient and untrained staff. "The situation often devolves into a battle for control," he said. In Maryland, residential treatment centers cost an average of $423 a night, and therapeutic group homes cost an average of $255 a night, according to state data. Debbie St. Jean, director of the Juvenile Protection Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, said some residential centers don't provide adequate treatment, noting that juvenile offenders get about 45 minutes a week in individual counseling sessions. "It isn't as though these kids are in a milieu that is therapeutic," St. Jean said. Luciene Parsley, managing attorney at Disability Rights Maryland, said that many of the agency's clients report not feeling safe at Good Shepherd and other residential treatment centers because of incessant fighting and violence. Residential treatment centers are required to send Disability Rights Maryland, formerly the Maryland Disability Law Center, reports of any incidents resulting in serious physical injury. Under federal law, the organization has statutory authority to conduct investigations of suspected abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities in such facilities. Parsley said that Good Shepherd has not been complying with the documentation requirement. For example, she said, an incident in which a child was taken to the hospital did not result in a serious-incident report to the agency. "We're looking into rectifying that," she said. Wyman defended the center's programs, saying it provides as much counseling as a youth may need beyond the once-a-week sessions, and that it tries to "do normal things for kids." She said youths committed there have extensive treatment programs that are reviewed every 28 days. The residents also have a family advocate, and the goal is for them to be reunited with their families. She said that her philosophy as a leader is that "transparency is always the best approach." She said, "We do not hesitate to properly report each and every injury deemed serious. "In our environment, we believe even one physical altercation is too many, and we are focused on creating the safest setting possible," she added. "Because of the complexity of illness seen in our population, we do sometimes have pockets of volatile behavior that is not dissimilar from other institutions across the country caring for similar populations." Wyman noted that many of the young people "bring histories which are filled with persistent aggression as well as fractured relationship issues that are replayed in a new setting." But she said they learn new skills through the program to reduce aggression. She also acknowledged that in some cases, juvenile offenders would be better served in less restrictive programs. "We all recognize that there's a level of trauma that comes with this setting," she said. "When a child can be managed in the community, they absolutely should be." Several "statement of deficiency" reports filed by state health regulators this year detailed conditions at Good Shepherd. According to the records, the alleged sexual assaults were reported to police, but staff didn't document them in the resident's record for six days, potentially delaying support and services for the victim. The three residents who showed signs of overdose required medical care in the emergency department, and one stayed there overnight for observation, records show. The records also detail several altercations between residents. In one case, a resident was thrown against the wall and hit her head in Good Shepherd's school, which didn't have video surveillance. Staff members didn't investigate the incident, according to the records. Staff members also failed to intervene when one female resident walked into a classroom that wasn't her own, threatened another teen and hit her in the head, landing the victim in the hospital, records show. In another incident, two residents made a hit list and beat two other residents, who suffered concussions. "The facility staff were unable to provide sufficient safeguards in the school to prevent the injuries," the records state. Wyman said a moratorium is "serious." "But it is an opportunity for everyone to pause and evaluate," she said. egreen@baltsun.com  Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-juvenile-girls-moratorium-20161216-story.html
More woes for troubled Wordsworth as former staffer is charged with sexually assaulting three girls Updated: December 17, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST  The exterior view of Wordsworth Academy in West Philly. by Nancy Phillips, Staff Writer Nancy Phillips Staff Writer A former staffer at Wordsworth, a residential treatment center for troubled children and teens, has been charged with sexually assaulting three girls in the program, luring them to the basement of the now-shuttered facility for sex and forcing them to take naked photographs of themselves with his iPhone. Isaac Outten, 37, repeatedly had sex with three girls, ages 15 to 17, while they were living at the West Philadelphia center last year, police said. He lured the 15-year-old into performing oral sex and having intercourse in exchange for a promise of money for diapers and milk for her 1-year-old child, they said. He promised another girl, 17, that he would help her with a criminal case in exchange for sex and naked selfies, according to police. And he led the third girl, also 17, to the basement for sex after a counselor left her alone with him, police said, and warned her not to tell anyone because that would get him into trouble. Outten, who was fired after the allegations came to light late last year, faces charges of institutional sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of children, and other crimes. He was being held at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on $200,000 bail in each of the three cases. His arrest Tuesday was the latest setback for Wordsworth, which was ordered to close in October after a 17-year-old boy died in a fight with staffers who had come to his room in search of a stolen iPod. The staffers flipped over the boy's bed and tossed the furniture around, and he grew agitated, according to a report prepared by state officials. As staffers attempted to restrain him, one held the boy's legs as another punched him repeatedly in the ribs, the report said. The boy began gasping for breath, at one point yelling, "Get off me. I can't breathe," according to the report. Then, it said, the room fell silent. No one has been charged in connection with the death, which is being investigated by Philadelphia police and the state Department of Human Services, which regulates Wordsworth. Shortly after the boy's death on Oct. 13, DHS revoked Wordsworth's license and ordered it to close, citing "gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct in operating the facility." Wordsworth officials have appealed the decision. Among the violations cited by state officials in justifying closure were the three girls' allegations that Outten had sexually assaulted them. DHS had ordered Wordsworth to appoint a security manager to ensure the safety of children who live there, strengthen staff training, and make clear that abuse would not be tolerated. In an inspection of the facility four days after the boy's death, state officials reported that Wordsworth had made "inadequate progress" in carrying out those actions. A spokesman for Wordsworth said Outten was immediately suspended when the girls reported the assaults and was fired soon after. She declined further comment, citing pending litigation. Outten's lawyer did not return a phone call seeking comment. In addition to its residential treatment facility, Wordsworth offers educational programs, mental health services, and foster care, and does case-management work for the city Department of Health and Human Services. Those programs are unaffected by the closure order. nphillips@phillynews.com 215-854-2254@PhillipsNancy Staff writer Chris Palmer contributed to this article.  Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20161217_More_woes_for_troubled_Wordsworth_as_former_staffer_is_charged_with_sexually_assaulting_three_girls.html
‘Spiritual warfare,’ ‘demonic attacks.’ The role religion played in home for sex-trafficking victims Jenny Williamson, photographed at Courage House in 2015. The Sacramento-area home for teen sex-trafficking victims closed in June. Williamson has vowed to reopen and is raising funds. Lezlie Sterling Sacramento Bee file i Jenny Williamson, photographed at Courage House in 2015. The Sacramento-area home for teen sex-trafficking victims closed in June. Williamson has vowed to reopen and is raising funds. Lezlie Sterling Sacramento Bee file By Marjie Lundstrom and Sam Stanton mlundstrom@sacbee.com Twitter Facebook Email Share Two weeks before the voluntary shutdown this year of Courage House, a licensed group home for young sex-trafficking victims near Sacramento, a ritual was performed on a teenage girl. According to findings in a state investigation, the girl’s forehead was anointed with oil, a religious verse was recited and the teen was told she would have to be a Christian, or at least denounce Satan, to continue living in the home. Crosses then were handed out to the other girls to wear. Courage House founder Jenny Williamson later would explain that the girl had multiple personalities and posed a danger to herself and others. “She worshipped Satan, and she practiced animal and human sacrifice,” she told The Sacramento Bee in August. Williamson told regulators in a June 18 memo responding to the state’s unannounced visit that the girl had been the victim of satanic ritualistic abuse and told staff she had “participated in human sacrifice when she was an alter personality.” Williamson said the girl terrified staff by announcing that “this week was a blood sacrifice week.” The California Department of Social Services did not accept the group home’s explanation and issued Courage House a “Type A” citation, the most severe penalty for violations considered serious enough to have an immediate impact on clients’ health, safety or personal rights. In its investigation, the state found that the girl had an interest in satanism but did not threaten to perform sacrifices and, instead, had “made a general statement that she enjoyed drawing some of the images” of satanic practice, a state licensing official wrote. Courage House appealed the citation twice, losing again in November, arguing in its appeals documents that the state’s investigation was “grossly inadequate” and that “the resident was adamant that she wanted to pray to become a Christian.” In addition, her condition left her with frequent amnesia, preventing her from being able to recount “full events,” two Courage House officials wrote Oct. 6 in their second appeal to the state. “There was never any pressure given, or ultimatums discussed with her,” wrote former program director Melissa Herrmann and clinical director Angela Chanter, who participated in the episode. “She was told she could not perform human and animal sacrifices, or drink the blood of any person there, but she was never told she could not worship Satan nor was she told she had to become a Christian.” The clash underscores the tension that can arise between faith-based service providers and government officials – each held accountable for the health and safety of vulnerable clients. Over the last decade, child sex trafficking has become a hot-button topic, spawning new programs and multiple new funding streams. Christian organizations in particular have rallied to the cause, organizing conferences, engaging communities and embarking on worldwide missionary work. Some Christian-based groups, such as Courage House and its nonprofit parent organization, Courage Worldwide Inc. of Rocklin, have gone a step further, establishing their own facilities to house and treat young victims. As the new year approaches, the once-vaunted program is struggling to reopen its Northern California facility for six girls, ages 11 to 17, while undergoing scrutiny from the state – including accusations it has violated children’s right to religious freedom. Because Courage Worldwide accepts government money – $9,100 a month per child at the time the group’s Sacramento-area home closed in June – the program must stay within regulatory boundaries and not favor one religion over another, or press children to participate. If it is able to reopen, it would be eligible for about $12,000 a month per girl under a new state system in effect next year. Courage Worldwide officials maintain they have found the appropriate balance. “State funds do not mean you cannot be a Christian home – state funds and license mean you cannot force a child to practice any religious ritual, and Courage House does not,” said Gil Stieglitz, a board member for Courage Worldwide Inc. and pastor at Bayside Church in Roseville, in an emailed response. From the time Courage Worldwide opened its Sacramento-area group home in 2011 on 52 acres north of the city, the organization has been steeped in Christian beliefs and practices, according to a Bee examination of state licensing records, dozens of internal Courage Worldwide emails and interviews with 17 former employees, business associates and a former client. The group opened a second Courage House around that same time in the east African country of Tanzania that it says now has 12 beds. Over and over, Williamson has publicly recited the story of how God spoke to her in church and directed her to build a home for her “daughters.” The organization’s major benefactors – and recruiting grounds for volunteers and donations – have included Christian churches in the Sacramento region and other states. Email exchanges in 2012 among corporate executives, obtained from a source, show spirited and sometimes frenetic discussions about “demonic attacks” on the girls and the “spiritual warfare” necessary to counter the threat. “October is a hideous month where the evil one is worshipped daily by his followers and those on our team (and some of our girls in Africa and Nor Cal) that have come out of SRA or witchcraft (satanic ritual abuse) are experience (sic) relentless demonic attacks,” employee Stephanie Midthun wrote in an October 2012 email to staff. Midthun and her husband, Joel, are key figures in the Courage Worldwide organization. Joel, the pastor of Elk Grove’s Living Water Church, is on the board of directors. Stephanie has served in various roles since 2008, including creative director, chaplain, spiritual adviser and community relations director. A July 2011 email Williamson sent to her staff and supporters warned: “We are at war! We are under great attack and need your prayers ... If you have a personal relationship with the girls – any time this week – morning, noon, afternoon evening please go out to Courage House to pray and prophecy over them, please, please do so!” In a March 2012 email, Herrmann, the former program director, discussed the possibility of taking a young client being discharged from a hospital directly to a hotel room in Elk Grove “while she goes through a more intense deliverance and prayer process before transitioning her back” to Courage House. For years, Williamson has touted an ambitious expansion plan for Courage House Northern California that includes as its centerpiece a shimmering chapel with a large cross, according to architectural renderings. The architect’s plan, which also envisions 10 new cottages for 60 girls, describes the chapel “as the most important building on the campus.” Despite aggressive fundraising around those plans – and a $300,000-plus kick start in 2011 from Bayside Church – the organization has yet to break ground. She was told she could not perform human and animal sacrifices, or drink the blood of any person there, but she was never told she could not worship Satan nor was she told she had to become a Christian. Courage House officials, in response to state citation Williamson and other Courage Worldwide officials vehemently deny there is any pressure to practice Christianity at Courage House, and said that girls are free to attend services of their choice as staffing levels permit. “We are in full agreement with the state to provide access to religious services when the girls request it, if provided sufficient notice in advance so that we can properly staff for such requests,” Courage Worldwide officials said in an emailed statement to The Bee. The state licensing file includes a sample of a “Courage House religious participation form,” which allows girls to check a box indicating their preferences. Choices range from no participation to weekly church services to worship nights and other spiritual events.   Even so, the state leveled a Type B citation against Courage House in December 2015, finding that the girls were required to attend the Midthuns’ church – a concern shared by some staff members. DeAnne Brining, a former therapist at the home, said the girls felt awkward and conspicuous at the church because the congregation knew who they were. “The girls did not want to be known as Courage girls,” she said. “Everybody at that church knew they were trafficked.” Courage Worldwide officials disputed the state’s findings, telling The Bee the Elk Grove church was the girls’ “consensus choice.” The citation was the first of two issued to Courage House by the department’s Community Care Licensing Division for violating children’s religious freedom. That in itself is unusual: Citations regarding religious freedom are so rare in California group homes that only nine other group homes out of 1,500 statewide – regardless of size – have been written up for this violation in the last five years, according to an analysis of statewide data, which includes facilities that operated during this period but are now closed. Courage Worldwide’s conflicts with the state have extended beyond matters of religious freedom. In the last five years, Courage House has been cited 36 times for regulatory violations, according to the data released to The Bee in early December. That’s more than three times the average for citations at the 300 facilities statewide of similar size and classification level. Only 14 facilities in California of similar size and classification logged more citations during that period. Courage Worldwide officials, in their emailed response, noted that while some deficiencies have been about policy, others involved “paperwork issues.” “No deficiency has been over an issue that the state viewed as serious enough to shut our facility, as it has at other facilities,” the email stated. ‘Battle worship’ and witchcraft A former life coach and motivational speaker, Williamson founded her nonprofit a decade ago, originally under the name Courage To Be You Inc. The organization started with a social mission of empowering people to “fulfill their God-given purpose,” then refocused in 2008 to sex trafficking, eventually changing its name to Courage Worldwide to reflect its global aspirations. In recent years, the organization has gained favor in Sacramento’s philanthropic community, collecting millions in donations while promoting the grandiose vision of expansion. This year, though, the organization’s fundraising practices uncorked a controversy when Williamson and her board quietly decided to close the Northern California facility, a move they say is temporary. The four remaining girls were given seven-day notices and the home closed June 13, with most of the staff laid off over the summer. The organization told regulators in June it needed a temporary “pause” to prepare for next year’s overhaul in how the state handles placements of troubled youths, which aims to phase out long-term group homes in favor of more family-based care. However, Courage Worldwide made no public announcement about its pause and continued to actively solicit money. The Bee’s investigation into Courage House and its closure prompted several major donors to withdraw or curtail their pledges. From the start, the organization has been open about the role Christianity plays in its mission, and its reliance on fundraising from churches. The Courage Worldwide website now includes a blog post entitled, “Churches are Rising Up to Stand with Courage Worldwide” that lists 25 pastors supporting the group. Documents and emails obtained by The Bee illustrate how staff operations at times have been intertwined with religious pursuits. The Midthuns often were at the center, along with former program director Herrmann, urging prayer sessions and “battle worship nights” to defeat evil. “We are calling for a corporate fast for Courage Worldwide for the following tuesdays in October (October 9, 16, 23 and 30th) as well as a special ‘Battle Worship Night’ October 31, Halloween night (location TBA),” Midthun wrote to staffers, board members and supporters in October 2012. Midthun warned of a “strategic attack against our reputation” and the finances of the organization, as well as the private business run by Williamson and her husband, Mike. The email does not explain the source of those perceived attacks. “We feel the only way to reverse these spiritual battles or assignment against CWW is on our knees in prayer and working as hard as we can,” Midthun wrote. Stieglitz of Bayside Church conducted one such service at the group home, according to an email a week later. “Dr. Gil led the leadership of Courage Worldwide in prayer at Courage House to battle the demonic strongholds at the home in Nor Cal and we all sensed it was very much connected to all over our homes,” Midthun wrote. “We came together on our knees with confession and communion, with prayers, tears and worship to battle for our home, our staff and the girls. We sensed a breakthrough in the spirit.” In February 2012, Herrmann announced that Midthun and her husband, Joel, had been appointed as “Courage House Spiritual Directors” and that staffers should “pray for extra protection, strength, discernment AND that God would continue to reveal himself to all the girls at Courage House!” Courage House also offered to underwrite the cost of prayer sessions with a pastor it brought in for “individual prayer counseling sessions with staff, volunteers, families and our girls!” according to a January 2012 email from Herrmann with the subject line “Pastor Joe Appointments.” “Pastor Joe normally charges $100 for individual prayer counseling sessions,” Herrmann wrote to staff. “Courage to Be You is willing to cover 25% of the cost of an appointment with Pastor Joe. “Please pay the $75 to him directly …” The fight against evil also extended to Courage Worldwide’s home in Tanzania, where Courage House officials wrote in an Oct. 24, 2012, email after a trip there that the girls “are still experiencing a lot of demonic attacks.” “During this trip we have found out quite a bit about some significant amount of witchcraft that was done on the property previously over a number of years (prior to Courage House). We have also been spending time praying with the girls and brought in some local experts in the area of witchcraft to help pray with them individually.” A prayer for rescue Even former employees of Courage House who identified themselves as people of deep faith said they viewed the corporate culture as overbearing and some of its practices as inappropriate for the girls. Arlicia Lorentty, a former social worker at Courage House, said the organization’s religious convictions initially were part of the attraction to work there, but that she later came to believe Williamson was “misusing faith” with her dramatic fundraising appearances aimed at “pulling at people’s heartstrings.” “As a person who is a Christian, and very much believes God has a heart for this population, I don’t think this is what he meant,” said Lorentty, who left in 2015. “The use of God’s name for fundraising – that’s the other part that really, really bothers me,” she said. “… She’s exploiting our faith, she’s exploiting these people’s generosity.” Several former staff members said that the religious intensity continued as the organization grew – along with its pool of government contributions. Today, Courage Worldwide boasts on its website that its therapeutic trauma program for girls is administered by psychologist Benjamin Keyes of Regent University, a private school in Virginia founded by conservative Christian minister and broadcaster Pat Robertson. Courage Worldwide explains that the program is a “Christian therapeutic model” known as Healing Emotional Affective Responses to Trauma (H.E.A.R.T.) Lauren Conklin, who worked at Courage House for four years, said she was uncomfortable with some of her bosses’ expectations. At one staff meeting last year, she said, Williamson wanted to wash her employees’ feet, symbolic of Jesus’ gesture to his disciples. “I said ‘no,’ ” she said. Linda Fiore, the group home administrator at the time the home closed, said she was not at work when the ritual with the oil and crosses occurred. But she said she attended a staff meeting later at which Courage House officials recounted the event and described their success at driving out evil forces. “I was just shocked,” said Fiore, who went out on medical leave in June and later was laid off. “It was very uncomfortable just being there.” As a person who is a Christian, and very much believes God has a heart for this population, I don’t think this is what he meant ... She’s exploiting our faith, she’s exploiting these people’s generosity. Arlicia Lorentty, a former social worker at Courage House Faith-based groups in California and elsewhere are continuing to forge relationships with government to help sex-trafficking victims. Many say they are well aware of the boundaries. Last year, officials announced that the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office was teaming up with Catholic Charities of the East Bay to create a safe home in the Bay Area for girls recovering from sex trafficking. Mary Kuhn, Catholic Charities communication director, said the home is “on path” to open in 2017 and will seek to become licensed by the state. “It will be our obligation to meet those requirements,” she said. “We do not discriminate. Our services are not about proselytizing,” she said. “Our services are about meeting the needs of people.” Mandy Porter, who coordinates a faith-based alliance to help trafficking victims, said Christian groups and volunteers must be extremely careful not to thrust their faith upon this population, or be perceived as trying to control or manipulate them. “The idea of choice is so important when treating a trafficking victim because they’ve had so many choices taken away,” said Porter of the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking. “… We don’t want to be another form of coercion, another thing they have to do in order to belong.” Courage House officials say they believe they are in good standing with the state, and that they’re working to reopen in early 2017. Fundraising efforts continue. A Dec. 9 fundraising letter posted on the Courage Worldwide website and sent to supporters includes a “giving card” that asks recipients to make a choice: a one-time financial gift; a set monthly contribution; or a commitment to “praying for more children to be rescued out of sex trafficking.” Marjie Lundstrom: 916-321-1055, @MarjieLundstrom Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article121546637.html#storylink=cpy 
Keeping foster kids with local families may be the fix Texas needs Filed under Child Protective Services at 12 hrs ago Share Facebook Twitter Email Written by Robert T. Garrett, Austin Bureau Connect with Robert T. Garrett On Twitter Email Get Daily Dallas News Headlines Don't miss a story. Like us on Facebook. Like Dallas News' Facebook Page Get Unlimited Digital Access Your first month is less than a dollar. $0.99for first 4 weeks Subscribe Now MINERAL WELLS — Texas foster care is in crisis, but there is hope for a homegrown, grassroots solution. The current system is discombobulated, with no one really in charge. Worse, it regularly rips kids from their home communities and sends them to live with strangers far away. When Texas foster children turn 18, they often emerge in sorrier shape — distrustful, emotionally scarred, behind their age cohort in school — than when they entered state care, a federal judge says. U.S. District Court Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi, the Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year, is demanding that the state do better in response to a class-action lawsuit. Thanks to an experiment called "foster care redesign," it is. A Fort Worth nonprofit is leading the effort, and it's generating excitement in child welfare circles. However, it's not clear that the Texas Legislature will fully embrace -- and fund -- the new procurement method when it meets next year. That's in spite of appeals by many advocates. They say redesign could be a partial answer in a court battle over foster care that so far, the state is losing. Foster Care with a local approach Palo Pinto county's foster care system did not allow for children within CPS to be close to their homes. ACH Child and Fa... h The effort's mottos are simple, if profound: Get involved. Make decisions locally. Wayne Carson, chief executive of lead vendor ACH Child and Family Services, has honed a civic pride argument. He makes it regularly to audiences at town meetings called "foster care strategy sessions" in Tarrant County and six counties to its south and west. Don't let distant protective-services officials in Austin decide the fate of your local children whom Child Protective Services has removed from dysfunctional and destructive families, Carson says. Because the state faces a severe shortage of foster beds, the children face strong odds they'll be shipped halfway across Texas and live a lonely existence, he warns.  The meetings effectively are pep rallies. They are designed to touch the hearts and consciences of local residents. Some will take the momentous step of signing up to be foster parents. Others will play supportive roles as volunteers. Mike Allen, mayor of Mineral Wells, spoke at a Palo Pinto County foster care strategy session at Holiday Hills Country Club in Mineral Wells in August.  Nathan Hunsinger/Staff photographer Palo Pinto County, the most rural of the pilot area's counties, had the biggest need in September 2014, when ACH took charge of placing all foster children in the seven counties. Then, Palo Pinto had only three foster homes. Meanwhile, CPS  had removed and placed into foster care 89 of the county's children. "Very few of them are here," Mineral Wells Mayor Mike Allen said of local foster kids, speaking at an August strategy session in his town, the county seat. "They're in Houston, Sherman, all over." Residents are concerned and bighearted but knew nothing about their county's shortage of foster homes, he said. What's different In buying a place to stay and services for 92 percent of the state's 17,000 foster children, the state uses "open enrollment" procurement. At CPS, conservatorship caseworkers and placement specialists send email blasts to vendors about their need for a home for a child. The first one to respond often gets the kid. Experts, though, have said that kind of shotgun approach fails to match children well with caregivers. They said that's why at least 40 percent of initial placements fall apart. In redesign, one vendor agrees to be responsible for placing all the children in a geographic area. The contractor also agrees to make sure supply fits demand. ACH, the lead contractor, considers one of its key jobs to raise awareness about local needs — and provide practical ways for people to help, Carson said. Wayne Carson, ACH Child and Family Services chief executive, touted foster care redesign during a Palo Pinto County strategy session in Mineral Wells in August. Nathan Hunsinger/Staff photographer After two years of sophisticated marketing and persuasion — but chiefly aided by a kind of religious revival ignited through collaboration with a local ministerial alliance — ACH is crowing about a turnaround in Palo Pinto County. There, about 30 families have started the process of becoming licensed as foster parents. Others stepped up by pledging to provide babysitting and prayer for the new foster parents. Several empty nesters volunteered to be "court-appointed special advocates." After undergoing training, they befriend the children and appear in court on their behalf. "It's flexing your faith," said J.R. Patterson, a fabrication shop owner who with wife Sheree has been a CASA volunteer for six years. "I'm a God-fearing Jesus freak, OK?" he explained as a panelist at the August session, which drew about 60 people to a country club in Mineral Wells. After learning more about the diaspora of local foster kids, Patterson said he felt a religious conviction that he and Sheree should become foster parents. Still, he worried it's "too big, too tough" a task. Not until further recruitment meetings, which yielded other adults willing to all be trained together, did the Pattersons feel comfortable enough to sign up, he recalled. "You better get ready and own it," he told fellow townspeople at the Holiday Hills Country Club. "They're not broken kids, they're our kids." ACH has culled two of its 44 regional providers for poor performance and has improved communication with those who still take and treat kids, Carson said. The lead vendor tries to remove obstacles that frustrate current and prospective foster families, he said. Early on, it soothed complaints by working with the Department of Family and Protective Services to speed approvals of state-paid day care for foster children under the age of 5, he said. Then Carson learned that the system was losing rural adults, many of whom said they couldn't complete their required 30 hours of training if they had to drive as far as Fort Worth or Arlington. He put out a bid that lured four child-placing agencies to offer the courses in Palo Pinto and Parker counties. Early results promising Early data show good results, though there are challenges because a higher percentage of children coming into Texas foster care are considered "high needs." Across all seven counties in what the department designates as "Region 3B," more children are staying closer to their hometowns. Eighty-three percent are within 50 miles of home, compared with 71 percent before the redesign's launch. In Palo Pinto, the number of foster kids staying in the county has increased sixfold. Backpacks and school work are highly organized at Mineral Wells foster parent Angela Cook's house. (Nathan Hunsinger/Staff photographer) More children are participating in their court cases. More take part in designing their therapies. Eighty-four percent take classes intended to help them "age out" of foster care successfully, compared with 71 percent in the old system. Region 3B, though, still lacks a residential treatment center. The centers, which are numerous in metro Houston but rare in Dallas-Fort Worth, are used to house children with the most severe medical, behavioral and intellectual-development problems. When Texas leaders first kicked around redesign as a concept in early 2010, the geographic imbalance in treatment centers was a big impetus to shake things up. Asked at a town meeting in Cleburne whether and when ACH could lure a provider to start a center in the region, Carson said that if the state improves reimbursements, it could happen within a year. To keep more of the most troubled children closer to home, ACH has created a new category of specially trained "therapeutic" foster parents. Carson has 127 therapeutic foster homes in Region 3B. Two are in Palo Pinto. Elevating one local vendor to be the lead caretaker and spokesman for abused children in a region has helped improve foster children's visibility, he said. "Now, child welfare is at the table. They know who to call," he said of providers, local governments and area mental-health and criminal-justice officials. Before and during the August strategy session in Mineral Wells, Carson huddled with George Cannata, who heads CPS in all of Region 3, and Gretchen Fehrm, a former Plano CPS supervisor who now is the Region 3 redesign administrator. Soon, Carson announced they'd been making calls to child placing agencies, looking for a home for a 17-year-old girl who was a victim of human trafficking. They succeeded, he said, beaming. "In the old system, the state would've called and I would've said no, she's too risky," he said. "She probably would've slept in a conference room [at a CPS office] tonight. In the old model, decision-makers were in Austin. Now, we've got the people who make decisions in this room." Funding prospects, future rollout murky For state GOP leaders, one of the allures of redesign was that it would eradicate perverse financial incentives for providers to let kids linger for years in foster care, especially in group homes or institutions. The state also intends to pay based on good outcomes for children. But while ACH has been building IT systems that track kids more closely and connect all of its subcontractors, performance pay won't begin for a few more years, Carson said. The experiment, meanwhile, has been threatened by state underfunding from the start, most GOP leaders now agree. Former state Family and Protective Services Commissioner Anne Heiligenstein, who helped promote redesign, acknowledged recently that "it certainly costs more than the state is investing today." Amid recession-driven budget cuts in 2011, Heiligenstein said she barely fended off cuts in foster-care reimbursements in the old system. She had to sell the untried procurement method as feasible without a big new cash infusion. EditTouchShare But the placement, capacity building, data gathering and other duties that the lead vendors assume from the state have cost far more than was estimated, Carson said. For years, he's been cajoling the department and lawmakers to provide more funds. Slowly, they have. But ACH, a venerable Fort Worth institution that started in 1915 as a collaboration of Protestant church ladies eager to help the destitute, has had to spend about $5.6 million of its $50 million endowment to make the effort work, he said. Startup costs ran about $3 million more than the state estimated, Carson said. And operating costs -- about $54 million a year of state and federal funds -- are running about $1 million short of actual expenses, he said. In September, current Commissioner Henry "Hank" Whitman asked for additional money in the next two-year budget cycle for redesign in the Fort Worth region and the next area it will be tried, a 30-county swath of West Texas from Abilene to Wichita Falls. Experts have said Whitman appears to have asked for enough to make it a break-even proposition for the lead vendors. But lawmakers, who face a tight budget, still must act. Wayne Carson, chief executive of ACH Child and Family Services Nathan Hunsinger/Staff photographer "I do not have board approval to continue to subsidize the contract," Carson said, noting that ACH's deal with Texas ends Aug. 31. "This model works and ... deserves to be fully funded." Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican who is the Senate's chief social services policy writer, agrees that redesign is working well in Region 3B and deserves more money. But Schwertner, who's also a key budget writer, said he's wary of the department's push to speed its use in other parts of the state. Whitman wants to take the revamped procurement to eight more regions over two years. That may be too fast, Schwertner said. He noted that in 2013, a for-profit company launched redesign in 60 West Texas counties only to pull out 13 months later, complaining of inadequate state payments and the sprawling region's "unique conditions." Some lawmakers and child advocates say that next year, the Legislature should dramatically increase spending on redesign -- both on reimbursements and a faster rollout. That might help convince the federal judge, Jack, that the state is acting in good faith to remedy shortcomings. Next month or in early February, she is expected to issue a final order in the class-action suit. Schwertner has filed a bill to exclude for-profit vendors. The number of new regions will be decided by budget writers, he said. "As good as ACH has been, do we have eight more ACHs across the state? Are they going to step up?" he said. "My concern is that we fall flat on our face." Staff writer J. David McSwane contributed to this story. Foster care redesign successes Region-wide: 0 - Number of kids who slept in a CPS office in year two (Oct. 1, 2015-Sept. 30, 2016) In county shortest on capacity, Palo Pinto County: 4 - Palo Pinto County foster children placed in home county, September 2014 25 - Palo Pinto County foster children placed in home county, October 2016 95.5 -- Percent placed out of county, September 2014 77.7 -- Percent placed out of county, October 2016 3 - Licensed foster homes in Palo Pinto County as of September 2014 27 - Licensed foster homes in Palo Pinto County as of December 2016 Statewide: 71.5 - Percent of foster children placed in a family setting Across all of Region 3B: (Erath, Hood, Johnson, Palo Pinto, Parker, Somervell and Tarrant counties) 79 - Percent of foster children placed in a family setting ACH chief Wayne Carson regularly holds town meetings, such as this one in Mineral Wells. He talks up foster care redesign and tries to touch people's hearts -- and consciences -- about the need for more foster parents. (Nathan Hunsinger/Staff photographer) Before redesign: 82 - Percent of Region 3B children who have monthly contact with aunts, uncles, grandparents and other approved visitors Redesign, year two: 93 - Percent of Region 3B children having such monthly contacts NOTE: For this measure, visits from caseworkers, therapists and members of a child's immediate family don't count. Innovations that other areas may copy: "Step down" Through a step-down process that provides additional supports, the lead redesign vendor is trying to move very troubled foster kids out of residential treatment centers and into what it calls therapeutic foster homes, which can provide a greater intensity and scope of services. 68 - Percent of the 57 youth in Region 3B treatment centers were successfully moved to family settings, as of Sept. 30 "Turning Point" To prevent family foster placements from breaking down when kids act out, lead vendor ACH Child and Family Services of Fort Worth and Texas Medicaid's behavioral health managed care provider, Cenpatico, have created a 14-day respite program. It moves the child to a group home where he or she gets intensive services. Meanwhile, the foster parents receive counseling. 108 - Number of youths served 89 - Percent who were successfully diverted from entering a psychiatric hospital 88 - Percent who returned to the same, family-style placement after respite care Challenges remain 65 - Percent of sibling groups placed together, year two 64 -- Percent of sibling groups placed together, before redesign 177 - "Therapeutic level" kids who entered foster care, year one 221 - "Therapeutic level" kids who entered foster care, year two NOTE: In redesign lingo, a "therapeutic level" child is one who in the rest of state would be "specialized" or "intensive." Those designations of very needy children trigger higher reimbursements to providers. In redesign, Texas' four gradations of foster children's neediness have been compressed to two: "standard," which encompasses "basic" and "moderate" in the rest of the state; and therapeutic. SOURCES: Texas Department of Family and Protective Services; ACH Child and Family Services Inc.; Dallas Morning News research  Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/child-protective-services/2016/12/23/foster-kids-local-owning-may-fix-texas-needs
New Law Set To End Group Homes As Foster Care Option December 20, 2016 6:42 PM Filed Under: Contra Costa County, Foster Care, Group Home, New Law CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (CBS SF) — Next month, a new state law kicks in to phase out group homes for foster care. KPIX 5 spoke with a former foster child who is hopeful the law will create a more family-like atmosphere for foster kids, especially during the holidays. Contra Costa County has about 1,100 kids in the foster care system. About 100 of those live in group homes, which are essentially private businesses that house up to 6 kids at a time. Onetime foster kid Justice Woods says Christmas in a group home holds little magic. “You wake up, they give you your stuff and then, that’s about it, said Woods. You go on with your day, do your chores and then sit around the house and do nothing.” Justice is 19 now and on his own, but he has never really had anyone who could care for him for long.  He thinks group homes do more harm than good and it seems the State of California agrees with him. In January, a new law will require the phasing out of group homes, which has counties scrambling to recruit enough new foster parents to fill the void. “We want people who really care about children, who want to help them succeed in life, who want to keep them in our community and open up their heart and home to these kids,” said Kathy Marsh, the Interim Director at Contra Costa Children and Family Services That’s what Katie and Ron Cisco did.  They took in Amelia and her little brother Trace, who really didn’t even know each other. It wasn’t easy at first. It took a while for everyone to bond. But now these four are happy. And with an adoption on Friday, they are a family. “Open your home. It’s doable. It’s worth it, said Katie Cisco. They matter. The kids need a chance.” The county says it’s not looking for perfect parents, just people with room for one more in their homes.  Justice says he never really had that, but he still believes that’s where the magic is at Christmas or any other time of year. “I feel like, you just come in with open arms and the foster youth, you guys will have a connection,” said Woods. “Just like a son and a father or a mother and daughter, you know?” The new state law gives counties two years to end the use of group homes for foster care. Contra Costa County has already hired two full-time recruiters to find people to be foster parents.  Source: http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/12/20/new-law-set-to-end-group-homes-as-foster-care-option/
In the rush to close institutions, Illinois ignored serious problems in group homes Mark Winkeler needs 24-hour care and has lived his entire adult life at Murray Developmental Center. His mother, Rita, and others sued when the Quinn administration sought to close Murray and move residents into group homes. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) By Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan Adults with mild disabilities were the most coveted. In April 2012, as Illinois moved to close several state institutions and relocate adults with disabilities into the community, representatives from group home businesses gathered inside the Jacksonville Developmental Center for a hastily organized auction. A state official read aloud medical histories of residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, prompting group home officials to raise their hands for desired picks. Group home operators knew that then-Gov. Pat Quinn wanted to empty Jacksonville quickly — before any serious union or community opposition could be mounted — but some were taken aback by what they saw as a dehumanizing approach. "We were appalled by the auction," said Art Dykstra, executive director of Trinity Services, the state's largest group home provider. The problems with Quinn's rapid-deployment plan, however, went beyond mere awkwardness. Officials from the Illinois Department of Human Services promised residents that group homes offered a new beginning — one that would bring them more independence, safe and compassionate care, even a private bedroom. But those promises obscured evidence found in the state's own investigative files that revealed many group homes were underfunded, understaffed and dangerously unprepared for new arrivals with complex needs, a Chicago Tribune investigation found. In the five years preceding the auction, Human Services' inspector general substantiated more than 600 cases of abuse and neglect in group homes, an analysis of state data shows. State investigators tracked an additional 1,420 cases that uncovered evidence of harm or deficiencies but did not result in formal findings. The Tribune's "Suffering in Secret" investigation, first published in November, uncovered a system where caregivers often failed to provide basic care while regulators cloaked harm and death with secrecy and silence. Some cases of neglect found by the Tribune involved individuals who had been relocated to group homes from state institutions. Among the most startling: A man transferred from a state developmental center to a series of group homes died under suspicious circumstances in 2010 after he was forced to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor of a cluttered room used for storage. With adequate funding and social supports, adults with disabilities fare best when mainstreamed into the community, widely accepted research studies show. Spurred by court decrees and a growing disability-rights movement, most states have closed some or all of their institutions and shifted funding to community-based residences like group homes. But in Illinois, not enough money has followed the people, the Tribune found. Group homes have gone nearly nine years without an increase in reimbursement rates for staff wages. Overall, Illinois consistently ranks among the lowest five states for financial commitment to community care, federal records show. "We've said all along the community system is grossly underfunded," said Zena Naiditch, CEO of Equip for Equality, Illinois' federally empowered disability-rights watchdog. "It's been grossly underfunded for decades." Instead of opening doors to independence, dozens of financially strapped group home businesses reduced or eliminated community activities as too expensive or time-consuming, according to investigative files from multiple state agencies. Complaints of food rationing were common. One home budgeted $1.22 per meal, limited servings to 4 ounces of protein and prohibited second helpings. Even the state's promise of a private bedroom proved illusory. Though group home operators agreed not to admit more than four residents per home, hundreds of providers have routinely bunked up to eight people with disabilities into tight quarters, an analysis of state licensing files and advocacy group reports shows. At the time of the Jacksonville closing, Human Services characterized the state's aging institutions as an antiquated and costly system with a long history of harm and inadequate care. By contrast, state officials described group homes as adequately funded and staffed. But when group home providers were surveyed in 2012 to gauge support for Quinn's plan, they complained of pervasive problems, according to records obtained by the Tribune. Several providers charged that Illinois routinely failed to fully disclose behavioral histories of state developmental center residents who represented a threat to themselves or others. Without that information, group homes can't take the steps necessary to keep all residents safe. Providers also said state funding was inadequate to cover staffing costs, diminishing the quality of care inside group homes and decreasing residents' independence. Other group homes railed against the state's inability to fund necessary levels of nursing care, with one provider writing: "Typically, an individual is funded for approximately one hour per month for nursing oversight." Instead of boosting funding overall or slowing down relocations, however, Human Services officials adopted an extraordinary tactic to obscure problems. They required group home executives accepting transfers to sign a pledge of loyalty, extracting a vow to "not do anything to inhibit, diminish, or undermine" the state's closure plans, the Tribune found. Failure to sign, Human Service officials warned, would restrict access to the Jacksonville auction and result in no referrals of developmental center residents to fill empty beds. To avoid being shut out, at least 67 businesses signed the one-page pledge, state records show. But one group refused to be silent about the state's plans: parents of individuals in institutions who worried their children would not get the care they need in a group home. And in the town of Centralia, about an hour east of St. Louis, a battle was brewing. READ THE SERIES: Part One - Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities Part Two - Flawed investigations ignore victims of neglect Part Three - In the rush to close institutions, Illinois glossed over serious problems in group homes Read full series and continuing coverage Rita Winkeler ties her son Mark's shoelace at Murray Developmental Center. Murray parents were apprehensive about a transition to group homes because they feared many did not offer adequate skilled nursing care. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) Parents fight back R ita Winkeler's 32-year-old son Mark has lived his entire adult life at Murray Developmental Center. His modest private room, equipped with a television and DVD player, is covered with family pictures and Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals memorabilia. Because of severe developmental and intellectual disabilities, he requires 24-hour care; he needs to be fed, diapered and bathed. Winkeler believes her son is happy and well cared for at the center. But after emptying Jacksonville and moving most of its 180 residents to group homes, the Quinn administration set its sights on Murray. This time, though, parents and guardians of the residents banded together and orchestrated public events to rally support from the community, state labor unions and lawmakers. Soon "Save Murray" signs blanketed Centralia. In a city of just 13,000 people, nearly everyone knew someone who had a connection to the center through a resident, employee or contractor. The potential closure represented a cataclysmic event for the rural community, located about 275 miles south of Chicago. Beyond the economic impact, the battle for Murray centered on choice. For many parents and guardians, Murray was a haven — a place where the staff outnumbered residents, where a registered nurse was never more than a few steps away. In early 2013, 11 parents and guardians of adult children who lived at state institutions, including Winkeler, filed a federal lawsuit to halt the state's plan. Murray's cinder-block buildings border a 120-acre grassy oval crisscrossed by walkways that lead to an outdoor shelter with picnic benches and gardens, a gymnasium and outdoor pool. Built in 1964, Murray resembles an aging community college. But inside it has the look of a nursing home. Its six residential buildings, sheltering about 40 residents each, are dominated by a central desk with hallways branching out to rooms. At the time of the lawsuit, there were 274 residents and 547 staff members, an enviable ratio made possible by a $41 million annual operating budget. Winkeler, a former third-grade teacher and head of the decades-old Murray Parents Association, said Murray families were not opposed to the group home concept. Indeed, Winkeler serves as guardian for her 58-year-old brother, who she said thrives in a group home setting. "Group homes are great for some people like my brother," she said. "But the state wants to fit everyone into the same-size shoe." Rita Winkeler talks about her son, Mark, who lives at Murray Developmental Center, an institution downstate. Mark, 32, has profound developmental disabilities and has lived at the center for his entire adult life. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) Following the lawsuit, the battle lines hardened. Murray supporters alleged the state had used deceitful tactics to steer vulnerable adults into substandard group homes as a way to save money. In 2012, state officials calculated the annual cost of care for an institutionalized resident was about $219,000, compared with $84,000 at a group home. The Arc of Illinois, a nonprofit advocacy group, emerged as a chief proponent for closure, referring to parents as misguided, describing residents as "incarcerated" and exhorting the public in a web blog: "Free our people!" "There's no doubt that the state institutional model is a relic that should have been closed down in Illinois and other states long ago," Tony Paulauski, the group's director, told the Tribune. As part of the court case, Human Services officials said most of the guardians of Jacksonville residents who responded to a state-funded survey were satisfied with the new homes. But Murray parents noted that nearly two-thirds of the guardians didn't answer the survey, which was conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago. Meanwhile, Human Services tracking records from April 2012 through March 2013 show a total of 84 admissions to hospitals or emergency rooms, 18 psychiatric admissions and 29 police encounters involving transferred Jacksonville residents. All sides understood that the outcome of the court case could dictate the near-term future for how Illinois cared for people with severe disabilities. For the last decade, prodded by a U.S. Supreme Court decision and federal consent decrees, Illinois has worked to transfer hundreds of people with disabilities who had been inappropriately institutionalized. Many of Illinois' now-closed institutions had a long history of horrific conditions. At Murray, a staff member was accused last year of forcing a resident to take a shower as a punishment. The resident, who was deaf and blind, choked in the shower and later died at the hospital. But Murray families argued that residents with severe disabilities who moved into group homes were unlikely to receive the 24-hour assistance they needed. Instead of funding that help, the state has used a cumbersome approval process to authorize extra staffing, typically for a limited number of hours each day. Group home owners said they were forced to guess in advance when the resident might be in the most need of care and oversight. Families who toured prospective group homes said they observed thinly staffed shifts of inexperienced caregivers who acknowledged that they didn't know how to deal with aggressive behaviors or a medical crisis except to call 911, according to court records. Murray parents also expressed fears that many group homes did not offer adequate skilled nursing care — fears that were warranted, a Tribune analysis of state investigative records shows. At one group home business — United Cerebral Palsy Land of Lincoln — the Human Services inspector general cited four nurses for neglect involving three unrelated deaths between 2012 and 2015. Records from one of those cases reveal that two nurses were responsible for 52 residents from Springfield to Bloomington. Since the deaths, CEO Brenda Yarnell said the group home business has hired a director of nursing to oversee two nurses to improve supervision of resident care. Salaries of two nurses are paid through private fundraising efforts, she said, because Human Services won't pay for additional nursing care. Echoing written complaints to Human Services by many providers over the years, Yarnell said state reimbursement rates for nursing are inadequate, often covering costs of just one nurse. "It's been really hard," she said. "The expectation is impossible." New home a bad fit D espite the pending lawsuit and known problems in the group home industry, Human Services officials in mid-2013 began to move out Murray residents whose state guardians did not oppose the closure. A longtime Murray resident named Carl was among the first to be relocated, but he didn't go far. His new private group home, a 1,300-square-foot ranch house, was across a county road from Murray. In his wheelchair, he could stare out the window at his old life. A Murray resident named Carl was moved across the street to this group home. Murray caregivers complained to officials that Carl's challenges made a group home the wrong fit. He was moved back after multiple hospitalizations. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) Murray caregivers complained to their supervisors and to the governor's office that Carl's severe medical, intellectual and physical challenges did not make him a good candidate for a group home where he would be limited in movement and have less contact with other people, according to court records. Carl has poor vision and must use a wheelchair, though he can walk a few steps with a walker or staff assistance. He understands the concept of yes or no and has a small vocabulary — he can say "cookie" or "food," for instance — but he wears diapers and requires help for the most basic activities, such as bathing, dressing or using the restroom. At his new group home, run by Support Systems & Services, his wheelchair barely fit down the narrow hallway, according to witness accounts in court and state records. A Murray staffer who visited him described Carl as being "like a giant in a dollhouse." According to a written report by a court-appointed guardian, Carl suffered his first seizure in three years after his anti-convulsant medication ran out and he received none for three days. In addition to complaining about the home's size, Murray staffer Lorre Winter wrote a series of emails in July 2013 to Richard Starr, then director of Murray, stating that she was "seeing problems that weren't being addressed." "There is more involved than just placing them in a house and feeding them," she wrote in the emails, which surfaced in the lawsuit against the state. Starr wrote that Winter should "stick to objective concerns rather than subjective." Winter, who had worked with Carl when he was at Murray, responded: "Someone has to speak up for these people and if that is what I have to do then I will and deal with the consequences later." The Tribune verified Carl's identity and the home's location through government records and state emails. After months of discussions, the Illinois Office of State Guardian confirmed that Carl was a state ward. The Tribune is not using Carl's full name, as he is not capable of giving consent. David Jaques, chief executive of Support Systems & Services, told the Tribune that Carl thrived at the home and improved his mobility after a physical therapist trained the home's staff to help him. Jaques attributed the initial lack of anti-convulsant medication for Carl to a billing problem at the pharmacy related to the transition from Murray. While Carl was living in the group home, a federal district judge ruled in July 2014 that guardians of Murray residents could not stop the state from closing the facility. A three-judge appellate court panel later affirmed that decision and called Illinois a "laggard outlier" in the national movement to transition residents from institutions into the community. But the Murray parents found an unexpected supporter in Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner, who won the November 2014 election and kept his vow not to close Murray. The parents had held off the state, at least temporarily. Jerry Stermer, who served as a senior adviser to Quinn, defended the former governor's handling of the closure process. The Jacksonville auction, Stermer said, was designed to match residents with group home providers who could meet their needs. Following complaints from businesses, state officials relied on a silent auction process in which group home officials marked preferred resident selections on paper, he said. Quinn’s goal, Stermer said, was to shift money from supporting a few hundred people in an expensive state facility to helping a far greater number of individuals receive community-based care. The Rauner administration has stated there will be no institutional closures this fiscal year, which ends in June. About 1,650 residents remain in seven developmental centers, and the Arc of Illinois continues to lobby vigorously for closing at least six of them. In 2012, Quinn targeted four developmental centers for closure but succeeded only with Jacksonville. State records show that Carl was returned to Murray earlier this year, after multiple hospitalizations and new medical complications that caused severe weight loss. Winter now helps provide Carl's care. For now, the state acknowledged, the institution is where Carl needs to be. The Misericordia question H undreds of miles away on the campus of Misericordia Heart of Mercy, the most formidable opponent of the big-is-bad philosophy is gently rallying 200 women at a fundraising luncheon to take on what she calls "the injustice of the system of service for people with disabilities." For nearly half a century, Sister Rosemary Connelly, the Roman Catholic nun who leads Misericordia, has defied convention as she built a community for 600 people with developmental disabilities on the site of an abandoned orphanage in Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood. "The bureaucrats have held since the '70s that anything that is big is bad," Connelly tells the crowd at the Christmas luncheon. "They hate Misericordia because of the fact that we're big and we're not bad. We're good. And we're good because so many people believe in us enough to get involved." If Murray resembles an aging community college, then Misericordia's 31 acres look more like an elite liberal arts campus, the antithesis of institutions that confine rather than care for people with intellectual disabilities. Misericordia Heart of Mercy in Chicago serves 600 people with developmental disabilities. Its continuum of care, the size of its staff and the varied programming attract 300 families to Misericordia's waiting list. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) Though the front-porch appeal of the buildings impresses visitors, it's the continuum of care, the size of the staff (about 1,000) and the varied programming (commercial bakery, greenhouse, restaurant, art studio, aquatic center) that attracts 300 families to Misericordia's waiting list. Executives of some group homes pride themselves on taking in residents whom others won't — people with severe behavioral issues and mental illness. Misericordia doesn't do that because, Connelly says, her organization couldn't meet their needs. On-campus housing options range from a village of homes for more independent residents to a skilled-nursing facility for medically fragile children and adults. As medical advances have extended the lives of people with disabilities, Misericordia this year tapped private donations to open four 15-unit homes to cater to the needs of aging residents and those with dementia. But to advocates who push for closing state institutions, any large facility that segregates residents from people without disabilities is a barrier to the ideal of community living and represents an outdated approach. Paulauski, of The Arc, has been engaged in a philosophical tussle with Connelly for four decades as both pursue their vision of working with people with developmental disabilities. "People with disabilities must be able to live in the community, work in the community, and participate in all aspects of community life together with their peers without disabilities," he wrote to supporters in an "action alert" last spring when a bill granting Misericordia special licensing status came up in Springfield. Sister Rosemary Connelly, executive director of Misericordia, works in her office. The Roman Catholic Sister of Mercy for decades has tussled with activists who say all big settings are bad. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) Connelly sees Misericordia as a vibrant community. She doesn't oppose group homes; Misericordia operates 10 of them in Chicago and Lincolnwood. Yet she calls them "isolated houses in the community" and says the 65 residents who live there, most of whom have off-campus jobs, have richer lives because they can come back to campus for activities. After-work social gatherings at Misericordia include clubs geared toward various sports, music, science, technology, sewing, theater and dance. Her view: Big can be bad. Small can be bad, too. Both can be good. The danger comes when policymakers who control the funding insist that one size fits all. "I don't think we're the only way," Connelly said. "All I say is we're a legitimate way." The divide over institutional care threatens the government support of Misericordia and more than 200 of Illinois' other private intermediate-care facilities — settings that serve nine or more people with disabilities under one roof. Statewide, these private facilities care for twice the number of people that state developmental centers do and at a fraction of the cost. Misericordia, for instance, receives about $65,000 annually for each of the 360 residents in its 21 intermediate-care facilities. In his first year in office, Rauner proposed a 12 percent cut to the funding for this type of care, a reduction forestalled only by the state's inability to pass a budget. More broadly, federal and state officials are wrestling with which settings are too "isolated" to merit funding. For example, federal and state regulators have put Misericordia's developmental training program under "heightened scrutiny" because when group home residents bake brownies, package ground coffee or fold clean laundry, they are doing so on Misericordia's campus, the type of setting that the federal government presumes has the "the qualities of an institution." To retain funding for this programming, Connelly and her staff have to prove that the people holding these jobs also have meaningful lives in the larger community. As part of its programming, Misericordia runs the Hearts & Flour Bakery, which helps some residents develop job skills. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) For policymakers, the challenge is that for too long bigger settings were the only option. Stanley Ligas, a man with Down syndrome, could read and balance his checkbook and held a job at a Popeyes chicken restaurant, but the state repeatedly turned him down when he asked to move from a 96-bed intermediate care facility in Woodstock to a smaller home. A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Ligas and thousands of other people with disabilities led in 2011 to the Ligas consent decree, which requires Illinois to fund community living options for people who want to leave intermediate care facilities and those who are living at home but seek community services or placement. Connelly knows what can happen if government loses faith in a model of care. Misericordia's campus sits on the grounds of the former Angel Guardian Orphanage, which closed in the 1970s when it lost government funding as the state shifted from orphanages to foster homes. Misericordia can provide the care it does because Connelly, her staff and thousands of volunteers raise more than $20 million in private money each year to supplement the government support. But Connelly turned 85 this year. A goal of the Christmas luncheon was not just to raise money but also to build a next generation to take on the big-is-bad activists when she's gone. Connelly wrote to supporters this year that the state can learn a lesson from the shuttered orphanage. "When I see the middle-aged homeless people on the streets of Chicago," she wrote, "I wonder how many are the so-called 'success stories' of the '70s when the government allowed institutions to close without providing adequate support for all involved." mberens@chicagotribune.com pcallahan@chicagotribune.com Twitter @MJBerens1 Twitter @TribuneTrish  Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/grouphomes/ct-group-home-investigations-cila-met-20161229-htmlstory.html
When foster care puts kids in peril When foster care puts kids in peril BY Tina Lee NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Saturday, December 31, 2016, 5:00 AM facebook Tweet email  BY Tina Lee NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Saturday, December 31, 2016, 5:00 AM Child welfare has been down this road before. A high-profile tragedy involving a death of a child “known to the system” – this time, Zymere Perkins – is followed by an apparent spike in the number of children taken from their homes by the Administration for Children’s Services. Caseworkers, their supervisors and other officials, who genuinely care about keeping children safe, realize they are not likely to be held accountable for any harm that comes to children as a result of being placed in foster care. But they may be on the front page, or lose their jobs, if a tragedy occurs after they had the opportunity to remove a child. The fear created by the predictable rush of politicians to attack ACS actually creates less safety for children. This situation is familiar to me. In 2006, I began a long-term, in-depth study of New York City’s child welfare system. I spent months watching family court hearings, shadowing caseworkers, talking to families and closely following 250 cases. ACS worker faces ax for missing chances to save Zymere Perkins Just a few months earlier, the child welfare system had been shaken by the death of Nixzmary Brown. Because of the outcry that followed, the share of child maltreatment reports ACS flagged as “indicated” increased, and the rate of foster care placements increased by 53%. Caseworkers described increased workloads, an inability to give all cases the attention they deserved and a prevailing “remove and ask questions later” mentality. In a large majority of the cases, it seemed that removals could have been avoided and that families and children suffered — their lives made worse, not better, by the presence of ACS in their lives. Most child welfare cases involve neglect, with allegations closely related to poverty and a lack of social services to deal with issues such as domestic violence and drug use. Rather than providing services that would have made children safer, parents were punished with child removals. Children suffered. I frequently heard attorneys discuss how children’s school performance declined, the mental health and behavioral problems that arose, and how some children had their first expulsion or juvenile justice case. 2016’s trail of shock and blood: Trump, terror dominated year During months of observing family courts, it was striking how little evidence was presented about the harms children faced relating to the allegations in their case and how much time children’s attorneys discussed the harms children suffered in foster care. Often it was clear that agencies were doing a far worse job of meeting the same needs that parents were accused of neglecting. Nixzmary's death set off a frenzy (Chet Gordon) In one case, workers removed a child, aged 10, because they decided her mother wasn’t treating her mental health issues. The child was hospitalized upon removal and caseworkers, 10 days later, still were unable to tell the judge what illness led to the hospitalization. They had not visited her even once to check on her treatment. In another, a single mother who had herself come of age in foster care struggled to raise her children through low-wage jobs. She was accused of using excessive corporal punishment with her middle school-aged son and of recreational marijuana use. She admitted to both and explained she slapped her son after he had been acting out and not taking school seriously enough. The caseworker wanted her to enroll in services. The mother said she never was told to do that. Two week later, her children were removed. De Blasio denies deceit in spurious child-services announcement Caseworkers later decided there was little risk after all and decided to send the children back home. (By then, the boy was stealing and failing in school.) But they weren’t — because the private foster care agency handling the case determined that her apartment was unsafe. Rather than making the needed repairs, the landlord threatened to evict the mother. This pattern of lives made less secure, not more, is common. Studies that compare children placed in foster care with children who have suffered comparable maltreatment but stayed with their families find that children in foster care fare worse on measures of mental health, education, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, and unemployment. Yes, Zymere Perkins’ death was a terrible tragedy. However, flooding the system with more removals, giving caseworkers less time to make thorough assessments and placing more children in foster care unnecessarily will create more harms, not fewer. This time, we should take the road less traveled. Lee is the author of “Catching a Case: Inequality and Fear in New York City’s Child Welfare System” and a professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.  Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/foster-care-puts-kids-peril-article-1.2929089
Study shows foster care may be bad for children’s health January 2, 2017 186 Children who have been in the U.S. foster care system are at a significantly higher risk of mental and physical health problems than children who haven’t been in foster care, according to a University of California, Irvine sociologist. The problems range from learning disabilities, developmental delays and depression to behavioral issues, asthma and obesity. “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, UC Irvine associate professor of sociology. “This work makes an important contribution to the research community by showing for the first time that foster care children are in considerably worse health than other children. Our findings also present serious implications for pediatricians by suggesting that foster care placement is a risk factor for health problems in childhood.” Published in Pediatrics, the large-scale study is the first to offer health comparisons based on a nationally representative sample of U.S. children. Turney and co-author Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, analyzed data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health. Of the more than 900,000 kids included in the survey, 1.3 percent were identified as having been in foster care. They were compared to children who hadn’t spent time in foster care, those who had been adopted from foster care and those living in a variety of family arrangements, including single-mother and economically disadvantaged households. Using logistic regression models, researchers found that kids who’d been in foster care were: •    Seven times as likely to experience depression •    Six times as likely to exhibit behavioral problems •    Five times as likely to feel anxiety •    Three times as likely to have attention deficit disorder, hearing impairments and vision issues •    Twice as likely to suffer from learning disabilities, developmental delays, asthma, obesity and speech problems “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 said. “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.”  Source: https://knowridge.com/2017/01/study-shows-foster-care-may-be-bad-for-childrens-health/
Unregulated recovery homes criticized over living conditions | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Unregulated recovery homes criticized over living conditions January 3, 2017 12:00 AM Group homes for recovering drug addicts could fall under tougher scrutiny statewide this year, targeted for what critics call inconsistent living conditions that can hobble the recovery process. By Adam Smeltz and Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Three-quarter-way houses are meant to be a bridge to independent living for addicts, but critics calling for tougher state oversight say some are so crowded, unsupervised and unstable that they can hobble the recovery process. Neither state nor Allegheny County officials have complete tallies of recovery homes, also known as three-quarter-way or sober-living homes. But market observers believe the housing has proliferated over the last several years amid the opioid epidemic, bringing in short-term tenants after they leave drug court, licensed halfway houses or other care. There are almost no regulations for these homes other than zoning limitations on how many unrelated people can occupy a residence. Some have house managers, mandatory drug testing and other requirements, while others leave tenants to their own devices. Among hundreds of recovery homes thought to operate in Pennsylvania, a number offer virtually no support to their residents, according to addiction experts and neighborhood watchdogs. Pittsburgh City Council has urged state lawmakers to regulate the residences. Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said the group homes have been a problem in her district, which includes Carrick, Brookline and Beechview. “They are simply warehousing those who are struggling with addiction and trying to remain sober,” Ms. Rudiak said of troubled recovery homes with few amenities. She said tenants arriving there from more structured halfway houses are “basically entering a free-for-all” by comparison. William Davison, 28, of Allentown lived in a recovery home in Ms. Rudiak’s district about three years ago. He said that five recovering addicts shared a single bathroom in the Brookline home, where a house manager left to watch over another home, he said. [A property operator identified by Mr. Davison reported no immediate recollection of his having been a tenant.] “Some people started using [drugs] in the house here and there,” said Mr. Davison, a recovering heroin addict. He said he “lasted about four months — and then I started using again.” His friend Gus DiRenna, 57, who works with addicts, said some operators may fit more than a dozen people into a three- or four-bedroom home. Monthly prices typically run about $450 apiece, at times delivering fat profits for those property owners who skimp on tenant services, Mr. DiRenna said. The time when recovering addicts leave the structure of inpatient centers or halfway houses is often a make-or-break period, he said. A poorly managed three-quarter-way home can undermine months of progress. “At that point, I think, is where you make the difference to keep these kids alive. That’s where we’re losing them,” said Mr. DiRenna, of Whitehall. “We’re not losing them in the treatment centers. We’re not losing them in the detoxes. It’s right afterwards, when they get out of those places and it’s time to start over.” Allegheny County recorded at least 300 drug overdose deaths through November, according to OverdoseFreePA.org. Mr. DiRenna advocated eliminating the profit motive for operators of recovery homes. A state certification program, he said, could set minimum standards for many facilities, along with a mechanism to gauge — and perhaps reward — their successes. To that end, two recent state bills would establish baseline requirements for recovery homes that receive federal or state support. State Rep. Tina Davis, a Bucks County Democrat, said she will reintroduce her legislation this year. Among its provisions, the measure would require background checks for the affected recovery home owners, sobriety for their house managers and a rule book for their operations. “I live with it every day,” said Ms. Davis, who reported frequent complaints about the facilities. Another effort could produce regulations from the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, or DDAP, by early 2017, said Carol Gifford, a spokeswoman for the agency. It’s weighing safety recommendations that a task force issued in July. The suggestions include drug and alcohol testing for owners, employees and operators of recovery homes. Those workers also should not involve themselves romantically with residents, should not pay commissions to encourage referrals from health care providers and should not provide therapeutic interventions unless they’re licensed to do so, according to the recommendations. Additionally, the task force suggested that major appliances and utilities be in good condition and that any crimes, deaths or overdoses be reported to the state. The standards would apply only to those recovery homes certified to receive state money or referrals from state-licensed treatment programs. At the nonprofit Recovery United Pittsburgh, president John Miller said such regulations are necessary. While his group recovery homes follow internal rules such as curfews and drug tests, he said, other outfits have essentially no structure. He expects state regulations could put many out of business. But the facilities are not a cure-all, Mr. Miller said. “It’s up to the person who’s trying to get their life together to fix themselves,” he said. “It’d be great if they came in, and I waved a wand and said, ‘You’re done; you’re cured.’ Unfortunately, that’s not what happens.” A relative handful of recovery homes in Pennsylvania already face review. State drug officials estimate that more than 50 are contracted at the county level. Inspections are mandatory for those that receive state money, according to the DDAP. Allegheny County contracts with two recovery housing providers, each monitored every year. And the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Association of Recovery Residences has certified around 150 homes through its own process, largely in eastern Pennsylvania. Taken together, the dwellings represent a fraction of the 800 to 1,000 recovery homes estimated statewide by Fred Way, the association’s executive director. He figured around 1 in 12 of the home operators is a bad actor. Most are helping people, said Mr. Way, who served on the DDAP task force. “It’s about being holistic with their recovery and making them better men and women,” he said. He supports making independent bodies, such as his association, responsible for issuing state-recognized certifications. Back in Western Pennsylvania, recovery-home owner Leo Hutchison is working to form a regional chapter of the state recovery residence association. He got into the business after seeing unscrupulous practices elsewhere in the field, he said. His residents in Beechview and Carrick must show progress in a 12-step recovery program, among other expectations. Though he follows other guidelines, such as stocking fire extinguishers and allowing a specific number of beds per square foot, he’s heard of other facilities that are more lax. “I don’t know if they’re going to want to stay in this business,” Mr. Hutchison said, “with less of a profit margin.”  Source: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2017/01/03/Unregulated-recovery-homes-tweaked-for-living-conditions/stories/201701030016
Texas Foster Care System Faces Concerns About Overmedication of Children by DAGNEY PRUNER, Reporting Texas The Gilmer Mirror 3 days ago | 783 views | 1  | 4  |  |  Texas Foster Care System Faces Concerns About Overmedication of Children   By DAGNEY PRUNER Reporting Texas   Holding a scrapbook inches from his face, Jessy Dussetschleger flips through pages and pages of pictures from his childhood. Smiling and tapping his adoptive mother on her shoulder, he points to a photo of himself with his siblings at a birthday party. Touching memories from early childhood are a rarity for him. Jessy, 22, was born deaf. His mother, a single mom, also was deaf and raised him in an abusive household in Corpus Christi. He was just 4 years old when Child Protective Services removed him from the home. Although it is unclear how much abuse he suffered, scars indicate it was extensive. The state declared that he was “severely traumatized.” He had six placements during his first three months in the foster care system before he was placed with Melody and Darrel Dussetschleger. Jessy was unable to communicate and had severe behavioral problems due to his deafness and the abuse. He was holding the scrapbook so close to his face because he also is legally blind. At 4, he was prescribed Focalin, Thorazine and BuSpar to manage his behavior. His sister, Shela, also was fostered by the Dussetschlegers and was on heavy psychotropic medication when she came to them at 3 years old. “Every kid we had was so over-medicated. He was on medication most adults can’t even handle. She would just look hollow. It was horrible,” said Melody Dussetschleger, 56, a stay-at-home mom. More than 30,000 children are in Texas’ foster care system, including more than 1,000 Travis County. In 2015, 15.5 percent of foster children were prescribed psychotropic medication by the state or contract physicians, down from 28 percent in 2002. Psychotropic medication includes drugs that affect mental activity, which includes sedatives, tranquilizers, stimulants, antidepressants and anti-psychotics. Side effects can range from suicidal ideation and cardiac arrest to seizures and sudden death. There are few studies on the long-term effects of those medications. The drugs also can mask underlying problems that could be treated with therapy. “The medications are not only approved, you have to give it to them. They are pushed by the state. We didn’t have a choice,” said Darrel Dussetschleger, 60, a self-employed contractor. His family has fostered 32 children over the past 25 years. Jessy was their first. In December 2015, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled that Texas’ foster care system was was unconstitutional. She found that the system subjected children to unreasonable risk of harm and that children left foster care more damaged than when they entered. The state is responsible for children “shuttled throughout a system where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm,” Jack’s ruling said. Jack ordered an expert review of the system, which found that psychotropic medication had been prescribed widely, often without evaluation and with missing medical records. The report, which was released in November, recommended that the state establish regular review of children’s diagnoses and medication dosages and create an informed consent protocol. Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said it conducted an “extensive review” of prescription practices for children in foster care more than a decade ago. “In general, the use of psychotropic medication in foster children has declined significantly in recent years, even as the number of children entering the foster care system has continued to rise,” she said. Concerns about the use of psychotropic medication in the foster care system date at least to 2008, when the federal Government Accountability Office compared Medicaid data from five states. The GAO found that in Texas, 32 percent of foster children were prescribed psychotropic drugs, compared to 7 percent of children outside of foster care. No other state had such a big disparity. Tymothy Belseth said medication made it difficult to get to the root of the trauma he saw kids endure in foster care. “You can’t get a pill to take away trauma,” said Belseth, 26, who entered Texas’ foster care system when he was 15. He is now a research coordinator at the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing in Austin. “It’s easier to deal with a doped-up kid than to deal with one that is constantly mouthing off,” Belseth said. The Department of Family and Protective Services now revises its guidelines on psychotropic medication, which were introduced in 2005, every three years based on recommendations from the experts at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy and other medical professionals. The guidelines set limits for dosages and designate “red flags” for mixing medications that trigger a review of the child’s treatment plan. However, scarce resources make it difficult to enforce the parameters. “Certainly, kids need more psychotherapy than they’re getting,” said Dr. Steven Pliszka, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who helps DFPS develop the medication parameters. The goal is not to get children completely off medication but to reduce practices such as prescribing multiple drugs to treat the same behavioral disorder, he said. “We know very little about childhood PTSD and really the best treatments. For the most part, we are extrapolating from the adult data, and that’s true in therapy as well as medication,” Pliszka said. Jessy suffers from macular degeneration, a condition that causes blind spots to grow in his field of vision. The disease is caused by retinal deterioration, which typically manifests as adults age. Specialists said repeated head trauma could have damaged Jessy’s eye tissue, preventing it from developing correctly. Vision specialists told the Dussetschlegers there was no way to estimate when he would lose his sight completely. When he was in second grade, Jessy’s blindness had worsened to the point where he could no longer see his teacher. The Dussetschlegers said his psychiatrist recommended Jessy get off psychotropic medications, including Thorazine, an anti-psychotic whose side effects include vision problems. “We took him off, and it was amazing how much easier his behavior was, because he didn’t have all of those side effects,” said Melody. Jessy’s medications had caused drooling, insomnia and severe mood swings. “We called them ‘the afternoon nasties,’” she said. Tyrone Obaseki understands the emotional side effects of psychotropic medication from his 18 years in the foster care system. “I was living an environment where you are constantly being told that you are retarded,” said Obaseki, now a Houston-based therapist and advocate. “That begins to affect the self-esteem of the young person like it did with me, especially in adolescence.” Obaseki was on and off psychotropic medication and was admitted to psychiatric hospitals during his time in the system. He believes he was misdiagnosed and pleaded with his foster parents to take him off all medication. After leaving the system, he went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling from Prairie View A&M University. “I believe that I am a normal, functioning adult who was dealt a bad hand and is trying to make the best of it,” he said. “The solution was not drugs, it was love and support.” After decades of working with the state, the Dussetschlegers haven’t fostered children since 2010. They said it became too difficult to work with DFPS and its prescriptions for how they should care for children. “It wasn’t our home anymore,” Melody said. But heartened by the changes that Jack’s ruling might spur, the Dussetschlegers, parents of three biological and two adopted children, are thinking of becoming foster parents again. Their house is about to empty. Jessy has a full-time job at a warehouse in Taylor and is eager to move out of his parents’ home, and his sister, Shela, is getting married in April. “I have seen true evil in what has happened to these kids, but they are so resilient. Seeing how much they have overcome only strengthens my faith,” Melody said. “It makes me full of hope.” Read more: The Gilmer Mirror - Texas Foster Care System Faces Concerns About Overmedication of Children  Source: http://www.gilmermirror.com/view/full_story/27340055/article-Texas-Foster-Care-System-Faces-Concerns-About-Overmedication-of-Children?instance=lead_story_left_column
South Florida con artists turn ‘sober homes’ into insurance scam Thomas Cordy Palm Beach Post By Fred Grimm fgrimm@miamiherald.com LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story What the hell is it about South Florida and drug-addiction profiteering? First we spawned a national opioid epidemic, allowing some 200 sham pain clinics to dispense oxycodone pills like Skittles. Cash-only pill mills, most of them operating out of strip shopping centers in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties (no insurance allowed) peddled 8.2 million oxy tablets in 2009 alone. Florida claimed all 50 of the nation’s top 50 docs who prescribed that highly addictive narcotic. Through the first decade of the 21st century, South Florida’s pill mills supplied the bulk of the oxycodone behind an addiction epidemic that still ravages Appalachia and America’s rust belt. When Florida finally cracked down on its freewheeling pain clinics, the nation’s oxy addicts turned to cheap Mexican heroin. And lately, to fentanyl, a synthetic heroin and another South Florida speciality. All of which led to our latest drug-addiction scam — faux “sober homes,” group homes for recovering addicts in league with substance-abuse treatment programs that are hardly more than vehicles for insurance fraud. ADVERTISING Hundreds of barely regulated sober homes have proliferated in Palm Beach and Broward counties over the past decade. Many are tied into very lucrative addiction-treatment programs exploiting well-meaning federal laws that put behavioral disabilities (including alcohol and drug addiction) on par with physical handicaps. And make them eligible for medical insurance coverage. “Over the past, bad actors have been using these laws to hide their exploitation of the very people that these laws were meant to protect,” a Palm Beach grand jury warned in a special report issued last month. “This is especially true in the business of recovery housing, where many unregulated homes have become unsafe and overcrowded ‘flophouses,’ where crimes like rape, theft, human trafficking, prostitution, and illegal drug use are commonplace.” The grand jury described a kind of lowdown medical tourism designed to exploit the drug epidemic. Desperate parents, reacting to deceptive advertising, ship their addicted children to South Florida treatment programs. What their kids get, according to the grand jury, is rank exploitation. Many unregulated homes have become unsafe and overcrowded ‘flophouses,’ where crimes like rape, theft, human trafficking, prostitution, and illegal drug use are commonplace. Palm Beach Grand Jury Report Sleazy operators make millions by billing insurance carriers for useless drug tests. The Palm Beach Post, which exposed the sober house racket in a stunning investigative series that began in 2015, described how operators were making thousands on routine urine tests that should have cost no more than $10 or $20. After the Post series, Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg created the state’s (maybe the nation’s) first sober house task force. So far the task force has busted 10 drug treatment and sober home operators, most of them for illegal patient brokering. The latest was Leonard R. Dobard, 49, of the House of Chance group home in Boynton Beach, charged Wednesday with accepting thousands of dollars in bounties for delivering patients to the Whole Life Recovery treatment center. (Owner, James Kigar, 55, who was arrested in October, has been charged with 95 counts of patient brokering.) Federal investigators, carrying out their own sober home sleaze sweep, arrested six industry operatives last month, including two doctors, tied to treatment centers in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The feds said the centers were run by Kenneth Chatman, 46, a notorious ex-con, who was accused of coercing “female patients and residents into prostitution, telling them that they need not pay rent or participate in treatment or testing so long as they would allow him to continue to bill their insurance companies for substance abuse treatment and testing that the patients did not receive.” And there was more. Chatman, according to federal prosecutors, “engaged in various tactics to keep patients from being able to leave” his programs, “including threatening violence, and confiscating their belongings, such as car keys, telephones, medications, and food stamps, in order to maintain the ability to continue fraudulently billing the insurance companies.” Sober house operators have also exploited federal disabilities laws that prevent local governments from using zoning laws to ban or limit the number of group homes in residential neighborhoods. Towns like Boynton Beach and Delray Beach have become the unwilling host to hundreds of sober homes, some taking over expensive houses in gated communities. According to the Post, the sober homes often dump out-of-state addicts onto local streets after their insurance dries up. They become instant local social burdens. There was a familiar name among the treatment industry pirates swept up by the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force. Christopher Lee Hutson, 36, who was charged with patient brokering in October, had pleaded guilty back in 2011 to another set of racketeering charges. The Wellington man had been implicated in an infamous pain clinic operation that had peddled 20 million oxycodone pills in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Hutson, like so many other of South Florida’s other drug industry con artists, had exploited the addiction crisis coming and going. Fred Grimm: fgrimm@miamiherald.com, @grimm_fred Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article124838879.html#storylink=cpy 
Clark County man charged after group home resident ‘duct taped’ in room Billy Gross Spicer i Billy Gross Spicer By Morgan Eads meads@herald-leader.com  A Winchester man has been charged with abuse after working as a caregiver in an adult group home. Billy Gross Spicer, 21, was charged with knowingly abusing or neglecting an adult, which is a Class C felony, according to a news release from the office of Attorney General Andy Beshear. Spicer is also charged with unlawful imprisonment and terroristic threatening. Spicer worked at a Clark County group home for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, according to the news release.  While caring for a resident overnight, Spicer “either duct taped the resident in his room or failed to remove duct tape from the resident’s door, which prevented the resident from leaving his room and which prevented Spicer from providing the required level of care,” according to the news release. “Abuse of any kind is unacceptable,” Beshear said in the release. “One of the core missions of my office is to protect Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens from abuse and exploitation — and to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.” Spicer was indicted on Dec. 8 and, if convicted of the charges, could serve up to 15 years in prison, according to the news release. The attorney general’s office has a tip line for reporting allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation in Medicaid facilities, 1-877-ABUSE TIP (1-877-228-7384). Reports can also be made to Adult Protective Services by calling 1-800-752-6200. Morgan Eads: 859-231-1330, @HLpublicsafety Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/crime/article124966684.html#storylink=cpy 
RM LAW Announces Class Action Lawsuit Against Universal Health Services, Inc. News provided by RM LAW, P.C. Jan 06, 2017, 19:45 ET Share this article WAYNE, Pa., Jan. 6, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- RM LAW, P.C. announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of all persons or entities that purchased Universal Health Services, Inc. ("Universal Health" or the "Company") (NYSE: UHS) securities between February 26, 2015 and December 7, 2016, inclusive (the "Class Period"). Universal Health shareholders may, no later than February 21, 2017, move the Court for appointment as a lead plaintiff of the Class.  If you purchased shares of Universal Health and would like to learn more about these claims or if you wish to discuss these matters and have any questions concerning this announcement or your rights, contact Richard A. Maniskas, Esquire toll-free at (877) 316-3218 or to sign up online, visit: www.rmclasslaw.com/cases/uhs.  The Complaint alleges that throughout the Class Period Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (1) Universal Health admitted patients based on its own financial considerations and not upon the medical necessity of the patient; (2) Universal Health would keep patients admitted until their insurance payments ran out in order to ensure the maximum payment for its services; (3) as a result, Universal Health's revenues from inpatient care relied on unsustainable practices; (4) in turn, Universal Health lacked effective internal control concerning its practices and policies of admitting patients; and (5) as a result, Universal Health's public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. On December 7, 2016, BuzzFeed published an investigative story on Universal Health alleging, among other things, that Universal Health put profits ahead of people. On December 7, 2016, BuzzFeed issued a report revealing the results of its investigation into Universal Health. BuzzFeed's investigation was based upon interviews with current and former Universal Health employees, including executives who had operational responsibilities in hospitals. The investigation also included interviews with patients and government investigators. According to the report, employees from Universal Health hospitals said they were "under pressure to fill beds by almost any method – which sometimes meant exaggerating people's symptoms or twisting their words to make them seem suicidal – and to hold them until their insurance payments ran out." On this news, shares of Universal Health fell over 12% to close at just $111.36 per share on December 7, 2016. If you are a member of the class, you may, no later than February 21, 2017, request that the Court appoint you as lead plaintiff of the class.  A lead plaintiff is a representative party that acts on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation.  In order to be appointed lead plaintiff, the Court must determine that the class member's claim is typical of the claims of other class members, and that the class member will adequately represent the class.  Under certain circumstances, one or more class members may together serve as "lead plaintiff."  Your ability to share in any recovery is not, however, affected by the decision whether or not to serve as a lead plaintiff.  You may retain RM LAW, P.C. or other counsel of your choice, to serve as your counsel in this action. For more information regarding this, please contact RM LAW, P.C.  (Richard A. Maniskas, Esquire) toll-free at (877) 316-3218 or by email at rmaniskas@rmclasslaw.com or visit: www.rmclasslaw.com/cases/uhs.  For more information about class action cases in general or to learn more about RM LAW, P.C. please visit our website: www.rmclasslaw.com. RM LAW, P.C. is a national shareholder litigation firm.  RM LAW, P.C. is devoted to protecting the interests of individual and institutional investors in shareholder actions in state and federal courts nationwide. CONTACT: RM LAW, P.C. Richard A. Maniskas, Esquire 995 Old Eagle School Rd., Suite 311 Wayne, PA 19087 484-588-5518 877-316-3218 www.rmclasslaw.com/cases/cnc rmaniskas@rmclasslaw.com To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rm-law-announces-class-action-lawsuit-against-universal-health-services-inc-300387254.html SOURCE RM LAW, P.C.
Child abuse victims testify in group home trial by Jasmine Williams Tuesday, January 10th 2017 Share Video Share Video 00:00 00:00   MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) — Mobile county jurors heard from child abuse victims today in the Saving Youth Foundation case. Three of the facilities operators are on trial right now in Mobile, charged with 14 counts of felony aggravated child abuse charges. Jurors saw images of an isolation room today were investigators say teens would be locked for days at a time. all at the hands of the facilities owners. John Young, William Knott, and Aleshia are accused of abusing teens at the Saving Youth Foundation in Mobile. The facility was associated with the church Solid Rock Ministries. Prosecutors say troubled teens were voluntarily sent there by parents all over the country. Last year, the state removed 15 girls from their building on Sullivan Avenue and 21 boys from their Springhill Avenue location. Investigators say they excessively used isolation, physical restraints, and extensive excerise as punishment. Prichard police first investigated the operators of this facility five years ago, when it was called Restoration Youth Academy. Testimony resumes tomorrow morning with more witnesses from the state.  Source: http://local15tv.com/news/local/child-abuse-victims-testify-in-group-home-trial
State finds violations at local addiction treatment center Woodhaven By Natalie Tendall Published: January 8, 2017, 9:20 pm Updated: January 9, 2017, 11:37 am DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) - A 2 NEWS Investigation uncovers the state of Ohio's Mental Health and Addiction Services found several violations at a local drug and alcohol residential treatment facility months ago and there still has been no action taken. According to a document 2 NEWS Investigates obtained, the state is proposing to revoke the non-medical community certification for Woodhaven Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services out of 1 Elizabeth Place in Dayton. State investigators say they violated the law in at least four areas. 2 NEWS was contacted by several current and former clients and employees of the inpatient addiction treatment center. All had concerns with how the program is being run. Former patient, Sarah Stern is one of them. 2 NEWS Investigates found the state has been investigating allegations at the center over the past year. We obtained the letter sent in August to Woodhaven from the state. It lays out several violations against the facility including, inadequate staffing and supervision, failure to set forth individual treatment plans and a violation of client rights. The document says most interviews took place in February of 2016. The first claim says residents reported being harassed, sometimes sexually by upper management. This is something Sara says she witnessed first hand. You can read the full document here. *2 NEWS is redacting any names of those mentioned in the allegations because no official charges have been filed.  "Conversations that an owner of a facility shouldn't be having in front of clients," said Stern. The letter from the state also said they received complaints that clients were being verbally and emotionally abused by staff. It also noted that former clients claim three separate sexual incidents occurred at Woodhaven and the proper reports were not filled out. "A lot of women are used to being taken advantage of or using sex to get what they want, especially with being an addict. So the fact that that was going on wasn't okay. Women at these treatment facilities need to feel safe and like they don't have to do that kind of stuff to get attention of something they need," said Stern. The state is also noting a violation because the only physician at Woodhaven at the time of the investigation did not have the proper substance abuse scope of practice and the nursing staff was not adequately supervised. The report also said they found Woodhaven did not have a client rights officer like they are supposed to, who would take complaints from clients. The letter from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services says they've reviewed the alleged violations and are proposing to revoke Woodhaven's certification. We've learned Woodhaven management has since requested a hearing to contest the allegations but months later, no date has been set. The hearing officer will decide whether or not Woodhaven should close. After talking with several staff members and former clients, they DON'T want to see a closure. They say the facility has a great opportunity to help people with addiction in the community. They just want to see better leadership and a better environment for those who are working through their addiction. "To shut it down when there is such an epidemic would be tragic. There is already a wait list at every other center for a bed," said Stern. 2 NEWS reached out to Woodhaven management several times about these allegations and have left a message with their attorney. We did receive a statement back from CEO James Goodwin that says, "Woodhaven has been working closely with the state of Ohio to address accusations it has made against it, most of which - including the most severe - we dispute. Woodhaven has worked hard to ensure it is delivering the highest quality services and care to those suffering from substance abuse, and is taking all necessary measures to ensure that those services will continue." We'll stay on top of this story and let you know what happens at that hearing. Source: http://wdtn.com/investigative-story/state-finds-violations-at-local-addiction-treatment-center/
ACS Still Doing Business With Deficient Foster Care Providers, Comptroller Audit Finds by Raphael Pope-Sussman in News on Jan 12, 2017 4:45 pm State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. (NYS Comptroller's Office) The Administration for Children's Services continues to do business with private foster care providers that have allowed children in their care to be abused or neglected, according to an audit released this week by the New York State Comptroller's Office. According to the audit, which follows up on a 2015 audit from the comptroller studying ACS contracts and contractor performance, ACS has made "virtually no progress" on the major recommendations in the original audit. That audit, which examined a sample of 40 ACS contracts, found that ACS had frequently awarded non-competitive or semi-competitive contracts to foster care providers found to have failed to protect children in their care from abuse or neglect. The report found that ACS renewed and extended contracts with these contractors. It also found deficiencies in ACS's reporting of contracts to the city comptroller's office. It called for ACS to increase the lead time for contract awards to facilitate competitive bidding processes, provide thorough documentation justifying decisions to award non-competitive contracts, improve monitoring of contractor performance, and renew contracts based on performance. But according to the findings of a follow-up audit, which were released in the form of a letter sent to ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión, ACS has not implemented these recommendations. The follow-up audit examined a random sample of 10 contracts—eight contract renewals, one extension, and one new contract—awarded during the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The deaths of two children whose families had been repeatedly investigated by ACS for abuse but who were not removed from their homes has placed ACS under immense scrutiny in recent months. In October, weeks after the death of one of those children, Zymere Perkins, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he would be instituting major reforms at ACS. Last month, Commissioner Carrioón announced that she would be stepping down from her position. According to ACS, she will stay on as commissioner until a qualified replacement is found. ACS spokesperson Aja Worthy-Davis defended the agency's record in a statement to Gothamist. "We are working closely with providers to ensure that they are able to complete the complex application process to register contracts on time," she said. "Our rigorous monitoring of foster care agencies include monthly safety checks, random case reviews, improvement plans, and other assessments."   Source: http://gothamist.com/2017/01/12/acs_audit_comptroller.php
Utah County treatment center owner filed $700K in false claims, feds say By Dennis RomboyDeseret News@dennisromboy Published: Jan. 13, 2017 4:35 p.m. Updated: Jan. 13, 2017 5:06 p.m. 2 Comments  Sun Jan 15 17:05:37 2017 SALT LAKE CITY — The owner of two Utah drug and alcohol treatment centers submitted more than $700,000 in fraudulent claims to a health care benefits program, federal prosecutors say. A federal indictment charges Dustin Joseph Long, 29, of Santaquin, with six counts of health care fraud and six counts of wire fraud. He pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court this week. A trial is scheduled for March 17. Long is the co-owner of Arcadia Recovery Center in Payson and Arcadia Residential Treatment Center in Bluffdale. Arcadia used a third-party biller, CloudMedicalBilling, to prepare, submit and track claims filed with Humana. Long was a co-owner of the billing company. The indictment alleges that despite numerous requests, Long denied CloudMedicalBilling employees access to BestNotes, the most accurate source of Arcadia client information available, to prepare claims and to verify the accuracy of the rosters he provided. In late June 2015, the billing company discovered that Long’s rosters falsely identified continued drug and alcohol treatment services well past Arcadia clients’ discharge dates, according to the indictment. Although the company notified Long about the billing discrepancies, he failed to correct any errors, did not refund money to Humana and continued to submit false rosters until October 2015. The indictment alleges Long submitted more than 900 false claims involving 14 clients, totaling more than $700,000 in payments from Humana to Arcadia. The maximum penalty for each of the six health care fraud counts is 10 years in prison term and a $250,000 fine. The wire fraud counts each carry a 20-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.  Source: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865671089/Utah-County-treatment-center-owner-filed-700K-in-false-claims-feds-say.html
Spiritual warfare,’ ‘demonic attacks’  The role religion played in home for sex-trafficking victims  posted Jan. 13, 2017 2:50 p.m. (CDT) email article print font size - + by / Marjie Lundstrom and Sam Stanton Share2 SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two weeks before the voluntary shutdown last year of Courage House, a licensed group home for young sex-trafficking victims near Sacramento, a ritual was performed on a teenage girl. According to findings in a state investigation, the girl’s forehead was anointed with oil, a religious verse was recited, and the teen was told she would have to be a Christian, or at least denounce Satan, to continue living in the home. Crosses then were handed out to the other girls to wear. Courage House founder Jenny Williamson later would explain that the girl had multiple personalities and posed a danger to herself and others. “She worshipped Satan, and she practiced animal and human sacrifice,” she said in August. Williamson told regulators in a June 18 memo responding to the state’s unannounced visit that the girl had been the victim of satanic ritualistic abuse and told staff she had “participated in human sacrifice when she was an alter personality.” Williamson said the girl terrified staff by announcing that “this week was a blood sacrifice week.” The California Department of Social Services did not accept the group home’s explanation and issued Courage House a “Type A” citation, the most severe penalty for violations considered serious enough to have an immediate impact on clients’ health, safety or personal rights. In its investigation, the state found that the girl had an interest in satanism but did not threaten to perform sacrifices and, instead, had “made a general statement that she enjoyed drawing some of the images” of satanic practice, a state licensing official wrote. Courage House appealed the citation twice, losing again in November, arguing in its appeals documents that the state’s investigation was “grossly inadequate” and that “the resident was adamant that she wanted to pray to become a Christian.” In addition, her condition left her with frequent amnesia, preventing her from being able to recount “full events,” two Courage House officials wrote Oct. 6 in their second appeal to the state. “There was never any pressure given, or ultimatums discussed with her,” wrote former program director Melissa Herrmann and clinical director Angela Chanter, who participated in the episode. “She was told she could not perform human and animal sacrifices, or drink the blood of any person there, but she was never told she could not worship Satan nor was she told she had to become a Christian.” The clash underscores the tension that can arise between faith-based service providers and government officials — each held accountable for the health and safety of vulnerable clients. Over the past decade, child sex trafficking has become a hot-button topic, spawning new programs and multiple new funding streams. Christian organizations in particular have rallied to the cause, organizing conferences, engaging communities and embarking on worldwide missionary work. Some Christian-based groups, such as Courage House and its nonprofit parent organization, Courage Worldwide Inc. of Rocklin, Calif., have gone a step further, establishing their own facilities to house and treat young victims. The once-vaunted program is struggling to reopen its Northern California facility for six girls, ages 11 to 17, while undergoing scrutiny from the state — including accusations it has violated children’s right to religious freedom. Because Courage Worldwide accepts government money — $9,100 a month per child at the time the group’s Sacramento-area home closed in June — the program must stay within regulatory boundaries and not favor one religion over another, or press children to participate. If it is able to reopen, it would be eligible for about $12,000 a month per girl under a new state system in effect next year. Courage Worldwide officials maintain they have found the appropriate balance. “State funds do not mean you cannot be a Christian home — state funds and license mean you cannot force a child to practice any religious ritual, and Courage House does not,” said Gil Stieglitz, a board member for Courage Worldwide Inc. and pastor at Bayside Church in Roseville, Calif., in an emailed response. From the time Courage Worldwide opened its Sacramento-area group home in 2011 on 52 acres north of the city, the organization has been steeped in Christian beliefs and practices, according to a Bee examination of state licensing records, dozens of internal Courage Worldwide emails and interviews with 17 former employees, business associates and a former client. The group opened a second Courage House around that same time in the east African country of Tanzania that it says now has 12 beds. For years, Williamson has touted an ambitious expansion plan for Courage House Northern California that includes as its centerpiece a shimmering chapel with a large cross, according to architectural renderings. The architect’s plan, which also envisions 10 new cottages for 60 girls, describes the chapel “as the most important building on the campus.” Despite aggressive fundraising around those plans — and a $300,000-plus kick start in 2011 from Bayside Church — the organization has yet to break ground. Williamson and other Courage Worldwide officials vehemently deny there is any pressure to practice Christianity at Courage House, and said that girls are free to attend services of their choice as staffing levels permit. “We are in full agreement with the state to provide access to religious services when the girls request it, if provided sufficient notice in advance so that we can properly staff for such requests,” Courage Worldwide officials said in an emailed statement to The Bee. The state licensing file includes a sample of a “Courage House religious participation form,” which allows girls to check a box indicating their preferences. Choices range from no participation to weekly church services to worship nights and other spiritual events. Even so, the state leveled a Type B citation against Courage House in December 2015, finding that the girls were required to attend the Midthuns’ church — a concern shared by some staff members. DeAnne Brining, a former therapist at the home, said the girls felt awkward and conspicuous at the church because the congregation knew who they were.  “The girls did not want to be known as Courage girls,” she said. “Everybody at that church knew they were trafficked.” Courage Worldwide officials disputed the state’s findings, telling The Bee the Elk Grove church was the girls’ “consensus choice.” Courage Worldwide’s conflicts with the state have extended beyond matters of religious freedom. In the last five years, Courage House has been cited 36 times for regulatory violations, according to the data released to The Bee in early December. That’s more than three times the average for citations at the 300 facilities statewide of similar size and classification level.  Source: http://www.leadertelegram.com/Features/Religion/2017/01/07/Spiritual-warfare-demonic-attacks-nbsp.html
The Real Lesson from the Fall of R.I.S.E.: Group Homes Don’t Work By RichardWexler   Saturday Jan 14, 2017 · 4:00 PM PST 2017/01/14 · 16:00 9 Comments (9 New)The great filmmaker Costa Gavras, known for making “political films” such as “Z” and “The Confession,” once said: “The issues in politics are not complex, even though politicians tell us so in order to convince us of the politicians’ importance … and to keep us from criticizing them.” It works the same way in child welfare. The bloviations of assorted “providers” concerning the complexity of this or that problem usually are rhetorical fog, created to obscure the simple fact that whatever it is the providers are providing has failed. Case in point: a story in The Chronicle of Social Change  about the closing of the Residential Intervention for the Sexually Exploited (R.I.S.E.) group home for commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC – yes, there’s already a dehumanizing acronym) in Redwood City, Calif. The story goes on and on about how the closing illustrates the “complexities faced by the entities engaged in serving and protecting [such] children,” how the group home ran up against “complicated” protocols, etc. But the real story is simple: Group homes are almost always a bad idea. Someone opened a group home. It failed. It was forced to close. Only item four on the list is unusual. Indeed, given what the San Jose Mercury News exposed about group homes and institutions California allows to remain open, you have to wonder about a place authorities found so bad they shut it down after only two years with the owner agreeing never to open a group home in Redwood City again. But The Chronicle of Social Change does not wonder. It does not dig into the details about the failures at R.I.S.E. that led to the closure. Perhaps that’s understandable. Two years ago, TheChronicle  did a 2,000 word encomium to R.I.S.E. featuring gushy paragraphs like this: The interior walls of the yellow craftsman style home … are all painted bright colors and dusted with empowering quotes; the aesthetics a small indication of the lengths to which Annie Corbett … and her staff have gone to ensure that this home is a safe place … Right. Because if the walls look pretty and the quotes are “empowering” what could possibly go wrong? I’m sure Corbett meant well. But in that story, she already is portraying herself as a child welfare Gulliver, always at risk of being tied down by the Lilliputians of licensing who can, she says, “inflict torment any way they want.” As for actually helping these young people by placing them with families: Corbett says foster parents “don’t want these kids.” Needless to say birth parents are not even mentioned. Layers of Faux Complexity Now that the program has shut down, The Chronicle buries the basics in layers of faux “complexity.” The most recent story begins: In foster care most of her life, 17-year-old Amber [not her real name] finally found a little stability at R.I.S.E. House. After cycling through 35 foster and group homes, she developed relationships at R.I.S.E. and was poised to graduate from high school. Normally in a news story a claim such as this would be followed by something to back it up – at least a quote from Amber herself. But no evidence, and no quote, is offered. Apparently, the reporter just took someone’s word for it. (In fact neither Chronicle story quotes any current or former resident of R.I.S.E.) Only toward the very end of the story do we learn that, notwithstanding the claims about “stability” and “relationships,” Amber had run away from R.I.S.E. not once, but five times. The story does quote from a report by the California Child Welfare Council – but selectively. The story notes the report’s call for “stable housing and specialized placement options.” But the report also says: CSEC survivors who have successfully left their exploitative relationship often point to the emotional connections and trusting relationships they built with caring adults as significant factors in their recovery. In contrast, CSEC survivors identify significant difficulties with living in group homes. For example, in those placements, no one caregiver looks out for their well-being. CSEC may also pose risks to the other children in the home. Group home placement can even exacerbate CSEC victimization, because pimps use such facilities as recruiting grounds. Pattern Seen All Over the Country That’s exactly what has happened over and over, all over the country. Yet despite the mountain of evidence that group homes and institutions are a failure for all populations, the group home industry persists in pushing institutionalization for this especially vulnerable group. And when it all goes wrong, it’s everyone else’s fault. The licensers are “harassing and intimidating us,” Corbett says.  The police put her program “in a vice grip.”  And, of course, only she really cares about the children. In a comment reminiscent of Donald Trump’s declaration that “I alone can fix it,” Corbett says she is working “with a population everyone else gets rid of.”  Shutting down her group home, she says, is just another example of “the marginalization and discrimination against these vulnerable and traumatized kids.” In her telling, the problem isn’t that, as authorities said, there was no therapeutic program, issues with the staff-child ratio, poor school attendance, and trouble with staff training (which is odd since the earlier Chronicle story assured readers that staff already were specifically trained to deal with this population). No, Corbett says, those awful police and licensing people were at the home so often there just wasn’t time to run a worthwhile program. Here’s another possibility: They were there so often because R.I.S.E was a bad idea, badly executed. There is nothing a group home can do that can’t be done better by providing wraparound services to children living either with their own families or with foster families. You can find foster families to accept “these kids” if they know they will have the intensive support they need to help them. Indeed, the California Child Welfare Council report recommends that the state “create a CSEC subspecialty within Wraparound programs that will ensure caregivers have the knowledge and resources needed to care for CSEC victims.” Some things in child welfare are complicated, such as funding formulas. But the issues in child welfare are not complex, even though providers tell us so in order to convince us of the providers’ importance. And to keep us from criticizing them. _____ Richard Wexler is Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, www.nccpr.org  This column originally appeared in the Chronicle of Social Change.  Source: http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/1/14/1619640/-The-Real-Lesson-from-the-Fall-of-R-I-S-E-Group-Homes-Don-t-Work
How Texas’ Overburdened Foster Care System has Produced a Generation ofLost Adults Posted By Alex Zielinski on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 5:00 AM click to enlarge Illustration by Jess Blank On Caleb Pitts’ 18th birthday, two letters were delivered to his Comal County jail cell. One was from his foster mother, Elaine, who’d watched him dart in and out of juvenile detention for years. The other was from the state of Texas, informing Pitts that he had officially become an adult. Suddenly, after 11 years in the state’s foster system, 20 foster homes, dozens of forgotten schools, a blur of paperwork and a lifetime of trauma, Pitts was on his own. Sitting alone in the cold, familiar cell, he couldn’t have felt less prepared. Pitts was plucked from his home and put into state custody when he was seven years old, after his meth-addicted mother was sent to prison (his absent father was already homeless, somewhere). The state immediately separated Pitts from his three biological brothers, and the trauma left Pitts with uncontrollable anger issues — issues few foster parents could tolerate. So, instead of living with a family, Pitts spent the majority of his childhood living in prison-like facilities for kids with “behavioral issues,” alongside other heavily-medicated, equally pissed-off boys. It was unusual for a kid to leave these “homes” without a criminal record. Pitts is one of the 1,180 kids who “age out” of Texas’ foster care system each year — children in state custody who are essentially pushed out the door with a birth certificate, a few bucks, and serious trust issues. Many leave with undiagnosed mental health problems, often linked to the sexual, physical, or emotional abuse sustained in different foster homes. The few transitional tools the state gives foster kids are outdated, unrealistic, and pushed on them without context. With little preparation for the adult world, hundreds of these kids quickly slide into chronic homelessness or incarceration. Some might return to an abusive household or start one of their own. Texas knows it’s a terrible parent. Numerous court cases, leaked state documents, and now a federal lawsuit underscoring the severity of the state’s neglect have officials clamoring for reform. But long-time foster advocates have heard this before — and know a successful overhaul of the state’s gargantuan Department of Family and Protective Services would take years. In the state’s absence, local organizations and agencies are working to cobble together some kind of realistic safety net to catch their community’s most vulnerable adults before it’s too late. It’s a net that still has many holes. Pitts, now 23, should actually be considered a foster care success story. He’s working part-time, taking business classes at San Antonio College, off drugs, pays rent on time, and only has the occasional run-in with the law. He had to do most of this without the state’s help. The majority of kids Texas has chewed up and spit out into adulthood, including Pitts’ biological brothers, face a much darker reality. These are the children Texas has raised. *** For as long as she can remember, Jessica Urias has always been on some kind of medication. Her biological mother fed her sleep aids and adderall to keep her quiet from age five, threatening to punch her daughter when she bothered her. When DFPS shuttled her into foster care at age ten, Urias says doctors just added more prescriptions, antidepressants and bipolar medication. “I don’t remember a lot of that time,” she said. “I lost a lot of weight, because the pills make me sick.” If her foster parents knew she wasn’t eating, they’d think she was trying to get them in trouble with DFPS, Urias said. So she hid it from them. Rampant overmedication is just one of the many pieces of the Texas foster system U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack condemned in her blistering 2015 ruling on DFPS failures. Texas’ 28,000 wards of the state, she wrote, “have been shuttled throughout a system where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication, and instability are the norm.” According to her ruling, this system had gone unchecked for more than 20 years, leaving behind a generation of troubled adults in its wake. “It is widely recognized that foster youths who age out generally experience poorer life outcomes,” Jack said. This ruling was triggered by Texas’ refusal to settle a 4-year-old lawsuit from a national child advocacy group that claimed DFPS violated children’s rights. The 12,000 foster children in permanent state custody had been “doubly traumatized,” attorneys argued: “First by the abuse and neglect that brought them into foster care, and second by their treatment at the hands of their state custodians.”  They spoke for dozens of foster children who’d been raped, hog-tied, suffocated in closets, and severely beaten in foster homes. Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, however, contended that the state isn’t “liable for the psychological well-being and emotional development of every child in foster care.” Jack saw things differently. She immediately assigned two child welfare experts to investigate the tangled foster care system and present recommendations to the state. True to form, Texas officials rejected the federal interference, calling the 56 recommendations “impractical” and unnecessary. Texas could take care of itself. But more than a year after her original ruling, little has changed. “The state’s overall response to this lawsuit was a general unveiling of how poor they are at their job,” said Katherine Barillas, the director of child welfare policy at One Voice Texas — a Texas nonprofit that advocates for public policy issues. While Texas has yet to suggest its own comprehensive solution, DFPS did approve a substantial salary boost for the state’s notoriously overworked social workers. But without expanding the number of salaried workers, Barillas doesn’t see the point. “We need a dramatic investment in these workers to ensure the kids get any attention. The change we’re talking about is massive. We need to change the entire system. Even if one part is broken, we’ll fail thousands of these kids,” Barillas said. “We can’t just implement one thing and walk away.” Doing so would only continue the state’s vicious cycle of neglect — one best illustrated by Judge Jack’s ruling. “Children ...suffer abuse and neglect that is rarely confirmed or treated, are shuttled between placements—often inappropriate for their needs—throughout the state...are medicated with psychotropic drugs, and then age out of foster care at the Intense service level, damaged, institutionalized, and unable to succeed as adults,” she wrote. “Foster children often age out of care more damaged than when they entered.” *** click to enlarge Jessica Urias Courtesy of Jessica Urias Urias learned to never get too comfortable in a foster home, or too attached to her foster family. She never knew when a family would decide she was too much work, or would simply dislike her, and give Child Protective Services a call. “I had been rejected by so many families I started to expedite the process in every new home,” she said. “I knew how to push my parents enough to make them put in their 30 day notice [to have her removed by CPS]. I always felt like an inconvenience. I just wanted to get it over with.” Her nomadic living situation isn’t unusual. According to 2015 data, foster kids who age out of the system in Bexar County have lived in an average 6.8 homes. In some Texas counties, it’s closer to 15. Not able to find love from these state-selected families, Urias created her own. She became pregnant at 16, eager to give her baby the parental love she never received. But shortly after giving birth, the state put her daughter up for adoption. This is a familiar cycle for DFPS. According to a 2012 survey of former foster youth, 10 percent of Texas’ foster kids have given birth to or fathered a child before turning 18. And more than 50 percent of foster youth who age out of the system have children before they’re 20 (nationally, only 30 percent of young adults get pregnant before 20). “Every girl I know who’s left the system either already had a kid or immediately got pregnant,” Urias said. “You have to understand — we’re children. We’ll do anything to give or get love. And that’s what a baby is for us.” Seventy percent of those kids are funneled back into the foster care system. These numbers have inspired Texas lawmakers to mandate that DFPS start tracking just how many girls become pregnant while in foster care. The state’s first annual report will come out next month. After losing her baby, Urias spiraled into a deep depression, one that couldn’t be solved with just more meds. Two weeks before aging out of the system, she tried to commit suicide. “No one wanted me,” she said. The emotional damage the foster system had inflicted on her left Urias with little hope for the future. Pitts managed to hop through 20 different foster homes from the time he entered the system, at 7 years old, to when he aged out. But unlike Urias, he spent a lot of his childhood living in what the state calls a “Residential Treatment Center,” a facility for foster kids with “serious emotional disturbances or mental health issues.” Pitts, who had been traumatized when DFPS separated him from his three biological brothers, would tear apart foster homes when he was upset — punching walls, tearing down doors, smashing anything in sight. At one point, he was on nine medications all at once (“like a lab rat,” he now says), but nothing worked. In Texas’ eyes, RTCs were the answer. When Pitts describes life in the RTCs, he’s basically describing a prison. “You’re in close quarters with a lot of angry guys,” he said. “If you didn’t fight, you didn’t survive.” He was supposed to be under constant supervision — a “perk” of the RTCs — but rarely felt like the staff were looking out for him. “When we’d fight in the halls, it was like a gladiator match. We’d get bloody and beat up and the staff would just watch,” he said. “They wouldn’t do anything.” In some RTC campuses surrounded by barbed wire, the foster kids would go to school and live alongside kids serving time in juvenile detention. The state didn’t differentiate between the two. It’s no surprise, then, that Pitts spent his teenage years flitting in and out of detention — mostly for fights and selling meth. After aging out, Pitts was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from the trauma he’d sustained while in the state’s RTCs. Some 30 percent of all Texas foster kids leave the system with a PTSD diagnosis. Pitts says he easily could have joined the thousands of other foster kids who graduate to prison after they age out — that is, if he didn’t have a foster mom rooting for him. According to state statistics, some 11 percent of Texas’ foster youth are incarcerated by the time they turn 20. To him, jail was a familiar setting, a place where someone else could continue to make all of his decisions for him. “The foster mentality is pretty similar to the prison mentality,” he said. “It felt like home.” *** Stop by the San Antonio PALS center (short for Preparation for Adult Living) on a weekday afternoon, and you’ll find a few teens tapping away along a wall of computers or slumped into a couch, watching 2 Fast 2 Furious on a flatscreen TV. You’ll also find Jose Chapa, the head coordinator for DFPS’ Region 8 — a 28-county swath of South Texas with San Antonio as its headquarters. “I’m the first to admit that it’s a tough age group to work with,” said Chapa, who’s been working with foster teens for over a decade — and is what some local youth advocates call “a beacon of hope.” To successfully do his job, he said, he’s become half guidance counselor and half parent. “If we help them too much, they’ll expect us to help them with everything,” he said. “If we give them too little, they’ll fail.” Chapa and his eight coworkers are responsible for connecting all of Region 8’s foster youth with resources that will help them age out of the system with ease. Their main job is to conduct the PALS course, a voluntary, week-long life skills class for 15-year-old foster kids where they learn how to write a check, rent an apartment, or make a resume. This class, offered two years before they age out, is how the state prepares kids for adulthood. Barillas said the PALS program hasn’t changed much in the past decade — and it’s far from adequate. “This shouldn’t just be a week in a classroom, this should be a program built on consistent, age appropriate experiential learning,” she said. “Teach them to cook, take them to a bank, go to a laundromat. You can’t expect this one class to turn them into an instant adult when they age out. I mean, really, who still writes checks?” Urias, who attended the PALs course, says she has absolutely no recollection of what she was taught. “I was 15, what do you expect?” she says. Granted, PALs connects kids with other resources meant to soften the blow of adulthood — and on paper, they seem pretty fantastic. But, according to foster advocates, they come with problematic caveats. By law, the state of Texas must cover in-state college tuition costs for any former foster youth. Which sounds great, if you assume a foster kid would be prepared to enter college after what is often an inconsistent and incomplete education. In reality, less than half of the kids who age out of the Texas foster program each year even have a high school diploma. “Even if they cover tuition, who will pay for the dorms, the text books, or the transportation? It’s unrealistic,” said Dr. Harriett Romo, the director of UTSA’s Child & Adolescent Policy Research Institute. “Many do express the desire to go to college, but don’t have the proper support system. Nobody is there to help them.” On average, only 4 percent of former foster youth have earned a 4-year college degree by the time they’re 26 — compared to 36 percent of the general population by that time. Thanks to legislation Congress passed in 2009, Texas is required to offer extended housing and care to kids aging out of the foster system. In Texas, these “Supervised Independent Living” facilities give 18-year-olds an apartment-like home with social workers on-site to ease them into independent living. Residents can easily get help searching for work, applying to college, and perfecting other “life skills” like buying a car or signing up for health insurance. But Texas only has nine of these SIL facilities with varying capacity—the largest location offers 34 rooms (the smallest can house eight). At best, Texas’ SIL program could only house 10 percent of kids aging out each year. Chapa says the wait list is so daunting it can take some kids up to two years to get in. So what happens when aged-out foster kids can’t get into supportive housing? Chapa says he has to send them to a local homeless shelter. Urias was homeless for the first three months after she turned 18. Thankfully, an older cousin let her move in — but not all kids have that kind of fallback. A whopping 37 percent of Texas foster youth report being homeless at least once after leaving foster care. “We’re the parent, the state’s the parent, and we’re letting them live like this,” Barillas said. “How would state lawmakers feel about someone’s biological parents treating their kids that way?” Other state programs in California and Connecticut have rolled out an even more transitional housing program for foster kids, allowing them a few smaller steps even before living in a supervised housing unit. This is a model Texas should follow, Barillas says. “In Texas, youth go from one setting to being on their own or living in Supervised Independent Living — which may be too big of a leap to independence for some.” *** Child advocates unequivocally agree on one obvious solution to Texas’ poor parenting: Mentorships. And the only person in Bexar County working to connect foster kids with mentors is Elaine Hartle. Pitts said he’d still be behind bars if it wasn’t for Hartle. Hartle was Pitts’ last foster parent he had before DFPS passed him through the RTC system. Even after Pitts punched holes in her walls and threatened her safety, forcing her multiple times to call the police, Hartle stayed by his side. It was Hartle (and her husband) who ultimately convinced Pitts to clean up his act. “She’d send me letters in jail and they’d visit me whenever they could,” Pitts said. “They cared about me — and I didn’t want to ruin their life. So I went to rehab and got my GED.” The struggle she went through to raise Pitts, an angry teenage boy already hurt by the foster system, motivated Hartle to help more kids left behind by Texas’ failed parenting. “Imagine your child’s going off to college,” she said. “You give them a big hug and a little money and say, ‘We wish you the best but you can never come back or call. Good luck.’ That’s, essentially, what Texas is doing.” Hartle created the THRU Project — a nonprofit connecting local foster teens to volunteer mentors — to combat this cycle. Now five years old, THRU has connected some 70 foster kids with more than 100 adult mentors in the community who help them navigate adulthood — whether that’s going with them to a car dealership, helping them finish school, or just being an ear on the other end of the line. “When you’ve never been allowed to make your own choices in life, it’s impossible to start from scratch,” Hartle said. “You quit planning for the long term when you move every six months. Mentors can see further ahead than these kids, and steer them in the right direction.” Her main goal is to help kids “find a better normal,” whatever that may look like. In the Bexar County children’s court system, judges wish this “normal” was a state mandate. “The success stories are when I see someone connect with a kid — whether it’s a THRU mentor, an attorney, a CASA representative, or a judge,” said county District Judge Peter Sakai. “But we don’t have enough of those people in our community.” Sakai has worked with foster children in the county courts since 1995 — and he’s seen far fewer success stories than he would have liked. He’s come to the conclusion that his work, placing at-risk children in foster care, is far from a cure-all solution. click to enlarge District Judge Peter Sakai Sakai recalls one particular case that best illustrates this problem. The state was taking away a young couple’s baby, after they both failed drug rehab programs and denied needed mental health care. Both parents were former foster kids. As he remembers it, the child’s father said, “You took me away from my parents when I was three, and nobody ever gave a shit about me. What do you expect? You think you’re fixing things, but you’re just making it worse.” “I realized, he’s got a point,” Sakai said. “This guy got screwed by the foster care system. He should have fought harder for his kid — but he didn’t know how to. And that’s our fault.” Sakai has little trust that the state will build a reliable safety net for these young adults anytime soon. Instead, he’s urging communities to care for their own. “We need local solutions to make up for the state’s tenuous safety net,” he said. “There are all these little ways we can make our own safety net, right here. It just requires a lot of cooperation.” In fact, the most comprehensive, bipartisan bill filed in the state legislature — meant to reform DFPS — suggests the state do just that. Under the proposed law, Texas would coordinate with regional nonprofits and child welfare groups to “increase child safety, placement stability, and permanency.” *** click to enlarge Caleb Pitts Pitts never imagined he’d go to college. He never thought he’d have his own apartment. He definitely didn’t think he’d have a shot at becoming a realtor — the main reason he’s getting a business degree. “I didn’t think I had a future,” he said. Sure, he still struggles with PTSD-fueled outbursts of rage, and Hartle still isn’t surprised when she gets a call from the cops. But Pitts comes from a generation of foster kids thrown into a system that, according to the courts, has done “more harm to our children than good.” The fact that he found a pathway out of incarceration or homelessness or addiction appears to exceed state expectations. He’s one of the lucky ones — something he’s reminded of whenever he hears an old friend has been sentenced to decades behind bars or that his biological brother is still struggling with drug addiction. Just a few months ago, Pitts and Hartle walked by the Greyhound station in downtown San Antonio. Pitts paused. Two people sitting near the station looked familiar — both were around his age and both looked like they lived on the streets. He went up and talked to them, and confirmed his suspicion: they were his former foster siblings. One was on some kind of drug, he told Hartle, the other was working as a prostitute to make ends meet. Both were homeless. “Damn,” he said, as they continued down the sidewalk. “That could have been me.”   Source: http://www.sacurrent.com/the-daily/archives/2017/01/17/how-texas-overburdened-foster-care-system-has-produced-a-generation-of-lost-adults
Judge properly moved teen into adult system to protect him Posted: Jan 18, 2017 12:04 PM CST Updated: Jan 18, 2017 12:06 PM CST Jason Morrison/FreeImages.com Jason Morrison/FreeImages.com News Data Wisconsin Traffic Fatalities Map Madison Crime Map MADISON, Wis. - The state appeals court said a judge properly moved a teen offender into the adult system after saying he thought the boy would be safer there than in the state's troubled youth prison. The teen was accused of sexually assaulting a fifth-grader. Prosecutors asked Racine County Circuit Judge John S. Jude to waive him into adult court, citing the "cloud over Lincoln Hills" and newspaper articles detailing problems there. Federal investigators are probing allegations that the youth prison's staff abused inmates. Jude said he believed the teen would be safer in the adult system. The teen argued Jude improperly considered news coverage and out-of-court information about Lincoln Hills. The 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the evidence supported waiver into the adult system.  Source: http://www.channel3000.com/news/judge-properly-moved-teen-into-adult-system-to-protect-him2/276665798
Redwood City: Youth counselor arrested for alleged sex with teen client By Robert Salonga | rsalonga@bayareanewsgroup.com | PUBLISHED: January 19, 2017 at 11:38 am | UPDATED: January 19, 2017 at 2:44 pm REDWOOD CITY — A youth counselor has been arrested on suspicion of having a sexual relationship with a teen client while working at a Redwood City group home last summer, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. When he was arrested last week, he was still working as a youth counselor, at another group home in San Jose. Francis Caceres, 28, of Mountain View, was arrested Jan. 12, 2017 on suspicion of having a sexual relationship with a teen client while working as a youth counselor at a Redwood City group home in the summer of 2016.  Francis Caceres, 28, of Mountain View, was arrested Jan. 12 and has been charged with one count each of a lewd act with a child 14 or 15 years old with at least a 10-year difference in age, and unlawful sexual intercourse with a victim under 16 years old while being over 21 years old. He is being held in the Maguire Correctional Facility on $200,000 bail. In late December, San Mateo County’s Child Protective Services contacted the Sheriff’s Office to report an illicit relationship involving a 15-year-old female victim. Caceres was alleged to have met the girl in July, when she was staying at Your House South in Redwood City, where Caceres was a youth counselor. By the time detectives launched an investigation, Caceres had already been fired by the group home, though the exact reason has not been specified. They found evidence that he and the girl had sex at an undisclosed location away from the home, the Sheriff’s Office said.  When detectives gathered enough information to make an arrest, Caceres was working as a youth counselor at Tayler Group Home in San Jose. Because the investigation did not begin until several months after the alleged acts, it is unlikely that they would have surfaced in a background check. When reached by phone, the director of the San Jose group home declined to comment on the case. Investigators are exploring the possibility that other victims may be connected to Caceres. Anyone with information authorities can contact Detective Joe Cang at 650-259-2417 or at jcang@smcgov.org, or leave an anonymous tip at 800-547-2700.  Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/01/19/redwood-city-youth-counselor-arrested-for-alleged-sex-with-teen-client/
DHEC cites child treatment facility in Florence for violations An autistic 20-year-old with the mind of a child, pictured before losing 40 pounds while in the care of a facility in Florence. Photo provided to the Greenville News i Tim Smith - The Greenville News tcsmith@greenvillenews.com COLUMBIA, SC State officials have cited a residential treatment facility for children with 19 violations including abuse, understaffing, and not controlling youth who bit and attacked each other more than a dozen times last year, according to documents obtained by The Greenville News. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control also cited the facility for insufficient snacks and menu problems, for failing to adequately watch over the children and for maintenance issues. DHEC, which licenses Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health in Florence, issued the citations in the wake of allegations reported by The Greenville News in December and earlier this month. Adrianna Bradley, a spokeswoman for DHEC, said the violations were found after three visits of the facility on Dec. 13, Dec. 28 and Jan. 5. She said the facility remains under investigation and must submit plans of correction for each of the violations. According to DHEC regulations, violations can result in monetary penalties ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the classification of the violation and whether it is a repeat offense. Halle Mechling, business development director for Palmetto Pee Dee, submitted a statement on behalf of the facility saying it strives to "maximize the safety of our patients." "Like all healthcare providers we are subject to unannounced inspections," the statement read. "The facility takes all feedback we receive seriously and constantly explores how we can improve the services we deliver. "We are certainly mindful that over the course of treating more than 100 patients annually, irregular and unpredictable events can occur. In each of these situations, including the recent DHEC inspections, the facility works to learn from these incidents and enhance the quality of our care, if applicable." The News earlier this month reported that current and former workers at the facility alleged that children at the facility have been hurt after altercations with staff, were given inadequate food and programming, and the facility often has been short-staffed. Workers also said the aging facility has suffered a host of maintenance problems, including broken laundry equipment, malfunctioning showers and mold. Training has been inadequate, workers have been forced to work 16-hour shifts, staph infections and scabies have been found at the facility, and children there have been subjected to verbal abuse by staff, the concerned workers told the newspaper. Those allegations came after DHEC confirmed it was looking into complaints by a Columbia mother that her autistic child had lost excessive weight at the facility and had been bitten repeatedly while there, with one of the wounds becoming infected, The News reported Dec. 12. Workers allege a host of problems at children's facility The first of the investigation results released this week dealt with those allegations. The findings do not name any resident, parent or staff member, but the summary appeared to mirror the Columbia mother's allegations that her son's weight had dropped from 132 pounds to 96 pounds and that he had been bitten four to five times by other residents during the past four months. Among the investigation's findings was that a diet order for the resident was not available for review. The facility's administrator told DHEC the resident's diet was not addressed upon admission. The mother told the newspaper that at one point she provided a list of food her son would eat and pestered the staff to buy peanut butter. DHEC reported 14 incidents in which the resident was attacked and injured by other residents. "These injuries included kicking, punching, and biting and occurred during each of the three shifts," the agency's report stated. "The Administrator stated that the clients in Resident A's unit need more care/supervision and are less independent than other units. However, all units are staffed the same, regardless of the condition of the residents." The DHEC report noted a number of the incidents, including a body audit of the adolescent on Oct. 8 that observed five bite marks on the youth's back but offered no explanation for how they got there. On Oct. 30, DHEC reported, a bite mark on an arm was observed after he was bitten by another resident. Later that night, staff reported bite marks on his back after being bitten by a roommate, according to DHEC. On Nov. 21, the youth was bitten in the upper shoulder/upper back while in class, DHEC reported. The next day, DHEC reported, he was bitten on the left hand by another resident while in group. There were 23 other children or adolescents on the same unit as the resident who was repeatedly attacked, according to DHEC, and others on the unit also had been attacked or had attacked others. Some, the agency said, were "out of control," according to staff. "The facility did not staff sufficiently to provide supervision for all residents as determined by the condition of the residents," the agency concluded. Using staff log sheets, DHEC cited certain dates and shifts in which it said staff was insufficient for the unit, including one shift during which only two staff were present. Documentation for another shift, DHEC found, was "unavailable for review." The investigation also found multiple violations with the resident's individual treatment plan, which it found lacked descriptions of the resident's nutritional needs, social and recreational activities and visits by health care providers. DHEC noted that the resident's weight dropped to 99 pounds and his nutritional needs had not been coordinated even though the facility had documented his weight loss. According to the mother of the autistic youth, her son was placed in Palmetto Pee Dee by the Lexington-Richland Disabilities and Special Needs Board. The agency previously said it could not comment on individual cases due to federal health privacy laws. Altogether, DHEC cited the facility for 10 violations, including two Class 1 violations, the most serious type. According to DHEC's website, Class 1 violations "present an imminent danger to the health, safety, or well-being of the persons in the facility." Liane Hughes Turner, the mother of the autistic boy who first called attention to the facility over her son's weight loss and bites, said what has happened at the facility is "just so sad." "Management is allowing this to happen," she said. "That's where the fix needs to start." She said she is "counting the days" until her son is moved from the facility, though she said the facility now appears to be doing better at caring for him. She suggested DHEC conduct more unannounced visits and follow-up with their findings to be sure planned corrections are implemented. The second investigation, in December, looked at 11 allegations, citing the facility for six of them. It again cited the facility for understaffing as well as for violating a facility policy of having residents within sight or sound observation of staff and conducting welfare checks of residents no more than every 15 minutes. It noted one case in which a resident had attempted suicide, having been found on the floor, blue in the face with a shirt tied around their neck. It also cited the facility for a case of abuse in which a resident said they were physically abused by a female staff member on Nov. 25 after calling the resident "stupid." DHEC' reported that, "Resident then stated that 'Staff Member A got into my face and I pushed her and that's when she punched me in the face, grab my hair and hit my head on the rail.' There were two witnesses present that separated the staff from the resident." The facility was cited over menu or snack issues, including snacks that were "not suitable for the residents," including one snack offering that consisted of just saltines. The facility also was cited for a number of maintenance issues, including missing faucet knobs, a hole in the wall, malfunctioning fire doors, brown stains on the ceiling, dead insects and dust. DHEC could not verify allegations of a staff member choking a resident, of marijuana found at the facility, of a lack of hygiene products or of the presence then of mold or a staph infection. The report said it could find no documentation of the choking incident and that it found storage containers with adequate hygiene supplies. Staff said they did not know anything of a staph infection, according to the report, and DHEC found no mold in the facility. Workers previously told The News that the mold was sometimes painted over. Some workers told the newspaper that they bought hygiene items themselves to help the children because such products were either in short supply or were locked up. An investigation on Jan. 5 again cited the facility for understaffing, finding a staff of two on one unit's shift and four on another unit's shift that dwindled to one by the end of the shift after workers left. Four of the 19 violations were repeat instances, DHEC reported. "Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health strives to continually improve our quality of care and maximize the safety of our patients," the facility said in its statement. "The facility is licensed by the State of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and fully accredited by The Joint Commission, whose rigorous accreditation and clinical quality assessment protocols are widely respected throughout the healthcare industry. We also operate a robust quality improvement program." Mechling said in her response earlier this month that the workers' allegations were "dubious" and said in a statement to the newspaper that the residents’ care was the company’s highest priority. Children there are referred from a variety of sources, including local disabilities boards, although the center is not a qualified provider of the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, and it does not oversee its care. Palmetto Pee Dee is owned by Universal Health Services, the largest facility-based behavioral health provider in the nation, with more than 230 facilities in 37 states, according to its website. UHS facilities, according to its website, outperformed the industry in 2015 in Joint Commission surveys and many were recognized as "Top Performers" in key metrics. Mechling said federal regulations prohibit facility officials from discussing details of the care and treatment of any individual.  Source: http://www.thestate.com/news/state/south-carolina/article127374639.html
Months after teen dies in Wordsworth treatment home, CEO quietly leaves her job Updated: January 20, 2017 — 6:25 PM EST 9Share Tweet Tumblr Email REPRINTS Popular Stories Philly march doubled expected size, D.C. rerouted for huge crowd: Live blog replay about 1 hour ago Delaware River Bridge closed after crack in steel truss is found about 2 hours ago Avi Steinhardt In addition to the now-shuttered treatment facility, Wordsworth offers educational programs, mental health services and foster care and does case-management work for the city Department of Health and Human Services. by Nancy Phillips, Staff Writer @PhillipsNancy Email @PhillipsNancy 215-854-2254 Nancy Phillips Staff Writer More by Nancy Phillips Months after teen dies in Wordsworth treatment home, CEO quietly leaves her job Jan 20 More from Nancy Phillips The president and chief executive officer of Wordsworth, a residential treatment center for troubled young people, has quietly left her post, months after a child died in the care of the West Philadelphia facility and the state ordered it closed. Debra Lacks, who led the agency for eight years, was replaced by Diana Ramsay, who was named interim CEO, Wordsworth officials said Friday. Lacks’ departure comes three months after a 17-year-old boy died in a fight with staffers who accused him of stealing an iPod. And it follows the December arrest of a former staffer who is charged with sexually assaulting three girls in the program. In a terse three-paragraph statement, Wordsworth welcomed Ramsay and made no mention of Lacks or the turmoil that has engulfed the program in recent months. “Debbie is no longer with Wordsworth,” said Stephanie Shell, the agency’s director of organizational advancement. “She’s just no longer with Wordsworth,” said board chairman Tom Johnson. “That’s all I can really say at this moment.” Efforts to reach Lacks were unsuccessful Friday. Ramsay, the interim leader, is a former president and CEO of Woods, a Langhorne-based program for people with behavioral and intellectual disabilities. She could not be reached for comment Friday. In addition to the now-shuttered treatment facility, Wordsworth offers educational programs, mental health services, and foster care, and does case-management work for the city Department of Human Services. The state Department of Human Services ordered the residential program closed in late October, saying conditions posed “a serious danger to the health and safety of residents.” The closure followed the Oct. 13 death of David Hess, 17, of Lebanon, Pa. Hess died after a clash with staffers who went to his room in search of a stolen iPod. Video captured one staffer pushing and shoving Hess in a hallway while escorting him to his room shortly after 8 p.m. In the confrontation that followed, three staffers flipped over his bed and tossed furniture around, according to a report by the state DHS. Hess grew agitated, the report said, and three staffers attempted to restrain him. One held his legs as another punched him repeatedly in the ribs, according to the report. Soon after, the report said, Hess began gasping for breath, saying, “Get off me, I can’t breathe.” Then, it said, the room fell silent. No one has been charged in connection with his death, which is under investigation by Philadelphia police, the city Medical Examiner’s Office, and DHS. James Garrow, a spokesman for the Medical Examiner’s Office, said Friday that a report on the cause and manner of death was not yet complete. Officials with the city Department of Human Services have declined to comment on Hess’ death while the investigations are underway. In a statement Friday, a spokeswoman for DHS Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa said she supported Wordsworth’s leadership and had spoken to Ramsay to offer support. Before ordering the facility to shut down, state officials had repeatedly cited Wordsworth for unsafe building conditions, lapses in training, and instances of improper restraints. Earlier this year, it ordered Wordsworth to step up security and surveillance in the building after the three girls reported that they had been sexually assaulted by staffer Isaac Outten. Outten, 37, is charged with institutional sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, and other crimes. Police say he repeatedly had sex with three girls in the program, ages 15 to 17, luring them to the basement for sex and forcing them to take naked selfies with his iPhone. Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Wordsworth-teen-dies-treatment-home-CEO-leaves.html
Madison Township group home license to be revoked after manager charged with patient abuse Megan Hickey 11:16 PM, Jan 20, 2017 12:02 AM, Jan 21, 2017 Share Article x Can 'Raindrop Procedure" make reading glasses a thing of the past? Madison Twp group home license to be revoked after manager charged with patient abuse Copyright 2016 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Madison Twp group home license to be revoked after manager charged with patient abuse MADISON TWP, Ohio - The Madison Township assisted living facility at the center of patient abuse allegations is in the process of having its license revoked, according to written records provided by The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Hubbard Road Meadows Administrator Alice Ramsey, 54, was arrested and charged with patient abuse on Jan. 13, stemming from a Jan. 3 report of abuse that allegedly sent an 85-year-old patient to the hospital.  According to letter provided by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, on Jan. 3, Ramsey “abused a resident resulting in that resident’s hospitalization.  Adult Protective Services fled a complaint on Jan. 5.  According to the letter, staff heard banging the in the resident’s room. And when staff entered the room the resident “was found to have her head wedged in a nightstand.”  According to the report, Ramsey also “verbally abused residents by yelling at them.”   The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services notified Owner Marvin Bruno of plans to revoke the facility’s license in a letter dated Jan. 17.  In addition to patient abuse, the letter also cited a failure to before adequate background checks on employees, facility violations, failure to list food allergies, dietary requirements and medical and mental health diagnosis, multiple occurrences of patient falls and the failure to provide documentation of training requirements.  Madison Township Police told News 5 that the case then took a tragic turn when the victim died on Jan. 17.  “Depending on the outcome of the autopsy there absolutely could be further charges coming out,’ Patrolman Ron Hess told News 5.  Since the charges were made public, Hess said multiple current and former employees as well as family members of patients came forward with similar allegations of abuse committed by Ramsey.  News 5 spoke with one of the former employees who said she witnessed Ramsey “slap and hit” patients on several occasions.  “She was physically and verbally abusive,” the employee, who asked not to be named, said.  She said she made multiple attempts to alert the facility’s owner but nothing changed.  “I would come home bawling my eyes out and I didn’t know what else I could do,” she said.  Attempts to contact the owner on Friday were not successful. Ramsey’s preliminary hearing is set for January 30 in Painesville Municipal Court.    Madison Township police are requesting that anyone else with information related to this case contact Detective Tim Doyle at 440-428-2115.  Source: http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/oh-lake/madison-twp-group-home-license-to-be-revoked-after-manager-charged-with-patient-abuse
Ex-foster parent accused of abuse arrested Story Comments Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size Posted: Saturday, January 21, 2017 11:00 pm Ex-foster parent accused of abuse arrested By Duane Barbati Alamogordo Daily News The Santa Fe New Mexican ALAMOGORDO — A 41-year-old former foster care parent was arrested Tuesday after Alamogordo Police Department detectives learned the man allegedly sexually abused a 7-year-old girl in his care, an APD spokesman said. Deputy Police Chief Roger Schoolcraft said Jason Goodman is charged with one count of first-degree felony criminal sexual penetration of a minor under 13 years of age, three counts of second-degree felony sexual contact of a minor under 13 years of age and one count of fourth-degree felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Goodman was jailed at the Otero County Detention Center on a $25,000 no-10 percent bond pending his appearance in court. Schoolcraft said on Nov. 4, 2016 Alamogordo detectives received a New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department intake report regarding the suspected sexual abuse of the girl. He said after detectives received the report, they conducted a lengthy investigation into the suspected sexual abuse allegations. As a result of the investigation, detectives obtained a court warrant for Goodman’s arrest, Schoolcraft said. According to court records, the girl had been placed in Goodman’s care between March 29, 2016 and May 19, 2016. Goodman allegedly told investigators that he became a foster parent about a year and a half or two years ago, but he quit being a foster parent, according to court records obtained by the Daily News. According to records, investigators learned through two safe house interviews with the girl that Goodman allegedly had the girl massage his feet then he moved the girl’s hand up to his private area. During interviews with the girl, investigators learned the abuse occurred between March 2016 and May 2016, records show. The girl allegedly told investigators that Goodman also allegedly molested the girl while they were in his bedroom, according to records. According to court records, the girl told investigators Goodman did yucky things to her almost every night that she was staying at the home. During a safe house interview, the girl allegedly told investigators that she prayed “Dear heavenly father please let me have this nightmare over” while she was staying at the home, according to records. According to records, the girl was moved to another foster home then told her treatment foster mother about the alleged abuse in November 2016. Schoolcraft said he believes CYFD and APD detectives were very thorough in their investigation of the case. “Based on what they learned from the victim, there was enough probable cause to draft an arrest warrant for Mr. Goodman,” he said.  Source: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/ex-foster-parent-accused-of-abuse-arrested/article_37b8d41a-b885-50de-85dc-0b03dfb6e99b.html
State says Maple Leaf violated policy, workers allege hostile environment Jan. 24, 2017, 11:56 am by Morgan True 2 Comments Maple Leaf Farm Executive Director Catey Iacuzzi testifies in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee earlier this month. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger UNDERHILL — A report from the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program says unlicensed and uncertified staff at Maple Leaf Treatment Center were providing clinical services in violation of state policy. The report released Monday found at least one instance in which a patient who had been under treatment for addiction for five days and hadn’t yet been given a treatment plan. In addition, unlicensed staff provided billable hours in violation of state policy, and clinical notes written by unlicensed staff were not reviewed by licensed counselor or doctor, according to the report. On Jan. 15, Maple Leaf was forced to temporarily close due to a large number of vacancies. The inpatient treatment facility is expected to reopen in mid-February if the facility can address staffing deficiencies. Current and former employees say those vacancies are directly related to a hostile work environment. The company, Maple Leaf Treatment Associates, Inc., runs a separate outpatient drug rehabilitation program in Colchester that will continue to operate. Maple Leaf staff was told in early January that during the closure they will be involved in training and projects to improve the facility. Employees will continue to be paid during the temporary closure, company officials say. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program forwarded complaints to the Division of Licensure and Protection, which licenses health care facilities. Those complaints, which are not public, triggered the division’s “immediate jeopardy standard,” meaning they suggested clients were in danger. The Division of Licensure and Protection investigation report was completed Jan. 12 and is expected to be released this week once Maple Leaf has submitted a plan to correct findings in the report, according to Suzanne Leavitt, the assistant director of the division. Leavitt said if Maple Leaf isn’t able to correct problems identified in the Division of Licensure and Protection report, the facility could lose its certification and close permanently. She said she’s not aware of any facility that has remained open without state certification. Maple Leaf, with 41 inpatient drug treatment beds, accounts for 30 percent of the inpatient beds at treatment centers in Vermont. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program has accepted a separate plan from Maple Leaf to increase staffing and reopen after a 30-day closure. Ken Liatsos, the company spokesman, said in a Monday statement that Maple Leaf “has been working diligently and transparently with various Vermont state agencies to ensure that we provide our clients with the best standard of care available.” “We are taking, and will take, all appropriate actions to correct any deficiencies,” Liatsos said. Maple Leaf CEO Catey Iacuzzi has said staff departures were part of the normal churn faced by drug rehabilitation programs, many of which struggle to retain a qualified workforce. However, five current and former employees told VTDigger that the turnover at Maple Leaf is the result of a hostile work environment. The workers said there was a previous wave of departures from Maple Leaf in June and July, shortly after Dr. Charles Sprague Simonds was hired as clinical director in May. More than two dozen employees have quit in the last six to eight months, they said. The workers, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said Simonds repeatedly made comments about female clients bodies and made several female staff so uncomfortable that they quit. Iacuzzi has been unwilling to address with Simond’s behavior, they said. In a joint statement on Jan. 9, Iacuzzi and the Maple Leaf Board of directors said they are “aware of these allegations and take them very seriously. Maple Leaf Treatment Center management, under the oversight of the Board of Directors, is investigating all aspects of this situation, and will take appropriate action swiftly pending the results.” Maple Leaf’s attorney, Thomas Somers, issued a statement in response to a request to interview Simonds. “Certain false and defamatory allegations have been made against Dr. Simonds by anonymous individuals concerning personnel matters at Maple Leaf Treatment Center,” Somers wrote. “State agency investigations into Dr. Simonds’ conduct have been closed with the finding that the allegations were not substantiated based on the information gathered during the investigations.” “Internal Maple Leaf Treatment Center investigations have reached similar conclusions. These allegations against Dr. Simonds have no basis in fact,” the statement concludes. Maple Leaf Farm Treatment Center in Underhill. Somers would not say what state agencies he was referring to, or what documentation or evidence there is that the claims made by current and former employees are false and defamatory. Neither the ADAP or DLP investigation reports had been provided to Maple Leaf on Jan. 11 when Somers delivered his statement, according to both agencies. Simonds is a licensed psychologist, and his license is issued and regulated by the the Office of Professional Regulation. Officials there said they can’t confirm a pending investigation, but currently no action has been taken against Simonds license. OPR has its own prosecuting attorneys and their investigations only become public once charges are brought against a licensee. Simonds was arrested in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, in 2010 and charged with domestic violence assault. Court records show the case was resolved only after Simonds agreed to stay away from his alleged victim and undergo “psychological counseling.” The charges were dismissed in 2012. In addition, a former case manager said he was directed to refer clients from Maple Leaf’s inpatient program to the company’s outpatient program, regardless of whether the person had a different preference or if there was a more convenient location for them to receive those services. The manager said they quit, in part, because they believed the arrangement was unethical.  They said they were told to keep were told to keep referrals in house because Maple Leaf’s outpatient program, which opened last summer, was losing money. Inpatient treatment is typically for people with addiction who need time to detox with medical or mental health support services. Outpatient treatment involves regular visits for medication and counseling.  Source:  https://vtdigger.org/2017/01/24/state-says-maple-leaf-violated-policy-workers-allege-hostile-environment/
Child deaths, hundreds of police calls from youth group home prompt discussion at City Council  MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file Buy this photo Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 12:00 am | Updated: 3:20 pm, Tue Jan 24, 2017. Child deaths, hundreds of police calls from youth group home prompt discussion at City Council By Harrison Grimwood Tulsa World TulsaWorld.com | 2 comments Two city councilors are pushing for a discussion after finding that nearly 400 police calls over three years came from a Tulsa group home where authorities recorded a second runaway child death in less than four years from the facility. Councilors Jeannie Cue and Karen Gilbert are seeking the talk “regarding the number of emergency calls to state supported ‘group homes,’ ” according to a Wednesday agenda posted for the Public Works Committee.  Gilbert said they are not trying to single out a single facility, but the only group home in the city is Realations Community Services of Oklahoma, according to the state Office of Juvenile System Oversight. “If we have police officers responding to 90 calls in less than six months, then why are we (the city) not putting policies and procedures in place to protect these kids?” Gilbert said. Police responded to 158 calls for service in 2016, 115 calls in 2015 and 119 calls in 2014 at that group home, according to Tulsa Police Department records. About 53 percent of those calls for all three years were for runaways or missing persons. The next most frequent call types — canceled calls and disturbances — made up about 10 percent and 6 percent of the calls for service, according to police records. “The biggest concern is the last person who died on U.S. 75 ... he was from that home,” Cue told the Tulsa World. Chase Dakota Bridges, 11, was killed Dec. 28 attempting to cross a section of Interstate 244 in west Tulsa sometimes referred to as U.S. 75. A 2010 Subaru hit Bridges at about 6 p.m. that day on the highway near 31st Street. Chase was a resident of Realations — a group home for abused and neglected children who cannot be placed in foster care. Chase had walked away from the facility earlier in the day, according to a previous story. Another resident from the group home, Christopher Seaton, 11, was killed in April 2013 while attempting to cross Interstate 44. Cue also referenced Tulsa residents’ concerns about burglaries and larcenies in the area of Realations, located on the 2000 block of West Skelly Drive. “We’re hoping they (the Department of Human Services) will look at the facility to see if that facility is the proper place for these kids,” Cue said. “If we’ve had two foster children die from auto-pedestrian accidents, are they being properly supervised?” Cue and Gilbert are initiating the discussion about the group home between Tulsa police and the Working in Neighborhoods department. It is scheduled to take place during the 2:30 p.m. Wednesday committee meeting at Room 411 at One Technology Center, located at 175 E. Second St. “That’s what I want to get down to: what can we do to help the group homes keep the children safe?” Gilbert said. “As a city, what role can we play?” Gilbert said she hopes Wednesday’s discussion can lay out what the city and its departments can do to address the safety of the children and the community. Mark Jackson, owner of Realations, said Monday morning he was unaware that his group home was scheduled to be discussed by the City Council. Since Chase’s death, Jackson said Realations assigned an additional staff member to patrol the grounds between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. He said that time frame was the busiest for residents leaving the facility. In a previous interview, Jackson said Chase had walked away the day of his death about 3 p.m. “We’re not a detention center, we’re not a prison,” Jackson said. “We can’t physically stop them from going AWOL.” Part of Realations’ protocol for a runaway is to notify police. Many of the runaway reports are residents who repeatedly leave the facility, Jackson said. Jackson said he is looking to relocate the facility into the country for many reasons, including the two deaths. His company made an offer last Friday on a 100-acre piece of property in Osage County, he said. “Our kids, with what they’ve been through in their lives, have a lot of noise in their heads,” Jackson said in a previous interview. “And I think the rural setting would help to quiet that.” The Osage County property is, “as the crow flies,” about 10 miles from downtown Tulsa, he said. The Department of Human Services’ primary goal in placing youth in a Level D-plus group home such as Realations “is to help youth cope with and control” emotional, behavioral disorders or problems the youth might have through counseling and treatment, DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said. Powell stated that Level D-plus facilities are paid a fixed rate of $134 per day per bed. According to DHS records, two facilities fall under the Realations umbrella, totaling 32 beds. Powell, in a previous statement to the Tulsa World, said the DHS Office of Client Accountability is “investigating the circumstances of this child leaving the group home to establish whether or not the facility followed protocols designed to prevent the child from running away short of locking children down, which we cannot do by state and federal requirements.” ​Harrison Grimwood 918-581-8369 harrison.grimwood@tulsaworld.com Twitter: @grimwood_hmg  Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/child-deaths-hundreds-of-police-calls-from-youth-group-home/article_1136117f-5868-56e8-97df-c1abee8e8d47.html
Lincoln Hills inmate: Guards 'treat the kids there like dogs' MOLLY BECK mbeck@madison.com Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal 15 hrs ago 8 Buy Now MOLLY BECK, STATE JOURNAL An inmate at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys juvenile facility, pictured here on Dec. 16, alleges in a column published in the Guardian US he and other inmates were treated like "dogs" by guards at the state's youth prison.  prev next Inmates at the state’s youth prison are routinely placed in solitary confinement for minor offenses, a current inmate and a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state alleges in a column published Wednesday. “Being in solitary messes you up: you can’t sleep, you feel anxious, and the longer you are there the angrier it makes you feel. I mean, you try sleeping with the light on 24 hours a day, or having to distract yourself in a small, dirty, smelly space,” the inmate listed as “J.J.” wrote in a column published in the Guardian U.S. “And they give you 30 or 60 days in solitary for whatever – disrespecting staff, running, not even stuff that hurts other people.” A Department of Corrections spokesman declined to comment because of the pending litigation. A spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker did not respond to a request for comment. The inmate, who wrote he has been at Lincoln Hills for about two years, is one of four plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU this week against the state DOC for alleged violations of inmates’ constitutional rights, including the right to live free from cruel and unusual punishment. A former Lincoln Hills guard disputes the inmate’s claims, which appear in the lawsuit. “There are very few incidents other than fighting or battery for which a youth may be sent to security,” said Doug Curtis, who retired in October after 20 years. The two buildings at the prison’s campus with solitary cells are known as “security cottages.” Curtis rejected describing the cells as “solitary confinement.” He said the inmates are removed from the cells frequently and contribute to a negative atmosphere in the security cottages. “Frequently they plug their toilets and flood both their rooms and the halls. They smear feces, cover their cameras, cover their door windows, pound and kick their doors, scream (obscenities) and do everything they can to disrupt the security building,” Curtis said. “Their pounding and noise can be heard hundreds of yards away.” The inmate wrote in the column he was first sent to the Irma facility when he was 15 after getting “in trouble with the law,” but did not say what crime he committed. “I didn’t know they’d be sending me four hours away to Irma, Wisconsin, where I would be surrounded by guards who treat the kids there like dogs,” the inmate wrote, adding he also saw guards beating kids and that he has been sent to the prison’s solitary confinement cells about 10 times. “I’ve spent most of my time at Lincoln Hills in solitary confinement,” the inmate wrote. “Honestly, I feel like the guards intentionally provoke kids to get them to react so they can put them there and not have to worry about them.” But Curtis disputed the inmates’ characterization of the treatment of inmates by guards. Curtis said in an interview Wednesday that the inmates are not routinely kept in the security cottages’ cells for all but one hour out of a day. Like this story? Get local news sent to your inbox I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site consitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy. “It’s determined by the kid’s behavior,” Curtis said of how long stays are. “If they are still wild and combative, well then they’re going to stay there until they calm down. ... If they’re threatening everyone in the world, then we don’t really feel confident in sending them back to their cottage to beat up everyone in there.” The ACLU lawsuit also focuses on the staff’s use of pepper spray. The inmate wrote he has been sprayed five or six times. “One time, I wasn’t cooperating when they tried to take me to solitary, so they pepper-sprayed me,” he wrote. “They do that to a lot of kids, even for nonviolent stuff like refusing a staff order. ... Sometimes they spray it into the cell, sometimes they spray it right into your face. It makes you temporarily blind and hurts really bad.” Curtis said pepper spray is used as a “last resort” and that guards make decisions in response to inmates’ behavior. The ACLU lawsuit comes after two years of state and federal authorities investigating allegations ranging from child abuse to sexual assault to official misconduct at the facility.  Source: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/lincoln-hills-inmate-guards-treat-the-kids-there-like-dogs/article_7633cdc3-99af-5ded-93f4-5add40dfba77.html
Missouri Valley resident sentenced for sex trafficking minors Jan 26, 2017 Updated Jan 26, 2017 0 Courtesy Pottawattamie County Jail John F. Thomsen prev next On Wednesday, Jan. 25, John F. Thomsen, a 47-year-old resident of Missouri Valley, was sentenced by Chief United States District Court Judge John A. Jarvey to 235 months in prison for coercion and enticement of a minor for sex and for transporting a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity, announced United States Attorney Kevin E. VanderSchel. Thomsen will be required to serve 15 years of supervised release after his prison term. Thomsen pleaded guilty to the two counts on Sept. 1, 2016. The guilty pleas and sentencing were the result of an investigation into the transportation of minor females from Arkansas to Missouri Valley so the minors could engage in sexual acts. The investigation showed Thomsen had met a 14-year-old female while working at a group home in Arkansas. After leaving his group home employment, Thomsen used social media to keep in contact with the minor female and convince her to live with him, and his wife, Trudy Thomsen, in Missouri Valley. The Thomsens traveled to Arkansas and drove the minor to Missouri Valley, where the Thomsens engaged in various sexual acts with the girl. After the minor was returned to the group home, John Thomsen again contacted her via social media and arranged to have her, and a second minor female, transported back to Missouri Valley for sexual activities. Co-defendant Trudy Thomsen is pending sentencing in the Southern District of Iowa. This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation Task Force, Arkansas State Police, Missouri Valley Police Department, Council Bluffs Police Department, Omaha Police Department, La Vista Police Department, and the Harrison County Attorney’s Office. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa. Source: http://www.enterprisepub.com/movalley/news/missouri-valley-resident-sentenced-for-sex-trafficking-minors/article_3d830d02-e418-11e6-bb06-07d11a3624ac.html
UPDATED: Alleged rapes occurred at Lakes Homes group homes in DL — Administrator says all employees undergo state background checks | Detroit Lakes Online UPDATED: Alleged rapes occurred at Lakes Homes group homes in DL — Administrator says all employees undergo state background checks By Paula Quam and Nathan Bowe Today at 3:09 p.m. AddThis Sharing Buttons Share to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to RedditShare to EmailShare to Copy Link The administrator of Lakes Homes and Program Development, which operates a number  of homes for developmentally disabled people in the region, says all employees are subjected to background checks prior to being hired. That includes two former employees, each accused of raping a vulnerable woman, in incidents that allegedly occurred at two different Lakes Homes group homes in Detroit Lakes. The two men are Jallah Sallah Kollie of West Fargo and Varfee Kamara of Fargo. Both face felony rapes charges in Becker County District Court. “We had done a background study prior to their employment and they passed the background study,” said Lakes Homes Executive Director Tom Reiffenberger. “We had no information to believe there was an issue with them.” Varfee had worked for Lakes Homes only a few months, and Kollie for less than a year, he said. Reiffenberger said an earlier version of this story, posted on the Detroit Lakes Online website, incorrectly stated that Lakes Homes failed to do background checks on employees. It’s true that Lakes Homes had been cited once by the  Minnesota Department of Human Services, which regulates group homes, for not running a background check on an employee, but that incident did not involve Kollie or Kamara, he said. Rather it involved an employee who got married, changed their name, and failed to undergo a new background check under the new name. A background check is required by the state for all group home applicants, and the state conducts the study, then provides the results to the group home operator prior to an applicant being hired, Reiffenberger said. On Jan. 6, DHS issued its findings to Reiffenberger, that stated the company “did not comply with background study requirements” in that case as is required by state law. Lakes Homes is being fined $200 for the violation. According to the investigation memorandum filed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, one of the alleged rapes happened at a Lakes Home group home at 920 Summit Ave. The employee in question, Jallah Sallah Kollie, 39, of 219 Second Ave. W., West Fargo, was charged in Becker County District Court with felony counts of first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct — victim mentally impaired. He remains in the Todd County Jail. Authorities responded to the group home on Sept. 13 after another employee reported walking in on Kollie and the victim, who was naked, in the bathroom. According to the DHS report, the victim is a vulnerable adult who has a “lack of understanding of sexuality” but is somebody “who does not need assistance in personal hygiene care.” The report states that when the other employee saw blood on the victim’s buttocks, they told Kollie to leave and began questioning the victim on what had happened. The victim explained in graphic, childlike detail of an assault that involved raping several parts of her body and that after she told him to “get out of here”, Kollie told her to “shut up” and just “be touched”. Kollie denied having any sexual contact with the victim, but authorities say a sexual assault kit administered at the hospital points to him. The location of the second alleged rape was at 405 E. North Street in Detroit Lakes, which is a group home also run by Lakes Homes and Program Development. The alleged victim in the case resided at “The Willow Home” at the time, but was part of a cleaning crew with the suspect, Varfee Kamara, 30, of 2602 18th St. S., Fargo. He has been charged in Becker County District Court with felony counts of first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct — victim mentally impaired. This incident reportedly occurred June 17 when, according to the the complaint filed in Becker County District Court, he allegedly followed the mentally impaired woman into a bathroom at the group home and sexually assaulted her. The DHS report in this cases stated the vulnerable adult was “likely to seek or cooperate in an abusive situation” and that she had a history of past sexual abuse. The report indicated that both the victim and Kamara testified that the vulnerable adult instigated the sexual situation, but it also states staff is prohibited from any sexual contact with residents. Kamara denied any contact with the woman, but a sexual assault kit allegedly pointed to him as the perpetrator. Kamara was in trouble with the law at least three times after the date of the alleged rape. He was arrested by a Hawley police officer after being clocked driving over 100 mph west on Highway 10. He was arrested in Fargo with a group of other men caught stealing from parked cars, and he was wanted for “criminal conspiracy” in the Fargo-Moorhead area, according to Valley News Live. Reiffenberger  said the two accused men do not represent the excellent employees at Lakes Homes. “We believe we do a very good service, we try hard and we have very good employees,” Reiffenberger said. ”We do a very good job with training ... it’s a bad situation and we understand that, but that’s not what Lakes Homes is all about.” Marked history This isn’t the first time Lakes Homes and Program Development has been in the news. According to a story filed by MPR News, a state investigation into the death of a vulnerable adult in Detroit Lakes found that the facility, Lakes Homes, failed to perform CPR when staff found the resident unresponsive in March of 2016.  The MPR report states that in an interview with management, the staff said one of them told the other not to perform CPR because the vulnerable adult was already "not alive" and was "already gone." He was not deceased at that point, however - he died at a hospital shortly after the incident. Investigators in that case found evidence of neglect and that nursing staff “always waited too long” to get medical help for that resident, who staff said was curled up in a ball in pain on the floor in the hour prior to his death. The MPR report goes on to say that in August of 2015, the state issued another investigative memorandum for Lakes Homes, which found neglect and maltreatment in response to another death in one of its homes. According to MPR, “In that incident, staff took the vulnerable adult to a picnic and saw the vulnerable adult appeared sweaty, pale and gray. Staff took the person back to the group home then to the emergency room where the vulnerable adult was pronounced dead. That investigation determined staff knew the resident was severely ill prior to the death and neglected to seek medical attention immediately.” Lakes Homes provides adult foster care to roughly 20 different homes around Detroit Lakes, Mahnomen and Fergus Falls.  Source: http://www.dl-online.com/news/crime/4206511-suspected-group-home-rapists-go-unchecked-lakes-homes-cited-failing-do-background
State: Patients reported verbal abuse at Maple Leaf Jan. 29, 2017, 6:12 pm by Morgan True Leave a Comment Maple Leaf Treatment Center Executive Director Catey Iacuzzi appears before legislators. File photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger UNDERHILL — State investigators have identified a number of violations at Maple Leaf Treatment Center. The most serious are unreported complaints from clients who say they were verbally abused by a staff member at Maple Leaf, according to a report released last week. Residential treatment centers such as Maple Leaf are required to report complaints of abuse to the state Adult Protective Services program within 48 hours, but multiple complaints of abuse from patients, dating back to July, were never reported. Maple Leaf is a drug rehabilitation program with 41 inpatient beds. It accounts for 30 percent of inpatient beds at treatment centers in Vermont. Earlier this month, the facility was forced to close temporarily due to staff vacancies. Investigators at the Division of Licensure and Protection, which regulates health care facilities under the Adult Protective Services program, say they identified seven instances in which “suspected, reported or alleged” incidents of “abuse, neglect or exploitation” were not reported to state officials. The division also found that clients at Maple Leaf did not receive information about their rights; staff did not receive the proper training; and the program was not keeping records of whether the facility was properly staffed. Maple Leaf employees told investigators staffing was insufficient. Maple Leaf has submitted a plan of correction to state officials, which has been accepted. The facility has 60 days to implement the plan. If the plan is not implemented within that period, the facility could lose its certification and be forced to close permanently. A spokesman for Maple Leaf did not respond to a request for comment Thursday after the report was released. Neither did Executive Director Catey Iacuzzi or multiple board members. One member, reached by phone, referred VTDigger to the company spokesperson. Maple Leaf Treatment Center is in Underhill. Ken Liatsos, the spokesperson for Maple Leaf, said in an email Wednesday that the board, which met Tuesday night, is “intimately involved in ensuring that (Maple Leaf) regains a stable footing, and they will continue to meet regularly.” Liatsos said the board is “flat out” and members would not speak to a reporter until the “end of next month.” The state’s report does not identify the person or people alleged to have acted abusively toward clients. However, five current and former staffers told VTDigger that complaints at Maple Leaf centered on the behavior of Clinical Director Dr. Charles Sprague Simonds, who was hired in May, about the time complaints of abuse identified by state investigators began. The workers, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said Iacuzzi did nothing to rein in Simonds’ alleged behavior when staff reported it to her, and would instead defend him. State investigators reported that staff who witnessed abusive behavior toward clients did not report it to state officials as required. Simonds would frequently make remarks about the bodies of female staff and clients, the workers said. Two female former staffers said Simonds made them so uncomfortable they quit. “I still have nightmares,” one said. “He used physical proximity to staff and patients to keep them where he wanted so he could speak with them.” After VTDigger made multiple attempts to reach Simonds over several weeks, Maple Leaf’s attorney, Thomas Somers, replied with the following statement: “Certain false and defamatory allegations have been made against Dr. Simonds by anonymous individuals concerning personnel matters at Maple Leaf Treatment Center. State agency investigations into Dr. Simonds’ conduct have been closed with the finding that the allegations were not substantiated based on the information gathered during the investigations.” “Internal Maple Leaf Treatment Center investigations have reached similar conclusions. These allegations against Dr. Simonds have no basis in fact,” the statement concludes. Somers declined to answer follow-up questions asking what state agencies he was referring to, or what documentation or evidence there is that the claims made by current and former employees are “false and defamatory.” Two state agencies investigating Maple Leaf said they had not provided the company with their findings at the time Somers sent his statement. According to the state report released last week, a Maple Leaf administrator interviewed by state investigators said that in May and July someone on staff reported “harassment and unprofessional conduct” by a co-worker. Around that time, staff reported that the same co-worker “used a sexual term towards a resident.” The administrator said the allegations were investigated internally by the human resources department, which determined the complaints were “boiled down through the gossip vine and had zero concerns,” according to the report. One person being treated at the facility told investigators during an unannounced visit in December that a staff person asked “inappropriate and unprofessional” questions about the client’s history of trauma and abuse that left the client feeling “violated,” according to the Division of Licensing and Protection report. The incident was not reported to Adult Protective Services by a staff person who witnessed it or by Iacuzzi, who told investigators she was aware of the incident. Iacuzzi told investigators the client was not interviewed to obtain a statement about the “inappropriate” questioning. Investigators found Maple Leaf has a written policy that complaints of abuse should be vetted by the clinical director or an on-call physician before being reported, which violates the Vermont Abuse Reporting Requirements, according to the report. When staff made female clients, who reported Simonds was commenting on their bodies, aware of Maple Leaf’s grievance process in July, Iacuzzi told workers during a staff meeting that they should resign if they planned to encourage clients to complain, according to two people who were present at the meeting. “You have these women coming from backgrounds where if they’re being sexually harassed by a man who has power over them, they might need someone to let them know it’s all right to say something,” said one former staffer. The report confirms that two grievances were filed by people being treated at the facility in July who reported “inappropriate and unprofessional” behavior by someone on staff. Iacuzzi told investigators that she received the grievances but did not respond in writing to the people who filed them, as required by Maple Leaf’s written policies, according to the report.  Source: https://vtdigger.org/2017/01/29/state-patients-reported-verbal-abuse-maple-leaf/
Tucson foster-home worker is facing federal child-porn charges By Caitlin Schmidt Arizona Daily Star Caitlin Schmidt Jan 31, 2017 Updated 1 hr ago Courtesy of Pima County Sheriff’s Department Taylor Ray Freeman — Credit: Courtesy of Pima County Sheriff’s Department A Tucson group foster home worker has been arrested on federal charges of distributing child pornography, records show. Taylor Ray Freeman, 27, was booked into the Pima County jail on Jan. 10 and spent less than 24 hours in custody before being extradited by federal authorities to an undisclosed location, said Deputy Cody Gress, a Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. In a Dec. 27 online chat, Freeman, using the screen name “AMERICANPSYCHO06,” told an undercover police officer in Australia that he had a “sexual interest in children,” and said he had “naughty” pictures to trade, according to a complaint filed in federal court here. Freeman emailed the officer a photo of an underage girl on a bed with her genitalia exposed, and made obscene comments about what he’d like to do to her, the complaint shows. Agents with Homeland Security Investigations tracked the email to his computer and on Jan. 10 a federal warrant was served at his home. Agents seized a smart phone, an internal hard drive, revealing photos and videos depicting child pornography, according to the complaint. It said Freeman told investigators he used his email address to send and receive pornography. Freeman was arrested by the sheriff’s department that day and held in jail until he could be transferred to federal custody, Gress said. On Jan. 11, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo P. Velasco signed a detention order, saying Freeman would remain in federal detention until his trial. Velasco accepted the recommendation of Pretrial Services, which said there was a “serious risk” Freeman wouldn’t appear at trial, the order shows. Arizona Department of Child Safety records show Freeman was hired in 2013 by local nonprofit TMM Family Services, which provides social services outreach. TMM’s executive director, Donald Strauch, did not immediately respond to the Star’s inquiry as to whether Freeman had contact with children. TMM provides shelter services for up to 38 children ages 3 to 17, according to an Arizona Department of Economic Security license issued in 2011. Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlinschmidt  Source: http://tucson.com/news/local/watchdog/tucson-group-home-employee-faces-federal-child-porn-charges/article_cd529a58-a727-5ac9-9018-bdd0c4608612.html
Ex-SBU football player is charged for beating at group home Abuse charges filed against former SBU football player Abuse charges filed against former SBU football player Share Video Share Video Playlist Next Up Ex - SBU football player faces assault charge 00:00 01:50   Abuse charges filed against former SBU football player Ex - SBU football player faces assault charge By reporter Linda Russell and videographer Tim Leimkuhler, KY3 News |  Posted: Wed 11:01 AM, Feb 01, 2017  |  Updated: Wed 6:12 PM, Feb 01, 2017 BOLIVAR, Mo. (KY3) - A former all-America Southwest Baptist University football player now faces charges after being accused of beating a boy at a group home outside Bolivar last summer. Prosecutors charged ViaVia Manuma with one count of child abuse and one count of first-degree assault. Detectives say they became aware of the beating in mid-January from a video shared on Facebook. SBU dismissed Manuma and another student on Tuesday after its own investigation found it violated its Code of Conduct for students. Investigators say the incident at a group home near Bolivar happened July 17, 2016. Manuma was an employee at that group home. That video shows a man punching a young man in the group home run by Home Court Advantage. It contracts with the he state Children’s Division to provide residential treatment programs for children with special needs. That video prompted an investigation. A Polk County detective said in a probable cause statement that the video showed Manuma fighting with a teenager, later identified as a Home Court Advantage resident. The detective said he saw Manuma physically struggling and hitting the boy. The detective said he saw the teenager struck twice in the face, possibly becoming unconscious. The detective also wrote in the probable cause statement that he observed a second staff member videotaping the assault appeared to kick the child in the head. The investigator said, when the boy regained consciousness, a third staff member and Manuma helped the boy to his feet. That is when the video ends. The detective noted someone in the background of the video is laughing and making statements such as "oh yeah" and "how do you like that sh**." The probable cause statement says, during an interview with a detective, the teenager said he was attacked by Manuma and two other men. The boy says he was advised to stay in a room he was in until medications were completely distributed to all residents. The boy told investigators he wanted to go to his room anyway. The teenager says that is when he was grabbed by Manuma. The boy told investigators he pulled away and went into the bathroom. The boy then says Manuma pushed him into a bathtub. That is when the boy says he began to fight back, grabbing a shower rod, the probable cause statement says. The boy said he then swung that shower rod at Manuma. The boy said that is when Manuma struck him several times. The second man then kicked him in the head. The boy says he then stopped fighting. Staff then escorted him to his room and provided him an icepack. The detective say he attempted to interview ViaVia Manuma, but he said he would not speak without an attorney being present. A reporter contacted Manuma on Monday. In a Facebook message, he said "the kid was threaten(ing) to kill the staff and was looking for a weapon." He also said, "It was my fault for even touch(ing) the kid but it was a quick reaction from my part." After a reporter starting asking state officials about the video, which was posted on Facebook and shared with reporters on Monday, Gov. Eric Greitens and other state officials held a news conference in Jefferson City late Monday afternoon. They said they’ve been aware of the video since last week and have special teams investigating its circumstances. "I saw this video. It is deeply disturbing," said Governor Greitens. "Both as your governor and as a father, I can tell you, we will not stand for this. It is doubly disturbing, because it appears to have taken place in a facility that was responsible for the protection and care of some of our most vulnerable children." Tim Decker, director of Missouri's Children's Division said state investigators worked through the weekend to ensure all the kids at the home near Bolivar were safe and that the alleged abusers were removed. The Home Court Advantage facility houses 64 children. Decker said the company has had contracts with the state for many years. Southwest Baptist University officials said Monday that they were aware of the video and were cooperating with law enforcement. They said they also conducted their own investigation. "The University acted swiftly and respectfully upon receiving information last week related to the incident, resulting in the immediate contacting of authorities. In this, as with all allegations of student misconduct, it is imperative that we follow our internal processes and procedures," said President Pat Taylor. "This resulted in the dismissal of two students from our University." The two other staff members named in the probable cause statement also were football players. No charges against them showed up on Wednesday on Missouri Casenet, the online record of court cases for the state. . Manuma was named a Division II all-American on Tuesday. If he's convicted, he faces a prison sentence of at least five years. An email message sent to his attorney, a public defender, had not be answered by early Wednesday evening. Earlier Wednesday, SBU put out this statement after the charges were filed: "The alleged incident related to the video was not connected to Southwest Baptist University or any University-sanctioned activity. "The alleged incident related to the video did not occur on the Southwest Baptist University campus. "It is our understanding that the individuals related to the incident in the video were employed by Home Court Advantage. Their employment was not through or associated with SBU. "On the morning of Tuesday, January 24, 2017, SBU administration was made aware of a video of an off-campus incident. Immediate and appropriate actions were taken that same morning, including communications with law enforcement and a hot-line phone call made to the State of Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division. SBU cooperated with law enforcement. SBU also cooperated with the Children’s Division. University policies also were followed as to the individuals allegedly involved."  Source: http://www.ky3.com/content/news/Ex-Southwest-Baptist-football-player-charged-for-videotaped-beating-at-group-home-412430853.html
A teacher accused of having sex with a female student at a school for troubled youth is out of job  A Pennsylvania teacher is out of a job as the case of institutional sexual assault ramps up against her. Twenty-eight-year-old Nina Scott was fired in December after accusations surfaced that she had illicit sexual contact with a 16-year-old female student at a school for youths with emotional and behavioral issues from February to October in 2016. Scott now faces 34 counts each of institutional sexual assault of a minor and corruption of minors, according to Philly.com. She was arrested Wednesday. Some of the alleged correspondence between Scott and the teen has shown up in the criminal complaint. Scott allegedly exchanged 30 letters with the student. In one conversation, Scott is said to referred to her bed as “our bed.” In another, she referred to her 2-year-old child as “our baby girl.” In yet another, she said she was “rolling over in [her] bed and missing [the student] because she was not there.” Police also said that Scott often signed the letters “Pretty.” RELATED: Yet another teacher has been accused of having sex with a student — what she called him is something else  The student’s journal  also made clear references to Scott, calling her “future wife,” “the love of my life” and “good in bed.” Ad by Kleenex Be ready to care for all of life's moments with the gentle touch of Kleenex. Save 50¢ now! Get coupons and special offers on Kleenex products today and be ready for all of life's moments. Scott and the student allegedly had sexual contact several times at the teacher’s apartment, in her car and in the classroom at theVillage, the school for troubled youth. “The mission of theVillage is to promote the healing of the spirits of children, families and communities broken by trauma including violence, neglect, addiction, poverty,mental illness, racism and other serious societal problems,” theVillage describes its mission on its website. The relationship came to light after the student left the school. Staff members at Mid-Atlantic Youth Services found the teen’s journal and reported it to police. The teen said that the relationship began when she gave Scott a note saying, “How would you feel if I kissed you?” The teen also asked if Scott would tell anyone. At first, Scott and her legal team denied that a sexual relationship had taken place. They later admitted that there was a relationship. Scott declined comment when she appeared outside of court and was asked if she had sex with a minor. WTXF/screenshot RELATED: Teacher arrested in crazy sex scandal with student case has entered her plea The Radnor Police Superintendent called Scott’s alleged actions “downright disgusting.” “As a parent and as a police officer for 36 years. It never ceases to amaze me when you put children in the care of a position such as a teacher, and they violate that trust,” William Colarulo said. Scott had been working at the school since October 2016.  Source: http://rare.us/story/a-teacher-accused-of-having-sex-with-a-female-student-at-a-school-for-troubled-youth-is-out-of-job/
State says Logan County group home staff taught kids to get high State: West Liberty group home workers injured, got high with kids local By Katherine Collins - Staff Writer ... Posted: 5:55 a.m. Friday, February 03, 2017 The state has revoked a West Liberty group home’s license following several alleged violations against staff members, including injuring children and showing them how to “get high.” The Adriel School, which houses and teaches children with behavioral issues from across Southwest and Central Ohio, plans to appeal the loss of its license from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. But CEO Todd Hanes said it might shut down its residential program anyway. RELATED: Fights lead to 9 juvenile arrests at Adriel group home in Logan Co. “At this point I think we do need to take a hard look at what our future is and does that include residential,” Hanes said. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services sent an 11-page letter dated Jan. 24 to Adriel saying it had determined the group home hadn’t complied with several state regulations. The letter, obtained by the Springfield News-Sun, alleges several incidents were caught on video in February 2016, including a staff member mixing cough medicine and soda. The video appears to shows the staff member and three children drinking the mixture “for a ‘high,’” the document says. Related State: West Liberty group home workers injured, got high with kids A state agency has revoked the license for the Adriel facility in West Liberty. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF READ MORE: Adriel School under state, county investigation In the same month, another video appears to show a staff member crushing pills and showing the children how to make a straw from paper bills, before snorting the crushed pills with three children, according to the state’s letter. “We dealt with it when it happened,” Hanes said of these incidents. “These employees were held accountable. They were terminated. These were unacceptable things that happened here.” A child also sustained a broken wrist during restraint that wasn’t treated medically until the next day, the state’s letter says, despite the child’s complaints. A former employee at Adriel, Debbie Roberts, said that behavior doesn’t surprise her. “It wasn’t the kids that were shocking, it was the other employees and the supervisors and the things that went on that I saw personally that were not OK,” she said. DETAILS: Spike in police calls to youth home challenges community Roberts worked nights in the home in 2015 and said she was fired after she tried to come forward about what she saw as possible violations. “I blame the people at the very top,” she said. “And I think that Adriel, if it’s going to have a future, needs to get back to their roots.” Jon Keeling, spokesman for Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said in an email that the safety and security of the young people who live at this location are the state’s first priority. “Our inspectors take this responsibility very seriously, and as a result of their investigation a determination was made to revoke this location’s license,” he said. “As is protocol, Adriel has 30 days to appeal.” Adriel had previously developed a corrective action plan for re-certification that was implemented Feb. 1, 2016. The state’s letter also cites a physical abuse report of one child that was substantiated by Clermont County Children Services in March 2016. A July 19, 2016, complaint alleged a staff member showed two children a video of men engaging in a sex act together, according to the state’s letter. EARLIER COVERAGE: Police calls to youth center nearly double Another citation against Adriel was that children weren’t allowed to attend religious services when requested. Hanes doesn’t deny the letter’s accuracy, but he said all situations were addressed and new policies have been put in place to prevent them from happening again. “Our defense is not that they didn’t happen,” he said. “Our defense is that they happened, they’re unacceptable and absolutely not tolerable.” The board will discuss if the group home should close, he said, to focus on its foster care division. West Liberty Police Chief Shane Oelker said his department frequently responds to the group home and he’s glad its operations are being examined. “There’s obviously some changes that need to be made,” he said. Hanes took over as CEO of Adriel in October 2015. Before then, the West Liberty campus was riddled with complaints from the community and police department, mostly about runaways. But so far this year, there has been runaways and large fights again. Staying with the story The Springfield News-Sun has provided extensive coverage of problems at the Adriel School for more than three years, including stories digging into the number of police calls to the group home and concerns of neighbors.  Source: http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/crime--law/state-west-liberty-group-home-workers-injured-got-high-with-kids/sVpJeWV7A6Liopaq79TNwL/
Ex-official at Minn. treatment center who sexually assaulted patient had extensive criminal history The incident underscores serious gaps that still persist in Minnesota's system for screening thousands of caregivers and other staffers who care for vulnerable adults and children.  By Chris Serres Star Tribune February 2, 2017 — 11:57pm , Star TribuneA police photo of Bruce Biddlecome, age 42, of St. Paul. Text size share tweet email Print more Share on:Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Share on Pinterest Copy shortlink: Purchase:Order Reprint In 2013, a recovering methamphetamine addict with an extensive criminal history — including a charge for engaging in prostitution — was hired to run one of the largest chemical dependency treatment centers in the state. The decision would have dire consequences. After being hired, Bruce Biddlecome threatened a female patient and coerced her to have sex with him at Douglas Place Treatment Center in East Grand Forks, Minn. Early in the morning on Christmas Eve of 2014, the woman awoke in her bedroom to find Biddlecome “petting her face and stroking her hair.” After promising the patient an “early Christmas present,” Biddlecome pulled down her shorts and sexually assaulted her, according to state and local law enforcement reports. Advertisement: Replay Ad Ads by ZINC 3 Biddlecome, 42, was sentenced to five months in jail for sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult, and now the patient is suing Douglas Place and its parent company for negligent hiring and supervision. The incident underscores serious gaps that still persist in Minnesota’s system for screening tens of thousands of caregivers and other staff who care for vulnerable adults and children at state-licensed treatment centers. A long-touted plan for automating and improving criminal background checks is still being rolled out statewide nearly three years after the Legislature approved it. A spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Human Services said the rollout is nearly complete, and most providers should be on the new system by the end of this month. Meanwhile, fines for violations are often minimal. In sworn depositions filed this week in Ramsey County District Court, executives for the treatment center’s parent company, Meridian Behavioral Health of New Brighton, admitted they hired Biddlecome as executive director despite knowing about his guilty plea for prostitution. Biddlecome said Meridian’s chief executive “thanked me for my honesty” when he confessed to paying $100 for a prostitute at a hotel. “I was an open book,” said Biddlecome, who also had a previous conviction for felony vehicle theft and a charge for misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon before he moved here from California. “I said, ‘Look, there are some things in my background that you need to be aware of,’ and they appreciated that.” A spokesman for Meridian declined to answer questions about the case. The new job placed Biddlecome in a position of authority at Douglas Place, an 85-bed residential treatment center. He could enter patients’ rooms, take them on trips alone in his personal vehicle, and even change the surveillance cameras, records show. After the assault, the patient told state investigators that Biddlecome threatened to send her “back to prison” if she did not comply with his demands for sex, according to a state investigative report. Following the Christmas Eve incident, the patient left a handwritten note on her bed describing what happened and then provided police with a napkin with Biddlecome’s bodily fluids. Police later made a match to his DNA sample, and staff found condoms when they cleaned out Biddlecome’s desk, records show. State investigators concluded that Biddlecome had sex with the patient “on more than one occasion,” and immediately disqualified him from working in state-licensed programs. “It’s clear that he … had unfettered power,” said Roberta Opheim, state ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities. “It would have been very hard for a client to fight against that level of power.” Prostitution sting In a recent interview, Biddlecome denied that he threatened or coerced the patient and said Meridian officials never told him state law prohibits facility staff from having sexual contact with patients. Biddlecome recalled signing a packet of documents at his job orientation, which may have included information about abuse of vulnerable adults, but said he never actually read them before signing. “I should have known better but … I’m a guy and sometimes you’re not always thinking straight,” he said. “I knew what I was doing was unethical, but I didn’t know it was something that I would be charged with — and would have to do jail time.” This was not Biddlecome’s first encounter with the law. In 2012, he responded to a posting on Backpage.com advertising a “fun and relaxing time with a sexy and flirty girl next door.” Biddlecome arranged a meeting with a woman who turned out to be a decoy police officer at a Days Inn in Maplewood, where he placed $100 on the nightstand and began to undress. Police officers entered the room and arrested him, according to a criminal complaint. Biddlecome would plead guilty to loitering with intent to participate in prostitution, a misdemeanor. But that did not appear to dissuade Meridian from hiring him. In testimony in the Ramsey County lawsuit, Biddlecome said he told Meridian’s president and chief executive, Fran Sauvageau, of the prostitution case. “[Sauvageau] said that thanks for telling him … but we wouldn’t have to speak about it again,” Biddlecome said. The problems at Douglas Place went beyond the rape allegations. In a recent deposition, a former counselor described a facility that had become chaotic and unsafe during Biddlecome’s tenure. Patrick Plemel said people were bringing drugs into the facility in pizza delivery boxes, and that others were entering the facility at night and taping drugs to the garbage dumpster. Plemel said no one questioned why Biddlecome was taking a female patient on unaccompanied trips outside the facility. “It was a madhouse,” Plemel said. During a licensing review in March 2015, the state Department of Human Services cited the facility for 33 violations and placed its license on conditional status. The facility was fined $200 for each background study violation, a total of just $600, records show. As for Biddlecome, who has a wife and two children, he said he is trying to rebuild his life and put the abuse conviction behind him. He works at an oil-change shop in St. Paul and has been “clean and sober” for more than 14 years, he said. “I believe in second chances. I can tell you that I’m not seeing prostitutes, you know what I mean,” he said. “You learn from your mistakes and your experiences.”   Twitter: @chrisserres  Source: http://www.startribune.com/man-who-sexually-assaulted-patient-at-minn-treatment-center-had-extensive-criminal-history/412625193/
Unregulated transfer of children's guardianship advances despite safety fears ERIN LORANGER erin.loranger@helenair.com Feb 4, 2017 Updated Feb 4, 2017 0 +1  Roger Webb +1  TownNews.com Content Exchange HELENA — A bill allowing the care of children to be transferred from a parent to someone else via power of attorney passed second reading in the Senate Friday. An investigative report in 2013 by Reuters on unregulated private re-homing networks revealed that children were being passed around to new families without any oversight. As a result, many states have banned the transfer of custody via power of attorney to stop private adoptions from circumventing state foster care. Sen. Roger Webb, R-Billings, wants to make it easier to transfer guardianship without state interference. Webb said Senate Bill 117 would allow a faith-based organization to temporarily care for a child if a parent voluntarily asked for help. Democratic senators said the bill could allow a child to be transferred to a stranger with no accountability. The Foundation for Government Accountability asked Webb to carry the bill in 2015, where it died on the Senate floor. Senate Bill 117 is the revival of that legislation, which passed second reading 30 to 19 on Friday. Webb said the bill would allow the Foundation for Government Accountability to take in children via power of attorney. The website for its Safe Families program says children are in its temporary custody for an average of six weeks, but there isn’t a time limit on if or when a child must be returned to a parent. Power of attorney allows people to go around a legal adoption, which requires a court and vetting of adoptive or foster families. A power-of-attorney document is one piece of notarized paper that declares the child to be in the care of someone else. It isn’t filed anywhere and, as reported by Reuters, acts more like a receipt. While organizations like Safe Families screen volunteer families, there isn’t a consistent process to make sure all parents are subject to the same standards. It’s also impossible for Child and Family Services to monitor whether those children are at risk of being abused or neglected. During discussion on the floor, Webb said the foster-care system is broken and his bill provides a safe alternative. “It gives a faith-based organization an opportunity to help these people,” he said. “We’re not asking for help from the state.” Specific cases gone wrong in the Reuters investigation were mentioned on the floor by Democrats, who strongly oppose the bill. One family was struggling to raise Quita, a child they adopted from Liberia. The Puchalla family posted an ad online and a few weeks later drove from Wisconsin to a mobile-home park in Illinois to hand off Quita. The only paperwork was a notarized statement transferring guardianship. The Reuters investigation later found that Nicole Eason, who took guardianship of Quita, lost custody of her two biological children after she was found to be violent. Nicole and her husband Calvin Eason were also accused of sexually abusing the children they babysat, although no charges were filed. On the first night Quita stayed with the Easons, she was asked to sleep in their bed where Nicole slept naked. When the family called to check up on Quita, they couldn’t reach the Easons, and she hadn’t shown up at the school she was supposed to attend. The Puchalla family called the police, who located Quita in New York and took her out of the Easons' custody. Law enforcement didn’t take any action to stop the Easons from using online networks to take in another child. In one case, Nicole Eason and a man took custody of a 10-year-old child in a motel parking lot. That man was later sent to prison for trading child pornography. Sen. Jen Gross, D-Billings, said similar situations could unfold in Montana if SB117 takes effect. She said the bill doesn’t implement any of the safeguards and regulations used by the Department of Health and Human Services. “No background checks. No requirement for a home check either before or during the temporary transfer of custody,” she said. “We could very well call this bill legalizing parking-lot abandonment,” Gross said. Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, had similar concerns that one organization having a screening and background process doesn’t mean other organizations or individuals will hold themselves to the same standard. “My understanding of the role of the faith-based group is that it would be providing something of a safeguard to make sure these transfers of custody were not made improperly, but in fact, in the bill, there is no provision for any safeguard of that kind,” Barrett said. Shannon McDonald, deputy chief of legal counsel at DPHHS, said the bill is dangerous without regulations. “This bill would really take us in the opposite direction,” she said. Webb said he believes the foster-care caseload would go down by 25 percent if his legislation passes, but McDonald said there hasn’t been any evidence introduced to support his claim. Sen. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, said the legislation is coming forward at a time when the Legislature should be reforming Child and Family Services, not making it more difficult to monitor the safety of children in Montana. While Webb pointed out the large number of children in foster care in Montana, Caferro said the high number isn’t necessarily a sign of a bad system. “It could be that state workers are doing a better job of keeping kids safe and removing them from a dangerous situation,” she said.  Source: http://www.kpvi.com/news/national_news/unregulated-transfer-of-children-s-guardianship-advances-despite-safety-fears/article_a008ac3e-a10c-574a-9a7b-0c41da10791f.html
Texas foster care advocates clash with privatization supporters By Jonathan Baker • Feb 4, 2017 TweetShareGoogle+Email Credit Astrid Westvang / Creative Commons In Texas, foster care providers have clashed with court judges over a senator’s proposal to privatize foster care. As The Dallas Morning News reports, the debate centers around whether private contractors in Texas should be allowed to completely take over supervision of abused and neglected children. As it stands now, private contractors already provide 90 percent of foster care in the state. But under Sen. Charles Schwertner’s plan, “case management” would also be outsourced. That would mean that social workers working for private companies would take over the duties of CPS workers.  These private workers would coordinate foster kids' therapies, visit with birth families, write court reports and appear before judges. Critics say this solution would lead the private contractors to take advantage of the state’s inability to handle the work, and jack up prices, thus costing taxpayers more in the long run.  Source:  http://hppr.org/post/texas-foster-care-advocates-clash-privatization-supporters
Bills Would Expand Oversight Of DCF, Shift Death Investigations To Child Advocate DCF Ronald DeRosa The Department of Children and Families' office in Hartford. The Department of Children and Families' office in Hartford. (Ronald DeRosa) Josh KovnerContact Reporter The Department of Children and Families falters in gauging risky households, enforcing foster-care licensing rules, and relying on unenforceable "safety plans" for children when family members have troubling backgrounds, two legislative leaders testified Tuesday. With those assertions as the backdrop, Sen. Leonard Fasano, a Republican of North Haven, and Rep. Toni Walker, a Democrat of New Haven, proposed four bills that they said would markedly increase the independent oversight of the sprawling department. Saying the agency is highly scrutinized as it is, DCF officials objected to all four bills, and the co-chairwoman of the committee on children said some of the measures duplicate functions that already exist. The panel did not immediately vote on the bills, which require General Assembly approval. The House and Senate last week rejected an agreement that would have reduced oversight of DCF. One measure proposed Tuesday would have the Office of the Child Advocate take over the responsibility of investigating deaths of children in DCF care, so the department would no longer be "investigating itself," Fasano said. Personnel would have to be added to Child Advocate Sarah Eagan's office, making passage of the bill less likely with the state's gaping budget deficit. Another bill, raised and defeated two years ago, would remove the ombudsman's office from inside DCF and establish it as a separate service, so people inside and outside the department could register complaints "without strings attached," Fasano said. A fifth bill, proposed by Rep. Timothy Ackert, a Republican of Coventry, dealt with unruly group homes. It would give towns more authority to take action when residents of DCF group homes trespassed, committed vandalism, or otherwise broke the law. Coventry resident Gary Jonas testified that the town's 15-member police department responded to 62 calls at one group home last year. Details of the proposal haven't yet been published, but several advocacy groups were concerned that such a law would discriminate against teenagers in the custody of DCF, who deserve a shot at living in family neighborhoods. "We don't want to see policies enacted that have an element of 'nimbyism,' " said Kathleen Flaherty, of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project. Ackert and Jonas said they were not pressing for the closure of the group home, only more local control. Fasano and Walker cited child deaths or foster-care placements gone awry that relate to what they see as DCF's most critical problems: misdiagnosing the level of risk to children in a household, improperly vetting relatives before children are placed with them, and using "safety agreements" that purport to keep certain household members away from children, but that are ultimately unenforceable. In addition to assigning the child advocate as the lead death investigator and establishing an independent ombudsman, the lawmakers proposed creating a DCF oversight council made up of a wide cross-section of experts and community members, and transferring the care and detention of the most serious or needy juvenile delinquents from DCF to the Judicial Branch. Legislature Rejects Deal To Shrink Federal Oversight Of DCF JOSH KOVNER The General Assembly Wednesday rejected a deal that would have shielded the Department of Children and Families' budget from any cuts in exchange for a quicker exit from the federal-court oversight that has loomed over the agency for more than a quarter century. The Senate vote was 25-8. The tally... The General Assembly Wednesday rejected a deal that would have shielded the Department of Children and Families' budget from any cuts in exchange for a quicker exit from the federal-court oversight that has loomed over the agency for more than a quarter century. The Senate vote was 25-8. The tally... (JOSH KOVNER) The proposals would result in greater accountability and responsiveness on DCF's part, said Walker and Fasano. Rep. Robyn Porter, a Democrat of Hamden, also was a sponsor of the measures. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said the bills were unnecessary. She said DCF has the expertise and professional commitment to investigate child deaths on its watch, and to vigorously follow up on complaints that come to ombudsman Kenneth Mysogland, a veteran DCF internal investigator. Mysogland's office handles 2,000 complaints and information requests each year. That includes nearly 100 grievances annually from juveniles detained at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown, which is slated to close next year. "It's not pleasant for DCF staff when they get an email from us," said Mysogland, who said he has access to administrators and staff members at all levels when investigating complaints. "Families have expressed frustration to me," said Sen. Len Suzio, a Republican whose district includes Meriden and Middletown. He said people feel as if they have "butted up against a cold bureaucracy" and that they have been "churned up by the machine." Katz said she would like to personally hear about every person who feels that they have not been heard, and said she would follow up on each case. "But sometimes families don't get the answer they want to hear, and that is a different matter," Katz said. Diana Urban, a Democrat of North Stonington and co-chair of the committee on children, said that the State Advisory Committee on Children already does what Fasano and Walker's proposed oversight panel would do. She said the committee could be expanded, if needed. Eagan, the child advocate, said the current panel serves an advisory role and has no authority.  Source: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-commission-on-children-0208-20170207-story.html
Special Needs Teen’s Asphyxiation Death at Philadelphia Treatment Center Ruled a Homicide By Steve Helling@stevehelling Posted on February 14, 2017 at 4:29pm EST Share Tweet Email Wordsworth Academy The death of a 17-year-old at a private Philadelphia treatment facility for special needs children has been ruled a homicide, PEOPLE confirms. David Hess died of suffocation after a physical altercation with staff members at the Wordsworth Academy, a residential treatment center for children and teens with emotional and behavioral needs, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. The cause of death was asphyxiation, according to thePhiladelphia Medical Examiner’s Office. “One or more people caused the death,” a spokesman for the Medical Examiner said in a statement “It is not a determination of criminality. It is the role of the District Attorney’s Office to determine if these actions were crimes and, if so, if there is sufficient evidence to charge any person(s) with a crime.” According to a Department of Human Services report obtained by PEOPLE, the incident began when staffers allegedly suspected that Hess had stolen an iPod from another student. Several Wordsworth staff members searched his room. The report describes Hess as being “aggressive” as the staffers allegedly flipped over his mattress and went through his things. At some point, the staffers allegedly restrained Hess. Witnesses allege to DHS that Hess initially taunted the staffers, saying, “I can take this, that’s the only thing you got, give me more.” Eventually, however, Hess allegedly began gasping and yelling, “Get off me. I can’t breathe.” He died shortly thereafter. The report notes that the iPod was eventually found in a soap box in Hess’s room. • Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter. Four days after the incident, DHS revoked the treatment center’s license. In a letter obtained by PEOPLE, DHS told Wordsworth that it was being closed due to “your failure to comply with the Department’s regulations and gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct.” In a statement, Wordsworth’s Chairman of the Board expressed sorrow over the teen’s death. “Everyone at Wordsworth Academy was deeply saddened by the loss of this young man, and the medical examiner’s finding underscores the tragic nature of this situation,” Chairman Tom Johnson said in the statement. “Our thoughts continue to be with his family and friends during this difficult time.”  The District’s Attorney’s office did not return PEOPLE’s requests for comment, but a spokesperson refused comment to the Philadelphia Inquirer, citing an ongoing investigation. No one has been criminally charged in Hess’s death.  Source: http://people.com/crime/david-hess-special-needs-teen-death-philadelphia-treatment-center-homicide/
APNewsBreak: Grand jury report blasts NY foster care system By frank eltman, associated press HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. — Feb 15, 2017, 1:01 PM ET Share Email Star Share Email A foster parent accused of sexually abusing boys in his care could have been stopped years earlier if not for "abysmal" communication among the child-welfare agencies involved, according to a special grand jury report obtained by The Associated Press. In the 83-page report, the Suffolk County Supreme Court jury outlined a remarkable series of failures that allowed Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu to take in more than 100 children over 20 years, despite being the subject of 18 separate child-abuse investigations. Rules intended to protect the reputations of falsely accused foster parents were partly to blame, the report said. Substandard abuse investigations were another issue. But the biggest problem, the report said, was the simple failure of the four governmental and one nonprofit child-welfare agencies to share information. One agency, the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, became so concerned with the number of suspected abuse reports against Gonzales-Mugaburu in 2002 that it asked a contractor to stop placing children with him. Yet, the agency did not document the reasoning behind that decision or communicate it to anyone in writing, including other agencies that were also sending children to the home, the grand jury report said. It identifies Gonzales-Mugaburu only by the letter "A," but its description of the allegations against him are identical to facts that have been made public in his criminal proceeding. "The foster care system in the state of New York is a bureaucratic nightmare," said Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, who empaneled the grand jury. "There has to be some corrections that are made, especially with respect to how these agencies interact with each other." The report recommended a number of reforms. Among them: The state should get rid of the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sex abuse, create a central registry of foster homes and widen access to reports of abuse, even if they have been determined to be unfounded. The break that led to Gonzales-Mugaburu's arrest came early last year after detectives say two brothers came forward with credible stories of abuse. Others credible accusers followed. Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, now faces trial next month on charges he sexually abused eight children as young as 8 years old inside his home in Ridge, on eastern Long Island. Prosecutors said statute of limitations laws precluded them from bringing even more charges. Gonzales-Mugaburu has pleaded not guilty. His attorney says he denies ever abusing children and contends the accusers are lying. Prosecutors say Gonzales-Mugaburu earned more than $1.5 million in tax-free income caring for foster children between 1996 and his arrest in January 2016. All of them were boys, including many deemed to require special treatment because of emotional or physical challenges. New York's clearinghouse for suspected child abuse complaints received 18 reports regarding Gonzales-Mugaburu as far back as 1998, each of which was investigated by Suffolk County child welfare officials. Some were for less serious issues, including failing to fill a child's eyeglasses prescription. There was also at least one allegation of sexual abuse. One complaint, involving a child with bruises, went as far as a formal hearing before officials decided the allegations were false. All the complaints were ultimately deemed by investigators to be unfounded. Still, in 2001 or 2002, Suffolk County's Department of Social Services "verbally requested" that SCO Family of Services, one of the state's largest foster home providers, stop placing children with Gonzales-Mugaburu, according to the grand jury report. But that request was apparently never communicated in writing and no one could explain how the notification occurred. "One witness, in fact, testified that this notification could have potentially have been made in passing during a conversation in a hallway," the report said. "For some reason, and with tragic results," the grand jury wrote, the decision was never communicated to other agencies, including New York City's massive child welfare agency, the Administration for Children's Services, which continued to place dozens of children with Gonzales-Mugaburu. The grand jury specifically criticized an arrangement under which the New York City agency ceded responsibility for overseeing case management to SCO Family of Services because of a special state waiver. "There was virtually no contact by ACS with these children or the foster parent," Spota said. "They basically delegated every single responsibility they had to these nonprofit agencies and said to them, 'They're yours. Goodbye.' And that is so wrong." SCO Family of Services 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 last summer there were other issues, "and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made at that time." SCO said it has worked with the state, ACS and Suffolk County "to diligently address each and every concern about the quality of care provided in this home." Spokeswoman Leslie Johnson's statement added the agency has "undertaken a rigorous corrective action plan to ensure complete transparency and significantly strengthen our foster care program. We are hopeful the findings included in this report will advance meaningful and systemic foster care reform in New York." ACS and Suffolk County child welfare department representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.  Source: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/apnewsbreak-grand-jury-report-blasts-ny-foster-care-45512208
Good Shepherd Services to close Baltimore County residential treatment program Sarah Gantz and Erica L. GreenContact ReportersThe Baltimore Sun Good Shepherd Services will close its residential treatment program Good Shepherd Services will close its troubled residential treatment program for adolescents in Halethorpe after two state agencies decided to withdraw the children they had placed there. The decision to withdraw the children followed moratoriums imposed late last year by the agencies on sending more youths to the Baltimore County treatment center. Good Shepherd was cited last year by state health regulators for not providing proper supervision after one patient reported being sexually assaulted and others showed signs of overdose after taking medicine stolen from a medical cart. The state citations were disclosed in public records obtained by The Baltimore Sun in December. The 49 children currently being treated at Good Shepherd will be moved to other facilities within 30 days, the agency said. The Catholic nonprofit's decision puts some 200 Good Shepherd employees out of a job and affects another 100 contract workers and vendors. Paid Post What's This? Paid Posts are created by our advertisers. Our editorial and reporting staffs are are not involved in the creation or production of Paid Posts. Why the Internet Loves This Mattress Sponsored by Casper Casper's outrageously comfortable mattress was designed to have just the right sink and just the right bounce. Plus it ships for free in a "how did they do that?" sized box. See More Good Shepherd leaders expressed frustration Thursday about their decision to shutter the 150-year-old program and said they had not been given an opportunity to work with the state to resolve the problems that led to the moratoriums by the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Juvenile Services. Maryland state agencies stop sending youths for treatment to Good Shepherd, group home Erica L. Green Two state agencies have placed a moratorium on sending youths in their custody to Good Shepherd Services, a Baltimore County residential treatment center cited by regulators for not providing proper supervision after one patient reported being sexually assaulted and others showed signs of overdose... Two state agencies have placed a moratorium on sending youths in their custody to Good Shepherd Services, a Baltimore County residential treatment center cited by regulators for not providing proper supervision after one patient reported being sexually assaulted and others showed signs of overdose... (Erica L. Green) "It's hard to fathom that state leadership and Good Shepherd leadership couldn't come together to ensure the long-term best interest of these children and their families," said Michele Wyman, Good Shepherd's president and CEO. "It's heartbreaking." The Department of Juvenile Services, which contracted with Good Shepherd for mental health services for young offenders, rejected Wyman's claim that the agency had refused to work with the facility. Since 2013, the department has enacted four moratoriums against Good Shepherd, including three last year. The moratoriums, which ranged from a couple of days to a few months, were lifted after resolving the issues that led to the action. CaptionOCC student suspended for recording professor's "anti-Trump" comments appeals Victoria Lugo, interim dean of students at the Costa Mesa college, informed Caleb O’Neil of the suspension for one “primary (fall/spring) semester in addition to the summer” and other disciplinary actions against him, including that he submit a written apology to the professor, Olga Perez Stable Cox. Victoria Lugo, interim dean of students at the Costa Mesa college, informed Caleb O’Neil of the suspension for one “primary (fall/spring) semester in addition to the summer” and other disciplinary actions against him, including that he submit a written apology to the professor, Olga Perez Stable Cox. CaptionA missing mother and daughter from Baltimore Baltimore Police Department need the public help in the disappearance of a mother and daughter from Baltimore city. (Baltimore Sun video) Baltimore Police Department need the public help in the disappearance of a mother and daughter from Baltimore city. (Baltimore Sun video) "The department's highest priority is the safety and security of the youth in our care and custody," Audra Harrison, the department's spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We will continue to work with Good Shepherd, families, stakeholders, and the state's other human service agencies to ensure a smooth transition and minimal impact on the youths' treatment." The Department of Human Resources, which oversees the state's child welfare programs, including foster care, said Thursday that the safety and well-being of the youth it cares for is its main priority. "We are transitioning our youth from Good Shepherd to new placements based on each of their specific needs," it said without elaborating on its reasoning. After citing Good Shepherd for multiple problems last year, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Health Care Quality gave Good Shepherd a "directed plan of correction" in January, a spokesman said. Such plans order providers to take corrective actions. About two-thirds of the youths Good Shepherd treated were referred to the facility by the state Juvenile Services and Human Resources departments. The agencies' decision earlier this month to withdraw the remaining children they had placed in the facility's care "thrust Good Shepherd into a financial corner," said the organization's chariman, William Buttarazzi. "We are deeply saddened for the disruption this will cause to the care of the children and additional pain it will bring to their families," Buttarazzi said in a statement. "We are further saddened for the several hundred dedicated and loyal workers who will be adversely impacted by the state's precipitous actions." Good Shepherd traces its roots in Baltimore to 1864 when the Catholic order of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, founded to help women and girls in crisis, opened the House of the Good Shepherd at Mount and Hollins streets in the city. It opened a second house in 1892 and moved to the current 70-acre location in Halethorpe in 1970. In recent years, the organization provided troubled youth with residential as well as psychological, psychiatric, clinical and health services. There was a school on the grounds so the youths could sustain their education. The residential program had been serving between 65 and 75 youths a day, but its ranks began to dwindle after the two state agencies stopped sending children and others were discharged as planned. Wyman said the organization would have tried to continue operating with a reduced population if its leaders thought they would be able to work with the state agencies to make improvements. "If we'd been having some kind of meaningful discussion or conversation, we would have held on to hope this could be resolved," she said. The program's closure means 200 employees — a range of support staff, social workers, medical professionals and kitchen and maintenance workers — will lose their jobs. Affected workers will stay on with the company for about two months. As Good Shepherd winds down its residential treatment center, one of its cornerstone programs, leaders are re-evaluating the organization's mission. Good Shepherd plans to establish a task force within the next three months charged with determining how to shapeprogramming. The organization has been considering a turn toward community-based programs, though Wyman didn't rule out the possibility of restarting a residential program in the fututre. "I think the board sees this as an opportunity to pause and really take stock of the needs of the state, and the community we serve, and what they need," Wyman said.  Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-md-good-shepherd-services-20170216-story.html
System of self-reporting makes it impossible to assess medication errors in group homes Limited training and fear of losing employment cast low number of recorded medication errors in a suspicious light Written by Caitlin Russell Edited by JPat Brown A direct care provider working in a group home looks at the clock and sees that it’s 2 p.m. - too late to hand out the medications scheduled for noon. Protocol is to immediately contact a Medication Administration Program (MAP) consultant and the employee will have an official medication occurrence on his or her record. Many companies contracted to operate group homes for the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) allow three medication errors (or “occurrences”), before an employee is either retrained or fired. When a person is one lost paycheck away from their life falling apart, the prospect of weeks to months of lost paychecks is a nightmare scenario, especially when the job provides health insurance. So why would a person risk their job risk it when perhaps they could just wait it out, make sure the client who missed the medication, or got the wrong medication doesn’t die or have any obvious adverse reaction, and resolve to never make a med error again. Until they do. In group homes across Massachusetts, the administration of medication is entrusted not to medical professionals such as nurses, but to direct care providers who pass a three-day course in the MAP. The relatively low number of medication errors that occur each year according to the Massachusetts DDS seems miraculous in light of the limited training and large number of doses handed out every year. DDS estimates that in 2015, there were 5,833 medication errors out of the approximately 41.9 million doses of medication doled out. Expecting employees who make little more than minimum wage to self report mistakes that could result in the loss of a job that provides regular hours and health insurance is unrealistic. It places employees in an extremely difficult position, which in turn puts DDS clients at risk. The impact this sort of mistake can have on a client obviously varies depending on the type of medication. For example, a person will have a less severe reaction to missing a dose of an antihistimine than they would to receiving a large dose of antipsychotics that aren’t prescribed to them. Some companies, for example the May Institute, provide the bare minimum of training in medication administration - 16 hours over three days. One could also look at it as four years worth of nursing school crammed into three days. Hiring a nurse for every residential facility - or even one nurse for every five facilities - would be far more expensive than giving bare bones training to employees making $25,000 to $30,000 per year. Nurses train direct care staff, and pop in for the occasional surprise visit at residential facilities to see if the med books are in order, the medication closet is locked, and the narcotics are double locked, but they aren’t there every day to distribute medication or to provide their expertise while observing a client’s reaction to medications. For example, increasing a person’s dose of Prozac can cause stomach problems that make it difficult for a person to eat. The average direct care provider is not nearly as likely to know this as a nurse would be and might misinterpret a client’s refusal to eat as a bid for attention or a sign of depression as opposed to a normal reaction to physical discomfort. A system of self-reporting will not succeed when employees are set up for failure through a combination of inadequate training, and the fear of making a mistake and losing their jobs. Companies contracted with DDS to run residential facilities relentlessly hammer home the seriousness of medication administration to its employees, but the unwillingness of these companies to hire medical professionals to administer medication belies the fact that they’re shirking their responsibility to provide the best care possible, and in the process, shifting that responsibility to their lowest paid employees. Read DDS’ full data on medication occurances embedded below, or on the request page.  Source: https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/feb/15/system-self-reporting-makes-it-impossible-assess-m/
West Liberty group home closes after license revoked, staff shortages crime By Katherine Collins - Staff Writer 0 The Adriel School in West Liberty. Bill Lackey/Staff Posted: 6:00 a.m. Saturday, February 18, 2017 A Logan County group home whose license had been revoked recently has closed after leaders say it wasn’t able to maintain a trained workforce. The Adriel School in West Liberty housed and taught about 40 kids with behavioral issues from across Southwest and Central Ohio. In the past several years, West Liberty Police had responded to the campus hundreds of times for everything from fights to stolen cars. RELATED: State alleges Logan Co. group home workers taught kids to snort, smoke “With them being closed, it’ll reduce our calls for service and we’ll be able to focus on some other things,” West Liberty Police Chief Shane Oelker said. The decision to close was difficult, Adriel CEO Todd Hanes said, since the campus has been a residential facility for more than 100 years. “There is no question that this is painful,” he said. Earlier this month, a letter from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said the state had revoked the home’s license and alleged employees violated regulations on several occasions, including reportedly showing kids how to snort pills to get high and not seeking prompt medical care for injured children. Hanes hasn’t denied the allegations but said that the employees involved were terminated and the home took steps to improve. But those issues weren’t the main reason Adriel closed, Hanes. MORE COVERAGE: Fights lead to 9 juvenile arrests at Adriel group home in Logan Co. “Our top reason is finding a sufficient number of staff here in this area,” he said. It wasn’t possible to hire enough qualified workers in a small town like West Liberty, he said. “We have no intention of operating a residential facility,” he said, “and that’s independent of ODJFS.” On Friday, the remaining seven children at the home were picked up, he said. Workers began finding other placements for the children two weeks ago, he said, and were able to find foster homes for some children. Others were picked up by the counties they’re from. Neighbors have complained over the past few years about vandalism and thefts. But some neighbors, like Janet Yoder, are worried about the well-being of the children. “The things that have happened are wrong and they need to be taken care of in the right way,” she said. “But where are these children going to go?” She used to raise money for the home, she said, and saw how it gave children a stable environment. EARLIER COVERAGE: Spike in police calls to youth home challenges community “The bad things you hear are always going to overshadow the good things because that’s what we focus on,” she said. “And that’s a shame.” Adriel will now focus on the other services it provides, Hanes said, including its foster care network, family preservation and visitation programs. Its leaders are looking to discuss options with the local school district or educational service center for the school building on its campus that will now go unused, he said. Adriel has assisted the 52 employees who will lose their jobs because of the closure, he said. They’ve offered job fairs and interviews on campus. “Things do change and this organization has undergone changes several times in its past,” he said. “I think we’ll come through this stronger.” It’s in the best interest of the children to close the school, Oelker said, if the company isn’t able to keep a qualified staff. “We’re going to continue to work with them if they ask for our help with things,” the police chief said. He plans to focus more on community policing. Adriel had previously appealed the the state’s decision to revoke its license but Hanes said no decision has been made as to whether the home will continue that appeal.  Staying with the story The Springfield News-Sun has reported on problems at the Adriel School in West Liberty for nearly three years, including stories digging into complaints from neighbors and police officials and state investigations of the group home. By the numbers 40: Approximate number of children housed at the Adriel group home 52: Employees laid off because of the group home closure 100: Years Adriel has had a residential home in West Liberty  Source: http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/crime--law/west-liberty-group-home-closes-after-license-revoked-staff-shortages/mrex7SDtQYWlfcoJ2BStSK/
Three Separate School Fights Top Mount Pleasant Police Blotter Carol Reif Share Tweet Pin It Email Print 0 Comments Mount Pleasant police are investigating three separate incidents of violence at a local high school and at two residential treatment schools. Photo Credit: File More Articles police & fire Female Teen Swings Lacrosse Stick In St. Thomas Aquinas Fight... Condo Fire Contained Off Route 6 In Mohegan Lake Man In Trench Coat Reportedly Took Photos Near School, North ... comment 0 Read / Add Comments MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. -- Several young people are facing assault and harassment charges in three separate altercations in Mount Pleasant, police said. The first incident, which police said took place at Westlake High School on Wednesday, Feb. 8, involved a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old from Thornwood. They both were charged with third-degree assault and had been scheduled to appear in Town Court on an unspecified date. Police said the second incident involved an 18-year-old Peekskill girl who is attending the Edenwald School, which is part of the Mount Pleasant-Cottage Union Free School District. The teen was charged with second-degree harassment after police charged her with hitting another student with “a rolling pin,” on Friday, Feb. 10, police said. Edenwald serves about 130 residential and day students with academic, social, behavioral and vocational needs. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Feb. 16, five residents of the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Residential Treatment Center are being accused of attacking and injuring a classmate’s mother, police said. The five, all girls, were charged with third-degree assault. Three of them are under 16 and were referred to Westchester County Family Court. The other two, ages 16 and 17, were referred to Town Court, police said. Hawthorne Cedar Knolls provides mental health, social and therapeutic services to at-risk boys and girls, ages eight to 18. The next day, a 17-year-old resident of the Mann Center Residential Treatment Center at Hawthorne Cedar Knolls was charged with falsely reporting an incident. Police accuse the teen of intentionally setting off a fire alarm at the facility. In other police blotter items: Saturday, Feb. 11: A 41-year-old Pleasantville man was charged with Endangering the welfare of a child after police accused him of committing a lewd act at the family's home. Tuesday, Feb. 14: - A 42-year-old Yonkers woman, pulled over by police on Elwood Avenue in Hawthorne, is facing several vehicle and traffic charges. Police said she had a suspended registration and the vehicle she was driving was unregistered and uninsured. Wednesday, Feb. 15: A 31-year-old Thornwood man was charged with harassment and criminal contempt in connection with, police said, “ongoing family issues.” Thursday, Feb. 16: A 32-year-old Hawthorne man has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Police accused him of striking another car on Pythian Avenue and then fleeing. A brief investigation by the Mount Pleasant police patrol, with assistance from a resident's home video surveillance, led officers to the suspect as well as his damaged vehicle. He was also charged with operating without a driver's license. The driver of the other vehicle was treated for a fractured hand. Friday, Feb. 17: A 30-year-old Ossining woman was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle after becoming stuck in the median on Phelps Way (Route 117) in Pleasantville. Sunday, Feb. 19: A 23-year-old Ossining woman was charged with driving while intoxicated after driving her car off the road into the center median on Phelps Way (Route 117) in Pleasantville near the entrance to Rockefeller State Park. Source: http://mountpleasant.dailyvoice.com/police-fire/three-separate-school-fights-top-mount-pleasant-police-blotter/700579/
New York to pay $3M to family of disabled boy molested by staffer at group home which perv called ‘a predator’s dream’  New York to pay $3M to family of boy molested at group home THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Monday, February 20, 2017, 1:04 PM facebook Tweet email Stephen DeProspero, right, in Oneida County Court in Utica, N.Y., as he is arraigned on charges of predatory sexual assault against a young child in Aug. 2010. (Rocco LaDuca/AP) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Monday, February 20, 2017, 1:04 PM ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state is paying $3 million to the family of developmentally disabled boy repeatedly molested by a staffer at a state-run group home who later wrote that lax supervision at the facility made it "a predator's dream." The former staffer, Stephen DeProspero, is now imprisoned in the Attica Correctional Facility. He was incriminated by videos and photographs he took of the molestation, which occurred from 2005 to 2008 at the facility located in central New York. "The lack of supervision there made it easy to do what I did," DeProspero said in a handwritten affidavit obtained by The Associated Press. "I could have stayed in that house for years and abused him every day without anybody even noticing at all. It was a predator's dream." State officials say new policies are in place to prevent similar crimes. But a leading critic of state institutional care said the problems persist. "Tragically, this sexual predator case is a drop in the bucket in regards to the rampant sexual abuse occurring within New York State's mental health care system today," said Michael Carey, whose autistic son was killed by a state caregiver 10 years ago this month. The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, which oversees care for more than 128,000 New Yorkers, has taken steps to strengthen safety and security, according to spokesman Scott Sandman. They include pre-employment psychological assessments and enhanced staff training on ways to prevent, recognize and report abuse and neglect. Senior administrators are required to make unannounced inspections of state-run facilities. "We also increased the minimum qualifications for our state direct support staff and put more stringent background checks in place," he said, adding that an agency created by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and known as the Justice Center has the power to investigate "any abuse or neglect of a person we serve." The Justice Center investigated only six of the nearly 1,400 deaths of developmentally disabled people who died in state care from June 30, 2013, to May 31, 2015, according to a review last year by the AP. In the case of DeProspero, red flags that might have prompted an investigation went unnoticed. Some of the abuse occurred in an open, common area of the group home, according to legal documents. In another instance, DeProspero recorded a video of abuse over the course of four hours on Christmas Eve 2007, even though DeProspero was not scheduled to work that day. "I was confident that a supervisor would never check in to see what was going on," DeProspero wrote in his statement. "The supervisors spent the vast majority of their shifts in their offices doing paperwork. They were rarely out of their offices." DeProspero, 43, pleaded guilty to predatory sexual assault in 2010 and was sentenced to 18 years to life. He also pleaded guilty to manufacturing child pornography and was sentenced to 40 years. The sentences are being served concurrently. He came to the attention of authorities in 2009 when an investigation of online child pornography led them to his computer. Photos and video of the molestation were later discovered. The $3 million settlement between the state and the family of the victim was finalized late last year. It's intended to pay for the victim's future care and visits with his mother. The victim, now 20, has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is mostly nonverbal. He remains at a state-operated group home. "This is a case where you had someone who really was evil. But what failed here was the system," said Andrew Celli, an attorney with the New York City firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, which represented the boy's family in the case. "You have to have systems in place to ensure the safety of children who have needs, and they just fell down on the job here." Carey wants state leaders to require surveillance cameras in group homes. He's also pushed legislation that would require complaints about possible abuse or neglect of disabled or mentally ill people in state care to go to 911 and local prosecutors rather than investigative units within state agencies.  Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/new-york-pay-3m-family-boy-molested-group-home-article-1.2977392
Sick, Dying and Raped in New York’s Mental Health Facilities & Group Homes Jonathan Carey "Champion for the Disabled" Born September 12,1993 Killed by caregivers on February 15,2007 Governor Cuomo has refused to take vital basic emergency actions to protect disabled children and adults from premature death, sexual abuse and rape Governor Cuomo had every opportunity to right many wrongs, but chose to continue to cover-up most of the damages and loss of lives instead.” — Michael Carey DELMAR, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, February 23, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- You can take the CNN investigative report titled, “Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes” http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2017/02/22/sick-dying-and-raped-in-americas-nursing-homes-a-cnn-investigation/ and simply change the words America to New York State and Nursing Homes to Mental Health Facilities and Group Homes, the similarities are almost identical. New York State documents obtained through Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) reveal staggering numbers of deaths and sexual assaults in these facilities. These massive problems cannot continue to be pushed aside and ignored by the Governor of New York State. Governor Cuomo has claimed publicly saying “I am disabled” http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/01/29/cuomo-travel-ban-hotline/ which is obviously not true, but he was using it, along with other statements, to say that he is fighting for people with disabilities and their rights, which also sadly not true. The shear staggering numbers of reported deaths and sexual assaults in these State and private facilities and group homes throughout New York State speak volumes. The truth is, we have severe systemic failures and very ugly things are happening behind these closed doors and many innocent and extremely vulnerable people with disabilities are dying and being raped as a result. State documents reveal that 11-12 deaths on average are reported a day and 1,300 sexual assaults within the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) system alone on average every year or close to four a day. Most of the deaths are covered-up because Governor Cuomo’s Justice Center is not notifying County elected District Attorney’s and Medical Examiners or Coroners of most of these deaths. It is hard to fathom that they continue to get away with this evil and these crimes as I continue to expose it and shout it from the rooftops, but hopefully it will be stopped soon. In regards to sexual assaults, the numbers exponentially increase when we look at the full reality and fact that almost all of these sexual assault crimes against these disabled victims, that in most cases cannot speak or defend themselves, will never be witnessed or reported. A well known report titled “Prevalence of Violence” http://www.mass.gov/dppc/abuse-recognize/prevalence-of-violence.html has been up on the State of Massachusetts website for a long time, brings an even more powerful fact to light, which is a horrible fact that only 3% of these sexual assaults and rapes of the developmentally disabled will ever be reported. Using this statistical data along with the known New York State numbers of reported sexual assaults could mean that approximately one third of the developmentally disabled living in State and private facilities within the OPWDD system alone are sexually assaulted on average once a year. Sexual abuse and rape of the disabled in these facilities is a massive problem which has been known by Governor Cuomo for many years. Most deaths and sexual assault crimes of New Yorkers with disabilities living in known unsafe residential care facilities and group homes are swept under the rug and covered-up by Cuomo’s fraudulent Justice Center. There are basic safety and abuse prevention measures that will make the system much better and safer and dramatically reduce the staggering numbers of deaths and sexual abuse crimes occurring in these facilities, but Governor Cuomo has refused to take action. Surveillance cameras must finally be installed within all mental health facilities and group homes, as well as all transport vehicles, this is vital to prevent these deaths, crimes and to hold sexual predators accountable. Immediate and direct reporting by mandated reporters to 911 and not a State whitewash/cover-up entity is not only critical to hold criminals accountable, but will also save many lives. No longer can New York State continue to deny innocent and extremely vulnerable children and adults with disabilities living outside their family’s home 911 emergency first responder medical and police services and assistance, this is discrimination and in many cases it is deadly. Bypassing local authorities, laws in place for everyone and local courts also denies this specific group of people their 14th Amendment right to “equal protection of laws.” Included are two very important news pieces. AP News just reported on a disgusting case in which a New York State caregiver was molesting a disabled child in a State run group home. Thankfully, there was some measure of justice in this case, but most are being covered-up by Governor Cuomo’s wrongfully named Justice Center which is keeping most reported sexual assault crimes from local police and County elected District Attorney’s. Here is the story followed by another horrific one as well; “New York to pay $3M to family of boy molested at group home” http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/new-york-pay-3m-family-boy-molested-group-home-article-1.2977392 . New York State’s system is made up of thousands of State run and privately operated facilities and group homes and the rampant sexual abuse in these facilities can easily be dramatically reduced, but not if basic prevention measures continue to be ignored. The award winning New York Times “Abused & Used” investigative reporting series which was a runner up for a Pulitzer Prize, exposed New York State’s extremely dangerous and deadly system in 2011. Governor Cuomo was already aware of the severe problems because it was brought to his attention while he was the NYS Attorney General. Governor Cuomo had every opportunity to right many wrongs, but chose to continue to cover-up most of the damages and loss of lives instead. The very first NY Times investigative report that came out in March of 2011, two months after Cuomo became Governor, details how a sexual predator was caught in the act and that he was still protected and shielded by the State http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/nyregion/13homes.html . Here is the extremely disturbing quote from this investigative report; “At a home upstate in Hudson Falls, two days before Christmas in 2006, an employee discovered her supervisor, Ricky W. Sousie, in the bedroom of a severely disabled, 54-year-old woman. Mr. Sousie, a stocky man with wispy hair, was standing between the woman’s legs. His pants were around his ankles, his hand was on her knee and her diaper was pulled down. The police were called, and semen was found on the victim. But the state did not seek to discipline Mr. Sousie. Instead, it transferred him to work at another home.” Pretty graphic, but this type of evil must come out into the light and dramatic steps must be taken to prevent these horrible sex crimes and rapes of disabled men, women, boys and girls whom are extremely vulnerable and in most cases cannot defend themselves. Bypassing 911 and local police is how New York State currently gets away with covering-up thousands of crimes and deaths annually. Michael Carey Mr. 5188529377 email us here The incredible life and tragic preventable death of Jonathan Carey, who was disabled, had autism, was non-verbal & only 13 when he was killed by his caregivers   Source: http://www.einnews.com/pr_news/367915136/sick-dying-and-raped-in-new-york-s-mental-health-facilities-group-homes
Foster care worker pleads guilty to falsifying records Foster care worker pleads guilty to falsifying records AMY BENNETT WILLIAMS and MELANIE PAYNE , The News-Press Published 1:02 p.m. ET Feb. 24, 2017 | Updated 21 hours ago Denny Kern, 53, a child welfare caseworker for the state pleaded guilty to falsifying documents.(Photo: Florida Department of Corrections) 74 CONNECTTWEET 1 LINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE A DCF subcontractor who lied multiple times about an at-risk toddler's whereabouts has pleaded guilty to falsifying and destroying records. Cape Coral resident Denny Kern, 53, was sentenced to four years’ probation for the crime. Kern was arrested in November after an Office of the Inspector General investigation determined he had falsified records. Kern was a case manager, required to make regular health and welfare checks on children under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families. Kern is by no means the only child welfare worker to file fake paperwork. His was one of 25 cases involving falsification of case management records investigated in the past seven years; of those, 20 ended in employees being fired or quitting. There was one suspension and four cases that were unsubstantiated or had no action taken. While working for Lutheran Services, which has a contract with Children’s Network, the private company that provides services to the state’s Department of Children and Families, Kern reported he’d visited the toddler girl in Cape Coral. Although Kern knew the child had been moved to West Palm Beach because her mother was in jail, he filed a log detailing visits to the child in March, April and May. The falsified documents came to light only after Kern was fired in May 2015 for poor job performance. When Lutheran Services supervisor Gwen Doyle took over Kern's 38-child caseload, she started hearing from family members and caregivers that he hadn't been doing his job. According to the investigative report, “When Mr. Kern visited (Caregiver 1’s) home, Mr. Kern would come to the door, have a blank piece of paper, and ask Caregiver 1 to sign it. Mr. Kern never came inside the home. ... He indicated that Mr. Kern was aware that Child 1 was not present in the home and did not need to see (her).” In another case, Kern admitted another child he was supposed to visit regularly was sometimes "probably not" at home when he said she was, though "Kern believed 90 percent of the case notes were accurate and 10 percent of the case notes ... were false, but could not recall which case notes were false." 4-month old dies in Pine Manor, DCF takes sibling The fabrications included details that led supervisors to believe Kern had been doing his job. In logs for visits to a child he had not seen, he wrote: “(She) was dressed in a blouse, shorts, socks.” “(She) was playing in the back yard when (Kern) arrived and that was where (Kern) conducted private discussion.” “(She) likes to play with her toys and be outside …. (She) does miss her (jailed) mother.” In his testimony, Kern told investigators that "He liked (his job) at times; however, it did not suit him. This was a result of caseloads expanding to about 30 cases, with 50 children on a caseload." Kern testified when he asked Doyle for help, she told him to “figure it out." He began going to a counselor because he was feeling personally and professionally overwhelmed, he said, and that's when he began submitting false case notes. Kern admitted he lied "because he wanted to 'get it done' and indicated, 'It was poor workmanship.' ... Kern indicated that he is embarrassed, feels ashamed, and regrets his conduct." Uneven DCF funding worries child welfare advocates James Miller, assistant state attorney and chief of the economic crime unit for the Office of the State Attorney, said Kern told investigators the requirements of the job “got to be too much” and that he was working weekends just to keep up. “He believed he had a nervous breakdown.” Prosecutors wanted Kern to be found guilty, Miller said, giving him a felony record and precluding him from future employment in a position of public trust. After a retired judge from another state testified on Kern’s behalf, Miller said, Judge Ramiro Manalich withheld adjudication, which means that if Kern completes his probation he will not have a felony record. Kern’s lawyer, Scott Thomas Moorey, declined to comment, citing attorney/client privilege. DCF spokeswoman Natalie Harrell said any time there’s suspicion a DCF employee or subcontractor has falsified records, the concerns are immediately reported to the Office of the Inspector General, an independent state watchdog agency. “They then determine if it rises to the level of an investigation,” she said. Falsification, omission, or misrepresentation is the most-investigated category of wrongdoing, accounting for 80 percent of the 225 allegations the Inspector General's office investigated in the 2015-2016 period. When allegations are found to be true, all cases are referred to law enforcement, Harrell said. "The department maintains a zero tolerance policy for falsifying documents. Any time an employee is found to have falsified documentation, the most appropriate and aggressive action, including dismissal, will be taken (and) any individual investigated by the department, whether an employee or not, who is found to have violated the law, including through the falsification of records, is referred to law enforcement for criminal investigation," she said.   Kern timeline April 13, 2013: Started as a case manager at Lutheran Services Jan. 2015: Placed on performance-improvement plan May 14, 2015: Fired for ongoing poor performance; supervisor Gwen Doyle takes over Kern’s 38-child caseload May 29, 2015: Lutheran Services reports falsified records to the office of the Inspector General Dec. 18, 2015: Case referred to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Sept. 16, 2016: FDLE referred the case to the State Attorney’s office Nov. 16, 2016: Kern arrested by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office  Feb. 6: Kern pleads guilty and is sentenced to four years probation  Source: http://www.news-press.com/story/news/2017/02/24/ex-dcf-subcontractor-pleads-guilty-falsifying-records/98302196/
Child Abuse Council Launches Investigation into County Foster Care System Following NBC Bay Area Investigation High turnover rates and a social worker shortage are at the center of a new investigation by the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Council looking into the Department of Family and Children’s Services which provides support to more than 1,300 children By Vicky Nguyen, Michael Bott, and Mark Villarreal  Child Abuse Council Launches Investigation into County Foster Care System Following NBC Bay Area Investigation Link Embed Copy Close Link to this video Copy Close Embed this video Replay More videos (1 of 9) «» CC Options Captions FCC × Font Size 1.00 Opacity 100.00% Text Color Background Border Edge Effects This is a preview of your caption settings. This is a preview of your caption settings. This is a preview of your caption settings. This is a preview of your caption settings. This is a preview of your caption settings. This is a preview of your caption settings. 1:40 / 4:57 Share High turnover rates and a severe social worker shortage are at the center of a new investigation by the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Council looking into the Department of Family and Children’s Services which provides support to more than 1,300 children in the foster system. The investigation comes in response to a series of NBC Bay Area reports exposing serious concerns about severe abuse and even a child’s death following questionable actions at DFCS. (Published Friday, Feb. 24, 2017) The Santa Clara County Child Abuse Council has launched a probe into the Department of Family and Children Services following a series of reports by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit. The advisory committee wants to find out what’s causing high turnover rates and complaints among social workers that they are not able to provide vital services to vulnerable children. Last August, a group of six social workers spoke to NBC Bay Area, alleging a “toxic” work environment at the agency was driving out social workers, leading to dozens of unfilled vacancies and unmanageable caseloads. According to a spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency, the department has lost 110 social workers over the past two years. The agency says it’s actively working to replace those workers, but progress has been slow. In fact, the agency currently has 42 unfilled vacancies, 50 percent more than last June when there were only 28 vacancies. “That just leads to bad outcomes for the children and parents that are getting services from DFCS,” said Andrew Cain, Chairperson of the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Council. He’s also the Supervising Attorney with Legal Advocates for Children and Youth. “We really wanted to see what are some of the issues that are contributing to that.” NBC Bay Area first revealed concerns about decision making at DFCS in October 2015, when a young girl was nearly killed after reports and signs of her abuse were missed by multiple social workers. Last March, foster parent Shellie Nichol spoke out after social workers removed 2-year-old Kelly Nguyen from her care, placing the girl with her father in a men’s halfway house. The medically fragile toddler died there two months later on February 28th. Nearly a year after her death, the coroner’s office says the results of the autopsy are still pending. Nichol told NBC Bay Area she repeatedly questioned the decision to move Nguyen, and warned social workers it wasn’t in the best interest of the special needs child. “We were gravely concerned,” Nichol said. Hiring and retaining social workers is a constant struggle for many California counties, but Cain said the issues he’s witnessed in Santa Clara firsthand and in NBC Bay Area’s reporting warranted further investigation. Cain said the working group created by the Child Abuse Council has just started gathering information, and the investigation will result in a list of recommendations to the Board of Supervisors about how to address the key problems at DFCS. When social workers are spread so thin, foster parents are often among the first to see how vulnerable children can slip through the cracks. “[Social workers] are too overworked, too overwhelmed and don’t have enough education or training,” Jane Ramirez said. The veteran foster parent has cared for more than 50 children and teens in Santa Clara County over the past 30 years. “These are children’s lives in the balance. Those are my kids’ lives. Those were kids I invested myself in that I loved, that I considered my kids. And for things to happen to them is just so sad.” Ramirez is licensed in Santa Clara County but she’s currently fostering 4-year-old Damien, a medically fragile toddler from Monterrey County. She said she’s thankful the Child Abuse Council is taking on the investigation, and hopes the staffing challenges plaguing the agency can be addressed. “One of the things the Child Abuse Council is doing right now is trying to gather more information through looking at very concrete things like exit surveys, staff complaints that were filed with management, and trying to parse through that information,” Cain said. The Department of Family and Children’s Services conducted an internal investigation last year when a group of frustrated social workers brought their grievances to management, but the report was never made public. Those social workers told NBC Bay Area they had hoped to keep their complaints in-house, and only decided to go public when they felt ignored. NBC Bay Area requested an interview with Francesca LeRue, the new director for the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Services, to discuss her vision for the agency and how she plans to address staffing issues there, but the request was declined. In a written statement, LeRue said: “Our goal for 2017-2018 will be to align all existing efforts and resources to build a strong infrastructure to meet federal and state performance outcome measures, focusing on doing what is required and doing it well. In this way, we will hold ourselves accountable, while we also respect and support one another, and celebrate our successes.” While hiring and turnover continue to be an issue, the agency has managed to dramatically improve the rate of calls answered at at the Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Center, which manages the county’s 24 hour child abuse hotline. A 2013 audit found the CAN Center failed to answer about 40 percent of calls on the hotline. This month, a county spokesperson said 99 percent of those calls are now being answered. The department acknowledged some of those calls go to voicemail or are answered by clerical staff, rather than a licensed social worker trained to assess the safety of a child. Cain says he hopes the Child Abuse Council will wrap up its investigation within the next three months. He said they’ll take their findings to the Board of Supervisors and present possible solutions to any issues they uncover. For now, Cain said his priorities are to shrink caseloads for social workers and make sure they feel supported. “Social work is arguably the toughest job that we have out there,” Cain said. “In order for them to do their job in the way to best serve these children, they need to feel supported.” Ramirez says she’s glad the agency has a new leader at the helm, and hopes that will translate to improvements for children in the foster system and the resource families that take care of them. Despite the challenges and frustrations she’s experienced at times over the last three decades, Ramirez said she would happily do it all over again. “I would not give up children or fosters for anything in the world,” Ramirez said. “It has enriched our lives so much. That’s why you do it – for the kids. If the system wasn’t so crazy there would be so many more people out there doing what I’m doing and love it.” You can see the rest of our reporting on the Department of Family and Children's Services here: Click here to watch Part I Click here to watch Part II Click here to watch Part III Click here to watch Part IV If you have a tip for Vicky Nguyen, email her at vicky@nbcbayarea.com. You can follow her on Twitter @vickydnguyen and Facebook www.facebook.com/vickynguyenTV for updates. If you have a tip for Investigative Producer Michael Bott, email him at michael.bott@nbcuni.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TweetBottNBC Or give the Unit a call at 888-996-TIPS (8477) Source: Child Abuse Council Launches Investigation into County Foster Care System Following NBC Bay Area Investigation | NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Child-Abuse-Council-Launches-Investigation-into-County-Foster-Care-System-Following-NBC-Bay-Area-Investigation-414752083.html#ixzz4ZkSrSGIq Follow us: @NBCBayArea on Twitter | NBCBayArea on Facebook  Source: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Child-Abuse-Council-Launches-Investigation-into-County-Foster-Care-System-Following-NBC-Bay-Area-Investigation-414752083.html
A local treatment center accused of putting profits over people A local treatment center accused of putting profits over people    Tom Meyer exposes a local treatment center accused of putting profits over people WKYC 10:14 AM. EST February 28, 2017 Abraxas Ohio is a residential treatment center located near Mansfield. They house about 100 teenaged boys, most sent by the juvenile court system because of drug or alcohol problems.  A former employee, who was hired as a Clinical Supervisor, spoke to Tom Meyer about her concerns on the quality of treatment these teens received.  She alleges Abraxas "Falsely represented the qualifications and training of personnel." She alleges many so-called Abraxas counselors were actually unemployed plumbers, roofers, laborers, who needed a job.  She also alleged that group sessions did not take place. Yet, the facility billed Medicaid as if they did. "It's a total misuse of the money. It's corruption at its best." she said. Residential Treatment Centers are supposed to be helping troubled kids get back on track - overcome addiction - and mental illnesses. So how can we make sure they don't put profits over people?  Source: http://www.wkyc.com/news/a-lcoal-treatment-center-accused-of-putting-profits-over-people/416112708
Former group home worker sentenced to jail, probation Brad Dicken  | The Chronicle-Telegram Published on Feb. 28, 2017 | Updated 2:09 p. m. Share Tweet Share Email Comments A former worker at the Lorain County Juvenile Court’s Stepping Stone group home was sentenced Monday to four years probation and 30 days in the Lorain County Jail for trading drugs with residents at the facility. Sean Justice, 30, who pleaded guilty in January to attempted corrupting another with drugs and two counts of conspiracy, also was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine by county Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi. Sean Justice CT FILE Enlarge Justice’s attorney, Paul St. Marie, said his client’s legal problems were the result of a back injury he sustained while in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear technician. St. Marie wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Justice suffered herniated disks in his back when his submarine was hit by a wave and “unexpectedly lurched and rolled” while at sea. He said Justice became addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed. Justice said he lied to himself about the nature of his problem, although he insisted that he has since gotten clean. “I’m sorry that it ever got this far, that I didn’t ask for help sooner,” Justice said during the hearing. Justice resigned from his county job in January 2014 after he was confronted at his home by court staff about allegations that he was involved in drug activity at Stepping Stone. A Lorain County Drug Task Force report on the investigation said when investigators later raided Justice’s Elyria home he confessed to giving one teenager $90 to get him pills and that he received a painkiller and one hit of acid from a teen at the facility. He also acknowledged that he had sent a series of text messages to teens from the facility in which he discussed drugs and asked teen to obtain drugs for him. A group of residents at Stepping Stone called themselves the “Justice Four” because of the preferential treatment they received. One boy told investigators Justice gave him synthetic marijuana and anti-anxiety medication in exchange for good behavior, while another said he traded his attention deficit disorder medication to Justice for other drugs. The task force’s report noted that court officials’ decision to pursue their own review of the allegations against Justice interfered with the criminal investigations. It also complained about the account of the activity that Juvenile Court Administrator Jody Barilla gave to state regulators. Barilla has previously said that once the court had information concerning wrongdoing by an employee they were required to take action and tried not to interfere with the criminal investigation. The probe into Justice wasn’t the first time his superiors at the court grew concerned about his possible involvement with drugs. He was investigated in March 2013 after a resident reported Justice asked him if he knew anyone who could get him painkillers. Although text messages seemed to confirm the allegations against Justice, he told court officials someone must have “swiped” his phone and used the device to send the messages. He was reprimanded and returned to work. The mother of one of the boys involved in the case that led to charges against Justice attended the hearing and afterward said while she wasn’t happy with how the case was handled by the court system and had expected Justice to receive a longer sentence, but that she hoped he has cleaned up his life. “I hope he gets his act together,” she said. Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.  Source: http://www.chroniclet.com/cops-and-courts/2017/02/28/Former-group-home-worker-sentenced-to-jail-probation.html
In our opinion: Lawmakers should explore flexible, compassionate system for juvenile offenders By Deseret News editorial board Published: Feb. 28, 2017 7:00 a.m. Updated: Feb. 27, 2017 9:26 p.m. 2 Comments View 1 Item Laura Seitz, Deseret News FILE — A youth stands in his room at the Salt Lake Juvenile Detention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. Vignette V6 651bc8f7cc034217faba1d44951b1b1d390b0947 Thu Mar 02 15:51:08 2017 Vignette V6 40794f7adc70e00321d79965a41a59ee448730eb Thu Mar 02 15:51:08 2017 It’s been two years since the Utah Legislature initiated a comprehensive reform of the state’s justice system, a work still in progress but one that would substantially revise the way juvenile courts handle low-risk offenders. Though the effort will cost more up-front, in the long run it promises to save the state money and will work to keep many youth out who don’t deserve to be caught up in the detention system. The measure, HB239, envisions a more flexible and compassionate system for juvenile offenders that lawmakers should explore. First, the new system would make it easier for authorities to deal with offenders on a more individualized basis. Second, it would emphasize early intervention to head off behavioral problems that could escalate into more serious offenses. Third, it would reduce overall costs by allowing more kids to stay in their homes while undergoing court proceedings or counseling instead of facing lockup in a detention facility. Keeping youth in secure lockup or in a group home costs significantly more than monitoring their behavior while they stay with their families. Additionally, in many instances, reintegrating offenders with their family can be more conducive to reform. The current legislative proposal emanates from a study conducted after the 2015 legislative session worked to revise sentencing standards and other procedures in the adult court system. The Juvenile Justice Working Group was tasked by the governor, legislative leaders and leaders of the state judiciary to undertake a data-driven study of the juvenile court system in order to find ways to improve outcomes for offenders and their families while protecting public safety and containing costs. The group’s report has resulted in the proposed legislation now before the House. The working group identified trends that show the current system, by requiring nearly all offenders of even minor crimes to be held in at least temporary detention, can be detrimental to rehabilitation and does not lower rates of recidivism. Some will undoubtedly worry that juvenile justice reform may lead to losses in terms of public safety. These are legitimate concerns. However, the working group found that there is evidence that spending time in detention actually increases the risk of a juvenile re-offending, thus compounding the public safety risks. Meanwhile, in recent years, the rate of recidivism among juvenile offenders in Utah has risen while there has also been an increase in serious felony offenses by juveniles. These trends speak to the need to re-evaluate the way young offenders are dealt with the system, and the proposed legislation demonstrates an understanding backed by data that intervention and home-based treatment is more effective than long-term detention. It has long been the philosophy of the justice system to treat juvenile offenders differently than adult criminals with the intent of offering youth a chance to quickly make amends for an offense and move forward with their lives. The current system now skews more toward incarceration, requiring even low-risk offenders to be taken to a detention facility for offenses as minor as truancy from school. HB239 represents a sound, sensible and more compassionate way to deal with kids who fall into wayward behavior.  Source: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865674416/In-our-opinion-Lawmakers-should-explore-flexible-compassionate-system-for-juvenile-offenders.html
Wisconsin youth prison bill moves through hearing AP February 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm | The Associated Press MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A bill addressing abuse allegations at Wisconsin's troubled youth prison is gaining traction. The measure would make guards at the facility outside Irma mandatory child abuse reporters, a move that would protect the guards from being fired for reporting incidents. The bill sailed through a Senate judiciary committee public hearing Tuesday. Sen. LaTonya Johnson, one of the bill's chief authors, was the only person who spoke on the measure, saying it would create accountability and transparency. The committee expects to vote Thursday on whether to forward the measure to the full Senate. The FBI is currently investigating allegations of widespread abuse at the prison. Current and former inmates have filed two federal lawsuits challenging conditions there. The GOP-controlled Legislature has yet to pass anything addressing the prison.  Source: http://www.beloitdailynews.com/article/20170228/AP/302289857
Whistleblower: Millions wasted at NE Ohio rehab center for teens Whistleblower: millions wasted at NE treatment center Phil Trexler, WKYC 11:24 PM. EST February 28, 2017 Lavonte Hinchen was a former client at Abraxas Ohio (Photo: Phil Trexler, WKYC) CONNECT TWEET LINKEDIN GOOGLE+ PINTEREST SHELBY - One of the nation’s largest private prison companies is defending itself against Medicaid fraud charges filed by a former clinical supervisor at an Ohio residential treatment center for teens. Lynn Roycroft’s federal lawsuit alleges Abraxas Ohio in Shelby, an all-male, treatment center owned by GEO Group Inc., billed the government for years on "false or fraudulent" claims, including counseling sessions never happened. “I would say it was a pretty egregious abuse of your tax dollars,” Roycroft told WKYC Channel 3 News. “Because treatment did not happen for the most part.” According to state Medicaid officials, Abraxas received more than $9 million in payments in 2016 and more than $33 million since 2012. Roycroft, who has spent 33 years in counseling, alleges the federal government was billed by Abraxas for group counseling sessions that were never held. She also alleges progress reports were “cut and pasted” from one resident to another. She also contends men and women who once worked blue collar jobs such as plumbers and roofers were hired by Abraxas, given a week of training and then acted as professional counselors for the 100 boys who were housed at the residential facility in Richland County. Abraxas, she said, misrepresented the credentials and qualifications of some counselors. The teens treated at Abraxas were generally sent to the facility to obtain counseling and treatment after having cases heard in juvenile courts across Ohio, including Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Aside from financial and billing irregularities, Roycroft says the teenage boys were often improperly restrained and that “counselors” spent more time “controlling behaviors” instead of providing counseling for drug and alcohol abuse. “The philosophy of the institution was to get as many kids in there as you could and bill [Medicaid] your three hours of group [counseling] a day, whether the groups happened or not,” Roycroft said. “To me, it’s just blatant fraud.” Pablo Paez, a GEO Group spokesman, said Roycroft’s lawsuit “has no merit” and that the company will defend it “vigorously.” He declined further comment. Abraxas Ohio’s director is Erich Dumbeck, who once headed the Huron County Department of Jobs and Family Services. In 2007, Dumbeck resigned in the wake of world-wide attention focusing his agency and a couple who kept their foster children in crudely built cages. Dumbeck declined comment. Lavonte Hinchen of Cleveland was twice sent to Abraxas for three-month stints in 2008 and 2009. He called the programming “a joke” and said teens were not provided counseling. “A lot of the friends I made there…you can look it up, they’re having problems today out on the streets,” said Hinchen. “They don’t know how to handle their problems day to day. “A lot of people’s tax dollars went in, but nothing came out of it.” That’s largely due to the lack of counseling and proper training of staff, Roycroft said. When she was hired in 2008, Roycroft said she was expected to address myriad problems inside the expansive residential center near Mansfield. Some group sessions never met, however, reports were filled out as if they did occur, she said. Those forms were then submitted to Medicaid for billing purposes. “It was totally out of control when I got there,” she said. “A lot of the time, I was really just spending trying to wrap my head around what I was being told.” The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, is pending. Roycroft is seeking unspecified damages. She and her attorney say taxpayers were defrauded, but the children and their families continue to suffer because they never received the help needed to overcome addictions or other mental health issues. “This is fraud,” said attorney Warner Mendenhall of Akron. “This is very abusive. The worst type of abuse because it’s victimizing the most vulnerable people in our society.”  Source: http://www.wkyc.com/news/investigations/whistleblower-alleges-tax-dollar-fraud-at-ne-ohio-rehab-center/416246626
­ How States Turn K-12 Scholarships Into Money-Laundering Schemes How States Turn K-12 Scholarships Into Money-Laundering Schemes Carl Davis March 3, 2017 “School choice” happy talk obscures how privatizing education dollars allows wealthy taxpayers to scam the government. PinIt Share30InstapaperPocketEmailPrint (Photo: Shutterstock) Politicians have long had a knack for framing policy proposals, however controversial, in terms that make them more palatable to voters. This is why unpopular tax cuts for the wealthy are often sold as plans to “invest” in America or to stimulate “growth.” Likewise, school voucher programs that funnel public money to religious schools are cast as “school choice,” because underwriting parochial schools with taxpayer dollars is controversial. The “choice” frame has heightened public awareness of school voucher programs, and helped their advocates make significant inroads in convincing states to allow the use of public dollars for private schools. Obscured in the spin, however, is how some states, in their zeal to subsidize private schools, have created an egregious tax scam that allows wealthy taxpayers to profit by donating to private school scholarship funds in return for lucrative tax credits. Many states have constitutional provisions that expressly prohibit the use of public dollars for private religious schools. To sidestep these prohibitions and public aversion to the practice, voucher proponents and their legislative allies in 17 states have created generous tax credits to encourage taxpayers to donate to private school scholarship funds. Critics who object that vouchers drain resources away from public schools would be doubly outraged if they knew how these vouchers were, in some cases, fleecing the public till. “Neovouchers,” as these scholarship funds are often called, have received considerable attention as education policy initiatives, but their full impact as tax policies has drawn less notice. Critics who object that vouchers drain resources away from public schools would be doubly outraged if they knew how these vouchers were, in some cases, fleecing the public till. By offering tax subsidies in exchange for donations to private school scholarship programs, states are using private citizens as middlemen. Rather than include line-items in state budgets for spending on school vouchers, lawmakers ask taxpayers to undertake such spending on the state’s behalf, in return for a generous tax giveaway. Advertisement Incentivizing philanthropy through state tax codes is nothing new, of course. For example, donating $100 to a veterans’ organization, food pantry, or cancer research institute might shave $5 to $10 off a taxpayer’s state tax bill, if the donor claims a deduction for that contribution. But with profit-making “neovoucher” schemes, states supercharge the incentive to donate, rewarding charitable gifts to private schools much more handsomely. Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia, for example, all provide tax credits worth between $65 and $95 on every $100 donated. Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina go even further by providing dollar-for-dollar tax credits: Donate $100, and receive $100 back in tax credits. Because taxpayers are also permitted to claim a federal charitable tax deduction on their donations to “neovoucher” programs—even if they were already fully reimbursed for those gifts by their state governments—the result for some taxpayers is a tax cut as large as $1.35 for each dollar donated. Like many tax loopholes, this one is not geared toward ordinary taxpayers. A quirk in federal law limits the benefit primarily to high-income taxpayers. So, in effect, a handful of states have created elaborate tax schemes that allow wealthy taxpayers to generate risk-free private returns of up to 35 percent. A one-year, guaranteed return of 35 percent on a legitimate investment is uncommon, and a publicly funded return of that size on a so-called charitable donation is patently outrageous. This perverse use of the tax code on two fronts should raise the ire of taxpayers everywhere. The money-making aspect of these “neovouchers” is not lost on organizations running scholarship funds or on wealth managers. One organization based in Georgia, for example, brags to potential donors that, “you will end with more money than when you started.” Similarly, a tax lawyer in Alabama notes on her firm’s website that for some taxpayers, “donating” will “put money in your pocket.” And private schools in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania have demonstrated the potential monetary gains of “donating” with hypothetical examples that show the financial returns for participants in their states’ programs. Perhaps the most candid marketing language, however, comes from a wealth-management firm in Virginia. It notes that a taxpayer can enjoy a savings that is “more than their original donation,” before going on to explain that “there is very little logic to the tax code. Even if you don’t agree with the law, you should take advantage of the tax benefits.” Until these tax credits are repealed or reformed, it will remain hard to argue with that conclusion. But it doesn’t make it any less shameful.  Source: http://prospect.org/article/how-states-turn-k-12-scholarships-money-laundering-schemes
Troubled St. Cloud center for children to close residential treatment Troubled St. Cloud Children's Home to move 30 children, lay off 95 staffers.  By Chris Serres Star Tribune March 2, 2017 — 8:31pm Cottage at St. Cloud Children's Home Text size comment share tweet email Print more Share on:Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Share on Pinterest Copy shortlink: Purchase:Order Reprint A St. Cloud mental health treatment center for children, which state regulators have cited for repeatedly failing to protect young patients from harm, has stopped accepting patients for residential services and instead will focus on day treatment. St. Cloud Children's Home, a 60-bed treatment center operated by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud, made the announcement just weeks after state regulators cited it for 33 violations of state rules governing the health and safety of vulnerable young patients. Regulators found that children had been allowed to bang their heads against walls and windows, resulting in multiple concussions, facial injuries and head trauma. Staff knew about the head-banging, but allowed the practice to continue, regulators found. In an interview Thursday, Steve Pareja, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud, said a state licensing order last month was "one factor among many" in the decision to shutter the residential mental health program, which opened in 1964. The facility has seen a gradual shift away from residential services, while the population the program treats has grown more difficult and aggressive, he said. "I would say behaviors have become more aggressive — and these behaviors escalate more quickly," he said. "We are all committed to providing safe environments ... and I needed to be assured that we could continue doing that." The closure comes amid rising concerns about an acute shortage of psychiatric services for children and as the state weighs legislation that would expand mental health care in schools. Statewide, there are 19 residential facilities with 744 beds certified to provide mental health services for children. But the wait to get into these facilities can be months. Many families have been forced to send their children out of state for care, said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota. "This is a big deal in terms of access," Abderholden said. "We already have a lot of children in this state who should be in treatment but are at home or at school because they can't get into a facility." The St. Cloud Children's Home, which still houses about 30 children and teens in its on-campus cottages in St. Cloud, has been plagued with health and safety violations in recent years. In 2012, the site was hit with 46 licensing violations, after state inspectors found that unsupervised children were having sex with each other on the facility grounds. In one incident, a patient was forced to have oral sex by another patient while a staff member played a video game nearby, state records show. Head-banging The scope of the recent violations alarmed mental health advocates. Last October, state inspectors found that staff members "at all levels of authority" were aware that children were banging their heads against walls, but failed to take action. The noise was so loud that it could be heard throughout one of the cottages, investigators found. At least two children got emergency medical treatment. They also sustained black eyes, swollen faces, headaches and abrasions, regulators found. Regulators also found that children were subjected to an unusual form of punishment known as "freeze" that was not therapeutic or approved by a mental health professional. During freeze, children who were noncompliant or aggressive were forced to sit in an assigned area for at least 24 hours, even after they had calmed down. Citing the "nature, chronicity and severity" of the violations, the Minnesota Department of Human Services in early February took the unusual step of placing the center's license on conditional status for three years. Under the conditional license, the home would have operated under greater state scrutiny and was required to submit detailed plans for improving safety and supervision of residents. 95 lost jobs The decision to close residential services means that children and teens will receive treatment at the center and go home to their families in the evening. The 30 children who still are housed at the facility will be discharged or transferred to other sites over the next two months, officials said. About 95 employees will lose their jobs as part of the transition, although more jobs will become available as the center expands its day treatment program. Pareja said that St. Cloud Children's Home has about 60 children in its day treatment programs, which he expects to expand by 30 to 40 patients.  Source: http://www.startribune.com/troubled-st-cloud-center-for-children-to-close-residential-treatment/415241974/
EXCLUSIVE: Developmentally disabled residents at Bronx state-run group home endured abuse, neglect over decade, lawsuit claims Disabled Bronx group home residents abused over decade: lawsuit BY Victoria Bekiempis NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 10:26 PM facebook Tweet email Guardians of the facility's residents sued Union Ave. IRA staffers in an effort to end the alleged abuse. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News) BY Victoria Bekiempis NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 10:26 PM Several disabled residents of a state-run group home may have suffered abuse and neglect dozens of times over the course of a decade, according to new court papers. The residents of Union Ave. IRA, in the Bronx, endured physical abuse, as well as neglect, while living in the group home, a Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit filed by their guardians alleges. One of the guardians has even claimed that her sister was raped while under the supervision of Union Ave. IRA. The residents’ guardians sued Union Ave. staffers, as well as officials from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, a state entity that oversees residences for mentally handicapped people, to put an end to the alleged abuse. As part of the ongoing lawsuit — originally filed by their guardians last May — the disabilities agency filed paperwork on Feb. 13 describing its records on abuse and neglect for three residents whose guardians are suing the home. Agency officials said records show that from 2006 to this year there were 24 incidents of alleged abuse or neglect toward one of these three residents. Since 2005, there were 20 incidents of alleged abuse or neglect toward another resident. And from 2006 to this year, there were 13 incidents of alleged abuse or neglect toward yet another resident whose guardian is suing the home, records show. The guardians’ lawyer, Ilann Maazel, said he’s “never seen so many allegations of abuse” in a group home throughout his years representing alleged abuse victims. The disabilities office said it hasn’t completed its search for records on abuse allegations. Incidents involving alleged abuse and neglect were not tracked electronically until 2006, so it’s possible additional records exist, the agency said in court papers. The agency did not comment when reached by the Daily News on Wednesday. The disabilities office did not comment specifically on the allegations, but said on Feb. 23 that it is taking steps to prevent abuse. “The safety and well-being of individuals supported by (the agency) is our highest priority. We committed to ensuring that all allegations of abuse and neglect in our service system are thoroughly and quickly addressed, investigated, and that appropriate measures are taken if substantiated,” the office said in the statement. “Any abuse of the people in our care is completely unacceptable.”  Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/disabled-bronx-group-home-residents-abused-decade-lawsuit-article-1.2986415
HCJFS boss during 'caged kids' episode now heads teen treatment center facing lawsuit • Updated Mar 2, 2017 at 7:47 AM SHELBY — The former boss at the Huron County Department of Jobs and Family Services is in the news again. Erich Dumbeck now serves as the Ohio director for Abraxas Ohio, a residential treatment center for male teens in Shelby that is owned by GEO Group Inc. — one of the nation’s largest private prison companies. He headed Huron County’s welfare agency during the “caged kids” scandal that garnered international attention. Abraxas Ohio is the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by Lynn Roycroft, a former clinical supervisor there. Tom Meyer, an investigator for WKYC Channel 3 news, interviewed Roycroft and discussed the lawsuit for a segment that aired during the 11 p.m. newscast Tuesday. Trending Articles Sponsored By: Kathleen J. Holzwart Norwalk woman who enjoyed baking and being a grandma was 85.   Powered By The lawsuit claims Abraxas billed the government for "false or fraudulent" claims, including counseling sessions never happened. Among other allegations, Roycroft said out-of-work plumbers and roofers, after receiving only one week of training, were hired to act as professional counselors for the 100 boys who were housed at the Richland County residential facility, according to WKYC. A GEO spokesman told Channel 3 that Roycroft’s lawsuit “has no merit” and that the company will defend it “vigorously.” Dumbeck declined to comment for the Channel 3 story. Dumbeck joined the Huron County Department of Jobs and Family Services in 1997 as a child abuse investigator. Two years later, he was named the social services supervisor. In June 2004, the county commissioners — Terry Boose, Ardeth Chupp and Mike Adelman — promoted Dumbeck to serve as the agency’s director. He held that position until resigning in April 2007. By then, Gary Bauer and Ralph Fegley had joined Adelman as the county’s three commissioners and a review of the agency was under way. In August 2005, during Dumbeck’s reign, authorities discovered Michael and Sharen Gravelle had been forcing some of their 11 adopted children to sleep in enclosed beds in the family's Clarksfield Township home. The story made international headlines, and a flock of media outlets followed every step of the investigation and prosecution. The Gravelles and social worker Elaine Thompson eventually were convicted of criminal charges, and the Gravelles served prison time. Trial proceedings revealed JFS employees had known about the abuse for at least two years before an investigation was started. Immediately after the Gravelles’ three-week-long trial, Dumbeck told reporters his agency had refined some of its procedures involving complaints and adjusted the checks-and-balances system to prevent another Gravelle-like incident, which Dumbeck called a "1 in 10 million" occurrence. Just months after Dunbeck was hired, the first of the agency's several high-profile cases broke. In October 2004, Paul Efaw stabbed and killed his foster daughter, Connre Dixon, after she attacked him with a knife. A jury eventually awarded Dixon's estate $600,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit against the county for failing to properly screen Efaw, a Monroeville man who served three years for voluntary manslaughter. Also during Dunbeck’s time as JFS director, a sexual harassment complaint was filed against him. The complaint was dismissed early in 2007. An independent review found that he did have an unwanted, inappropriate relationship with a HCDJFS employee, but it was prior to his promotion to director. When the review of the agency began in February 2007, Dumbeck was relieved of some of his day-to-day duties and asked to focus exclusively on the Children Services division. David Broehl, head of that division, had announced his retirement around that time. Shortly after Dumbeck submitted his resignation letter, a woman filed a lawsuit against him and agency, alleging she was denied multiple promotions because of sexual discrimination — including "Dumbeck's infatuation with her.” The suit also stated Dumbeck was married with two children at the time the "unwanted" contact began, and she was a single mother of one in a relationship with a single man. The suit focused on events that happened between January 2004 and January 2007. In his resignation letter, Dumbeck stated in part: "I believe that God leads in directions that are sometimes unknown to us but are part of a greater plan. I feel that He is leading me in the direction to serve individuals in a different capacity.”  Source: http://www.norwalkreflector.com/Local/2017/03/01/Former-HCJFS-boss.html?lp=1&ci=breaking
Residential treatment facility for children in Florence cited again by DHEC by Tonya Brown Friday, March 3rd 2017 The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has once again cited Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health in Florence for violations. (WPDE file image) Florence, S.C. (WPDE) — The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has once again cited Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health in Florence for violations, according to a DHEC citation report. The facility is located on Gregg Avenue in Florence. The facility’s website says it's a residential treatment facility for people ages 7 to 21 seeking “care for a range of psychiatric or addictive disease diagnoses including general psychiatric issues, dually diagnosed, post-traumatic stress disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, mild to moderate mental retardation, and pervasive developmental disorders.” DHEC’s report says it cited the facility in early January for several violations following an unannounced visit in response to a complaint. The facility was hit then with citations because it did not have a written policy and procedure, titled Diet Orders, implemented; for not having enough staff to sufficiently provide supervision for all residents as determined by the condition of the residents; and for not having a written description of its philosophy regarding each living group size, group composition and staff involvement, including group management and supervision, available for review, according to the report. DHEC said it cited the facility again following an inspection on January 31. Some of the violations included, staffing issues, facility food menus and the facility’s upkeep. Related: DHEC cites Florence residential treatment facility for violations Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health released the following statement on the citation and violations: “Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health, like all healthcare facilities, experiences both routine and unannounced visits by state regulators. Regarding the results from the January 31, 2017 visit by DHEC, we do not agree with the merits of all the findings and have submitted a request for reconsideration. Although we may disagree with instances of alleged non-compliance, Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health shares DHEC’s goal of ensuring that all patients receive treatment in a safe and therapeutic environment. We continue to devote the necessary resources to ensuring that our patients receive the high quality mental health services they need and deserve.” DHEC said it’s working with the facility on a plan of correction for the violations.  Source: http://wpde.com/news/local/residential-treatment-facility-for-children-in-florence-cited-again-by-dhec
19 girls die in fire at home for troubled teens in Guatemala Last updated 08:05, March 9 2017 At least 19 girls have died in a fire in a government-run home for abused teens, Guatemalan police say, with local media reporting that dozens of residents had escaped the overcrowded home following a melee. A crowd of relatives, many of them wailing with grief, gathered outside the Virgen de Asuncion home for children up to 18 years old, in the municipality of San Jose Pinula, 25 kilometres southwest of the capital Guatemala City. Nery Ramos, the head of Guatemala's national police, said at the scene on Thursday morning (NZT) that 19 people, all girls, were confirmed dead.  Nineteen dead in fire at Guatemala children's shelter Video will play in 1 secondPlay Now! Stop REUTERS Nineteen girls have been killed by a fire at a children's home in Guatemala. "This is a painful situation," he said, adding that the fire was started by a group of young people at the centre. R The fire was started by a group of young people at the centre. Plagued by Latin America's highest rates of child malnutrition and street gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha that often prey on minors, Guatemala has long been a traumatic place to grow up. Conditions in public institutions are often dismal with widespread overcrowding. Burnt bodies partially covered in blankets were strewn across the floor of a blackened room in the home, pictures posted to Twitter by the firefighters showed. REUTERS Five hundred children lived in the home, despite its capacity to hold only 400. On Tuesday night (Wednesday NZT), riot police were sent in to quell unrest over the crowded living conditions at the home during which some 60 residents escaped, images on Guatemalan television news showed. Ad Feedback Local media said more than 500 children lived there, despite its capacity to hold only 400. Pablo Castillo, a spokesman for Guatemalan police, said 38 children had been transferred to local hospitals with burns, some of them severe. Outside the home on Wednesday, Andrea Palomo told reporters in tears that she had brought her 15-year-old son to the home to discipline him. But he told her he was mistreated and complained that gang members there tattooed the children, she said. "We have been given no information since last night," Palomo said outside the home, which takes in children who have been abandoned as well as victims of abuse and trafficking. The home is run by the Ministry for Social Welfare and the attorney general for human rights decides whether children are placed in the home or not.  Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/90223174/19-die-in-fire-at-guatemala-orphanage
Foster parents accused of sexually assaulting, torturing and strangling 11 kids in their care, including toddlers Foster parents accused of sexually assaulting, torturing and strangling 11 kids in their care, including toddler Daniel Spurgeon and Jenise Spurgeon have been charged with hundreds of horrific sex crimes By Emma Foster 9th March 2017, 12:13 am Updated: 9th March 2017, 1:57 am  A FOSTER couple have been accused of sexually assaulting, torturing and strangling 11 kids in their care – including toddlers. Florida couple Daniel Spurgeon and Jenise Spurgeon have been charged with hundreds of horrific sex crimes against children, 1 Foster parents Daniel and Jenise Spurgeon are accused of hundreds of sex crimes against kids in their care They have been accused of abusing 11 children who were either fostered or adopted by them when they lived in Alabama and committing incest. Daniel Spurgeon has been charged with 115 counts of first-degree sex abuse, 122 counts of child abuse and four counts of sexual torture. He also stands accused of raping, strangling and suffocating the children.  The adoptive dad also faces 115 counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes, six counts of incest and 11 counts of first-degree human trafficking. His wife Jenise has been charged with 100 counts of child abuse, human trafficking, endangering the welfare of a child and enticing a child for immoral purposes. Police said there were 11 victims in total and they were aged from “toddler-age to mid and upper teens.” The crimes allegedly took place while the couple lived in Florence, Alabama, before they moved to Cape Coral, Florida in 2015. The Spurgeons are currently in jail in Florida on other charges but will be extradited to Alabama.  Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3045816/foster-parents-accused-of-hundreds-of-sex-crimes-against-kids-as-young-as-toddlers/
Woman accused of sex assault, corrupting minors at center for troubled youth Updated: Mar 16, 2017 - 8:35 AM 0  Woman accused of sex assault, corrupting minors at center for troubled youthhttp://on.wpxi.com/2nGd7Xr A 31-year-old woman is accused of sexually assaulting two teens at a treatment center for troubled youth where she worked.   Kelly Zawodniak is charged with institutional sexual assault and corruption of minors in connection with two incidents.    Officials said Zawodniak had only worked at Adelphoi Village in Latrobe for eight days when the alleged crimes took place. During that time, police detailed the encounters and interactions she had with at least two teens.  Source: http://www.wpxi.com/news/woman-accused-of-sex-assault-corrupting-minors-at-center-for-troubled-youth/502962320
Alabama state lawmaker seeks crackdown on troubled youth programs after ABC News report By BRIAN EPSTEIN Close Follow on Twitter More from Brian Brian Ross Close Follow on Twitter More from Brian Mar 17, 2017, 9:29 AM ET Share Email Star PlayABC News WatchUndercover at a so-called gay conversion camp Share Email In the wake of an ABC News 20/20 investigation, a key Alabama lawmaker is pushing for a crackdown on unlicensed religious youth programs that use brutality against “troubled teens,” including gay teens. “The display that you showed on television, I think, really brought this home to a lot of people,” said Republican state representative Steve McMillan, who has introduced legislation requiring closer supervision of such programs. “I’ve talked to a lot of people that just did not believe the circumstances,” McMillan said of the ABC News report which detailed allegations from teens who said they were beaten and abused at programs. Two so-called Christian pastors and a third person were sentenced to 20 years in prison last month after being found guilty of child abuse at a facility that operated in Mobile and Pritchard, Alabama. Under the state’s Religious Freedom law, such programs had been exempt from state inspections. Under legislation proposed by McMillan, state officials would be able to conduct unannounced inspections, and teens would have the right to speak privately to investigators and to their parents or guardians. McMillan said he believe the law has broad support from legislators and mainstream religious groups that feel something needs to be done about unlicensed programs with records of brutality or violence in their state. “They’ll either go out of business or shape up and do the right things,” said McMillan. The director of the non-profit Youth Reach Gulfport in Alabama welcomed the proposed legislation. “Juvenile facilities need accountability,” said Richard Crawford, who decried the child abuse documented in the ABC News report. “Especially programs that are seeking money for their services,” he said. “That’s when things often get twisted here with these ministries if there is no accountability.” The state representative praised the efforts of a retired Alabama police captain, Charles Kennedy [HEAL Alabama Coordinator], who has campaigned for years against the unlicensed programs. “I guess you could call him a persistent angel, because his heart’s in the right place, he really feels strongly about this, and without his persistence it would never have come to pass,” said the legislator.  Source: http://abcnews.go.com/US/alabama-state-lawmaker-seeks-crackdown-troubled-youth-programs/story?id=46181915
14-year-old who streamed her suicide on Facebook suffered years of sexual and physical abuse WITW Staff 03.16.17 Naika Venant (Facebook) An inquest into the death of Naika Venant, a 14-year-old foster child who broadcast her own suicide by hanging on Facebook, has revealed that the teenager had been sent to more than 14 foster homes and endured years of sexual and physical abuse. According to a report released by the Florida Department of Children and Families on Monday, Venant’s relationship with her allegedly abusive mother Gina Alexis may also have played a tragic role in her death. “Despite everything that had occurred between Naika and her mother, Naika longed to be home,” the report said. “Naika often told her therapist that she greatly missed her mother and really wanted to go back home.” The report detailed a number of disturbing incidents, including a case when 4-year-old Naika was left unattended by a male baby-sitter without food or running water. The next year, the child welfare agency was contacted after Naika was sent to the emergency room with an undisclosed chronic health condition. Alexis, reportedly, had called her daughter “a liar and a faker.” When Naika was 6, the report found that Alexis had beaten her with a belt for being sexually aggressive with another child. According to Naika’s therapists, the child told them that she slept in the same room as her mother’s boyfriends and watched “sex movies.” At the age of 11, Naika reportedly ran away from home out of fear of being beaten by her mother. Alexis then refused to take Naika back, telling investigators that she would beat her if they insisted on returning the child to her. Against the recommendations of caseworkers and Naika’s court-ordered lay guardian, a Miami judge ordered the girl returned to her mother two months later. Last April, Alexis returned custody of Naika to the state — reportedly because she’d had enough of the child’s “behavior.” Naika hanged herself with a scarf on January 22 in the shower stall of her latest foster home, streaming the horrific scene on Facebook Live. The report concluded that mental health professionals had failed Naika by not sufficiently treating the trauma caused by her abuse and her failed relationship with her mother. A lawyer for Alexis has questioned the veracity of the report, describing it as “an apparent whitewash of the systemic failures” of the care system.  Source: http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2017/03/16/14-year-old-who-streamed-her-suicide-on-facebook-suffered-years-of-sexual-and-physical-abuse/
How Unaccompanied Youth Become Exploited Workers in the US Sunday, March 19, 2017 By Stephanie L. Canizales, The Conversation | News Analysis font size decrease font size increase font size Print The Trump administration has released a series of executive orders targeting immigration at the U.S. southern border. Central American families and children traveling alone represent nearly half of all unauthorized migrants apprehended by Customs and Border Protection. The criminalization of immigrants at the U.S. southern border disproportionately affects Central American children and youth. Nearly 153,000 unaccompanied Mexican and Central American children have been apprehended at the U.S. southern border since 2014. Of those detained by Customs and Border Protection and processed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, 60 percent have been reunited with a sponsor, typically a parent. The other 40 percent are placed with a nonparent sponsor. With the guidance of a parent or guardian, these youths might obtain financial, legal, health and social support. Others who enter without detection and remain unaccompanied when they arrive in the U.S. are financially independent and may never gain access to formal resettlement services. Recent orders by the Trump administration that prioritize unaccompanied child migrants for deportation heighten the vulnerability of immigrant children in the U.S. Since 2012, I have conducted in-depth observations and interviews with undocumented immigrant youth who arrived in Los Angeles, California as unaccompanied minors and have remained without a parent throughout their settlement in the U.S. I use pseudonyms for confidentiality as research participants are migrant youth living and working in the U.S. without authorization. Pundits and scholars tend to frame immigrant youth as students and adult migrants as workers. However, being unaccompanied at settlement requires youth to become financially independent and take up low-wage occupations to make ends meet. My ongoing research shows that unaccompanied migrant youth face labor exploitation and suggests that Trump's orders exacerbate the precarious work conditions of unaccompanied immigrant youth workers in the U.S. Workplace Violence Undocumented working youth migrate to Los Angeles in hopes of working to support their families who remain in their home countries. They come to the U.S. with low levels of education and English language fluency. Romero arrived in Los Angeles from Guatemala at the age of 15 and immediately began looking for work in downtown LA garment factories. In an interview, he recalled: "The bosses would tell me, 'do you have experience?' I would say yes. And they would say, 'you are a child still. Go to school.' But I thought, 'yes I would like to go to school but no one is going to [financially] support me. Just me. Who else? It's me by myself.'" Unaccompanied minors like him enter industries such as garment production, service, construction and domestic work. Youth working in the garment industry often make a median of US$350 in wages per week for more than 60 hours of work. Undocumented youth garment workers spend hours in dimly lit factories where shop owners often leave doors and windows locked throughout the work day to remain discreet and avoid workplace inspection. The lack of ventilation, heat and loud noises from factory machines, and strenuous work schedules physically and mentally exhaust youth who are then unable to attend school due to headaches, eye tension and back pain. Much like with their adult coworkers, economic necessity and fear of removal from the workplace and the country keep undocumented migrant youth workers quiet in cases of exploitation, and docile and efficient on the job. For example, three young workers at the same factory told me the story of a young Salvadoran woman who was pushed to the shop floor by the factory manager for incorrectly sewing the seams on a batch of dresses. They sorrowfully recalled their inability to help her out of fear of losing their jobs. In early February 2017, the Department of Homeland Security conducted "a series of targeted enforcement operations" in workplaces and neighborhoods across 12 states that led to the arrest of 680 immigrants. Raids in today's immigrant destinations, including Los Angeles, increase the hostility that workers must navigate in already precarious occupations. Research shows that deportation can have detrimental mental health effects on children and lead to financial hardship among families. In 2008, the largest workplace immigration raid in U.S. history impacted hundreds of Central American workers, including minors. These actions can further mental health and financial instability in the lives of child migrants. Overcoming and Giving Back In the last four years, I have encountered youth who have been entangled with drug and alcohol addictions, experienced bouts of homelessness or toiled in depression and anxiety as they searched for ways to cope. Far from being the "bad hombres" Trump describes, youths' desires to overcome these circumstances permeated our conversations and organized their daily lives. In fact, many see their tenacity in enduring workplace violence as a marker of their commitment to their families and communities. "I didn't come here with a bad intention. I didn't come here to be a burden," says 22-year-old Berenice who arrived from El Salvador at the age of 17. A 19-year-old Salvadoran man explained, "People say Central Americans are gang bangers but we all come here with a dream. We want to help our families. There aren't jobs over there and we come here to work. We are not selfish. We want to help." These young people participate in various community organizations such as churches, book clubs, support groups and recreational sports teams. A 25-year-old Guatemalan man who has lived in the U.S. for nine years said: "What is important here is that we stay united and we support each other. We all want to be helped and to also help. Like in my case, the way someone lent me a hand, I want to lend it to others. That's how I overcame [my trauma]." Young people construct moral identities based on work, participating in the local economy, giving back to their local community via organizational involvement and community service. They also demonstrate a commitment to their transnational community. A 24-year-old man who arrived in Los Angeles at age 16 gave up attending English classes at an adult language school to remit a few extra dollars to his family abroad after his youngest brother expressed a desire to migrate to the U.S. to attend school. "No quiero que venga a sufrir aca," he said, "I do not want him to come here to suffer."  Source: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39903-how-unaccompanied-youth-become-exploited-workers-in-the-us
Ex-Springfield teacher sentenced for sexually abusing teen in her foster care Ex-Springfield teacher sentenced for sexually abusing teen in her foster care Giacomo Bologna , GBOLOGNA@NEWS-LEADER.COM Published 4:53 p.m. CT March 10, 2017 | Updated 4:54 p.m. CT March 10, 2017 Jessica Jones(Photo: Greene County Jail) 378 CONNECTTWEET 5 LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTEMAILMORE A former Springfield teacher convicted of statutory sodomy said in court Friday that she made mistakes, but it was the then-14-year-old former student in her foster care who initiated physical contact. Jessica Jones, 33, was sentenced to five years in prison for sexually abusing the teen between 2013 and 2015, though Jones could be out of prison in as few as 120 days if she successfully completes a stint in a sex offender’s unit. The assistant prosecuting attorney described Jones’ behavior as predatory and called it “disgusting” that Jones and her lawyer argued Jones was “seduced” by the victim. "This was not an isolated incident," said Dawn Diel, the prosecuting attorney. Jones, in a statement to the court, said she had tried to provide a welcome atmosphere for the troubled girl but was drawn into a relationship with a teen much more mature than her age indicated. “She didn’t speak or act like a typical teenager,” Jones said. As Jones and the girl became closer, Jones said she and her partner of six years broke up. When Jones and the girl visited Jones’ parents, Jones said there was only one bed available, so they shared it. "I crossed the line that night," Jones said. "A decision I will forever regret." Jones said the girl told her she loved her, then kissed Jones and placed Jones’ hands on her. Her attorney, Jason Coatney, said Jones’ behavior was anything but predatory, saying Jones did not want to foster the girl but was worn down by repeated requests. Coatney said that the girl is currently in the custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections for her role in a drive-by shooting. Coatney argued that Jones' crime was one of "opportunity" and that she would not re-offend if released on probation. Jones' mother also testified at the sentencing, telling the judge she had been praying "long and hard about this day." "I truly believe my daughter was targeted by this troubled teen because of her lifestyle choice," Jones' mother said. "My daughter was in over her head ... My daughter's life became a nightmare because of this troubled teen." Jones, who was hired by Springfield Public Schools in August 2006, taught art at Watkins Elementary for nearly all of her nine years with the district. According to a state database that shows assignments, she also worked at Bissett and McGregor elementary schools, Wilson's Creek Intermediate, the former Study Middle School and the Springfield Option Site, a school on the Great Circle campus (formerly known as Boys and Girls Town). Jones was working for the district when she met the girl, a student of hers, according to court documents. It was not clear which school the girl attended at the time. According to court documents, the teen girl requested to be placed in the foster care of Jones, who completed the necessary steps to become her foster parent. The girl moved into Jones' home in May 2013. The documents show police were tipped off about the possibility of an inappropriate relationship between Jones and the girl in 2014. In July 2014, the girl was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center but didn't disclose any information. Days later, a second child in Jones' care told interviewers that Jones and the other girl slept in the same bed and visited an adult entertainment store to purchase pornography. The second child also told interviewers she had found photos on a phone of Jones and the victim kissing. The phone was collected by a police detective, but the investigation was suspended — before the phone was checked — because of "conflicting information," according to court documents. A year ago, a new police report was made by a Children's Division investigator after the victim disclosed she was involved in a sexual relationship with Jones. A short while later, police obtained a warrant to review the seized phone and discovered photos of Jones kissing the girl, which corroborated the account of the second child, the documents showed. According to court documents, the victim told investigators during a June 9, 2015, interview that she lied in the previous interview because she "felt she had nowhere else to go and she did not want Jessica to get in trouble." Documents show the teen also alleged the following: • Jones had sexually abused her since she was 14. • The first incident of sexual abuse occurred in July 2013, after she and Jones had been drinking together. Jones performed oral sex on the victim, and the next morning Jones asked her if they were "together." • The victim said the two had performed oral sex on each other "so many times she could not remember." She said the last time was in May 2015. • The victim said Jones had told her that if someone found out what happened between them, "I'd probably go to prison because of statutory rape." • The victim also said she smoked marijuana with Jones and in one instance was given $80 by Jones to purchase marijuana. Source: http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/crime/2017/03/10/ex-springfield-teacher-sentenced-sexually-abusing-teen-her-foster-care/99026412/
After Two Suicides In 60 Days, Lawyer Says Florida's Privatization Of Foster Care Is A Failure By Rowan Moore Gerety • Mar 10, 2017 TweetShareGoogle+Email Naika Venant Facebook A preliminary hearing was held Thursday in the case of Naika Venant, the 14-year-old girl who broadcast her suicide on Facebook Live  from her Miami Gardens foster home earlier this year. It was the second suicide of a teenager in foster care overseen by the agency Our Kids in less than 60 days. In December, 16-year-old Lauryn Martin hanged herself with a scarf in her room at the Florida Keys Children's Shelter on Plantation Key. Howard Talenfeld, a lawyer representing Naika Venant's biological family, says it’s just the latest evidence that the state’s move to privatize foster care isn’t working. "It’s the Department of Children and Families that gives the job to a contractor like Our Kids, and they contract out with case management agencies," he says. "We’re seeing kids that just aren’t in the right kinds of placements, don’t receive the right kinds of services. In her case, she wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the internet." Talenfeld says it’s too early to say what legal remedies the family might pursue to avoid another death like Naika’s. "We’re trying to get at the truth. Until we know what the truth is, we couldn’t even begin to try to determine what’s appropriate," he says.  Talenfeld says it’s been 40 days since his firm requested relevant records from DCF and Our Kids, and it hasn't gotten anything yet. "We’re hopeful that this kind of information becomes available very soon so that the Florida Legislature can hear more than the fact that ‘this kid was just a kid we couldn’t help.’ " Representatives of DCF and Our Kids did not respond immediately to requests for comment. Source: http://wlrn.org/post/after-two-suicides-60-days-lawyer-says-floridas-privatization-foster-care-failure
Federal judge in Texas foster care suit scolds CPS leaders for withholding information Filed under Child Protective Services at Mar 17 Share Facebook Twitter Email Written by Robert T. Garrett, Austin Bureau Connect with Robert T. Garrett On Twitter Email Get Daily Dallas News Headlines Don't miss a story. Like us on Facebook. Like Dallas News' Facebook Page Get Unlimited Digital Access Your first month is less than a dollar. $0.99for first 4 weeks Subscribe Now AUSTIN — The federal judge in a lawsuit over Texas foster care has chided state officials for rebuffing information requests and has vowed to stick to her previously stated timetables for fashioning remedies that will overhaul the system, two plaintiffs' lawyers said Friday. In her Corpus Christi courtroom Thursday, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack flashed with irritation over the Department of Family and Protective Services' refusal to supply requested information to her two special masters in the case, the lawyers recounted. Department spokesman Patrick Crimmins, though, downplayed the disagreements. U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack "We have worked cooperatively with special masters and will continue to do so," he said in a written statement. Plaintiffs' lawyers Lonny Hoffman of Houston and Marcia Robinson Lowry of Chappaqua, N.Y., said that during a 90-minute status conference, Jack pressed state lawyers to explain why the department hasn't responded to queries about foster children's computerized case files, medical records and policies on how to handle abused children who are sexually aggressive. "The special masters sent them interrogatories that were very specific, saying things like, 'Do you have a policy on this?' and 'Where in the record does this appear?'" said Lowry, who has led class-action suits against many states over their foster care systems. "On some of those issues, [state lawyers] said, 'We don't think we have to deal with that. We haven't been ordered to do so yet," she recalled. Hoffman, a civil procedure professor at the University of Houston Law Center who has advised the plaintiffs' lawyers in the case, said Jack was upset over some of the state's latest replies to special masters Kevin Ryan and Francis McGovern. The responses "looked as though the state was at least partially stonewalling and hiding behind legalistic objections," Hoffman said. "And she was none too happy about that. She made it clear that she has firm deadlines in her interim order that she expects to keep." Jennifer Speller, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Ken Paxton, declined to comment. Crimmins emphasized that Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature "have made CPS and foster care an urgent priority." In December 2015, Jack ruled that the state's long-term foster care arrangements are "broken" places where "rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm." In a final set of remedies she perhaps will issue this summer or fall, Jack is expected to demand that the state hire more Child Protective Services foster care caseworkers and spend more to make sure it has contracts with a wider array of vendors who will house and help foster children. Abbott, Paxton and GOP legislative leaders have criticized Jack for overreaching. They have said the state was making improvements and argued the suit was an unnecessary infringement on state's rights. Since December's emergency CPS funding request that Abbott and the legislative leaders approved, CPS has begun adding 105 more of the "conservatorship caseworkers." This week's tentatively approved budgets in the budget-writing committees of both chambers would add hundreds more. They also would provide some additional money for rolling out a new procurement method known as "foster care redesign." At Thursday's conference, Jack said "she was waiting to see what the Legislature winds up doing," Lowry recounted. The judge may hold another status conference, possibly in Dallas, shortly after lawmakers adjourn May 29, according to Lowry, Hoffman and Crimmins. Jack asked for a courtroom demonstration of CPS' databases affecting foster children, Lowry said. "The computer system is chaotic," she said. "It takes quite a lot for a caseworker to find things. Sometimes, they absolutely can't." Crimmins said the database "is admittedly an out-of-date system, but modernization is already underway and the system is more user-friendly for caseworkers." On Thursday, Protective Services Commissioner Henry "Hank" Whitman testified before Jack. "The judge indicated she was impressed with the commissioner's commitment," Crimmins said. Jack complimented him, Hoffman and Lowry said. But they said she expressed frustration over how lawyers for Paxton and the department continue to vow to appeal. "The lawyers for the state and the AG's office are continuing to fight us at every turn," Hoffman said.  Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/child-protective-services/2017/03/17/federal-judge-texas-foster-care-suit-scolds-cps-leaders-withholding-information
Committee forming to fight group homes KATHLEEN MOORE kmoore@poststar.com Kathleen Moore Mar 18, 2017 5 Buy Now Kathleen Moore, kmoore@poststar.com Brian Underwood presents his committee idea to the Washington County Board of Supervisors on Friday. prev next FORT EDWARD — A Washington County man is starting a committee to fight the proposed Brand New Beginnings homes for troubled youth. “This committee has the power and authority to deny or revoke the operating license of any organization that is a direct threat to the citizens it represents,” Brian Underwood told the Washington County Board of Supervisors on Friday. The Brand organization wants to house 24 teenagers in two homes, in Jackson and Salem. They would attend the Salem and Cambridge school districts. The teens would have committed sexual offenses, started fires or have addictions. To fight the proposal, Underwood plans to hold a public hearing on the issue “before May,” and asked the county to arrange the venue and announce the time and place. Supervisors were generally receptive to his complaints about the group homes, but officials weren’t able to find any way in which a committee could revoke a state license. Underwood declined to explain his reasoning. He acknowledged that it wouldn’t be easy to revoke the license. “I assume this is going to be challenged,” he said. But he will even go so far as to file a lawsuit — which he called “federal charges” — against Brand New Beginnings and the state of New York “for clearly violating our community’s constitutional right to public safety,” he said. While he wants to stop Brand New Beginnings, he said he wants the committee to be made up only of people who are not directly impacted by the proposal. That means no supervisors or other leaders from Jackson, Salem and Hebron. “I want this to be clean,” he said. Although no one could find a way in which his committee could actually revoke a state license, District Attorney Tony Jordan said he could use the committee to send letters to the state. The letters could urge the state Office of Children and Family Services to not issue a license for the Brand New Beginnings homes. “Your conduit there will be your state representative,” Jordan said. 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 He also tried to advise Underwood to be careful in how he talks about the group home. Underwood said that youth who run away from the home would be “AWOL criminals.” “They are youth,” Jordan said. “Don’t allow word choices to detract from your important message.” “No, they are criminals,” Underwood answered. Jordan said they would not all be criminals. Some would be younger than 16, and others would have been adjudicated through Family Court, rather than being charged with a misdemeanor or felony in criminal court, he said. Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell praised Underwood’s plan, but also cautioned against words like “criminal.” “I commend him,” Campbell said before telling Underwood directly, “Salem (school district) survives by those Vermont kids coming in. You don’t want to make it sound so bad they pull out. Then you kill the whole school district.” The proposal will probably never get a state license, Campbell added, noting the many holes in the required state application. “They’ll probably never come,” he said. The organization is still searching for an experienced program director who could handle 24 “hard to place” teenagers, including those with sexual offenses, fire-starting tendencies or addictions. Without a director, the homes can’t open. Also needed is a “statement of need in our area,” said DSS Commissioner Tammy DeLorme. The statement might be difficult, since the region rarely needs to place teenaged sexual offenders or fire-starters. The statement has not been submitted yet by the Brand New Beginnings organization, she said.  Source: http://poststar.com/news/local/committee-forming-to-fight-group-homes/article_84774a88-5989-56de-aea2-d11a77e305d6.html
Former group home administrator accused of sexually assaulting residents Posted: Wed 5:04 PM, Mar 22, 2017 ALLOUEZ, Wis. (WBAY) - A Howard man is accused of sexually assaulting residents at an Allouez group home he used to run. That group home provides care for elderly, cognitively disabled individuals. John Vogel is charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of victim intimidation. Court documents indicate three female residents told police Vogel touched them sexually and told them not to tell anyone. He's also accused of grabbing a resident's hand and putting it on his genitalia. The victims said Vogel and his wife Linda suggested the victims would go to jail if they told police. Linda Vogel is also charged with two counts of victim intimidation. John Vogel is due in court next month for his preliminary hearing. Source: http://www.wbay.com/content/news/Former-group-home-administrator-accused-of-sexually-assaulting-residents-416871203.html
Campaign to close Wisconsin youth prison launches Campaign to close Wisconsin youth prison launches Ashley Luthern , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published 3:26 p.m. CT March 22, 2017 | Updated 11:03 a.m. CT March 23, 2017  Thomas Leonard, Program Coordinator, Urban Underground and Juvenile Justice Advocate, speaks at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum.  Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Fullscreen Buy Photo Sharlen Moore, Executive Director of Urban Underground and founding member of Youth Justice Milwaukee, speaks.  Milwaukee NAACP president Fred Royal speaks at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum.  Jeffery Roman, Program Officer of Community Advocates Public Policy Institute and founding member of Youth Justice Milwaukee, introduces the speakers at the event.   Youth Justice Milwaukee advocates alternatives to youth prison Youth Justice Milwaukee is seeking to close the state's juvenile prisons. Sharlen Moore, executive director of Urban Underground and founding member of Youth Justice Milwaukee, says such facilities are "traumatizing" youth and their families. A wide-ranging coalition of community groups and youth advocates launched a campaign Wednesday to close youth prisons in Wisconsin. "We have traumatized our kids by locking them up in these old outdated and obsolete prisons," said Sharlen Moore, executive director of Urban Underground and a founding member of Youth Justice Milwaukee. "We are traumatizing their families and the communities that they live in and it needs to stop." The effort comes while Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, youth prisons located in northern Wisconsin, remain under criminal investigation for child abuse and neglect. The probe has been going on for two years. In January, four inmates and their parents filed a class-action federal lawsuit against state officials, alleging guards used pepper spray excessively and kept teens in solitary confinement for weeks or months at a time. The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. Youth Justice Milwaukee is calling for the closure of youth prisons in the state and replacing those facilities with community-based, family centered, restorative programs. CONTINUING COVERAGE: Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools scandal RELATED: Facing problems, Missouri revamped juvenile justice EDITORIAL: Time to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Such programs, supporters say, have proved to have better success rehabilitating young offenders and cost taxpayers less money than incarceration. Wisconsin spends more than $30 million annually operating youth prisons and 61% of former inmates committed a new criminal offense within three years of release, according to the coalition's analysis of state data. At a news conference Wednesday, a college student named Marcus who had spent 14 months at Lincoln Hills urged local officials to invest in prevention, rather than incarceration. The 19-year-old said he was placed in foster care at the age of 9 months and suffered physical and sexual abuse as a child. Marcus requested to be identified only by his first name. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also does not name victims of sexual assault. When he was placed in another foster home, his guardians tried to find him programs to prevent him from going down the wrong path, but there were none to be found, Marcus said. Instead, he made "poor choices" and ended up in Lincoln Hills. "I never suffered physical abuse," he said of his time at the Northwoods prison. "But what I can say is I watched and had no choice but to stand by as I watched others get verbally abused, physically abused." About 90% of 400 people surveyed in Milwaukee County expressed support for treatment and rehabilitation plans that include a youth's family in planning and services, according to poll data released Wednesday by Youth Justice Milwaukee. Of those surveyed, 83% supported providing financial incentives for states and municipalities to invest in alternatives to youth incarceration; and 73% supported requiring states to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the youth justice system. A state Department of Corrections spokesman said Thursday that youth confined at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake have typically been unsuccessful in community-based programs and the department has invested in improvements at both facilities. The department also has conducted internal investigations related to the allegations and held staff accountable, he said. The coalition is asking people who want get involved to go online to www.youthjusticemke.org. Source: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/crime/2017/03/22/campaign-close-wisconsin-youth-prison-launches/99493470/
Mother claims child suffered years of abuse in foster care Jonathan Bell Published Mar 25, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 25, 2017 at 12:28 am) 3 Comments     Make text smaller Make text larger ShareThis FirstPrev...1...NextLast Related Stories Speech expert helps young develop Toddlers on the ball! Public urged to provide leadership for young Little Seedlings grow love of environment Family services budget down 2% A woman has spoken out after her child was sent overseas for treatment without her consent — claiming the teenager had suffered years of abuse under foster care. “What hurts me most is that it was all kept from me,” said the woman, whose child was placed in the care of her paternal family shortly after she was born. According to assessments provided to The Royal Gazette, the girl developed a host of psychological complaints after alleging a lifetime of bullying, including “emotional abuse within the home”. Her mother said she felt let down by the system of care offered through Child and Family Services, maintaining that instances of neglect and abuse had been swept under the rug. The family cannot be identified for legal reasons. According to a 2002 court order granted as part of her divorce from the father, who lives overseas, a parent’s written approval would be required to send her daughter overseas. “The Supreme Court said that Child and Family Services overrode the restriction on her travelling, but I signed nothing,” she said. Child and Family Service refers clients to facilities in the United States for psychological and educational treatment, and an assessment provided to this newspaper shows a range of problematic symptoms, from stuttering to self-harm, suicidal thoughts and “aggressive behaviour”, that were deemed to qualify for intervention. With limited financial resources, her mother is seeking legal aid to pursue a case against the foster family that she maintains mistreated her daughter. “It’s hard for me to live knowing what happened to her over all those years, and what she’s been through,” her mother said. “I feel betrayed because they didn’t tell me. I could have been there for her.” Source: http://www.royalgazette.com/news/article/20170325/mother-claims-child-suffered-years-of-abuse-in-foster-care
Teens Say This For-Profit Alternative School ‘Feels More Like Prison’ Mar 24, 2017 VIOLENCE, POVERTY AND VERBAL ABUSE: Alternative education for troubled teens is one of the dark parts of the school systems that does not get much coverage. In a report published by Slate earlier this month titled, “This Company Calls its Schools ‘Alternative’ Some Students Say They Are More Like Prison,” Sarah Carr, Francesca Berardi, Zoë Kirsch, and Stephen Smiley (of Columbia University’s The Teacher Project) expose allegations of physical and verbal abuse that have followed for-profit alternative education providers for years. Camelot Education, the for-profit alternative school service provider for the Reading School District in Pennsylvania, is depicted in the report as, “racially biased, isolated, punitive, unnecessarily violent, and designed, above all else, to maintain obedience and control.” Students were occasionally subject to violence for violating the company’s or instructor’s stringent rules, which included things like: “no jewelry, book bags, or using the water fountain or bathroom without permission.” Ismael Seals, who worked for Camelot as a behavioral specialist (and was sentenced to prison for lying about his instructional practices) was documented telling students to, “Shut the f*** up.” He reportedly warned students that the next one to talk would get body slammed through the door—and according to the report—he followed through on his threat by beating up a 17-year-old. Stats in the report disclose that 23 percent of Camelot students are homeless, and 45 percent said they experienced violence in their previous schools that affected them academically. Descriptions of student treatment in the story ring eerily reminiscent of activist complaints surrounding the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Source: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-03-24-teens-say-this-for-profit-alternative-school-feels-more-like-prison
Top disability services provider Lifestyle Solutions investigated over series of deaths Four Corners By Linton Besser, Klaus Toft, Jeanavive McGregor and Alison Branley Updated about 2 hours agoSun 26 Mar 2017, 3:10pm Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek. Australian Broadcasting Corporation ...   Other videos   00:00      00:00  00:00             Other videos Video: WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. Footage shows a fight between two boys at a group home (ABC News) Map: NSW One of Australia's most high-profile providers of disability services, Lifestyle Solutions, is under review by both the Victorian Government and the NSW Ombudsman after a series of deaths of its clients and other alarming reports about the abuse and neglect of some disabled people in its care. Key points: Failings were identified after four patient deaths In one incident, a woman who had her legs amputated was left alone overnight and had no way to seek help Victorian Government cancelled contract with Lifestyle Solutions after complaints The Newcastle-based not-for-profit organisation earned revenues last year of more than $124 million — almost all of it from taxpayers — to care for 1,200 disabled adults and 300 foster children across the country. It was a broadcast sponsor of the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Now, a Four Corners investigation has found that in many cases the care provided by Lifestyle Solutions has been profoundly inadequate. Interviews conducted by the program paint a picture of an organisation which has spent much of the past decade lurching from crisis to crisis, with several of its clients experiencing significant harm as a result of poor care. Some adults and children with disabilities in its accommodation have suffered physical and sexual assault, and others have been hospitalised as a result of serious medication errors. Do you know more? Email besser.linton@abc.net.au In one case, thousands of dollars belonging to disabled clients was stolen by a rogue employee, and in another, the organisation so badly mishandled an investigation into a 2012 assault perpetrated by a member of staff that it prevented the NSW Police from potentially charging the offender. Failures identified in relation to four deaths Deputy NSW Ombudsman Steve Kinmond said the organisation's conduct had been deeply concerning. "We saw enough evidence of significant matters that should not have taken place … to draw a line in the sand," Mr Kinmond said. Photo: Deputy NSW Ombudsman Steve Kinmond said the conduct of Lifestyle Solutions has been concerning. (Four Corners) His office has now demanded sweeping reforms of the organisation. In 2014 alone, in just the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region of NSW, four of Lifestyle Solutions clients died amidst practice failures which were later identified. A fifth death, in March last year, of a man suspected to have overdosed on prescription medication inside a Lifestyle Solutions home in Goulburn NSW will be the subject of an upcoming inquest by the NSW coroner. Key records went missing after patient's death The NSW Ombudsman has already found that the death in November 2014 of one of those clients — Julie Jacobson — was potentially preventable. The 51-year-old woman was morbidly obese and had lost both her legs to amputation, yet Lifestyle Solutions had taken away her overnight care, meaning she had no way to visit the bathroom or seek help for other needs. She died during the night of a heart-attack. Mr Kinmond said there had been a "range of weaknesses" in her care, which "included the failure, more generally, to recognise that this client had very significant health challenges which, if they weren't appropriately addressed … there was a risk of death." "I believe that it's appropriate in terms of my role, to make the judgement call that the practices [with respect to Ms Jacobson's care] were clearly unacceptable," he said. Alarmingly, Four Corners has established that in the days after her death, amidst a flurry of internal panic about what had occurred, critical records — which documented failures in the organisation's care for Ms Jacobson — suddenly went missing. Insiders who spoke to Four Corners on the condition of anonymity said a formal inquiry was conducted by the organisation's own investigators into what happened to the files, before finally a set of documents was handed over to the authorities. Mr Kinmond said when the documents concerning Ms Jacobson's care finally arrived in his office there were a set of progress notes missing— Lifestyle Solutions told him it could not locate them. He said that the documentation he was given was, in any case, evidence of "very significant shortcomings in practice". "One of the concerns that I had in the middle of last year, which caused me to escalate this matter, was the fact that we were, on occasions, receiving a lack of information in relation to critical issues," he told Four Corners. Lifestyle Solutions did not answer questions put to it by the program regarding the provenance of the records it produced. Managers left amid internal investigations Last year at least six senior managers and directors departed Lifestyle Solutions following a series of internal inquiries into complaints about the practices of the organisation. One inquiry examined the circumstances which led to the placement — against internal advice — of a high-risk 13-year-old boy into a western Sydney home who went on to sexually abuse one of his fellow residents. Former employee Milissa Christian told Four Corners that it was just one example of young people in the care of the organisation who have been "physically harmed". "They've lived in what I would describe as a domestic violence situation in services," she said. A 2015 video obtained by Four Corners shows another violent attack inside one of their homes in western Sydney; the video shows a disabled teenager being choked by another client until he loses consciousness and begins having a seizure. Victorian Government contract revoked after complaints Earlier this year, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services revoked a contract with Lifestyle Solutions for the management of one of its three disability group homes in that state, and is now conducting a wider review into the non-profit group. Photo: Martin Foley said the Victorian Government has acted on complaints. (Four Corners) Martin Foley, the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, said: "We've had complaints and we've acted on them". He confirmed that in Victoria its clients had experienced physical harm. There has been repeated instances of insufficient monitoring that has allowed very vulnerable people to go missing from their homes, including in two serious cases in 2009. In one, a profoundly disabled 40-year-old woman disappeared unnoticed during the night from a temporary accommodation facility in a wilderness area in the NSW Hunter Valley, tumbled over a series of cliffs at a 450-metre-high lookout, and was rescued by helicopter the following day. In the other, a 10-year-old girl was killed by a car outside Rockhampton, Queensland, after running away one night from her group home where she had been subjected to repeated violence. In January this year, by sheer luck, NSW Police found two highly autistic teenage boys at 5:00 one morning who were lost, wandering along an unlit main road in western Sydney — one of them was found about 6 kilometres from the Lifestyle Solutions group home where they lived. The carers were unaware the boys had gone missing. Overdose death to be investigated by coroner In March last year a 35-year-old intellectually disabled man, David Veech, died in a Lifestyle Solutions home in Goulburn NSW of a suspected drug overdose. The exact circumstances leading up to his death is to be established by a coronial inquest scheduled for late this year or early next. After being released on parole after a long jail term for serious assault, and despite being known to be a significant abuser of drugs, Four Corners has been told there are concerns Lifestyle Solutions may not have properly restricted his access to prescription drugs on the premises. A spokesman for the NSW Coroner said "care and treatment issues will certainly be explored at inquest". In a statement, Andrew Hyland, Lifestyle Solution's newly-appointed chief executive, said his staff "do very good work" with "some of the most complex and challenging matters". He said that where past investigations had identified shortcomings, "the findings have informed improvements in our policies and procedures". In 2012, a Newcastle Lifestyle Solutions employee, Kim Craig, was convicted of stealing $11,000 from disabled clients living in the organisation's group homes. Lifestyle Solution's previous boss and founder, David Hogg, also resigned midway through last year. In December, the NSW Police charged Mr Hogg with the sexual assault of a 16-year-old woman in 1988, a charge his lawyer says he will "vigorously" defend.  Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-27/disability-service-provider-investigated-over-deaths/8388050
Prosecutor: Home Of LI Foster Parent Accused Of Sex Abuse A ‘House Of Horrors’ March 29, 2017 5:40 PM Filed Under: Cesar Gonzalez-Mugaburu, Long Island, Sophia Hall RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Long Island foster father who took in more than 100 troubled boys over 20 years is on trial on charges he sexually abused eight of the children. In addition to the alleged abuse of the boys, prosecutors also say Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu sexually abused a dog in front of a child. “The kids used to come by but they were never allowed to talk to anybody, probably because he didn’t want them to let the secret out,” neighbor Kathy Stein told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan. Opening arguments began Wednesday on Long Island. The trial could last a month or longer. According to a grand jury report, Gonzales-Mugabaru fostered as many as 140 boys over two decades, despite having 18 separate open child abuse investigations. Prosecutors say statute of limitation laws prevent them from bringing even more charges in the case. Prosecutor Laurie Moroff called Gonzales-Mugaburu’s Suffolk County residence a “house of horrors,” where one of his eight victims was allegedly abused sexually for seven years. “They lived in fear. They were afraid. They don’t function as you and I would function. They have low IQs and disabilities,” she said. Moroff said Gonzales-Mugaburu would punch and threaten his victims is they did not listen to what he said. “It was a horrific place to live,” Moroff said. “Eating on the floor, not allowed to do anything without asking for permission — including going to the bathroom,” Moroff said.  The jury was told the Gonzales-Mugaburu was supposed to be the boys’ savior, but preyed upon them — treating his home like a candy store filled with boys, and more boys — isolating them and threatening them into submission. But defense attorney Donald Mates said the boys are all troubled and they are lying — some for financial gain, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported. “There’s a lawsuit going on, in federal district court, asking for money.” Mates said. Gonzales-Mugaburu was given over $1.5 million in tax-free money for taking  in the foster children. Before his arrest, Gonzales-Mugaburu was the subject of nine previous investigations involving alleged abuse dating back to 1998, according to a spokeswoman for Suffolk County. Each of those inquiries led to a finding that the allegations weren’t credible, and none of them led to the removal of children from Gonzales-Mugaburu’s split-level ranch home in Ridge. Gonzales-Mugaburu has pleaded not-guilty. If convicted, Gonzales-Mugaburu could face up to life in prison. The case against Gonzales-Mugaburu sparked an investigation into New York’s foster care system that found “abysmal” communication among the child welfare agencies involved in placing boys in the home. The children will be called to testify. The jury was also told the boys were forbidden to join after school clubs, play team sports, or have girlfriends. Source: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/03/29/li-foster-care-sex-abuse-trial/
Foster parents from hell: Utah couple accused of hog-tying boy, stuffing him in suitcase for a month by Ellen Killoran March 28, 2017 “This was not reckless …This was intentional,” says investigator 3,668 Shares Tweet A pair of foster parents in Roy, Utah, are facing child abuse charges after investigators discovered their three adopted sons living in unspeakable conditions. According to the Deseret News, Matthew Earl Waldmiller, 40, and Diane Seifert Waldmiller, 41, were arrested late last week, and each were charged on Tuesday with three counts of child abuse. An investigation launched earlier this month found that the Waldmillers’ three sons, ages 7 through 11, had been spending up to 13 hours a day locked in a bedroom with no light, no food or water, and no linens on their twin sized mattresses. According to charging documents obtained by the Deseret News, the boys, who were reportedly adopted in October 2015, were routinely locked in a room overnight, with the younger boys forced to wear diapers. The 11-year-old boy described additional instances of abuse — including being stuffed in a suitcase for a month — to the investigators: The 11-year-old disclosed that he and his brothers are given ‘night pills’ to sleep. He stated that he and his brothers have been hit with a 2×4 piece of wood on the ‘butt.’ He disclosed that Diane hits him on the nose and causes it to bleed. He stated he is not allowed to drink after 6 p.m. He further described that he was zip tied in a ‘hog-tie’ style and put in a suitcase for a month period of time. The other boys also reported being restrained with zip ties that functioned as handcuffs, and having duct tape placed over their eyes and mouth. One of the boys said he was forced to perform exercises in order to earn food. Roy Police Sgt. Matt Gwynn told the newspaper the investigation began after the Utah Division of Child and Family Services received a neglect complaint on March 17 and alerted authorities. Investigators reportedly responded right away and visited the home, where they found the three boys to be suffering from serious neglect: All three were underweight and not being properly fed. Advertisement The boys reportedly told investigators that at one point, they had escaped the bedroom though a window to go searching for food in dumpsters. Investigators told the newspaper that the parents punished them by serving them rice that was intentionally over- seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper. The window the boys escaped from was locked and painted black. It was the only window in the bedroom, and the light fixture did not have a bulb. “This was not reckless. It was not negligent,” Sgt. Gwynn told the newspaper. “This was intentional. The Waldmillers have reportedly had an active foster care license in Utah since 2013. A 2-year-old foster child, a girl, was living in the home at the time of the arrest, and did not exhibit any signs of abuse or neglect. “We think this might have been ‘discipline’ directed at the boys,” Sgt. Gwynn said, “but we really don’t know what the motivation behind this is.” The Waldmillers reportedly admitted in police interviews to locking the boys in the room for an extended period, covering their faces with duct tape, and tying their wrists together with zip ties. All four of the children, including the 2-year-old girl, have been removed from the home.  Source: http://www.crimeonline.com/2017/03/28/foster-parents-from-hell-utah-couple-accused-of-hog-tying-boy-stuffing-him-in-suitcase-for-a-month/
Documentary on Florida’s troubled foster care system draws big St. Pete crowd Les Neuhaus10 hours agoMarch 30, 2017 Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Pinterest A new film focusing on Florida’s troubled foster care system drew a large crowd at a screening in Gulfport Wednesday night. ‘Foster Shock’ is a documentary highlighting the ills of the state’s child welfare system showed how a government body had completely turned over the responsibility and care of children to contracted, for-profit companies, who, in turn, contract out the work to other companies, exposing minors to dangers such as violence, drugs, sex trafficking and criminalization. Directed by Mari Frankel and narrated by Tim Malloy, with cinematography by Brian Bayerl, Foster Shock takes the viewer inside the world of foster children after they are yanked from their homes. They screened the movie at Stetson Law School in Gulfport to a packed room. Frankel, who once worked as a Guardian ad Litem in Palm Beach County, addressed those in attendance, setting the mood for the film. She told the story of the first child she advocated — a 12-year-old boy with special needs who had been sexually abused in his foster home. After she came and got the boy, the caseworker was nonchalantly prepared to put the young man back in the same home. That didn’t happen, Frankel said, but soon after that, another child was placed in that home and was sexually abused, even though Department of Children and Families staff knew of the earlier sexual abuse. “We need to raise the bar, and we need to raise the bar high,” she said. “We need to know that we can make a change. I know it doesn’t take legislation to be caring, to be loving.” Sometimes the parents screwed up or are abusive. Sometimes, children are just prematurely or wrongly removed from their homes. No matter what, they often wind up being placed in settings that were worse than where they came from, enduring life-scarring traumas. At one hour, seven minutes, the film follows the stories of several young adults who “aged out” of the foster car system or in a couple of lucky instances, were adopted and allowed to flourish to be who they wanted to be — something they were not able to do in the prisonlike group homes scattered across the state, housing thousands of children due to a lack of housing placements. In the homes, privacy is nonexistent; fights are commonplace; staff abuse is rampant and inappropriately large dosages of psychotropic drugs are forced onto children by staff lacking any kind of credentials. While film does a good job of portraying group homes, it mentions nothing of the murders, killings and ongoing deaths occurring throughout the state on a routine basis under the care of the so-called “CBCs,” or community-based care agencies, like Our Kids of Miami-Dade Monroe, Eckerd Youth Alternatives, Community Partnership for Children, Inc., etc., who continue to have the contracts with DCF renewed, despite the continuing deaths. Meanwhile, filmmakers say CEOs of CBCs are grossly overpaid — as an example, David Dennis, the chief executive officer of Eckerd, made $708,028 in fiscal year 2015. After the screening, four young adults in their late teens and mid-20s fielded questions from a Pinellas County dependency judge, sharing their experiences with the crowd.  Source: http://floridapolitics.com/archives/235013-documentary-floridas-troubled-foster-care-system-draws-big-st-pete-crowd
Hanna Boys Center hit with $2.7 million whistleblower suit | The Press Democrat Hanna Boys Center hit with $2.7 million whistleblower suit PAUL PAYNE THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | March 30, 2017, 2:23PM | Updated 3 hours ago. A Sonoma Valley facility for troubled teens has been slapped with a $2.7 million whistleblower lawsuit by a former clinical director who claims he was fired after bringing to light unchecked bullying by some youths that caused serious safety concerns. Timothy Norman, who served in the role at Hanna Boys Center for 31 years, alleges he was dismissed in November after complaining about a lack of response to several incidents, including one in which a boy was teased in a shower and another in which a youth was violated with a lint brush. After airing his concerns to the center’s board of trustees, Norman claims Executive Director Brian Farragher called him into his office and fired him, telling him “there was no room” in the organization for both of them, according to the suit filed earlier this year in Sonoma County Superior Court. Norman, 71, claims it was retaliation, and is now seeking punitive and other damages. “There was no rigorous system of discipline when boys prey on one another,” said Norman’s lawyer, Vic Thuesen. Farragher did not immediately return calls Thursday seeking comment. Hanna Boys Center, founded in 1945, is a residential treatment center and school for about 100 at-risk boys on Arnold Drive. It is associated with the Santa Rosa diocese of the Catholic Church. Related Stories Makeover gives boost to Sonoma Valley boys center Norman, hired in 1985, oversaw therapists and guided treatment plans, among other things. In his lawsuit, he said his concerns about bullying arose in the months after Farragher was appointed to the top spot in 2014. When nothing was done, he spoke out about campus violence in a series of staff meetings in which he suggested Farragher downplayed the problem. In one meeting he said Farragher threatened staff members with dismissal, saying, “If you can’t get on board, get off the bus.” Soon after, Norman contacted board chairman, Jack Bertges, and was hit with a three-day suspension for “back-channeling” complaints, the suit said. His concerns continued over the next two years until October when the board convened a special meeting to address safety issues. Norman was asked to speak candidly about what he saw, he said. Farragher, responded, minimizing the shower and lint brush incidents, in an attempt to cover-up what was happening, Norman claims. Twenty-four days later, Norman claims Farragher summarily fired him. Hanna Boys Center has been cited over the past year for a number of violations including operating a facility with an incorrect staff-to-student ratio. In December, it received a citation after a counselor was found to be having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a boy. The counselor was fired, according to a report from the Community Care Licensing Division of the state Department of Social of Services. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne. Source: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6834848-181/hanna-boys-center-hit-with
Records: Embattled agency paid Sara Packer to work as foster parent and case manager By Jo Ciavaglia, staff writer Jo Ciavaglia 23 hrs ago 0 Buy Now William Thomas Cain Sara Packer leaves her arraignment Sunday, January 8, 2017, in Newtown. She is accused of conspiring with her boyfriend Jacob Sullivan, to rape and kill her daughter Grace Packer, dismembering her body and dumping her remains in a wooded area of Northeastern Pennsylvania, some 100 miles from where Grace lived in Abington Township. A private, for-profit child welfare agency allowed a former Abington woman accused of murdering her daughter last year to provide foster care services for children in its custody while the woman was also an agency employee, this news organization has confirmed. While state Department of Human Services regulations do not prohibit employees of licensed child welfare agencies from providing foster care services for agencies they work for, potential financial conflicts of interest require the agency to get a waiver and state permission first. DHS has no record of a waiver for Sara Packer that would have allowed her to provide foster care services while she also was employed at The IMPACT Project Inc., of Emmaus in Lehigh County. In the last five years, the state has given only three approvals to county agencies to allow employees to act as foster parents to children in the agency’s custody, according to DHS spokeswoman Rachel Kostelac. Neither Bucks nor Montgomery counties' children and youth departments allow staff to act as foster parents for children in the agencies' custody. Courtney Wagaman, the executive director at IMPACT, did not immediately respond to an email Friday seeking comment.  Packer, 42, of Abington and Richland, and her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, 44, of Horsham, are accused of planning and carrying out the July 8 rape, murder, dismemberment and dumping of 14-year-old Grace Packer, then later filing a missing person report with Abington police. Grace’s remains were found Oct. 31 in a remote section of Luzerne County. Sullivan was formally arraigned Friday on murder, rape and related charges. Sara Packer was formally arraigned in March on murder and related charges, including one that she cashed government checks meant for Grace after the child's death. Both defendants face the death penalty, if convicted. Since the January arrests of Packer and Sullivan, state and county child welfare officials have released limited information about Packer and her ex-husband, David W. Packer, who were licensed foster parents for 10 years. The Packers took in 30 foster children from 11 counties between 2000 and 2010. That included four from Bucks and three from Montgomery, according to information from the state. Twenty-three of those children lived in five counties that contracted with IMPACT for foster care services, including Bucks and Montgomery, according to county and state officials. This news organization filed multiple Right-to-Know requests seeking county records, including ones showing how much money was paid to the Packers for foster care services. In answer to those requests, Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties claimed they had no records of any direct or indirect payments to the Packers during the time frame when they provided foster care. In its response, Bucks County included a claim from IMPACT’s president and CE0, Joseph Abraham, that the agency “simply does not have documentation of payments to the Packer family for either per diem rates or expenses.”  Abraham cited state and federal tax guidelines that require retaining financial records for only seven years, and state regulations that require foster parent and child documentation be maintained for only five years.  “Any number we gave would be a guess and inaccurate,” Abraham said in the response. “Essentially, we don’t have that information.” Delaware County, which had five children placed with the Packers, provided payment information that shows that IMPACT was paid nearly $80,000 between 2000 and 2009 for foster care services provided by the Packers. The information also confirmed that Sara Packer worked as a foster parent for IMPACT while she was a case manager for the agency. Available records state that Sara Packer worked for IMPACT from 1999 to 2002; she and her ex-husband became licensed as foster parents in 2000. In 2004, IMPACT placed Grace Packer — then known as Susan Hunsicker — and her two siblings with the Packers. At the time, Sara Packer was working for Northampton County’s Office of Children, Youth and Families as a case manager and later was promoted to adoption supervisor at the agency. The couple later adopted Grace and her younger brother in March 2007. The Packers also provided foster care services for three Montgomery County children, two Lehigh County children and nine Berks County children, according to the state. Northampton, Monroe, Dauphin, Schuylkill, Tioga and York counties and the state of Delaware each had one child placed with the Packers during that time. In 2010, the state revoked the Packers’ foster care license amid a criminal investigating involving allegations of sexual abuse against David W. Packer, who was charged that year with assaulting two foster children, including Grace. He later was convicted and served five years in prison before he was released in 2015. He is registered as a sexually violent predator with the state’s Megan’s Law registry. He and Sara Packer divorced in 2016. Sara Packer was terminated from her job with Northampton County. The year after the couple lost their foster care license, Sara Packer applied for Social Security Administration benefits on behalf of Grace Packer, according to Berks County records filed in connection with criminal charges against Sara Packer for alleged government check fraud. Packer received a government stipend of $712 per month on behalf of Grace — or $8,544 annually over five years. Packer also collected a $291.02 monthly stipend from Berks County as part of a subsidized adoption agreement, according to court documents. The county stipend provided the Packers another $3,492 a year for almost nine years, until the payments stopped in September. Berks officials have not indicated in available court documents why the payments stopped. Recently, IMPACT has come under state and local scrutiny after allegations surfaced from former foster children placed with the Packers more than a decade ago who claim its workers failed to address abuse claims involving Sara and David Packer. The women — who came forward after Sara Packer’s arrest on murder charges — claim they each told IMPACT caseworkers about the couple’s abusive behavior toward foster children in their care, including Grace. The state is reviewing IMPACT’s current cases, administrative policies and internal oversight, according to a Department of Human Services spokeswoman. Montgomery, Lehigh, Delaware and Northampton counties have suspended foster care referrals to IMPACT. Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services had contracted with IMPACT in the past, but currently does not. The county’s court administrator did not respond to a request about whether the county’s juvenile probation department uses IMPACT. Berks County has contracted with IMPACT since 2001, but generally doesn’t use the agency because it doesn't have foster homes in the county, according to Krista Mclhaney, administrator of Children and Youth Services. The current contract expires June 30 when it will be reevaluated, Mclhaney said, adding that currently the county has no foster children placed with IMPACT. In press releases, IMPACT has insisted it has operated in the best interest, safety and welfare of the children in its care since 1991 and adhered “without exception” to state regulations for reporting any instance of suspected child abuse to appropriate authorities. The agency also has stated it cannot comment on its relationship with Sara Packer, citing confidentiality rules. State records show that IMPACT has routinely passed annual license renewal inspections, the most recent on April 19 and 20. At the time, the agency had 78 children in its care, 41 approved foster care families, and employed 20 staffers. The 2016 review mentioned the agency’s personnel records were “in good condition with excellent training and supervision.”  Source: http://www.theintell.com/news/local/records-embattled-agency-paid-sara-packer-to-work-as-foster/article_123d7bf7-850f-5c92-a1b0-c72859215599.html
DHS group homes are riddled with assault, crime and chaos, officials claim Story Comments (2) Image (2) Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size Previous Next Courtesy Marland Children's Home 1 At Marland Children’s Home in Ponca City, 23 out of 44 residents have been charged with delinquent offenses and police calls have increased 451 percent from 2014 to 2016. Courtesy Courtesy Marland Children's Home 2 Residents play basketball at Marland Children’s Home. The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth has reported a number of problems at group homes for troubled youths. Courtesy Posted: Sunday, April 2, 2017 12:00 am DHS group homes are riddled with assault, crime and chaos, officials claim By Brianna Bailey and Jaclyn Cosgrove The Oklahoman TulsaWorld.com | 2 comments OKLAHOMA CITY — Children who were sexually assaulted after running away from state custody, attacks on staff members and hundreds of calls to police are just some of the problems that the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth claims exist in at least two state-contracted group homes for troubled youths. Lisa Smith, the commission’s director, said her agency has called DHS to address systemic issues that endanger children in state care. “We feel if children are going to be taken from their homes, they need to be provided for,” Smith said. “The state has a duty to provide children good quality of life if we’re going to take them from their home.” Officials at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services said they’ve long been aware of the allegations in the letter that Smith sent DHS in late February, outlining issues at group homes, and they are investigating them. Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/homepagelatest/dhs-group-homes-are-riddled-with-assault-crime-and-chaos/article_36376d86-6be4-51bb-acb6-3449f7f23c33.html
Lawsuit alleges Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused troubled teen in 1980s Originally published April 6, 2017 at 3:13 pm Updated April 6, 2017 at 5:58 pm 1 of 6 Ed Murray, elected Seattle mayor in 2013, is running for a second term this year. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times file, 2016) A new lawsuit accuses Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of child sexual abuse decades ago. Two other men have told The Seattle Times they too were abused by Murray as teenagers in the 1980s. The mayor vigorously denies all the accusations. Section Sponsor Share story By Lewis Kamb and Jim Brunner Seattle Times staff reporters A 46-year-old Kent man sued Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Thursday, claiming Murray “raped and molested him” over several years, beginning in 1986 when the man was a 15-year-old high-school dropout. The lawsuit in King County Superior Court, filed under the man’s initials, “D.H.,” alleges Murray sexually abused the crack-cocaine addicted teen on numerous occasions for payments of $10 to $20. “I have been dealing with this for over 30 years,” the man, now sober for a year, said in an interview with The Seattle Times. He said he was coming forward as part of a “healing process” after years of “the shame, the embarrassment, the guilt, the humiliation that I put myself through and that he put me through.” Attorney for Mayor Ed Murray responds to sexual-abuse allegations Murray vehemently denied the allegations and abruptly canceled a news conference about police reform scheduled for Thursday afternoon. A statement from Murray’s personal spokesman Jeff Reading said, “These false accusations are intended to damage a prominent elected official who has been a defender of vulnerable populations for decades. It is not a coincidence that this shakedown effort comes within weeks of the campaign filing deadline. These unsubstantiated assertions, dating back three decades, are categorically false. Mayor Murray has never engaged in an inappropriate relationship with any minor. … Mayor Murray will vigorously fight these allegations in court.” D.H. is not the first to accuse Murray, one of the state’s most powerful politicians, of sexual abuse that occurred decades ago. Murray, 61, has known of other allegations for years, and has quietly, but vigorously denied them. Subscribe to The Seattle Times Watchdog newsletter Sign up to get exclusive updates and insights from our investigations team. * indicates required Email Address * Two men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, said they knew Murray when they were teenagers and growing up in a Portland center for troubled children. They accuse Murray of abusing them in the 1980s when he was in his 20s. Simpson made the claim as a teenager in 1984, and talked with a social worker and detective at the time. No charges were filed. Both men raised the allegations a decade ago in calls to reporters and Washington state lawmakers, and they repeated them in recent interviews with The Seattle Times, saying they would testify in court if needed. Now, with the D.H. lawsuit, Murray faces a formal public accusation for the first time, and details of the case bear similarities to the earlier allegations. Featured Video The legacy of Linc's Tackle (5:05) Most Read Stories Norwegian launches Seattle-London flights with $199 one-way fares Dozens of University of Washington programs make top 10 in new global ranking Lawsuit alleges Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused troubled teen in 1980s  VIEW Seahawks GM John Schneider on Richard Sherman trade rumors: 'What you've seen lately in the news is real' What luck: We dithered so long, Bertha’s tunnel now makes more sense | Danny Westneat  VIEW 3-course dinners for $32 starting April 2. While The Seattle Times chose not to publish the 2008 allegations, the similarities between those claims and the new public case gave additional weight and relevance to the previous information. Reading’s statement also acknowledged Simpson and Anderson’s accusations: “The two older accusations were promoted by extreme right-wing anti-gay activists in the midst of the marriage equality campaign, and were thoroughly investigated and dismissed by both law enforcement authorities and the media.” Taking action now In his lawsuit, D.H. said he first met Murray on a Metro bus on Capitol Hill, and that Murray invited him back to his apartment, propositioning him for sex. The two haggled over the price — $10 or $15, D.H. said in an interview this week, adding that Murray continued to pay him for the next four to five years, at least 50 times. “And there’s times he would be doing certain things and I would tell him to stop and he wouldn’t stop, and I let it happen because I wanted that money so I can go get those drugs,” D.H. said in the interview. The lawsuit gives details about Murray’s 1980s Capitol Hill apartment, accurately recalls Murray’s phone number from the time, and offers a description of his genitals. Before first paying D.H. for sex in 1986, according to the lawsuit, “Mr. Murray asked D.H. his age, and he responded truthfully, age 15.” Murray was then in his early 30s. Having sex with a child under 16 — the age of legal consent in Washington in 1986 and today — constitutes rape of a child under state law. The statute of limitations to bring any criminal charges based on the man’s claims expired long ago. The civil lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, and notes that D.H. has not previously made “any financial demands” of Murray. D.H. initially took his allegations to Lawand Anderson, a Des Moines lawyer. She has teamed up on the lawsuit with Lincoln Beauregard and Julie Kays with Connelly Law Offices, a high-powered firm that has won major judgments in abuse cases. D.H. said he is taking action now, in part, because his father’s recent death has freed him of a desire to keep the abuse secret. He’s also now getting counseling and participating in addiction-recovery programs. Like D.H., Simpson and Anderson, the two men who lived in Portland, allege that Murray paid them for sex when they were teenagers. Simpson, who is 49, also says Murray — whom he thought of as a father — raped him over several years, starting at age 13, and in later years, paid him. A knock on the door On a recent Sunday, two Times reporters showed up unannounced at the Portland-area apartment that Simpson, now a public roads crew worker, shares with his wife and teenaged son. He appeared surprised, but immediately said he had prayed someone would eventually come knock on his door. “I would really like for him to admit it and to take responsibility …” Simpson said of Murray. “I don’t necessarily think that he destroyed my life but I believe a lot of the problems I have stemmed from this.” Jeff Simpson, seen here in a 1984 yearbook picture, said he knew Murray when Simpson was a teenager growing up in a Portland center for troubled children. (Archive photo) Simpson’s effort in 2007, with support from Lloyd Anderson, to bring a case against Murray fell apart when his lawyer withdrew. A few months later, in March 2008, Simpson started the calls to media organizations and lawmakers in Olympia, spreading the word that Murray, then a state senator, was a “pedophile” who had sexually abused him. Murray denied the accusations to reporters and hired a lawyer, who worked to discredit the men largely based on their criminal pasts. Neither The Seattle Times nor other media publicly reported the allegations, and Murray’s political career continued to rise. Anderson told a paralegal for Simpson’s attorney about his alleged sexual acts with Murray during a 2007 interview and described distinctive physical features. “During these encounters, (he) noticed that Ed had an unusual bump on his penis and bright red pubic hair,” the paralegal wrote in a memo in 2007. In his lawsuit, D.H. described Murray as having “reddish pubic hair and a unique mole on his scrotum — it is a small bump.” In separate interviews, Simpson and Anderson said they were unaware of any forthcoming lawsuit. They said they had not talked with anyone about their own allegations for years. National Sexual Assault Hotline RAINN operates a free and confidential hotline for sexual assault survivors at 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673). There is also an online chat option here. Similarly, D.H. said he didn’t know of anyone else claiming abuse by Murray. His attorney Beauregard said Wednesday he didn’t recognize Simpson or Anderson’s names. “Only parent that I know” Murray, a progressive Democrat whose work in the Legislature made him a champion for gay rights, was elected Seattle’s mayor in 2013. He’s enjoyed a series of successes in his first term, and lately he’s drawn national attention as a prominent face of resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda. He has been considered well-positioned this year to win a second term. Long before he got into politics, Murray, one of seven children in an Irish Catholic family, considered the priesthood. He spent a year at a seminary in 1976 before studying sociology at the University of Portland, a private Catholic institution, according to news profiles. While Murray was in college, Simpson said, he worked with kids at the Parry Center for Children. That’s where they met, said Simpson, who went to live there when he was 6. At age 3, Simpson said, his adoptive parents had abandoned him for setting a Christmas tree on fire, burning the family house. The alleged sexual abuse by Murray began in 1980, Simpson says, when he lived at a group home after leaving the Parry Center, and was allowed to spend the night at Murray’s apartment. Simpson says the two were watching TV, when Murray, then in his mid-20s, began to stroke the 13-year-old’s legs. “Hey … Jeff, can you keep a secret?” Simpson said Murray asked him. Simpson claims Murray told him “you really excite me” and asked whether he could take off the boy’s clothes and touch him. Simpson says he told Murray he wasn’t comfortable, and Murray stopped. But later, Murray pulled off Simpson’s clothes and performed oral sex, Simpson claims. “I told him no, no, no … I don’t want to do any of this,” Simpson said. “I started crying… and we stopped.” The next day, he said, Murray took him back to the group home in Beaverton and asked him not to say anything. Months later, Murray again abused him on an overnight visit, Simpson claims. The abuse, he said, went on for years. All the while, Murray also seemed to genuinely care about his welfare, Simpson said. Murray tried helping Simpson find foster homes, and eventually took him in. “That’s why this is so hard for me,” Simpson said. “He’s the only parent that I know, as messed up as that is.” Simpson said he was about 15 when he went to live with Murray. At the time, Simpson had been running away and getting into trouble at other homes. While living alone with Murray, Simpson claims “the abuse was going on regularly” but with one difference: Murray started paying him for sex. Simpson said he used the cash to buy pot. “I was young” Anderson, 51, says that while he lived at the Parry Center from about 1973 to 1980, he became “best friends” with Simpson and also came to know Murray. In a telephone interview Thursday, Anderson said he left the center at age 14 or 15, to live with a Portland-area couple. He cried when recounting that Simpson later visited him and confided he’d been having a sexual relationship with Murray. “It wasn’t exactly voluntary,” Anderson said Simpson told him. “He was crying.” In 1981 or 1982, when Anderson was about 16, he said he left the home where he’d been staying periodically to live on the streets and do drugs. One day, Anderson said, he had a chance encounter downtown with Murray, who invited him to his apartment in Northwest Portland. Anderson said Murray later offered to pay him $30 and some marijuana for oral sex — and he agreed. Anderson said he would meet Murray at his apartment for sex after that. The encounters continued until Anderson was about 17, he said. Murray paid him from $15 to $30 during each encounter, Anderson said. “Look, the guy took advantage of my situation,” said Anderson, who now lives in Florida. “I was young, I was homeless and doing drugs and everything.” About two years later, in 1984, Simpson said, Murray kicked him out of his apartment following a fight. Simpson said he went back to a group home, where he became angry and depressed, and cut his wrists in the shower. Simpson said he told a group-home administrator Murray had molested him, triggering a police investigation. Despite the alleged abuse, Simpson said he told authorities he wanted to return to live with Murray. Simpson said he was interviewed by police and child-services investigators, but no charges were filed against Murray, who for a time in Portland worked in a public defender office. Representatives for Portland police and Oregon’s Department of Human Services, which oversees child-welfare cases, each said the investigation occurred so long ago, the records would have been destroyed. The only remaining record corroborating the investigation is a “case fact sheet” entry from an old Multnomah County District Attorney’s database. It indicates the DA’s office considered but rejected a felony third-degree sodomy case that identified Murray in May 1984. Simpson admitted he was a bad witness, running away to live on the streets, doing drugs and earning cash as a prostitute. A few months later, Murray moved from Portland to Seattle, records show. While living on Capitol Hill, he worked as a paralegal, according to news accounts. Moving to Seattle In 1986, D.H. claims, he met Murray shortly after dropping out of Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School during his freshman year. He said he was hanging out on Broadway, and Murray, then in his early 30s, “propositioned D.H. for private visits to his Capitol Hill apartment,” the lawsuit contends. Simpson says that around the same time, while he was in his late teens, Murray also was paying to have sex with him in his Capitol Hill apartment. Despite his previous allegations against Murray in Portland, Simpson said he followed Murray north to Seattle. Simpson was mostly homeless then, but at times stayed with Murray. Simpson last month accurately recalled the apartment’s location. He also described where the bathroom and bedroom were in the third-floor unit, much as D.H. described them in his lawsuit. Court records show Simpson was arrested several times in Seattle between 1986 and 1988, drawing theft, weapons and prostitution charges, among others. Simpson often gave aliases during his frequent run-ins with the law. During at least one encounter with police involving a firearms violation, he identified himself as “Jeffrey David Murray,” court records show. He also used Murray’s Harvard Avenue address as his own on court documents during a 1987 credit-card theft and forgery case, records show. “Position of trust” All three of Murray’s accusers have substantial criminal records. D.H. admits to drug addiction and has a long history of criminal convictions and charges, including a prostitution arrest in 1990. He’s now in recovery programs and attends community college, studying to become a chemical-dependency counselor. He said his parents were crack addicts and died of drug overdoses. For years, he said, he has struggled with shame over the alleged abuse. “I tried to commit suicide a couple of times, just because I was disgusted with myself, but I’m past that now,” D.H. said. Anderson, who accused Murray with Simpson in 2007, also abused drugs and alcohol. A registered sex offender, he was convicted in 1998 for several counts of felony sexual contact with a minor. He spent eight years in prison. Anderson said he now lives with his longtime wife, has two grown children and for a time managed a steakhouse. He no longer uses drugs, he said. Simpson has convictions for burglaries, robberies and selling drugs to support his meth addiction. In 1990, he was convicted of armed robbery and served nine years in prison in Oregon. After leaving prison, Simpson said, he continued to sell drugs. He began to get sober after his son’s birth a year later. Court records show he has not had a criminal conviction since 2004. In 2007, as part of his long recovery, Simpson said he felt compelled to go public with his allegations. By then, Murray had served in the Washington Legislature for more than decade. Simpson said he contacted a Portland attorney, and after a lawsuit wasn’t filed, he starting calling news organizations and lawmakers in early 2008. He also said he spoke on the phone with the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, a chief opponent of gay rights (Hutcherson died in 2013). Murray hired a Portland attorney, Katherine Heekin, who distributed Simpson’s and Anderson’s criminal records and attacked their credibility, saying their story was false. Murray paid Heekin more than $10,700 from his surplus campaign funds in 2008, according to Public Disclosure Commission records. Another $8,000 went to a private investigator. Simpson said he understands why no one believed him then. “I get it. I understand, my past is less than stellar,” he said. “… People did think I was nuts and nobody wanted to believe it. But I felt I needed to tell the truth, finally tell the truth.” Sitting his lawyer’s office Wednesday afternoon, D.H. said he didn’t see how Murray would be able to deny the alleged abuse. His attorneys want to question Murray under oath within 90 days. D.H. said he wants Murray held accountable for treating him “like I was just nothing, like I was worthless.” His lawsuit said he “is disturbed that Mr. Murray maintains a position of trust and authority, and believes that the public has a right to full information when a trusted official exploits a child.” Staff reporters Gene Balk, Daniel Beekman and Hal Bernton contributed to this report. Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner. Lewis Kamb: 206-464-2932 or lkamb@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @lewiskamb  Source: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/lawsuit-alleges-seattle-mayor-ed-murray-sexually-abused-troubled-teen-in-1980s/
FOX25 Investigates: State warned years ago about school investigators phoning it in | FOX25 Delivered To Your Inbox Newsletter: Breaking News Morning Headlines Please Wait Thank You for Subscribing! Your newsletters will be arriving soon. FOX25 Investigates: State warned years ago about school investigators phoning it in by: Eric Rasmussen, Erin Smith Updated: Apr 5, 2017 - 11:15 PM 0 Share this with your friends! From To Compose your message FOX25 Investigates: State warned years ago about school investigators phoning it inhttp://fox25.com/2o4RvqI BOSTON - A child advocate sounded the alarm nearly three years ago that school regulators were investigating suspected abuse at day cares and residential schools by phone, FOX25 Investigates has learned. Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen first uncovered in November that state license regulators at the Department of Early Education and Care were “phoning in” investigations of suspected abuse – rather than visiting residential schools and day cares in person. Now, one child advocate tells FOX25 Investigates she raised concerns about the problem in emails to EEC in 2014 – but the agency failed to take action. FOX25 Investigates obtained emails Angela Smith of HEAL sent to the agency, writing that investigators should have interviewed children in person at a residential school facing abuse allegations “instead of asking the program director by phone and leaving the investigation at that.” “I think it’s outrageous,” Smith told FOX25. “In my years of child advocacy, I know that is not how you handle a special victim’s report.” While the Department of Children and Families looks into specific allegations of abuse, EEC licensing inspectors investigate the school programs and day cares where suspected abuse happened. Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen caught up with state Education Secretary Jim Peyser and asked why EEC is still conducting so many investigations by phone. “So, phone investigations, as well as in-person investigations depend on the circumstances,” Peyser told FOX25 Investigates. “There's some judgment that has to be made about how to most effectively follow up on allegations.” But Peyser also said EEC is asking for more money to do more in-person investigations. “Hopefully we'll be able to build more capacity to do more of it, so we don't necessarily have to make choices that are sub-optimal,” said Peyser. Last year, EEC Commissioner Tom Weber told state lawmakers his agency had just five investigators to oversee 9,000 day cares, after-school programs and residential schools across Massachusetts. But Smith says she isn’t satisfied. “Lack of funding is no excuse when children's lives are at risk,” said Smith. FOX25 Investigates uncovered in November that the state agency in charge of overseeing day cares and school programs rarely opens investigations into complaints of neglect and abuse – a troubling pattern uncovered by FOX25 Investigates. And when EEC did assign its school inspectors to look into complaints, FOX25 found that much of the work was done by phone – rather than visiting in person. FOX25 Investigates reported in November that EEC opened nine investigation reports at Chamberlain International School, a residential school in Middleboro, over a year and a half but made just one in-person visit by an EEC investigator during that time. Those reports detailed allegations of abuse, a school staff member meeting “fully naked” with a student and another student “dizzy and disoriented” and hospitalized after taking the wrong medication – all incidents EEC investigated by interviewing the school’s assistant director “via phone.” A spokesman for Chamberlain School sent FOX25 Investigates an email this week saying it “self-reported” all of the cases in question to the state and insists “the proper state agency” – DCF – investigated those cases “on-site.” “Chamberlain International School has faith in the state reporting and licensing agencies,” said the school in a statement. PREVIOUS: FOX25 Investigates: State school investigators phoning it in FOX25 Investigates: State agency overseeing day cares rarely investigates problems   Source: http://www.fox25boston.com/news/fox25-investigates-state-warned-years-ago-about-school-investigators-phoning-it-in/509534221
Group Home Workers Accused of Assaulting Patient With Disabilities Trending Stories 1 Privacy policy | More Newsletters Hamden Police Two group home workers in Hamden are accused of hitting a patient with disabilities with a mop handle, police said.  The director of resident services for ARC of Meriden and Wallingford reported suspicious injuries on a 19-year-old patient that may have been inflicted by two staff members on Jan. 12, according to Hamden Police.  US Launches Missile Strike on Syrian Airfield, Killing 7 Video footage from the group home shows two "direct support staff members", Victoria Dancy, 50, and Melissa Smith, 41, attempting to restrain the victim. The video then shows Dancy and Smith hitting the victim with a broom and mop handle, the police investigation revealed. Later, the video shows the victim lying on her back while Dancy chokes her. After, Dancy is seen striking the victim with the mop handle again, while the victim lays on the floor, Hamden Police said.  After Syria Strikes, US and Russia Spiral Into Confrontation When the victim's mother noticed the bruises, she contacted the Department of Developmental Services.  Dancy and Smith were arrested on April 6 and 7, respectively.  Dancy, of New Haven, was charged with cruelty to persons, assault of a disabled person, strangulation in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree and disorderly conduct. Dancy, who was released after posting bond, is scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on April 20. Smith, of Stratford, was charged with cruelty to persons, assault of a disabled person, reckless endangerment in the second degree and disorderly sonduct. Smith, who was detained on a $25,000.00 bond, is scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on April 20. Source: Group Home Workers Accused of Assaulting Patient With Disabilities | NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Group-Home-Workers-Accused-of-Assaulting-Patient-With-Disabilities-418673843.html#ixzz4dc6OjVPO Follow us: @nbcconnecticut on Twitter | NBCConnecticut on Facebook
Council: Conditions at Teens’ Group Homes Need State Intervention Haverhill Local News 2 days ago Deputy Chief Anthony Haugh Haverhill city councilors say they fear conditions at three group homes for troubled teens and adolescents are reaching crisis proportions, potentially putting neighbors and the young residents themselves at risk. The homes, at 4 and 31 S. Kimball St. and at 230 Liberty St., are run by a Danvers-based nonprofit, NFI Massachusetts, under a contract with the state Department of Children and Families. All three homes are co-ed and serve children ages 12 to 18. In total, they have the capacity to house 42 children, most of whom were removed from their family homes because of abuse and neglect. Deputy police Chief Anthony Haugh told city councilors that the number of police service calls to the three homes have increased over the past few years, and he estimates the number will exceed 700 this year, based on the number of times police have been called to the homes in the last few months. Haugh asked City Council to reach out to the homes’ management, as well as state agencies and officials, to try to find ways to curb the number of calls to police. The deputy chief said the majority of calls, as many as 80 percent, are for runaways. The others are for incidents such as fights or medical situations. Police are concerned about whether the homes are properly staffed and whether residents are being adequately supervised, Haugh said, noting cases of resident-on-resident sexual assault have been reported to police. “This program needs direct intervention from the state,” said City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan. He called for a meeting including Mayor James J. Fiorentini, the city’s legislative delegation, NFI, and top leadership of the state Division of Children and Families to answer to the issues at the homes and find solutions. Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua revived a suggestion he made several months ago that NFI hire security at its Haverhill group homes. Source: http://www.whav.net/cms/council-conditions-at-teens-group-homes-need-state-intervention/
Maltreatment charged in group home client choking death April 11, 2017 Local News A state investigation has determined that there was maltreatment on the part of a group home worker, associated with a choking death of a client. The person who died was a vulnerable adult who was living at the Community Options and Resources group home in Madelia and was brought to the Mankato Pizza Ranch on February 5. While eating, the vulnerable adult, who had a specific dietary plan because of a prior stroke and a lack of teeth, began choking on food. The vulnerable adult pointed to his/her mouth and mouthed that s/he could not breathe.  The group home staff members removed food from his/her mouth, but the vulnerable adult shortly after went limp and later died from asphyxiation. An investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Services determined that there was maltreatment by one of the staff members who brought the vulnerable adult there, because that staff person had been trained in the Heimlich manuever, but never performed it in order to try to save the vulnerable adult’s life. The report says the staff person thought that s/he was not supposed to perform the Heimlich as part of the vulnerable adult’s health care directive, but that was not the case. The directive did call for such action to be taken in the event of an emergency illness/situation. The staff person has not been disqualified from providing direct care services because of this incident, but has been warned that they will be disqualified if there’s another substantiated act of maltreatment. - See more at: http://www.myklgr.com/2017/04/11/maltreatment-by-group-home-worker-in-client-choking-death/#sthash.GuGK7Y4E.dpuf 
­ TX foster care ministry accused of sexual abuse by David Roach, posted Monday, April 10, 2017 (3 days ago) Tags: sexual abuseTexas Baptist Home for ChildrenSBTC FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- A $7 million lawsuit alleges children were "serially sexually abused" and neglected at a Baptist children's home in Texas. The Texas Baptist Home for Children (TBHC) -- an "affiliated ministry" of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention -- did not respond specifically to the suit but told Baptist Press it maintains the highest standards of safety for children in its care. The lawsuit, filed April 5 in Tarrant County civil court, claims seven siblings under age 14 suffered sexual and physical abuse as well as "serious medical and other neglect" in 2013 while under the care of foster parents at cottages owned by TBHC in Waxahachie, Texas. Among the suit's allegations are that TBHC failed to "properly investigate reports of abuse," "perform adequate background checks or follow-ups on foster parents" and "take prompt action against perpetrators." Hal Browne, an attorney representing the siblings, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram three of the male siblings were sexually abused by "other, older children" while the four additional siblings suffered neglect. The plaintiffs are requesting awards "in excess of" $1 million for each of the seven children, according to a copy of the suit provided to BP by Browne. "We don't file lawsuits lightly," Browne told the Star-Telegram. "If we didn't feel the abuse was severe and long-term, we wouldn't have filed the lawsuit." TBHC interim president Randy Odom told BP April 10 he had not been served with the suit yet but noted all TBHC foster parents undergo a "very extensive process" to be licensed. "Our standards go well beyond state standards," Odom said. The suit names the SBTC as a codefendant, noting TBHC is an affiliated ministry of the convention. The SBTC has "representation" on the TBHC trustee board and provides funding to the ministry, according to the lawsuit. The SBTC told BP in a statement it "is aware of the lawsuit, and we pray for a resolution that facilitates the continued ministry of the Texas Baptist Home for Children as they meet the needs of at-risk children and families." Another codefendant is the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, a network of 400 churches listed on the SBTC website as a "related ministry" that "operates" the TBHC. According to the Star-Telegram, allegations in the lawsuit appear to match facts from a previously publicized case in which the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services "found no deficiencies in its own inquiry of" the TBHC. The state recommended, however, that foster parents who cared for two of the siblings "increase supervision and not allow the children to have any unsupervised contact with one another." The Southern Baptist Convention, with which the SBTC maintains a cooperative relationship, adopted a 2013 resolution "on sexual abuse of children" that "remind[ed] all Southern Baptists of their legal and moral responsibility to report any accusations of child abuse to authorities." The resolution "call[ed] upon all Southern Baptists to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in exposing and bringing to justice all perpetrators," urged the use of background checks for ministry staff and volunteers and "encourage[d] all denominational leaders ... to utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse."  Source: http://www.bpnews.net/48650/tx-foster-care-ministry-accused-of-sexual-abuse
$4.5 million awarded in Davis group home neglect case Posted: 04/12/17, 6:45 AM PDT | Updated: 22 hrs ago 0 Comments SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A former resident of a children's group home in Northern California has been awarded nearly $4.5 million after jurors found he was severely neglected by the home's caregivers while living at the facility. The Sacramento Bee reports (http://bit.ly/2p7KWlM) the jurors determined Tuesday that EMQ FamiliesFirst caused the child emotional distress and concealed information from him and his family. The alleged neglect took place at the Davis group home in 2012 and 2013, starting when the boy was 11. The plaintiff's attorney alleged in court documents that the boy had been sexually and physically assaulted while away from the home one night. Advertisement The group home ultimately lost its state license in 2013. It had shed about 100 employees amid allegations of sexual assaults and unsupervised children walking away from the facility. ___ Source: http://www.montereyherald.com/general-news/20170412/45-million-awarded-in-davis-group-home-neglect-case
To help address foster care tragedies, better understand and listen to youth By Christine Gendron, April 14, 2017 Photo by iStock.com Earlier this month, two teenagers in foster care were struck by a vehicle after running away from Child Protective Services (CPS) offices in Houston, where they had been staying because of a lack of appropriate placement options. One, a 15-year-old girl, died from her injuries. The tragic fatality has heightened attention on Texas’ foster care capacity crisis, but it is important to recognize that the issues Texas must address are much broader. Due to challenges with how information was collected and stored in previous years, CPS does not know exactly how many young people who should be in foster care have fled and not returned. The agency does know that 1,068 children ran from care in 2016 and that only 776 of them were located. The whereabouts of the remaining 292 runaways are unknown, but research suggests they are at very high risk of being victimized, particularly by sex traffickers. What should we do about this? We must recognize that housing children in CPS offices is unacceptable. Appropriate funding is needed to address this capacity crisis by supporting an array of quality foster care services that can meet demand for all children, including those with more challenging behaviors who require higher levels of care. Texas legislators have proposed significant funding increases for foster care, and the Texas Network of Youth Services applauds their leadership on this important issue. Additionally, Texas must develop appropriate strategies to prevent and respond to runaways and potential runaways. The Legislature has insisted that CPS find the young people who have run away from care. CPS should absolutely make every effort to do that, but there is a larger problem, too: How will CPS keep them from running again, since this behavior is not unusual for children who do not want to be in care and who have experienced severe physical and emotional trauma? This challenge requires a multi-faceted approach that includes increased training for providers and thoughtful discussion about how the system approaches care. One approach is to create “cultures of care” — climates that recognize past trauma youth have experienced and that work to prevent triggers that cause and escalate challenging behaviors such as running away. For four years, our organization supported the development of cultures of care at a handful of residential treatment centers serving some of the most challenging youth across Texas. Evaluations results show the initiative was extremely successful; most programs substantially reduced their use of seclusion and restraint practices, which are often used to control behaviors but can create more trauma. This initiative can serve as a blueprint for preventing future foster care tragedies: by investing in evidence-based training and support services for providers to create climates that don’t prompt so many runaways. Working collaboratively with youth and valuing their perspectives is another key part of the solution. Young people are telling us something when they run from care, and it is time to start listening. They often know what works best for them and research suggests that allowing youth to participate in decisions about their lives may help them heal. Perhaps youth should be able to exercise more choice regarding their placements, or even be given the choice to “opt out” of foster care placement during their later teen years and instead enter supportive living environments with fewer restrictions and strings attached. These ideas may seem radical, but traditional foster care settings are just not working for everyone, and we risk future tragedies if we don’t adapt. In addition to increasing Texas’ foster care capacity, we must work to better understand and listen to youth in foster care so that we can keep them healthy, safe and on the right path. Source: https://www.tribtalk.org/2017/04/14/to-help-address-foster-care-tragedies-better-understand-and-listen-to-youth/
State foster care system comes under fire during forum State foster care system comes under fire during forum Federico Martinez , San Angelo Standard-Times Published 9:35 p.m. CT April 13, 2017 | Updated 5 hours ago More than 75 percent of reported child abuse cases that occur in foster homes go unresolved in Texas every year, said Houston attorney Chris Porter Chris Porter(Photo: Contributed photo) 6 CONNECTTWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE More than 75 percent of reported child abuse cases that occur in Texas foster homes go unresolved every year because state politicians and government leaders ignore reports by Child Protective Services, said Chris Porter, a prominent Houston attorney who is among several attorneys suing the state for child neglect. Porter was the featured speaker during a “Truth About CPS” community forum Thursday night at Stephens Central Library. The forum was organized by the Tom Green County Democratic Club. “This is currently one of the biggest issues in the state,” said David Currie, chairman of the county Democratic Party. “This state doesn’t do a good job of taking care of our children, and we know why: Poor children don’t have money to donate to political campaigns.” Yetter Coleman, which Porter works for, is one of several law firms in Texas that joined forces and filed a lawsuit in 2014 alleging the state is guilty of child neglect because it has failed to address ongoing problems in the foster care system. The law firms in 2015 won an initial judgement in 5th Circuit Court, but the state has filed an appeal. Porter said his side believes the state will continue to ignore the problems until a federal court orders reform in the foster care system. “There’s always a lot of talk about change during the election season, but then it never happens,” Porter said. “To be clear, we started looking into the problem in 2004 and didn’t take it to court until 2014. In 2015 we got an opinion in our favor. “The state has had at least 13 years to do something, but there have been no changes.” According to research findings that Porter and other attorneys have already presented in court, there are 12,000 children “trapped” in the state’s foster care system, meaning those children have been in the system for more than 18 months with little hope of ever finding permanent placement. National guidelines recommend that each social worker should have 12-15 cases assigned at one time, Porter said. Most Texas social workers have 67 percent to 100 percent more cases than the national guideline. “What that means is they have so many cases that they can’t do their jobs,” Porter said. “The result is our children are being deprived of services.” Attorneys also discovered the state doesn’t keep track of caseloads, even though those numbers are kept and easily available, Porter said. State officials also refuse to acknowledge child abuse incidents that occur in foster homes involving children physically or sexually assaulting other children. Those incidents are tracked by CPS programs throughout Texas, but state officials do not include them in public reports, Porter said. Of the more than 4,000 cases identified by the attorneys’ group in 2013, the state investigated less than 15 of the incidents. The forum comes at a time when both state Senate and