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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.

Poor Discipline: Why Scared Straight Programs and Boot Camps Don’t Help Teens at Risk for Substance Use and Addiction POSTED: 8/2/16 TEENS AND FAMILIES ADDICTION MYTHS Comments(0) For over 30 years, programs like Scared Straight and juvenile boot camps for teens have been used as a way to try and help troubled youth. These programs utilize different methods that revolve around the same basic principle: that instilling a sense of consequence, discipline, fear, and pro-social behaviors in teens struggling with behavioral issues and substance problems will provide them with healthier, more structured lives, and deter them from committing crimes. Yet these programs have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Experts who study the justice system have questioned if they’re truly effective. Additionally, staff members in boot camp programs have been accused (and convicted) of abusing the teens they’re supposed to be helping. The History of Scared Straight and Boot Camps Scared Straight programs started in New Jersey in the 1970’s, and were popularized by the 1978 Academy Award winning documentary Scared Straight!, which followed a group of teens participating in a Scared Straight program. In this film – and in most of the Scared Straight programs – teens who are thought to be at high risk for delinquency are brought to a prison, shown the facilities, and then (often in screams), told by inmates the ways in which they’re destroying their lives by committing crimes and using drugs. These confrontational lessons reflect the inmates’ own experiences. In the documentary – and among many advocates of Scared Straight programs – it is claimed that there are low rates of re-arrest for teens who participate in these programs. In one study, it was suggested that 10 out of 12 adolescents remained offense-free in the three month follow-up. Teen boot camps – military-like training programs frequently located in rural areas – operate in a similar manner. Boot camps often revolve around grueling physical activities and tough discipline, intended to instill a sense of order in adolescents and stamp out non-conforming or oppositional behavior. Developed in Louisiana in 1985, boot camps gained immense popularity in the 1990’s. They were less expensive than putting juveniles in detention centers and thought to be more effective. Most adolescents in the boot camps complete the residential program without incident (i.e., without committing infractions that would have them removed from the program) – at rates as high as 96 percent. By 1995, 30 states had a form of adolescent boot camps for juvenile offenders. According to the Science, They Don’t Work Though a few studies suggested that Scared Straight worked, many others showed less successful results. In fact, research showed that the re-arrest rate after Scared Straight was actually higher than for teens who never participated in these programs. In other words, teens participating in Scared Straight were committing more crimes. The strict discipline provided by boot camps has also been shown to fail the troubled teens they’re supposed to serve. Re-arrest rates are high among graduates of boot camps, and many of these programs were – and continue to be – completely unregulated, without any mental health professionals on staff. There have even been a number of cases of physical and sexual abuse in boot camps and, tragically, a few teens have died while in the program. Some boot camps have been shut down as a result of abuse. By 2009 only 11 states retained boot camps for juvenile offenders. Scared Straight and boot camps fail for the reason they’re supposed to succeed: the threat or delivery of harsh negative consequences. Indeed, teens exposed to Scared Straight programs tend to idealize the structure found in prisons – an element that is often missing from juvenile offenders’ lives. For those attending boot camps, the rough conditions only seem to encourage more aggressive behaviors – obviously not what’s needed for teens already facing the legal system or suffering from a substance or behavioral problem. What You Can Do There’s no quick and easy fix for an adolescent struggling with substance use or a related behavioral disorder. Be proactive when helping your teen, and research what kind of program best suits their needs. There are many effective, safe treatment centers that offer help – but it’s important to make sure they have licensed health professionals on staff, and that the program uses evidence-based practices that take a health-promoting rather than a punitive approach. Addiction is a disease and, like other diseases, it cannot be cured through fear and punishment.  Source: http://www.centeronaddiction.org/the-buzz-blog/poor-discipline-why-scared-straight-programs-and-boot-camps-don%E2%80%99t-help-teens-risk
State accused of segregating Minnesotans with disabilities in group homes Group home system limits options, class action says.  By Chris Serres Star Tribune August 4, 2016 — 9:45am David Joles, Special to the Star TribuneScott Rhude, 33, sat in a field of garbage, reaching for a piece of trash while on a work assignment with a sheltered workshop "enclave" Tuesday, April 28, 2015, near the landfill in Wilmar. Text size comment51 share tweet email Print more Share on:Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Share on Pinterest Copy shortlink: Purchase:Order Reprint Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Minnesotans with disabilities are being forced to live in segregated group homes, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday that asserts that they are cut off from mainstream society and prevented from living in communities of their choosing. In a class-action suit against the state of Minnesota, attorneys with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid allege that the Department of Human Services maintains a “discriminatory residential service system” that funnels individuals with disabilities into nearly 3,500 group homes statewide, where they are surrounded by other people with disabilities and have little control over their daily lives, while depriving them of access to housing options that would enable them to live more independently. Advertisement: Replay Ad Ads by ZINC “People are stuck in these facilities, where they experience isolation, lack of control and an overall helplessness,” said Legal Aid attorney Sean Burke. “It’s no longer good enough.” A spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services declined to comment, saying Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper had not been served with the lawsuit as of late Wednesday. Minnesota has long stood out among states for its reliance on private group homes for adults who may have difficulty living independently. After the state began closing large public mental health hospitals in the 1970s, such small, four-bedroom group homes were seen as a more humane and cost-effective alternative. However, a Star Tribune investigation last year found that many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are sent to group homes against their will, even when they are capable of taking care of themselves. Hundreds are placed more than 100 miles from their families, in settings that leave them isolated from friends, relatives and support networks. The homes are indirectly subsidized through Medicaid, the state and federal health insurance program, which covers the cost of their services. One plaintiff, Marrie Bottelson, 41, is an artist who would like to create an art studio in her own home. However, Bottelson, who has cerebral palsy, has lived in a group home for 13 years where staffing has severely limited her ability to become more involved in the community, the lawsuit states. Because of staffing patterns in the facility, Bottelson is forced to go to bed at 7 or 8 p.m. because there is no other way for her to receive care for her disability. For several years, Bottelson has asked case managers and county workers for help moving into an apartment with her best friend, but has been told repeatedly that there are no options other than her group home. “This is a person who could really be flourishing if she could actually have an apartment and an art studio,” said Justin Perl, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s litigation director. Another plaintiff, Tenner Murphy, 32, has severe physical and cognitive disabilities as a result of a lifelong battle with degenerative brain cancer. Despite this condition, Murphy has developed hobbies, such as archery, and has many non-disabled friends in the community. When he moved to a group home, he was walking on a regular basis, yet the home’s managers made him use a wheelchair because they lacked the staff to assist him when he was unable to walk, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit alleges that such restrictions are a violation of a landmark 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, known as Olmstead, that requires states to ensure that people with disabilities receive services in integrated settings. Under the ruling, public entities are required to provide community-based services when such services are appropriate and when they can be reasonably accommodated. Under pressure from a federal judge, Minnesota last year became one of the last states in the country to adopt a blueprint — known as an Olmstead plan — to expand community-based options for people with disabilities. Under that plan, the state planned to move 5,547 people by June 2019 into more integrated housing and pledged to greatly expand community alternatives for Minnesotans with disabilities, though attorneys allege the state still lacks a detailed plan for how to reduce its overreliance on group homes. “Our clients just want to live where they want and with whom they want, just like people without disabilities,” Perl said. “Unfortunately, the system Minnesota has created for them has needlessly segregated them from the rest of the society.”  Source: http://www.startribune.com/state-accused-of-segregating-minnesotans-with-disabilities-in-group-homes/389129591/
Suit over NYC foster care system continues Hearing on state settlement on Friday Story Comments (1) Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2016 10:30 am Suit over NYC foster care system continues by Christopher Barca, Associate Editor Queens Chronicle | 1 comment Beatings, sexual abuse, neglect and malnutrition. That’s what countless kids in the city’s foster care system have experienced on a daily basis, according to Marcia Robinson Lowry. The executive director of A Better Childhood, Lowry is leading the class action lawsuit filed last July against the city, state and their respective agencies and commissioners that handle the foster care system. Despite nearing a settlement with the state and its Office of Children and Family Services — a fairness hearing, where a judge will consider any opposition to the settlement, is scheduled for Friday — she says the suit against the city continues. But instead of financial compensation, Lowry said all the 10 foster children listed as plaintiffs on behalf of the 11,000 kids in the system are reforms. “New York has some of the worst outcomes for kids in the country,” Lowry said. “Kids in New York City stay in foster care significantly longer than anywhere else in the country and are discharged at a far lower rate.” Some of the reforms being demanded are increased oversight, limitations on care agencies the city can contract with and an attempt to reduce caseloads of overburdened workers. In the proposed settlement with the state, many of those issues have already seen compromise. OFCS Commissioner Sheila Poole has agreed to hire a monitor to identify flaws in the system and cases of mistreatment, in addition to creating quarterly reports about the state of foster care in New York. A research expert will also be hired to review case records and evaluate the safety of foster children. City Administration of Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion, a defendant in the suit, told The New York Times in 2015 that the agency has taken “substantial strides” in reforming foster care in the five boroughs, an initiative that came directly from Mayor de Blasio.  Source: http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/suit-over-nyc-foster-care-system-continues/article_954882d5-e188-5626-b8c8-fdd23c87c6ab.html
Former group home worker faces new assault charge CAROLINE GRUESKIN Bismarck Tribune 5 hrs ago Additional charges have been filed against a former employee of Charles Hall Youth Services who's been accused of having sexual contact with a 15-year-old in the group home. The new charges against Ethmonia Barclay, 25, come as the result of a new interview with the victim. The incidents allegedly occurred about a year and a half ago.  The victim told police in April 2015 that he and Barclay had sex at the home. That story was corroborated by statements from other residents, according to an affidavit filed in the original case.  While preparing for trial, the victim told authorities about additional encounters between him and Barclay, according to a brief filed by Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Marina Spahr. The teen was then interviewed at the Sanford Children's Advocacy Center in May 2016, where he reported incidents of inappropriate touching, according to an affidavit filed in the newer case. Advertisement (1 of 1): 0:02 Pause Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Remaining Time -0:00 Stream TypeLIVE Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% 0:00 Fullscreen 00:00 Unmute Playback Rate 1 Subtitles subtitles off Captions captions off Chapters Chapters All of the alleged incidents took place from March 25, 2015, to April 14, 2015, when Barclay was employed at Charles Hall, according to the court documents. Barclay was responsible for supervising kids in the group home at the time.  Barclay was initially charged in May 2015 with corruption or solicitation of minors. Now she also faces charges of sexual assault and sexual abuse of wards. Barclay could face a maximum of 15 years in prison, if convicted. The cases have been joined, and she is scheduled to go to trial on all charges on Oct. 11. Barclay's attorney declined to comment on the case. Three calls and an email to Charles Hall Youth Services were not returned Friday. Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at caroline.grueskin@bismarcktribune.com  Source: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/former-group-home-worker-faces-new-assault-charge/article_4810d4fe-04db-5b9d-96e7-c5f7307feeba.html
THE DRUG DOCS California’s top foster care prescribers are fueling the medication of vulnerable kids. Now, lawmakers are on the cusp of reining in the practice Story by KAREN DE SÁ and TRACY SEIPEL Photographs and video by DAI SUGANO  PUBLICATION: AUGUST 7, 2016 THE DRUG DOCS California’s top foster care prescribers are fueling the medication of vulnerable kids. Now, lawmakers are on the cusp of reining in the practice Story by KAREN DE SÁ and TRACY SEIPEL Photographs and video by DAI SUGANO  PUBLICATION: AUGUST 7, 2016 PART 6 of 7 F or years, few questioned how doctors treated the emotional trauma of California’s abused and neglected children — and nobody monitored how often they handed out psychiatric drugs that can turn fragile childhoods into battles with obesity and bouts of stupor. Now, a Bay Area News Group investigation into the prescribing habits of the state’s foster care doctors reveals for the first time how a fraction of those physicians has been fueling the medicating of California’s most vulnerable kids. Tomorrow: Part 7 Abandoned as a child, Tasia Wright wanted love and understanding. But her foster care doctor had a different idea of how to treat her trauma. A mere 10 percent of the state’s highest prescribers were responsible about 50 percent of the time when a foster child received an antipsychotic, the riskiest class of what are known as psychotropic drugs — with some of the most harmful side effects. The startling numbers are revealed as part of a new analysis of Medi-Cal pharmacy data, which the news organization obtained through a public records request. These same doctors often relied on risky, unproven combinations of the drugs, a practice widely rejected by medical associations and other states.  In San Bernardino County, one psychiatrist prescribed antipsychotics to 328 foster children — 85 percent of the young patients to whom he gave a psychiatric drug in the five years the investigation examined. And when one antipsychotic didn’t work — or wasn’t enough — Dr. Warris Walayat routinely prescribed another. Many of the highest prescribers stand out for other practices that raise questions about their judgment or objectivity: A psychiatrist who oversees treatment at a Riverside County group home for troubled children is a self-proclaimed “spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies.” A doctor training psychiatry residents at a San Diego children’s center once prescribed an antipsychotic to an out-of-control kindergartner. And a veteran Visalia child psychiatrist touts a drug approved to treat mania and schizophrenia as an effective “sleep aid.” Growing up in the foster care system, Rochelle Trochtenberg spent much of her youth in a heavily medicated state. She says her doctors weren’t especially cautious about the drugs, and when she was 18, she had a reaction that sent her to the emergency room. She was suffering from a side effect that caused much of her body to seize up. “I literally didn’t have the ability to move my body,” she recalls. “I was terrified.” The findings come as state lawmakers consider stepping up scrutiny of foster care prescribers — one of the final pieces of sweeping reforms in response to this newspaper’s 2014 investigation “Drugging Our Kids.” The series found nearly 1 in 4 adolescents in California foster care received psychotropic medication, often to control their behavior — not address the serious mental illnesses that many of the drugs were approved to treat. In the cases of seven of California’s highest prescribers, the state has been put on notice before — all were identified in 2010 as part of a ranking in a U.S. senator’s nationwide hunt for doctors “prescribing mental health drugs at astonishingly high rates.” But no action was taken; in fact, the state appears to have never disciplined a doctor for excessive prescribing to foster children.  Rochelle Trochtenberg, a once-heavily medicated foster youth who now serves as California ombudsperson for foster care, called the reluctance to even monitor prescribers a failure of “staggering” proportions. “What I see in these numbers is: We don’t really treat, we use chemical restraints. We drug,” said Trochtenberg, who said doctors blithely prescribed multiple meds rather than help her recover from the deep pain and trauma of childhood abuse. “Medications are so overused — and so significantly — that it’s outrageous there’s such a lack of leadership in holding doctors accountable, and holding the system accountable.” The findings The prescription data, obtained from Medi-Cal benefit claims after more than a year of negotiations with state officials under the California Public Records Act, are limited. They omit dosage levels and diagnoses, which would reveal just how many of these drugs were prescribed for uses not approved by the FDA, a common and legal but sometimes controversial practice known as “off-label” prescribing. Nevertheless, the data reveal how the state’s most prolific prescribers helped sustain a drug-dependent system.  To identify outlying prescribers, this newspaper consulted more than a dozen child psychiatrists and academic researchers across the country, ultimately focusing on the most extreme forms of prescribing found in the database: Physicians who gave their young patients multiple antipsychotics, or three or more drugs at once. The risks of administering multiple drugs to children, especially to their developing brains, have not been well-documented. But the side effects of even one antipsychotic — excessive weight gain, diabetes, extreme lethargy and tremors — can be debilitating. The data from July 2009 to July 2014 show: A select group of doctors used the riskiest drugs as regular treatment and often in dangerous combinations — Despite widespread concern over the use of antipsychotics on children, more than 100 doctors prescribed the drugs to at least 75 percent of their patients who received a psychiatric drug — more than double the average rate. And 56 prescribers gave two or more antipsychotics for more than 60 days to at least 11 of their patients. “This is definitely an outlier practice group,” said Dr. Chris Bellonci, a longtime child psychiatrist and researcher at Tufts University School of Medicine, widely known for his studies of the use of psychotropic drugs in foster care. “You can see what happens if all we have is a prescription pad. We’ll use it, and in these cases, perhaps, abuse it.” Dr. Cynthia Hunt, a Monterey psychiatrist, was the most prolific prescriber of the lengthy regimen of multiple antipsychotics, resorting to the combination for 50 of her young patients, covering 7 percent of the foster children statewide who received a similar treatment plan. Pasadena psychiatrist Dr. Eliot Moon accounted for another 6 percent of the dual prescribing, according to the data. Affiliations of many high prescribers raise questions about objectivity — An intensive review of the backgrounds and affiliations of 25 of the highest prescribers revealed seven conduct research for drug companies that manufacture and market psychotropics; 14 have worked in an outmoded residential group home industry that relies on sedation to maintain order among the troubled youth it shelters; and eight are spreading their treatment approaches by teaching the next generation of psychiatrists in medical schools. Prescribing by nonphysicians may be violating state law — “Physicians” are the only professionals who can receive authorization from the juvenile court to prescribe psychiatric drugs to foster children, but more than 600 nurse practitioners and physician assistants have prescribed the medications to thousands of patients, an apparent violation of state law that has gone wholly unnoticed. While state officials suggest nurse practitioners have legal authority to prescribe under the supervision of a physician, judges and children’s advocates say the court authorization process does not, and was never intended to, account for that. Retired Los Angeles Juvenile Court Judge Terry Friedman, the architect of that law, condemned the “alarming degree of noncompliance” as an example of the lax oversight tolerated for years. “Everything just sort of falls between the cracks because there’s been no serious enforcement of this law.” Tisha Ortiz, a former foster youth now attending Cal State East Bay, says the constant medication left her “so zoned out I couldn’t understand what was going on around me.” Although she played softball and kickboxed, her weight ballooned. The medication made her face and legs twitch and left her so lethargic she often fell asleep in school says Ortiz, 23. Doctors: Drugs often needed Psychiatrists who treat foster youth describe their urgent needs, suicide attempts, aggressive acts toward caregivers, and the depths of their grief and depression. Many doctors say medication is often the safest and most effective way to help a child in a crisis. “It’s kind of like if someone comes into the emergency room and is bleeding from an artery on their wrist, you don’t do marital therapy on them – you stop the bleeding,” said Dr. Michael Barnett, a psychiatrist who treats foster youth at two Visalia group homes and is one of the state’s highest prescribers of antipsychotics to foster youth.  Eighty-five of the 104 foster youth to whom he prescribed a psychotropic drug received antipsychotics, the data show, and half were prescribed two or more for over a month. While the news organization reached out to more than two dozen of the highest prescribers, Barnett was one of only three who agreed to be interviewed. He said he wasn’t surprised to land high on the list because he prescribes low doses of the antipsychotic Seroquel as a sleep aid. “Whether the child is agitated because of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, withdrawal off drugs, or agitated because they’re in a group home, a lot of times it’s difficult to tease out why they’re breaking things or punching holes in the wall,” Barnett said. “But I’m going to stop that behavior as quickly as I can to protect the child, so I will use any medication that I think will help with that.”  However, as long-term treatments go, psychiatric drugs can be a blunt instrument, failing to address the source of a child’s pain and leaving scars that may last years, even a lifetime.  Tisha Ortiz, a 23-year-old former foster youth now attending Cal State East Bay, has testified repeatedly before the Legislature about the impact of being heavily medicated throughout her childhood as she grew up in residential group homes.  An examination of her foster care health records, which she shared with this news organization, revealed the names of psychiatrists who were among the state’s highest prescribers of aggressive combinations of medication.  Among them was Riverside County psychiatrist Dr. Michael Ilas, who was Ortiz’s doctor when she was 15 and prescribed four medications, including lithium, used for bipolar patients; trazodone, used to treat major depressive disorder in adults but not approved for pediatric use; and the antipsychotics Abilify and Geodon. Ilas, who resorted to multiple antipsychotics for his foster care patients more than three times as often as the average doctor, declined to comment. The combinations of these drugs left Ortiz “so zoned out I couldn’t understand what was going on around me,” she said. Although she played softball and kickboxed, her weight ballooned. Her face and legs twitched, and in high school, she slept through first and second periods, failing her favorite class. When she saw psychiatrists, “they were all about upping or adding on more medication, and not about what was really going on with my mental health,” said Ortiz, who first entered foster care at age 4 and suffered flashbacks from sexual and physical abuse. “You really can’t treat trauma with just medications. It doesn’t help a child heal.” Children in the foster care system are issued "health and educational passports" that, in part, track their various prescriptions. According to an excerpt from one of Ortiz's diagnosis and treatment documents, in January 2008, Ortiz, then 15, was diagnosed with bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders and was prescribed four medications at once: lithium, trazodone and the antipsychotics Abilify and Geodon. Ortiz’s testimony has helped propel legislation through Sacramento that would identify doctors who prescribe psychotropic drugs inappropriately. State Sen. Mike McGuire’s Senate Bill 1174 — which faces key votes in the Assembly and Senate this month — would for the first time establish routine monitoring of prescribers and alert the state medical board about individual physicians whose patterns warrant an investigation. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a series of bills to hold the state’s judges, social workers, public health nurses and care providers more accountable for protecting foster children from inappropriate medications.  But efforts to rein in prescribers ran head on into the powerful doctors’ lobby, delaying critical pieces of the legislative reform package. And the opposition this year has not wavered. Lobbyists for California psychiatrists fiercely defend their doctors’ treatment of foster children. They note that doctors already must undergo a newly mandated review process that state data suggest is reducing the use of antipsychotics and curbing questionable prescriptions. They also argue against identifying outlier doctors to the medical board, stating in testimony before the Legislature that the proposed law would single out doctors who work in juvenile halls, group homes or psychiatric inpatient units, and “may have a much higher prescription rate to children than a prescribing physician who provides services to the general population.” Hunt is one of those doctors. In a statement to the news organization, she said her high rates of prescribing multiple antipsychotics came as she was working with deeply troubled foster youth who were one step from being hospitalized or in a locked facility and suffered from serious mental illnesses. “I completely agree that it should be the exception that an adolescent has two or more antipsychotic medications,” said Hunt who worked in Merced at the time. “In these youth, the combination of medications was necessary to keep them stable and to avoid another hospitalization. The plan was, and always is, to lower the medications for these children. To discontinue medication too quickly can also cause significant side effects or a return of symptoms.” Walt Mancini/Southern California News Group Dr. Allan McDonald, a Los Angeles psychiatrist who landed among the highest prescribers of antipsychotics, said doctors can use more scrutiny: “We tend to operate in isolation.” Dr. Linette Scott, chief medical information officer for the state Department of Health Care Services, said prescribing rates differ among doctors in any area of practice, such as cardiology and neurology, because specialists “will prescribe the medications that are used more rarely and carry additional risk.” But Dr. Allan McDonald, a veteran Los Angeles County child psychiatrist who landed among the highest prescribers of multiple antipsychotics, said he welcomes more scrutiny. Doctors — and their patients — will only benefit from more feedback and review from peers, he said. “We tend to operate in isolation,” said McDonald, 78, who still sees foster children at two group homes. He said he was surprised to learn he prescribed multiple antipsychotics to 76 foster children during the period reviewed, acknowledging, “The general rule among child psychiatrists is not to do that.” There are explanations, he said. Sometimes a child is on two antipsychotics for a short period while a doctor switches drugs (the news organization’s analysis suggested that was the case with about 60 percent of the children who received dual antipsychotics from McDonald). Other times, the list of medications can grow if doctors feel it’s necessary to try new combinations to help a child who is not improving. But McDonald, who has treated some of the Los Angeles area’s toughest-to-reach children over nearly five decades, said he believes the state has its share of doctors who overprescribe without thoroughly evaluating a child. “They are not working smart enough, not collecting enough reliable information, to support a diagnosis,” McDonald said. “It is probably a sign that doctors are feeling desperate — you don’t know what to do, you’re throwing everything at it.” Dr. Michael Barnett, a psychiatrist who treats foster youths at residential group homes in Visalia, says when a child is in crisis, it can be “difficult to tease out why they’re breaking things or punching holes in the wall. But I’m going to stop that behavior as quickly as I can to protect the child, so I will use any medication that I think will help with that.” Where are the high prescribers? Many of the highest prescribers of psychiatric drugs to the state’s foster children can be found in California’s Inland Empire, a sprawling region of San Bernardino and Riverside counties stretching east of Los Angeles to the desert. Here, child psychiatrists can spend hours on the road, driving from far-flung medical offices to residential group homes that house tough-to-place foster youth.  NOT ENOUGH DOCTORS? Psychiatrists per 100,000 children: 4 in San Bernardino County 20 in Santa Clara County Number of high prescribers of anti-psychotics under one measure: 8 in San Bernardino County 2 in Santa Clara County This news organization’s analysis showed the region was home to 25 percent of the state’s highest prescribers in one measure — a group of 56 doctors across California who prescribed two or more antipsychotics to at least 20 children representing at least one-third of their foster care patients who received a psych drug. Twenty-three percent of the doctors from this high-prescribing group treated children in the Central Valley, and 16 percent practiced in Los Angeles. In contrast, only 10 percent from this group worked in the nine-county Bay Area. It isn’t clear what’s behind pockets of high prescribers, or whether doctors who choose to prescribe regularly influence colleagues to do the same.   Another factor that could be driving doctors to rely on medications: too many patients, too little time. For example, with a rate of four child psychiatrists for every 100,000 children, San Bernardino County is well below the statewide average of 11. In Santa Clara County, there are nearly 20 per 100,000 children.   But the news group’s investigation found one more potential driver for some of this region’s high prescribing: Many of these doctors are affiliated with clinical research firms that conduct paid trials for pharmaceutical companies interested in boosting sales of their drugs. Perhaps the most notable example was a group of doctors who, until recently, did business as Shanti Clinical Trials in an unremarkable medical office building, 2 miles west of Loma Linda University Medical Center.  ANTIPSYCHOTIC MEDICINES Antipsychotic drugs are approved to calm or sedate mentally ill patients during psychotic "breaks" and allow patients to sleep or help make them more compliant. But they are often prescribed "off-label" to control the behavior of patients with no diagnosis of mental illness. Here are some of the antipsychotics being prescribed to foster children: Abilify Brand name for aripiprazole Approved to treat: Manic episodes of bipolar disorder in adults and children ages 10 to 17, schizophrenia in adults and children ages 13 to 17, and irritability from autism in kids ages 6 to 17. Possible side effects: Include weight gain, diabetes, tremors Geodon Brand name for ziprasidone Approved to treat: Schizophrenia and acute manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar disorder; can be added to lithium for maintenance of bipolar disorder. Not approved for children under 18. Possible side effects: Include nausea, constipation, dizziness, restlessness, tremors, diarrhea, runny nose, cough, drowsiness. Risperdal Approved to treat: Schizophrenia in children ages 13 to 17 and acute bipolar mania in kids 10 to 17 years old. Possible side effects: Include weight gain, diabetes, bed-wetting and tremors. Seroquel Brand name for quetiapine Approved to treat: Schizophrenia in children ages 13 to 17, and bipolar mania in kids ages 10 to 17. Possible side effects: Include weight gain, diabetes and tremors. Zyprexa Brand name for olanzapine Approved to treat: Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults and children ages 13 to 17. Sometime used with other antipsychotics or anti-depressants. Possible side effects: Include trouble speaking or swallowing, uncontrollable face movements, confusion, hallucinations, weakness, chills, sore throat, stomach pain, rigid muscles, increased thirst, swelling in hands or feet. Two of the highest prescribers of psych drugs in the California foster care system, Dr. Warris Walayat and Dr. Salvador Lasala, are listed as investigators at Shanti, which ran medication trials for childhood depression, attention deficits and bipolar disorder, among other research sponsored by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. Walayat, who has offices listed throughout San Bernardino County and was a staff psychiatrist with the Riverside County Mental Health Department, was the state foster care system’s most frequent prescriber of both antipsychotics and the mood stabilizers lithium and Depakote.  None of the Shanti clinicians responded to repeated interview requests by phone, email or certified mail. And a visit in May to the clinic’s address in the city of Colton found the office had been taken over by a new psychiatrist. Two other psychiatrists who worked at Shanti showed up in the news organization’s data analysis, including Dr. Gurmeet Multani, who prescribed psych drugs to 196 foster children in less than two years. In 2010, he surrendered his medical license after being accused of having sex with five adult patients as well as the wife of a man he was treating for depression. The California Medical Board also accused him of writing prescriptions for drug addicts and people who were not his patients. He was found to have falsified his patient records in a failed attempt to deter investigators, state records show.  Multani also came under fire that same year when the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly found serious noncompliance issues in a drug trial he was conducting, including the underreporting of “adverse events” in patients. The drug, which combined antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, was being tested on children ages 10 to 17.   Leemon McHenry, a legal consultant in California who researches cases against drug companies that have misrepresented their scientific findings, described the role of high-prescribing pharma researchers — particularly those treating foster children — as “extremely problematic.”  “Given the vulnerability of this particular patient population,” he said, “we owe it to them to have less conflicted investigators.” Questionable connections Of all the juxtapositions of interests and influence, one raised the deepest concerns: the presence of doctors with drug company connections at group homes. Foster children in those homes are often the most emotionally damaged and difficult to manage, so the temptation to medicate them is strong — even without the potential intrusion of other interests. Dr. Eliot Moon, who treats foster children at Hillsides, a residential group home in Pasadena, also runs a firm out a storefront in the Riverside County city of Wildomar that conducts clinical trials sponsored by 13 pharmaceutical companies.  Moon and his firm received more than $1.2 million from 2013 through 2015 from drug companies to conduct his research, according to the government’s website that discloses pharmaceutical company payments to doctors. And Medi-Cal pharmacy records show he was the second-highest prescriber of multiple antipsychotics, using the combination on 46 foster children for more than 60 days in the five-year period examined.  Repeated interview requests to Moon by phone, email, certified letter and visits to his offices were not answered.  His dual role as a prescriber and paid researcher is not unique. About 80 miles to the south, Dr. Harinder Grewal oversees care for troubled youth “experiencing psychological, social, emotional and behavioral problems” at the Oak Grove Center in Murrieta. The group home’s website also describes her as “a spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.”  The state’s data show Grewal prescribed an antipsychotic to 115 foster children during the examined period; 26 percent of them received multiple antipsychotics for more than 60 days. From 2010 to 2013, she received $471,665 for drug company research, according to company disclosures compiled by the news outlet ProPublica.  An identified high prescriber of Seroquel — the brand name for the antipsychotic quetiapine — Grewal is also listed as one of the investigators in a 2013 study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology that found the drug “generally safe and well tolerated in youth.” Sponsored by the drug’s manufacturer, AstraZeneca, the study listed two of its four authors as drug company employees.  Seroquel is narrowly approved for older children and teens diagnosed with rare pediatric instances of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But doctors often prescribe the medication “off-label” to treat children for everything from aggression to attention deficits.  In 2010, AstraZeneca settled a federal lawsuit by paying $520 million to resolve the U.S. Department of Justice’s accusation that the company illegally marketed Seroquel to child and adolescent physicians and doctors treating the elderly. Discovery in the legal case revealed questionable science behind the Seroquel promotional campaign, including internal documents describing the “cherry-picking” of data, and unfavorable scientific findings that were “buried.” Grewal didn’t respond to repeated inquiries from a reporter about her work. But managers at Oak Grove and Hillsides said no foster kids in their care have been involved in clinical drug trials.   That assurance was of little comfort to foster children advocates who reviewed the news organization’s findings. “The prevalence of industry-funded, high-prescribing doctors at group homes may be the most troubling discovery,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based advocacy group. “Are doctors blind to a prescribing bias created by their financial ties to the drug companies? Or have group homes become testing grounds for some of the drug industry’s most lucrative products? Either possibility is chilling.” LINKS TO HIGH PRESCRIBERS Loma Linda University Medical Center State data shows a cluster of high prescribers of antipsychotics to foster children with connections to the university and hospital, including Dr. William Murdoch, the chair of the psychiatry department and an associate professor. Murdoch was surprised to see his name so high on the list of California prescribers, saying his philosophy on prescribing is cautious, especially among young patients.​ Oak Grove Center At this Murrieta group home, Dr. Harinder Grewal oversees care for troubled youth “experiencing psychological, social, emotional and behavioral problems.” Between 2010 and 2013, Grewal received $471,665 for drug company research, according to company disclosures compiled by ProPublica. The group home’s website describes Grewal as “a spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers, Squibb, Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.”​ Shanti Clinical Trials This office in Colton until recently housed a firm that ran medication trials for childhood depression, attention deficit and bipolar disorder, among other research sponsored by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. Two of the highest prescribers of psych drugs to foster children are listed as investigators at the clinic: Dr. Salvador Lasala and Dr. Warris Walayat, who state records show was the highest prescriber of antipsychotics to foster children from 2009-2014. Rancho Damacitas Tisha Ortiz, a 23-year-old former foster youth now attending CSU East Bay, has testified repeatedly before the Legislature about the impact of being heavily medicated throughout her childhood as she grew up in residential group homes. Ortiz spent two years of her childhood at this group home. The prescribing debate There is no dispute that many foster children have significant mental health needs, having been wrenched from abusive and neglectful parents, and then suffering the trauma of losing their families, no matter how troubled. But a fierce debate continues among psychiatrists about what medications are safe and appropriate to treat childhood trauma. Absent scientific evidence or research, prescribing often falls on a clinician’s preference and personal experience. And those who most frequently opt for nonapproved drugs say they believe they are doing the right thing for kids. “If I see a 4-year-old and several other doctors have seen this child, and they’re in the hospital because of out-of-control aggression, I may go ahead and prescribe medication even though it is not recommended,’’ said McDonald, the Los Angeles-area psychiatrist. “I would start with an anti-anxiety medicine, and if it does not work, then I would look to an antipsychotic like Risperdal. … If somebody called me up or wrote me a letter questioning my decision, I would explain the situation.” Barnett, the Visalia group home psychiatrist, said he has successfully treated “a lot” of children with two — and even three — antipsychotics at once. He describes the drugs as an effective sleep aid, an “augmentation” to antidepressants, and safer than mood stabilizers and other medications that can become addictive.  “I know it’s not approved by the FDA or recommended and all that stuff,” Barnett added. But he said the second antipsychotic can have a “booster effect,” enhancing the first drug.  “I cannot understand what is unsafe about two antipsychotics,” he said. However, the simultaneous use of two antipsychotics is widely rejected by medical professional groups and in many states. Citing “significant risks,” the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states “there is no clear evidence to support the use of more than one antipsychotic in either adults or youths.”  County mental health departments in the Bay Area and Los Angeles discourage the use of two antipsychotics, as do the states of Illinois, Washington, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.  If a child is on two antipsychotics for more than four weeks, “it’s negligence,” said Thomas Tarshis, an adjunct assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and treating psychiatrist on the adolescent inpatient unit at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in San Mateo. The news organization’s review suggested that many doctors are finding another way. More than 2,600 prescribers gave no more than one mental health drug to their patients, often stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Several psychiatrists did not prescribe a single antipsychotic, even those treating children in residential facilities.  Dr. Stuart Bair, of Sunnyvale, was one of them. With more than 40 years’ experience, Bair said psychiatric medication does nothing to address traumatic childhoods. “In general, they are worse than the benefit,” Bair said, “and do not deal with the pervasive underlying problems that these children have suffered.” One 16-year-old boy Bair treated in a group home recently was on so much Seroquel for an unspecified “mood disorder” that he was overweight, could barely keep his eyes open and slurred his speech. He sat slumped in a chair most days, barely moving. Over a month’s time, Bair tapered him off the drug and watched him come back to life, becoming a “lively and talkative” boy who cried and embraced Bair when the psychiatrist moved on to a new job. “There are doctors out there trying to do the right thing,’’ said Anna Johnson, policy advocate at the National Center for Youth Law, which has sponsored a series of bills on the issue, including McGuire’s. “But the good people in the system are being weighed down by the doctors who think multiple medications are the standard of care. That’s a big myth.’’ On two different occasions, Trochtenberg, the ombudsperson, received prescriptions for two antipsychotics when she was in foster care. Never, she said, did she feel that her doctors were especially cautious about the medications. Her clearest memory is a sudden reaction to a mix of Haldol and Trilafon when she was 18 that sent her to the emergency room. Suffering from what she was told was a common side effect known as tardive dyskinesia, her fingers seized up and became rigid, then her hands, arms and legs froze. “I literally didn’t have the ability to move my body,” she recalled. “I was terrified. I had no idea what was happening to me, and of course when I found out it was related to the medication, I wanted to stop it all.” Sen. Mike McGuire, left, is pushing legislation to closely watch foster care prescribers with SB 1174, which faces crucial votes this month in the Legislature. But Christopher Castrillo, center, a lobbyist for the California Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and Stuart Thompson, right, of the California Medical Association say the bill unfairly focuses on doctors who treat foster youth with the most severe needs. PROPOSED BILLS SB 253 Author: Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey Summary: Asks doctors to provide better justification for prescriptions before judges approve them.  SB 1174 Author: Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg Summary: Creates process for Medical Board to review and investigate doctors who prescribe psychotropic medications inappropriately. SB 1291 Author: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose Summary: Requires county mental health plans to gather data and submit annual plans on how they serve foster youth. BILLS PASSED IN 2015 Gov. Jerry Brown signed three bills curbing the use of psychiatric drugs in foster care: SB 238 Author: Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles Summary: Requires foster parents, child welfare workers, group home administrators receive training on psychotropic medication, trauma and behavioral health. Also requires Department of Social Services to alert social workers when multiple medications, high dosages or prescriptions for children 5 and younger are prescribed. SB 319 Author: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose Summary: Expands duties of foster care public health nurses to include monitoring and oversight of children prescribed psychotropic medication. SB 319 Author: Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose Summary: Requires state to identify and inspect group homes that may be inappropriately administering psychotropic medications. What’s been done? In the legislative push for more scrutiny of doctors, McGuire, the North Bay Democratic state senator, is quick to point out that the California Medical Board received more than 8,000 complaints about doctors during the 2014-15 fiscal year. None of the reports, though, appear to have been made on behalf of a foster child.  “No one’s looking out for them,” McGuire said.  Seven of the high prescribers in the foster care data also turned up in 2010-12 as part of a broader U.S. Senate Finance Committee inquiry headed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, into the runaway costs and prescribing of painkillers and mental health drugs on the taxpayers’ dime. It appears that identifying those doctors is all officials did. Instead of cracking down on them, the state Department of Health Care Services cautioned Grassley in a letter not to misinterpret the data and jump to conclusions. Walayat, Lasala, Barnett and Grewal all appeared on that list, among Medi-Cal’s top prescribers of an antipsychotic.    Reforms to prescribing practices in the foster care system only took shape years later after the newspaper’s series “Drugging Our Kids” spotlighted the problem.   The same day the series launched in August 2014, the state medical board answered a lawmaker’s call to investigate high-prescribing doctors. But that one-time inquiry has produced no results to date. One reform affecting doctors has taken hold: In October 2014, California began requiring doctors to provide far more medical justification to prescribe antipsychotics to foster children and receive authorization from state pharmacists to do so. There are signs that the requirement is leading to fewer requests to prescribe the drugs amid hundreds of denials of unnecessary prescriptions.  And statistics suggest the overall number of foster children on psychiatric drugs is dropping as well. Data compiled by the UC Berkeley’s Center for Social Services Research show 12 percent of the state’s foster kids were on a psychiatric drug in the first quarter of 2015 — a 1.5 percentage point decline from 2012. The state also cut spending on antipsychotics for foster children in the 2014-15 fiscal year by 10 percent from the previous year, shelling out $22.9 million — its lowest bill in four years. But McGuire feels a more targeted approach is still needed. His SB 1174 stipulates that “repeated acts of clearly excessive prescribing, furnishing or administering psychotropic medications to a minor without a good faith prior examination of the patient and medical reason” should become priority cases for “investigation and prosecution.” Doctors would be selected for review based on annual reports of foster children on three or more psych drugs for at least 90 days.  In the most extreme cases, the state’s attorney general would file a challenge to a physician’s medical license.  Physicians are known in the state Capitol as one of the toughest professional groups to regulate. Their lobbies are well-funded and their members are particularly resistant to anyone challenging their discretion. As to foster care prescribing, they say the state has already done enough. “I think doctors have been getting the message that the practice of giving antipsychotic medications to foster children is at times problematic and will be subject to careful scrutiny,” said Dr. Saul Wasserman, a San Jose child and adolescent psychiatrist who co-chairs the government affairs committee of the California Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a doctors group that opposes McGuire’s bill. Nonetheless, McGuire’s bill is moving forward. In May it passed the Senate on a 35-3 vote but has been amended in the Assembly, so it requires approval in both chambers of the Legislature this month.  One opponent, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, echoed many of the lobbyists’ sentiments, saying that increased accountability would result in fewer doctors willing to treat foster youth.  “We have to be very careful we don’t get into a situation where we’re actually discouraging the few willing to take care of this population from deciding that they have even more reasons not to,” said Pan, a pediatrician. But McGuire countered that rather than doctors being under fire, “those being punished now are the foster youth.” From Trochtenberg’s unique view as foster youth turned state official, it is clear: Something more must be done. “These are kids that are hurting — these are children who have been through what we know war veterans have been through,” Trochtenberg said. “But where is the accountability? The person who has the authority to write a prescription is where we need accountability. “We still don’t have that.” How we gathered, reviewed the project data In the 2014 series “Drugging Our Kids,” the Bay Area News Group reviewed a decade of data that revealed the widespread use of psychotropic medication on foster kids. Shortly after the publication, the news organization returned to the state Department of Health Care Services to begin months of negotiations for a new set of Medi-Cal prescription data. The resulting database provides a unique look at how individual doctors prescribed these drugs to children in foster care. What we reviewed The data are drawn from Medi-Cal pharmacy benefit claims and name individual prescribers but do not identify their patients. Overall, the data included information on 1,280 psychiatrists, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other medical providers who prescribed psychotropic medication to foster children 17 and younger from July 2009 to July 2014. State officials excluded doctors who prescribed to 10 or fewer patients during the five-year period saying it was necessary to preserve patient privacy. For each prescriber, the data show the number of patients who received psychotropic drugs, how often those doctors prescribed multiple psychiatric drugs to their patients, and how often they chose the most powerful class of the drugs known as antipsychotics. Because of limitations in the data, it was not possible to learn whether the doctors saw patients to whom they did not prescribe drugs. For comparison, the state provided aggregate data for the overall pool of doctors and patients — 5,584 prescribers and 26,467 foster children — to yield a complete picture of average prescribing practices across California. How we defined ‘top prescribers’ To identify outlying prescribers, this news organization consulted more than a dozen child psychiatrists and academic researchers, and ultimately focused on what those experts deemed the most extreme forms of prescribing found in the database: Giving multiple antipsychotics or three or more psychiatric drugs at once to their young patients. The news organization reviewed doctors who prescribed two or more antipsychotics for 30-45 days and also for a longer period, 60-75 days, because the shorter period could represent a “cross-taper,” a period of time when patients on medications which cannot be abruptly stopped are transitioning from one drug to another. Antipsychotic use in children is narrowly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the rare pediatric cases of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism with irritability. Common side effects include rapid-onset weight gain and obesity, diabetes, irreversible tremors, and extreme lethargy. But in the foster care system, the drugs are widely used “off-label” — or outside of FDA-labeled approvals — a practice that is legal and common with many other types of drugs. The data did not include dose levels or diagnoses, but interviews with former foster youth, social workers, public health nurses, foster care providers and the doctors themselves reveal antipsychotics have been routinely used for behavior management, when children are difficult to control or threatening to harm themselves. While the use of even a single antipsychotic for children who are not mentally ill is increasingly questioned, the use of two at once is discouraged.  Source: http://extras.mercurynews.com/druggedkids/
Guards allowed fights at youth prison Patrick Marley and Catie Edmondson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 11:01 a.m. CDT August 7, 2016 Department of Corrections keeps quiet about log of prison incidents Lincoln Hills School for Boys is under investigation by federal officials for a variety of crimes, including abuse of juvenile inmates and intimidation of witnesses.(Photo: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Madison — A guard at the state’s troubled youth prison was fired in February after he got in a physical fight with a juvenile inmate and allowed other teens to throw punches at each other in an area that was out of the view of cameras, new records show. A second guard resigned amid the investigation, which found he had not stopped or reported fights at Lincoln Hills School for Boys. The Northwoods facility has been under criminal investigation for 19 months for suspicion of child neglect, prisoner abuse and misconduct in office. Another document recently released under the state’s open records law details dozens of incidents that occurred at the prison in the second half of last year, many of which raise troubling questions about the staff’s use of force and pepper spray. In one incident, staff sprayed a juvenile who was restrained. In another, staff blasted pepper spray into a room after an inmate prevented guards from seeing into the room. Top officials at the Department of Corrections kept mum for months about the log of incidents, even when directly asked if it existed. They didn’t produce it seven months ago in part because the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked for a log of conduct reports, rather than incident reports. Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook said in a statement the detailed accounting of hundreds of incidents at Lincoln Hills was a “tracking document” that was “not meant to serve as a comprehensive log of completed incident reports,” as the Journal Sentinel initially requested. “I think that’s completely absurd. The open records law does not require requesters to use magic words to get records,” said attorney Christa Westerberg, the vice president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. “The department should not tie themselves in knots to avoid producing records.” The Journal Sentinel recently acquired a copy of the log in response to a request for emails and attachments sent to and from John Ourada, who ran Lincoln Hills until he abruptly retired in December just days before investigators raided the facility. Ourada used the log to keep track of incidents at the facility, according to the Department of Corrections. Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers last year worked to sharply limit the public records law but backtracked in the face of public opposition. Since then Walker has emphasized the importance of open records and in March issued an executive order to speed up the release of documents requested by the public and news organizations. Despite that executive order, retrieving records from the Department of Corrections can be a months-long process, and the Journal Sentinel has had to retain lawyers to get some of them. The department says producing records takes so long because the newspaper has asked for large amounts of records, many of which include sensitive information about juveniles that must be blacked out. The log documents hundreds of incidents over six months, painting a picture of the extent and frequency of fights and assaults at Lincoln Hills. In one incident, an inmate was put in restraints after becoming disruptive and arguing with staff. The inmate was then pepper sprayed “for safety,” the log said. That practice appears to contradict widely established principles of when to use the chemical agent known as oleoresin capsicum, according to nationally recognized use-of-force expert Steve Martin. “Unless there is a high-level immediate threat, OC should not be used on a restrained inmate. There’s not enough information here that would justify the use of OC spray,” Martin said. “There may have been something extraordinary that compelled them to use it, but it’s certainly not in this description.” Martin, who served as a corrections expert for the U.S. Department of Justice for over a decade, reviewed the log at the Journal Sentinel’s request. Another entry describes an incident in which staff used pepper spray on an inmate who refused to go into a bedroom. In another case, staff deployed pepper spray into an inmate’s room after the inmate covered the window on the door to the room and became unresponsive. “(Pepper spray) should not be deployed unless there is a live, immediate threat of harm,” Martin said. Cook, the department spokesman, said pepper spray is used to prevent physical harm to inmates and staff. In cases where staff can't see inmates in a room and they won't respond to verbal directives, pepper spray is sometimes used to avoid incurring injuries when staff members enter the room, Cook said. While the log captures many fights, others at the institution went undocumented. Some of those incidents are described in reports on internal investigations into two guards, Lance Glisch and Peter Vandre, who worked together in one of the living units scattered around the prison’s campus. Glisch was fired in February and Vandre quit that month. An inmate and Vandre said they saw Glisch fight in the summer of 2015 in a part of the kitchen known as the “cut” that cannot be seen by the prison’s cameras. The inmate who witnessed it said he saw Glisch deliver two body punches to the inmate he was fighting, and that inmate admitted he received bruises on his back and ribs. No one answered the phone at Glisch’s home last week, but he described the incident to investigators as horseplay. Glisch acknowledged to investigators he knew two inmates were going to fight in November 2015, but decided to steer clear of it instead of stop it. “I didn’t want anything to do with what was going on, so I went to the kitchen,” he told investigators. Afterward, he said one of the inmates had injuries on his head and hand. He said he was present while Vandre and the inmate concocted a story about the inmate falling so he could get medical attention. In an interview, Vandre denied that, saying he suspected the inmates might have fought but had no way to prove it. He told investigators he did not report his suspicions to a supervisor because he did not think they would care. Vandre said Glisch and the inmates had conspired to make Vandre look like he had done wrong in that incident and others. Glisch “was the one doing all the bad things and I was just the collateral damage,” Vandre said. “I always suspected him of not being on the straight and narrow.” Asked by investigators if he had used a racial epithet at work, Vandre initially replied, “Not at this facility.” Glisch and inmates said they had heard him use the word many times at Lincoln Hills, where a large portion of the population is African American. “I didn’t try to use any of that, but it could have come out,” Vandre told the Journal Sentinel. “It probably slipped out once or twice.” Also in his interview with investigators, Vandre admitted visiting a “lingerie football” themed website at work “as long as no one was around.” Since those fights, the Department of Corrections has installed more cameras at Lincoln Hills, reducing the number of areas that aren't captured on film. Officials have also equipped staff with body cameras, provided more training and replaced leaders at the institution and Department of Corrections. The fights occurred in 2015, at a time when state Attorney General Brad Schimel’s office was investigating the prison. Schimel spokesman Johnny Koremenos said protecting children is a top priority of the attorney general but provided no explanation for how the fights could occur at a time when his investigators were supposed to have an eye on the facility. Schimel has since handed off the probe to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating whether there has been a pattern of civil rights abuses at the prison.  Source: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/2016/08/06/guards-allowed-fights-youth-prison/88295652/
How Populism Is Rewriting The Charter School Narrative In a political season that’s been dominated by populism it should come as no surprise that a grassroots uprising is having an effect on education policy as well. Two recent events showcase exactly how the populist fervor in the nation is redrawing the education policy landscape, and more specifically, rewriting the story of the roll out of charter schools in our communities that’s been enabled by laissez faire lawmakers and the generosity of the Obama administration and wealthy private foundations. Both events – one which reflects a national response to the populist uprising, and the other, an example of the uprising itself – reveal how a grassroots rebellion against unregulated charter schools is shaking the foundations of the education policy establishment’s narrative about these schools. NAACP Calls For A Charter School Moratorium First, university professor Julian Vasquez Heilig broke the story on his personal blog last week that the national NAACP has called for a nationwide “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.” The NAACP resolution, which passed at the national convention in July but will not be official until the National Board meeting later this Fall, cites numerous problems posed by charter schools including their tendencies to increase segregation, impose “punitive and exclusionary” discipline policies on students, and foster financial corruption and conflicts of interest. (Disclosure: Heilig is a colleague of mine at The Progressive.) Around the same time Heilig made his revelation, The Atlantic reported another prominent civil rights group the Movement for Black Lives – a coalition of over 50 black-led organizations aligned with Black Lives Matter – also is calling for a moratorium on charter schools. Other civil rights voices soon joined in support of the moratorium. Journey for Justice – an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations in 21 cities across the country – declares in a statement that its constituency of largely African American local activists is “demanding the end of unwarranted expansion of charter schools.” Another voice for civil rights, the Internet-based collective known as Educolor, also issued a general statement in support of the MBL platform. At the Hechinger Report, Andre Perry, a university professor and one of the early advocates for charter schools in New Orleans, explains, “Why the Black Lives Matter movement has to take on charter schools.” Perry writes, “Many of the theories and practices many of us are fighting against in the criminal justice arena are still openly embraced by many charter schools.” Specifically, he cites the tendencies of charters to practice “no excuse” models of education that enforce strict behavior codes and produce high rates of out-of-schools suspensions. Nashville Defeats Charter School Dark Money While the reputation of charter schools took a hit at the national level, those schools and what they’ve come to represent in communities were also rejected at the local level in a school board election in Nashville. A year and a half ago, I reported firsthand from Nashville on how local schools in the district were under assault by the twin forces of a rightwing agenda driven by the Koch Brothers and a collusion of business interests and private foundations intent on privatizing the schools. In my article for Salon, I explained how three school board members – Will Pinkston, Jill Speering, and Amy Frogge – had determined to represent the will of their voters, rather than the interests of big money, and resist the onslaught of charters. “It’s immoral to force this kind of change on people who don’t want it,” Pinkston told me in my interview with him. “It also diminishes the odds of success.” In last week’s board election, the three incumbents plus an open seat were targeted for takeover by the wealthy interests behind charter schools. As local blogger TC Weber explains, charter advocacy groups and the local Chamber of Commerce invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars to knock off their opponents and elect a pro-charter majority to the board. One of the pro-charter interests is Stand for Children that classroom teacher and popular blogger Peter Greene identifies as an “astroturf organization” backed by rich foundations and wealthy individuals connected to the investment industry. SFC’s involvement included over $700,000 to pay for campaign mailers and phone-banking and direct orchestration of volunteer and paid canvassers, which likely violates federal election law. Despite the outpouring of cash and influence, as the Knoxville news outlet reports, the big money behind charter schools lost. “After spending a small fortune, all four candidates [charter advocates] backed in the Metro Nashville school board election and a handful of state GOP primary challengers lost their races.” The results of the Nashville election reverberated to the national scene where education historian Diane Ravitch, on her popular personal blog, called it, “A great lesson about how parents can beat Dark Money.” Rewriting The Narrative The way pro-charter advocates have responded to these two events is telling. Regarding the civil rights groups’ calls for a charter moratorium, the pro-charter response has been a hissy-fit driven by fiery rhetoric and few facts. Shaffar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, a Washington D.C. based charter advocacy financed by hedge funds, issued a statement declaring the NAACP resolution a “disservice to communities of color.” In a nationally televised newscast, Steve Perry, founder and operator of a charter school chain, lashed out at Hilary Shelton, the bureau director of the Washington, DC, chapter of the NAACP, for being a sell out to the teachers’ unions and for abandoning children of color. The contention that the NAACP has sold out to teachers’ unions holds little water since that organization has been a recipient of generous donations from pro-charter advocates as well. And any argument that curbing charters is a de facto blow to black and brown school kids is more a rhetorical trope than a factual counter to the evidence NAACP cites, showing where charters undermine communities of color. Regarding the defeat of big money-backed pro-charter candidates in Nashville, the usual outlets for charter industry advocacy – Democrats for Education Reform and the media outlets Education Post and The 74 – have been totally silent. These responses are telling because the charter industry has heretofore been such masterful communicators. Advocates for these schools have long understood most people don’t understand what the schools are. Even when presidential candidates in the recent Democratic Party primary ventured to express an opinion about charters, they horribly botched it. So for years, the powerful charter school industry has been filling the void of understanding about charters with clever language meant to define what these schools are and what their purpose is. The schools, we’ve been told, are “public,” even though they really aren’t. They’re supposed to outperform traditional public schools, but that turns out not to be true either. Even when the charter industry has tried to cut the data even finer to prove some charters outperform public schools, the claims turn out to be grossly over-stated. We’ve also been told charter schools are a “civil rights cause.” Now it turns out that’s not quite the case either. Of course, charter school propagandists still have plenty of rhetorical arrows in their quiver. But what’s  abundantly clear is that while they’ve been completely free to write the charter school narrative in their own words, now the people are telling their version of the story. And the ending is no doubt going to look way different.  Source: http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/how-populism-is-rewriting-the-charter-school-narrative/
Mercury News editorial: Rein in overdrugging of foster children Mercury News Editorial Posted:   08/09/2016 10:04:31 AM PDT Updated:   08/09/2016 08:14:18 PM PDT Drugging Our Kids The full Bay Area News Group investigation, including a documentary video. Since 2014, this newspaper has been working to expose the harm done to foster children by doctors' improper use of powerful antipsychotic drugs to control their patients' behavior. Progress has been made, but as investigative stories Sunday and Monday by Karen de Sá and Tracy Seipel reveal, much work remains to provide proper oversight. California's top foster care prescribing doctors are still fueling the medication of our most vulnerable children at an unacceptable rate. This abuse needs to stop. Three bills being considered by the Legislature will help rein in the practice. The Assembly and Senate should pass the legislation, and Gov. Jerry Brown should sign them into law. On Monday, de Sá told the heartbreaking story of Tasia Wright's experience growing up in foster care in Southern California. Tasia, who is now 27, entered a residential group home at the age of 6 after her mother developed drug problems. In the 13 years she was at the group home, she was prescribed 23 different psychiatric drugs by three psychiatrists. One of the doctors who treated her was responsible for giving two or more antipsychotics to 46 foster children for longer than two months over a five-year period. The drugs often come with debilitating side effects for children. In Tasia's case, by the time she left the group home at 19, de Sá reported that she was morbidly obese and had Type 2 diabetes and medication-induced tremors. Advertisement The doctors who are prescribing the unproven combinations of the drugs are engaging in a practice that is widely rejected by medical associations in other states. The most important bill to attack the problem is SB 1174, authored by state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg. The legislation, which goes before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, would require the state Medical Board to investigate doctors who inappropriately prescribe antipsychotic medications. As McGuire points out, none of the more than 8,000 complaints to the state Medical Board about doctors during the 2014-15 fiscal year was on behalf of a foster child. When California accepts responsibility for the welfare of children, it has an obligation to look out for their best interests. San Jose Sen. Jim Beall has for years worked to improve the lives of the state's most vulnerable children. His SB 1291 would require county mental plans to gather data and submit annual plans on how they serve foster children. The intent is to better identify problems and address them before they reach a crisis state. Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey, is pushing to get his SB 253 through the Legislature. Monning's bill would make doctors go to greater lengths to justify giving prescriptions before taking them to judges for approval. The reporting by de Sá and Seipel should be required reading for every member of the Legislature. Both houses should give bipartisan support to passing the bills for the governor's signature so that inappropriate drugging of foster children comes to an end.  Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_30224518/mercury-news-editorial-rein-overdrugging-foster-children
Arizona foster kids removed from 6 homes after sexual allegation Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Republic | azcentral.com 4:48 p.m. MST August 8, 2016 P.O.W.E.R. House Youth Facility(Photo: Screenshot) Story Highlights The operator of the facility said 47 children were removed DCS confirmed an investigation is ongoing State officials removed dozens of children in foster care from six group homes amid an investigation by the Arizona Department of Child Safety. The group homes are all run by the same operator, P.O.W.E.R. House Youth Facility. Doug Nick, a DCS spokesman, confirmed an investigation is underway and that the children have been "given other placements." Because of privacy laws he said he could not discuss the nature of the investigation, the timing of the removal of the children, when the probe began or other details. Glen Mayberry, CEO of P.O.W.E.R. House Youth Facility, told The Arizona Republic on Monday that P.O.W.E.R. reported to the state "alleged sexual contact" between two children at one of the homes. "Once we found out we followed all the mandatory reporting laws," Mayberry said. But Mayberry said state officials have not told him why they are investigating the facilities. He said one state official told him "there is an investigation for sexual contact" between minors. But "we have never been informed — officially — of what has happened," Mayberry said. Nick said 40 children were removed from the six homes. Mayberry said 47 children were removed. AZCENTRAL Fed up with excuses, red tape 3 Arizona foster moms forge new path at Capitol Mayberry said the facilities have been operating for 12 years, and during that time have not had claims of wrongdoing substantiated. Mayberry said the company operates five homes in the San Tan Valley area and one in Mesa. The number of children per home ranges from five to 10, he said. Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, "white vans started showing up and they started extracting the kids," Mayberry said. The process was traumatic for some of the kids, he said. Some cried, others posted angry messages on social media about their removal. He said multiple kids "ran away." Mayberry criticized the agency's approach to the children's removal, saying DCS forgot to remove seven children at one location. "They didn't have a plan. They came in and took all the kids, but left seven of them with us," he said. "We didn't get rid of those kids until Saturday night." He said the last of the children were removed at 9 p.m. Saturday. AZCENTRAL 4 fixes for Arizona's broken child-welfare system Across Arizona, hundreds of children under the state's care live in group homes, either because the state agency can't find relatives to take in the children or because there aren't enough foster families. Follow the reporter on Twitter, @yvonnewingett, and Facebook. Reach her at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4712.  Source:  http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/2016/08/08/group-home-operator-dozens-foster-kids-removed-after-sexual-allegation/88411762/
Investigation has resulted in 100 group homes in Prescott closing their doors By Cindy Barks Originally Published: August 12, 2016 6:02 a.m. Cindy_Barks PRESCOTT – The head of an insurance-fraud investigative team made a strong case this week against the allegedly fraudulent practices of many of Prescott’s sober living homes. Dan Kreitman, director of the special investigative unit for the Centene Corporation, told the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes Wednesday, Aug. 10, that his team had uncovered widespread insurance fraud, theft, and waste in Prescott. Photo by Cindy Barks Dan Kreitman, director of the special investigations unit for Centene Corporation, talks to the Prescott Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes Wednesday, Aug. 10, on the alleged insurance fraud at local group homes. The investigation has led to changes in the way the company pays its claims, Kreitman said, which, in turn, has brought about a dramatic drop in the number of group homes operating in Prescott. Kreitman estimates that as many as 100 have closed their doors in the wake of the investigation. Kreitman spent more than a half-hour Wednesday evening citing the instances of fraud, theft, and waste. Among his examples: • Sober living homes that were routinely charging as much as $2,000 for daily urine drug screens – tests that Kreitman said should have cost about $29. • Homes that were making claims for upwards of $5,000 a day for equine treatments – “to go out and pet a horse.” • Clients remaining in treatment for 14 or 15 months, “with no end in sight.” Regularly, Kreitman said, “We’re finding sober home living facilities with no end game. What we’re finding is our members who are being shifted from facility to facility and who are testing positive for heroin from facility to facility.” • Cases of brokers working with sober-living facilities “to bring members into your area for the sole purpose of making a dollar off of them – in our opinion not to help, but to hurt.” All of the fraudulent practices apparently added up. Kreitman said group home insurance claims in Prescott and parts of California spiked by nearly 500 percent during 2015. “That raised our flags,” Kreitman said after the meeting. Those red flags led the Centene Corporation, which recently acquired the previous major insurance provider Health Net, to send a team of investigators to Prescott twice in recent months. Kreitman attended Wednesday’s ad hoc committee meeting as a part of an eight-member team of investigators. That investigation is ongoing, and Kreitman told the committee: “We will be a presence in this town for the near future, which is something that probably we didn’t see from a Health Net perspective.” After the meeting, he said, “We plan to stay as long as it takes.” During the course of the investigation, Kreitman said Centene changed the “payment methodology” for sober living facilities, adding, “Since we have made those changes, I believe over 100 facilities in the Prescott area have closed their doors.” While the City of Prescott had long estimated its total group homes at about 170, officials recently adjusted that to about 110. City Attorney Jon Paladini said Wednesday that the number likely is even lower now, based on the information from Kreitman. “It’s probably under 100 now,” Paladini said. Along the way, Kreitman said Centene had obtained enough evidence to approach the offending facilities, and some of those facilities are now assisting the investigation to help determine “how this fraud was perpetrated in your area – the brokers involved in this fraud.” As the insurance company acquires that information, Kreitman said, “We will either give it to the Prescott Police Department or the FBI.” While several of the ad hoc committee members commended Kreitman for his team’s investigative work, committee member Doug Dolan, who operates licensed facility Recovery in the Pines as well as a sober-living component, voiced several concerns as well. “First off, thank you for cleaning up the ones that are abusing the system,” Dolan told Kreitman. “I believe there is fraud, theft, and waste that needs to be cleaned up.” For instance, he said, “If somebody’s taking an instant (urine) test read, and they’re charging $2,000, that’s asinine. And if somebody’s charging you $5,000 for some kind of equine treatment, I’ll tell you as a treatment center owner, that’s asinine.” But Dolan said he believes urine drug screens are a “medical necessity,” and that there are different levels of testing available. While an instant-read test is one of those options, he said, “That’s not as reliable as sending it to a lab, (where there are different levels of testing). $29 won’t cover that cost.” Dolan said his concerns center on the fact that “at the end of day, hopefully what we’re talking about is the quality of care for the patient.” He added that Centene’s investigation had resulted in a delay in claim payments industry-wide. “There are some good programs not getting their insurance claims paid, and they’re struggling because they’re not getting paid,” he said. Allowing that some sober living homes will take on any insured client with the attitude “let’s give it a shot, and take the money,” Dolan said others, such as his own Recovery in the Pines, take on clients based on whether they are ready to undergo treatment. Kreitman responded: “I feel like you are in the very small minority in this area. It’s very unfortunate that people in this area have taken advantage of people who need help and have dragged your industry down the gutters.” Meanwhile, Kreitman said Centene had resumed paying its claims under a restructured payment process that is a “Medicare-based payment structure.” After the meeting, Kreitman said he believes Prescott is unique in the amount of fraud, theft, and waste. “It is worse here than other places we have been,” he said. Although he was uncertain about the reason, Kreitman said the fraud likely stemmed in part from the fact that “there is not a lot of regulation.”  Source: http://www.dcourier.com/news/2016/aug/12/insurance-investigator-fraudulent-group-homes-have/
Albany police officer suspended after St. Anne Institute incident - Times Union Albany police officer suspended after St. Anne Institute incident Two Albany police officers suspended as brass looks into incident at St. Anne Institute By Brendan J. Lyons Published 10:55 pm, Friday, August 12, 2016 1 Albany An Albany officer has been suspended and another placed on administrative duty as the department investigates the circumstances that led to one of the officers allegedly slamming a girl to the ground last month during a police call at St. Anne Institute, group home for troubled teenagers. Officer Ervis Miftari is suspended without pay and Officer John Schueler is on administrative duty pending the outcome of the internal investigation, Chief Brendan Cox said Friday. "We're going to do a thorough and fair investigation and what comes of that I don't know at this point," Cox said. The incident involving the young girl and Miftari took place in late July and was captured on videotape, the chief said. A person briefed on the case said the internal investigation is focusing on statements Miftari made to internal affairs investigators in relation to what was portrayed on the videotape. St. Anne Institute offers "a structured and supportive environment for young women ages 12-21 that are unable to live at home, attend public school or function in the community," according to its website. In 2002, the group home on North Main Avenue installed multiple additional video cameras after sex abuse charges were filed against an aide at the school. At the time, the Times Union reported cameras were installed in hallways to help monitor more than 125 residents who ranged in age from 12 to 18 and stayed an average of six to eight months. The school for troubled women and girls often receives clients who are placed there by family courts throughout the state. Others are referred to the facility by school districts, and some of the clients attend classes at the school but don't live there. Albany police routinely respond to the school, often to help staff deal with an unruly student, officials said. Miftari is a uniformed patrol officer who joined the department almost three years ago. A spokesperson for St. Anne Institute did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Officer Kevin Flynn, president of the Albany Police Officers Union, could not be reached for comment. blyons@timesunion.com • 518-454-5547 • @brendan_lyonstu  Source: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Albany-police-officer-suspended-after-St-Anne-9140277.php
Drugging our kids: Which Inland facilities heavily rely on anti-psychotic drugs?    SHARE . More from this story SLIDE SHOW: Drugging our kids: Which Inland facilities heavily rely on anti-psychotic drugs? 4 Photos » Nakai Painting 877-769-4468 Riverside Yellow Pages THINGS TO DO     800-514-7253 ADVERTISE YOUR JOB OPENING HERE . STAFF REPORT Published: Aug. 13, 2016 Updated: Aug. 14, 2016 12:03 p.m. Drugging our kids: Which Inland facilities heavily rely on anti-psychotic drugs? Print Photo Share Pin It 1 of 4 More Galleries     Tisha Ortiz, a 23-year-old former foster youth now attending CSU East Bay, has testified repeatedly before the Legislature about the impact of being heavily medicated throughout her childhood as she grew up in residential group homes. Ortiz spent two years of her childhood at Rancho Damacitas group home. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group Related article » Editor’s Note: Southern California Group’s sister publications in the San Francisco Bay Area produced this report, the latest installment in their series investigating doctors’ use of powerful anti-psychotic drugs to control the behavior of the state’s foster children. The report can be found here and the complete series can be found here: extras.mercurynews.com/druggedkids/index.html For years, few questioned how doctors treated the emotional trauma of California’s abused and neglected children – and nobody monitored how often they handed out psychiatric drugs that can turn fragile childhoods into battles with obesity and bouts of stupor. Now, a Digital First Media investigation into the prescribing habits of the state’s foster care doctors reveals for the first time how a fraction of doctors has been fueling the rampant medicating of California’s most vulnerable kids. The Inland facilities heavily using prescriptions are: Loma Linda University Medical Center: State data show a cluster of the highest prescribers of antipsychotics to foster children had a link to the university and hospital, including Dr. William Murdoch,the chair of the psychiatry department and associate professor. Murdoch was surprised to see his name so high on the list of California prescribers, saying his philosophy on prescribing is cautious, especially among young patients. Oak Grove Center: In Murrieta, Dr. Harinder Grewal oversees care for troubled youth "experiencing psychological, social, emotional and behavioral problems." Between 2010 and 2013, Grewal received $471,665 for drug company research, according to company disclosures compiled by ProPublica. The group home's website describes Grewal as "a spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol Myers, Squibb, PfizerInc., AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson." Shanti Clinical Trials: This office in Colton until recently housed a clinic that ran medication trials for childhood depression, attention deficit and bipolar disorder, among other research sponsored by some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. Two of the highest prescribers of psych drugs to foster children are listed as investigators at the clinic, including Dr. Warris Walayat and Dr. Salvador Lasala. Walayat, who was a staff psychiatrist with the Riverside County Mental Health Department, was the highest prescriber of 2009-2014. Rancho Damacitas: Tisha Ortiz, a 23-year-old former foster youth now attending CSU East Bay, has testified repeatedly before the Legislature about the impact of being heavily medicated throughout her childhood as she grew up in residential group homes. Tisha Ortiz spent two years of her childhood at this group home in Temecula.  Source: http://www.pe.com/articles/editor-810549-sister-produced.html
Foster home operators charged for not reporting alleged sex assault by Cody Combs Wednesday, August 17th 2016 Setup Timeout Error: Setup took longer than 30 seconds to complete. I-Team THREE RIVERS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – The I-Team is obtaining new information about the operators of an adult foster care facility that recently had its license revoked by state regulators. According to documents obtained by Newschannel 3’s I-team through the Freedom of Information Act, the operators of the adult foster care home are accused of failing to report allegations of sexual assault to authorities. A The adult care facility was located on 59296 Noah Lake Road in Three Rivers, and housed approximately 6 adults with developmental disabilities and/or mental illness. Shoheli Talukder and MD Talukder are both facing “failure to report abuse” charges as a result of the state’s investigation. “Resident A has been sexually abusing Resident B for months,” reads the report issued by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). “Resident B informed me that Resident A had been bothering her for approximately the last three months,” wrote Trooper Matthew Berry, who wrote about his on-site inspection of the home. The trooper then writes that Resident B said the told the Talukders about the alleged assault. “They asked Resident B not to call the police and yelled at Resident A,” he wrote. The report also claims that the Talukders likely knew about Resident A’s aggressive behavior as early as 2014. The charges faced by the foster care facility operators are considered misdemeanor. The Talukders are expected for a pre-trial conference on Friday. Newschannel 3 and the I-Team will continue to follow the case, and pass along any developments.  Source: http://wwmt.com/news/i-team/foster-home-operators-charged-for-not-reporting-alleged-sex-assault
Staffer accused of assaulting resident of local group home Comment 0  0 By Michael Randall Times Herald-Record recordonline.com By Michael Randall Times Herald-Record Posted Aug. 19, 2016 at 8:52 AM Updated at 9:08 AM John M. Walker By Michael Randall Times Herald-Record Posted Aug. 19, 2016 at 8:52 AM Updated at 9:08 AM  Zoom John M. Walker »  Social News By Michael Randall Times Herald-Record Posted Aug. 19, 2016 at 8:52 AM Updated at 9:08 AM SAUGERTIES – A staff member at the Ulster-Greene ARC residence in Saugerties was charged Thursday with assaulting one of the residents there. Saugerties police said staff members contacted them June 6 to report a possible assault on a resident. Saugerties detectives, assisted by the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, conducted a 10-week investigation. Police said the investigation concluded that John M. Walker, a residential specialist, had committed a series of attacks and abuse against one of the residents. Walker, 28, of Birch Street, Kingston, was charged with one count of first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a felony; two counts of third-degree assault and one count each of second-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person and third-degree menacing, all misdemeanors; and second-degree harassment, a violation. He was arraigned in Town of Saugerties Court and released on his own recognizance pending a future court appearance. Michael Randall   Source: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20160819/NEWS/160819391
Sex abuse, poor supervision alleged at Oregon foster program 1 / 6 foster care feb. 3, 2016 Oregon's then-interim human services director Clyde Saiki, left, and Dani Ledezma, a policy adviser for Gov. Kate Brown, prepare to testify to lawmakers in support of foster care reform legislation. Saiki is among those sued Thursday over treatment of two vulnerable preschoolers. Denis C. Theriault/staff Denis C. Theriault | The Oregonian/OregonLive Print Email By Hillary Borrud | The Oregonian/OregonLive TThe Oregon Department of Human Services is investigating accusations that workers at a residential program for boys and young men in Eastern Oregon provided poor supervision and failed to report alleged sex abuse by a female staffer. In its amended license for the facility, obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive, the department said it's investigating hiring practices and training at Eastern Oregon Academy, in Hines, which is about three miles from Burns. Officials cited concerns that staffers "may be inexperienced or immature and possibly colluding with children in care to elope from the facility, consume drugs and alcohol, and participate in sexual relationships."  But the department has decided not to pull the approximately half-dozen foster children in its care. Instead, it's stationed at the facility 24 hours a day since launching its investigation July 14. The department has previously assigned employees to monitor licensed care facilities. But in recent cases, those employees were present only during daytime hours, agency spokesman Gene Evans said. Eastern Oregon Academy also serves youth from the Oregon Youth Authority. But the Oregon Youth Authority decided to remove the 11 residents under its jurisdiction on Aug. 10, pending the investigation, a state officials said. "We plan to continue daily monitoring and will take further action if necessary," Reginald C. Richardson, the human services department's deputy director and interim head of child welfare, wrote to state lawmakers Friday. Richardson and Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, visited the facility in mid-August. "I had to see for myself what the situation was like," Richardson wrote. "Children's safety is our number one priority, and I will continue in this hands-on role to make sure the youth residing there are safe and their needs met." Eastern Oregon Academy provides behavioral rehabilitation services for boys and young men ages 12 to 25, according to its website. Problems at the facility do not appear to be new: It was on a "radar list" of troubled facilities the Department of Human Services maintained until December, although it was unclear Friday why or for how long human services officials included the facility on the list. Staff at Eastern Oregon Academy could not be reached for comment late Friday. The human services department faces a shortage of foster homes and space in residential programs, after losing about 400 foster homes and 100 residential beds over the past two years, spokeswoman Andrea Cantu-Schomus wrote in an email. Gelser said Friday that allowing youth to remain at Eastern Oregon Academy under human services supervision was appropriate given the shortage of other options. "When we're looking at the capacity issues in the system, if there isn't a direct danger to the kids, having them sleep in a hotel or DHS office isn't an ideal solution," Gelser said. "But having been out there, I believe at least in the short term having the 24-hour onsite supervision by DHS will help with the issue." Gelser championed legislation in the 2016 legislative session to improve oversight in the foster care system. The legislation followed several scandals and a massive shakeup of senior human services staff. Meanwhile, local law enforcement officials are investigating an allegation that a woman who worked at Eastern Oregon Academy had sexual contact with one of the boys staying there, according to the facility's amended Department of Human Services license. The state is also investigating reported bad behavior by managers at the facility. After the human services department launched its investigation, the academy's program manager allegedly "yelled and threw papers at a resident during transport, shouted loudly at two residents prior to discharge, and at one point 'shoulder checked' a resident," according to the amended license. On another occasion, Eastern Oregon Academy managers allegedly grew frustrated with a resident who refused to get into a vehicle after a nature field trip — leaving the youth alone, for more than two hours, in woods some 40 miles from the academy. Eastern Oregon Academy also allegedly failed to report these incidents to DHS. Gelser said the current situation stems, in part, from years of state officials failing to spend enough on quality programs for foster children and other youth in state care. "It's the consequence of a complete disinvestment in the system," Gelser said. "And in order for people to provide service and care for our most traumatized kids and kids with the most complex needs, it costs more than just food and some beds." — Hillary Borrud hborrud@oregonian.com 503-294-4034; @hborrud  Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/08/state_investigates_allegations.html
Youth prison staff were taught abusive tactics Catie Edmondson and Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12:10 p.m. CDT August 21, 2016 Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls are under investigation by the FBI for child abuse and neglect, intimidation of witnesses and other misconduct by officials.(Photo: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Madison — Staff at the state’s problem-plagued youth prison were taught to use abusive techniques when interacting with teenage offenders under the decade-long tenure of the facility’s lead training officer, new records show. Investigators with the Department of Corrections determined that Dustin Meunier’s failure to properly teach staff security techniques resulted in a “high volume” of injuries at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, including broken arms and wrists. Meunier, who was fired in May, hung up on a reporter without answering any questions. Documents released under the state’s open records law reveal that Meunier engaged in serious and sweeping misconduct at Lincoln Hills School — including showing a video of another officer using unjustified force to train workers, failing to stop staff he witnessed abusing teens, overlooking incidents where excessive force was used and falsifying records. Those documents also show Meunier left a juvenile inmate unattended in a room full of pepper spray for more than five minutes and dragged a handcuffed inmate out of a van by his feet. Meunier, who was supposed to be the prison’s sole use-of-force expert, was also unable to demonstrate an understanding of basic security techniques, investigators found. The records are among the first to provide insight into why incidents of excessive force — correctional officers breaking inmates’ arms and wrists, putting their knees into youth and using pepper spray excessively — became common occurrences at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, which share a campus north of Wausau and are being investigated by the FBI for assault, child neglect and other crimes. In recent months, top officials at Lincoln Hills and the Department of Corrections have been replaced and the vast majority of the institution’s staff has been retrained, said department spokesman Tristan Cook. The superintendent of Lincoln Hills was responsible for ensuring staff got proper training, and the superintendent, security director and trainers were responsible for the curriculum, Cook said. People in those positions have been replaced in the past year and a half. Wendy Peterson became superintendent in May and soon afterward fired Meunier for misconduct and negligence after an internal investigation comprised of more than 5,000 pages of interviews and incident reports found that Meunier: Failed to contact nurses to ensure inmates received medical attention. Modified techniques for securing inmates without getting permission from his bosses and trained his fellow workers in his new techniques. He also trained workers how to use pepper spray even though he went years without getting certified for such training. Reviewed incidents that “appeared abusive” but did not mark them as inappropriate. He told investigators he was too busy to properly review them. Frequently did not make staff fill out required paperwork documenting incidents in which force was used. Timothy Johnson, who worked for more than two decades at Lincoln Hills, said he had no idea Meunier had taught him improper techniques. Meunier never told him to be cautious with juveniles with the use of force because juveniles' bones are particularly fragile, as he was supposed to do, Johnson said. “It was taught if you’re going to use an application of force, go as hard as you possibly can. Don’t hold back,” Johnson said in an interview. “If he showed us a technique, we all assumed this is an authorized technique sanctioned by the state of Wisconsin,” he said. Johnson resigned in January as investigators looked into his involvement in incidents where juveniles were injured. He said he didn’t do anything wrong and argued his bosses were negligent and tried to make him a scapegoat. During training sessions, Meunier showed a video of Johnson putting his knee in the back of a young inmate and said it was the right way to control inmates. Johnson said he didn’t know what incident was depicted in the video and was not told it was being used for training. Department of Corrections investigators found that between 2013 and 2015, putting knees into the backs of inmates was “repeatedly used by numerous staff during numerous incidents” even though the method “was not reasonable or necessary and was not justifiable under the circumstances.” The probe of Meunier was sweeping, with internal investigators looking into 19 incidents that occurred between 2013 and 2015. They cleared him in three incidents, but found he violated numerous work rules for the others. Here’s a look at some of the incidents: Broken wrist. In December 2014, Meunier supervised as Johnson and another officer handcuffed a disruptive juvenile inmate, who cried and screamed and told officers his wrist was broken, according to other inmates. The incident occurred at 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday, when no nurses were on site. Meunier called and left a voicemail with the health services office, even though he knew no one would hear it until the next day, he told internal investigators in October 2015. Doctors confirmed that the youth’s wrist was broken and treated it the next day — but Meunier downplayed its significance. “There was no —  no gross deformity, nothing looking out of place, nothing at all,” he told internal investigators of the injury. He also said the incident was “nothing out of the ordinary” and “wasn’t that big of a deal at the time.” The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office reviewed the incident at the time, but found there was no evidence that Johnson intended to harm the inmate. Pepper spray. In July 2015, after an inmate barricaded himself in his room, Meunier and others briefly opened his door and two of them each blasted pepper spray into the room for one second. Meunier told the inmate to lie on the floor when he was ready to be removed. Several staff members exited the hallway because the pepper spray was so thick in the air. Others removed the inmate's roommate as the inmate laid on the floor. The inmate stayed in the room unmonitored for 5 and a half minutes and then crawled out when guards instructed him to leave, investigators found. He later became noncompliant, and officers directed him to the ground and removed his clothes so he could be searched, even though one of the officers was female. Meunier told investigators that he lost control of the incident, which he described as “being a cluster.” He said he didn’t know that two officers, rather than one, had used pepper spray and didn’t realize the inmate had been left in the room unmonitored. A use-of-force review conducted by the Department of Corrections in April 2016 found the use of pepper spray was not justified. Leaving the inmate in the room for so long after pepper spray was used “is abusive since it appears he was intentionally left in the room for this period of time and that he was willing to cooperate with staff and exit his room,” the review said. Use of force. Meunier conducted a use-of-force review of a September 2015 incident in which he was involved, even though such reviews are supposed to be independent. In that review, he wrote that all reports had been filed, but he and two others had not written required reports. Meunier did not document that officer James Schmidt had placed his knee on the head and neck of a juvenile inmate as he broke up a fight. “I must have overlooked it,” Meunier told investigators. His review said health officials had evaluated the inmate, however there is no record of that. A subsequent review done by the department in December 2015 using video of the incident found Schmidt’s actions were unjustified. Investigators concluded that by conducting a review of an incident in which he was involved, Meunier “placed himself and the facility in a position of undue scrutiny.”​  Source: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2016/08/21/youth-prison-staff-were-taught-abusive-tactics/89001716/
“Treatment Centers” for Troubled Teens Are Gothic Nightmares 228 60 254 By Nora Caplan-Bricker   "Troubled teens" don't need this kind of help. AntonioGuillem / Thinkstock Most residential treatment centers that promise they can turn around the lives of troubled teenagers are dangerous places with a proven track record of making things worse, according to a disturbing longread published Tuesday by the Huffington Post. Reporter Sebastian Murdock tells the appalling story of a facility in Utah, formerly known as Island View, and now, under new management, called Elevations RTC. But the takeaway from his extensive reporting is that the options pushed on struggling parents may be hurting, not helping, their at-risk kids. The authoritarian tack that most centers take won’t turn their charges into functional adults, Ira Burnim, legal director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, told HuffPo. “You can teach them to be compliant in an institution because they get the reward of ... getting out,” he said, “but once they get out, it’s the same old problem, and they haven’t learned how to better manage their condition.” Worse, these centers often deeply traumatize their inhabitants. A 2014 lawsuit against Island View’s parent company, Aspen Education, alleged that the center “maintained a prison-like environment where physical and psychological torture were used against students,” Murdock writes. As one former Island View resident, a 25-year-old named Michelle Lemcke, told him: “Long-term treatment facilities are like ... a jail without having done anything illegal.” Anyone who wishes to understand the gothic list of abuses suffered by Island View’s teenage residents should read Murdock’s piece, but even a brief perusal is enough to make the blood run cold. A former staff member named Vlad Diaz who quit in 2008 told the journalist that he “wouldn’t treat a dog” the way he was ordered to handle the children. He claimed he saw multiple kids attempt suicide at the facility. One former resident told Murdock about being strip-searched on arrival; when he refused to remove his piercings, he said, “They restrained me on my back and physically removed each one of my piercings, which tore my flesh open … I still have scars from it.” Teens were required to publicly criticize and humiliate one another during so-called Problem Solving Groups. They were harshly and physically restrained by staff; one family sued unsuccessfully in 2014 after the guards “mangled [a student's] arm, causing severe and irreparable orthopedic and neurological damage,” per the suit. Murdock also found that staff’s policy was to sedate students with high doses of antipsychotics—drugs whose efficacy at combating conditions like depression and bipolar in adolescents has never been established. Perhaps worst of all, though, was the “time-out room,” described by Murdock as a “small white chamber, approximately 4 by 4 feet, with a large metal door,” where students were subjected to solitary confinement—a disciplinary tactic whose use on juveniles is outlawed in federal prisons because of its harrowing psychological effects. The doors remained unlocked when the students were inside, but staff monitored them from the other side. A site inspector for the Utah Department of Human Services told Murdock that the rooms were a place for struggling students to “cool off,” not a punishment—but that’s not what the reporter heard from Island View’s former charges. One of his sources, Emily Graeber, told him she can’t expunge the mental image of her friends trapped in the tiny cells. “I’m still really haunted by the screams,” she said. “Sometimes I have nightmares just from the screaming.” Much of this torture was probably legal. “The troubled-teen industry is almost entirely unregulated,” Murdock writes. “In 2011, a federal bill that would have banned physically abusing or starving children at such facilities died in committee. … [L]ike most states, Utah has no rules outright prohibiting isolation, humiliation or physical restraint. So facilities like Island View still can—and do—isolate, humiliate and physically restrain children. In many states, they can withhold food and water as punishment.” So what should be done to reform nightmare institutions like Island View? Murdock suggests that the answer is to abandon this failed model altogether. Instead, parents of disturbed children should be able to get the support and expert guidance necessary to keep their young ones at home. There is a “virtual national consensus among people in the mental health field that children with mental health difficulties and behavioral problems should be treated at home,” Burnim, the mental health law expert, told Murdock. “I don’t think you need to legislate against RTCs. You just need to create an alternative that sells itself.” Of course, that’s easier said than done. Nora Caplan-Bricker is a contributing writer for DoubleX. Follow her on Twitter.  Source: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/08/24/the_huffington_post_publishes_a_horrifying_piece_about_troubled_teen_residential.html
John Oliver Slams Charter Schools And His Critics Totally Miss The Point Sometimes it takes a funnyman to make sense. Earlier this week, British comedian John Oliver devoted a “Back to School” segment on his HBO program Last Week Tonight to examining the rapidly growing charter school industry and what these schools are doing with our tax dollars. The Washington Post’s education blogger Valerie Strauss watched the segment and reports that while Oliver declined to address whether or not charters provide high quality education, he focused mostly on how often these schools are “terribly – and sometimes criminally – operated.” (You can see Oliver’s entire sketch here.) Editors at Rolling Stone watched Oliver’s broadcast as well and report Oliver focused much of his attention on three states – Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio – that have “especially depressing charter track records – including negligence in the approval process and school executives embezzling funds.” For some time now, I’ve reported on the alarming spread of charter school scandals in these states, and elsewhere, in numerous articles for Salon. So very little of what Oliver exposes is new to the public. But because of the reach of HBO, Oliver’s international popularity, and his ability to turn serious subjects into very funny – even if upsetting – material, advocates in the charter industry mustered a strong defense with numerous blogposts and press releases calling Oliver’s anecdotes “outdated,” his treatment of charters “uninformed” and unfair, and his opinions too disinterested in the needs of parents, especially from communities of color. None of Oliver’s critics seriously refuted the crux of his argument that there might be something fundamentally wrong by design, rather than by implementation or intent, with the idea that  a “free market” of privately operated and essentially unregulated schools is a surefire way to improve education opportunities for all students. Indeed, charter schools are “here to stay” has become a refrain among advocates for these schools, even though there’s no doubt the controversy caused by this new parallel school system is just beginning, and no one can predict what the ongoing conflict will lead to. The charter industry is currently responsible for educating a small percentage of students – just 6–7 percent nationally and barely measurable in many communities, especially more well-to-do metropolitan and rural areas. A minority of Americans and relatively few politicians completely understand what charter schools are. And most experts have mixed views on the purpose of the schools. However, what charter advocates generally won’t admit is that many of the problems these schools cause are reflective of what inevitably seems to happen when an essential public service is privatized. The charter industry claims its schools are “public” institutions because they get tax dollars, but that’s like saying a defense contractor is a public business because it takes in revenues from the federal government. Numerous experts point out charter schools blur the line from what it means to be a public institution providing a public good and that, by their very design, they expand opportunities to profiteer from public tax dollars and privatize public assets. People in communities affected by these schools are just beginning to see the conflicts these institutions cause, and it’s just a matter of time before government officials at all levels are forced to respond to the increasing concerns with these schools. Just consider recent actions taken by the Department of Justice to curtail the expansion of the private prison industry – a privatization trend that generally predates the rise of the charter industry. As Mother Jones reports, after “a damning report on the safety, security, and oversight of private prisons,” DOJ announced it would stop contracting with these institutions. Donald Cohen, who leads In the Public Interest, an organization that researches problems posed by privatizing public services, writes for Huffington Post, privately operated prisons are fundamentally flawed because the business model they must follow encourages the companies to “actively seek new prisoners to fill facilities they own.” As ITPI has previously reported, “in an effort to provide the service with fewer resources while also maximizing profits, [private prison] companies often cut corners, reducing the quality, effectiveness, and accessibility of the service.” “The more contractors can cut costs on running their facilities, the wider their profit margins,” writes Aman Banerji for the Roosevelt Institute. “No wonder … private prisons contracted by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) contain one or more security deficiencies, health service deficiencies, and a greater number of food grievances.” This clear and obvious conflict of interest – between serving the public and rewarding private enterprise – led to a misalignment with DOJ’s mission to hold an essential function of government to the high standards the public demands. If the charter school industry believes it can avoid this conflict, it’s kidding itself. More than one attentive blogger has noticed the striking similarities between charter schools and the private prison industry. In one of these posts, Mitchell Robinson notes that charters, like private prisons, differ from the public counterparts by not being locally managed or controlled, not providing the same level of services and programs, and not answering to the same level or degree of regulation and oversight. Over the years, the US Department of Education has rewarded charter schools with over $3.3 billion in federal funds, and with passage of the most recent federal education law, the every Student Succeeds Act, USDoE will send $333 million more to these schools before the current fiscal year is over. Remarking on the actions DOJ took to end tax dollars going to the private prison industry, Banerji concludes, “It offers an opportunity to contest the privatization of state services beyond the prison system.” Let’s hope reexamining the role of charter schools is the next step.  Source: http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/john-oliver-slams-charter-schools-and-his-critics-totally-miss-the-point/
Parents of disabled urge Malloy to scrap privatizing group homes By: Keith M. Phaneuf | August 23, 2016View as "Clean Read" ShareEmail Print Parents of intellectually disabled adults expected to be transferred from state-run group homes to private care reacted Tuesday with a mix of anger and appeals for compassion. About three dozen parents, unionized caregivers and their clients argued at SEIU 1199 headquarters in Hartford that the planned privatization of 40 state-run homes would weaken care and shatter the bonds formed between workers and clients. “We’re talking about love here; we’re not talking about money,” said Lindsay Mathews of New Haven, whose 51-year-old son, George, has resided at the state-run Brook Street group home in Hamden for the past 20 years. Keith m. Phaneuf / CTCMirror.org Lindsay Mathews of New Haven, whose 51-year-old son, George, has resided at the state-run Brook Street group home in Hamden for the past 20 years. George cannot perform simple tasks, such as putting toothpaste on a brush or adjusting the water temperature in the shower, Mathews said. “Almost everything that has to happen to him is done by someone else,” she said. “These are the people we depend upon to keep our children alive.” Critics of the private, nonprofit group homes for the developmentally disabled say they receive insufficient state funding to provide comparable care. They struggle with employee turnover rates that typically exceed 20 percent — which is a big problem given the close bonds clients seek to form with their caregivers. “To take the staff away would be death for Arthur,” Martha Carney of Hamden said of the staff at the Brook Street home, where her adult son, Arthur, resides. “Please, Governor Malloy, come visit our home.” Chris McClure, spokesman for the governor’s budget office, disagreed with the assertions regarding privatization. “Let's be clear — there should be no service level reductions involved here,” he said. “This is closely following national trends.” Since 2009, the number of individuals served directly by the state Department of Developmental Services in community-living settings have dropped from 15 percent to less than 10 percent, he said. “This step will save taxpayer dollars without affecting service levels,” McClure added. “We deeply value all the work of our employees, and while we know this transition will be difficult, we are doing everything we can to make the state operate more efficiently than ever before.” The Malloy administration unveiled plans last week to privatize 40 group homes and a host of services for the intellectually disabled and eliminate the need for 605 state jobs, saving Connecticut almost $70 million annually by next fiscal year. Those changes are planned to comply with a major reorganization and savings initiative the governor and the General Assembly ordered in May when they adopted the latest state budget. The administration, which already has laid off 113 DDS employees, would eliminate another 492 workers in two stages, most happening after Jan. 1.’ That means 25 percent of the full-time positions at the state agency are being eliminated. “Personally I think he (Malloy) should be arrested today and put on trial,” Mathews said. “These folks can’t speak for themselves.” Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror.org Martha Carney, whose son Arthur resides at the Brook Street group home. Carney said many parents are frustrated with legislators as well, adding that those she spoke with about the new state budget offered no assurances that things would change. DDS Commissioner Morna Murray said her department “is working very hard to maintain current levels of services for the individuals we support in a budget environment that requires we provide high-level services more efficiently,” adding that many states have turned to privatization. “While we know these changes are extremely difficult for individuals, families, and staff, they are necessary for us to maintain critical supports. We are committed to carrying out these transitions in the most effective and compassionate manner possible, and to maintaining the highest quality of care to the largest number of individuals we can support.” But Debbie Albers, an 1199 member who runs the department’s Manchester Supporting Living program, said state workers’ have knowledge of their clients built over decades of service. “I am their family,” said Albers, who has worked at the Manchester facility for 29 years. “We’re like a family and we really need these staffs,” said Robert Osborne, a client at Manchester. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.” Source: http://ctmirror.org/2016/08/23/parents-of-disabled-urge-malloy-to-scrap-privatizing-group-homes/
Foster care film questions priority of privatized system: Money or children? PRWeb   August 23, 2016 10:25am   "Foster Shock" gives former foster children a voice, to say what no one would listen to while they were in the system, and shows the salaries that swelled behind it all PALM BEACH, Fla. (PRWEB) August 23, 2016 The Florida Department of Children and Families has long been questioned by newspapers, lawmakers and families for the abuse, neglect and death of children in its care. Now one child advocate is asking to what extent do these tragedies fall on a privatized system. Florida became the first state to fully privatize child welfare, when Jeb Bush was governor, giving state funds to private companies, who subcontract with even more private companies. DCF has an annual budget of $3 billion, yet as many child advocates attest, most foster children live below the poverty line. In her documentary, "Foster Shock," Mari Frankel, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and board member of Adopt-A-Family, discloses the six-figure salaries of the CEOs of these private companies and gives a platform to executive directors of non-profit organizations, who say when child welfare becomes a business, children become dollar bills. The film, set to screen in Orlando Sept. 2, also tells the stories of children who grew up in foster care, looking forward to the day when they "aged out" of foster care, children who were dependent on the system, but say they were not protected by the system. "It is a Guardian ad Litem's responsibility to speak for the child," says Frankel, speaking to her stirrings for the film. "There is unacceptable and then there is horrendous. What has happened to these children goes way past unacceptable. It is horrendous." Her first case as a GAL involved an 11-year-old boy with developmental disabilities, who was taken from his mother because of drug abuse, Frankel says, and placed in a therapeutic foster home. She remembers visiting him one day with his therapist. She says the boy told them he was being sexually abused by a man who was living with the foster mother. She says when she asked the therapist if he was going to report the abuse, he said no, he did not believe the boy. "No charges were ever filed against the man. No charges were filed against the foster mother. No one was fired. No one was reprimanded," Frankel says. "That is why I did this documentary." Frankel did report the abuse and the boy was removed from the home, but the very next week, another boy was placed in the same home. Too often, Frankel says, she has seen that nothing a foster child says is believed, so the narratives she shares in her film, she verifies with case files and court documents. Foster Shock will be screened at the Central Florida Film Festival on Sept. 2. Five days later, DCF will hold its annual summit in Orlando. When asked if DCF would like to comment on the documentary or the issues it raises surrounding privatization, DCF Communications Director Jessica Sims shared a link to the department's website, saying the system is privatized, but did not comment further than that. Frankel says the intent of the documentary is not to cast blame, but to catalyze change. Too often stories of foster children are so hard to bare, many turn away, but Frankel hopes by making this film, legislators and citizens will fight for more oversight, so foster children stop being abused. Foster Shock will screen during the Central Florida Film Festival (CENFLO). The showing is on Sept. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at West Orange Cinema, located at 1575 Maguire Rd., Ocoee, Fla. The film is one hour. Moviewatcher Passes are tickets available through the film festival beginning at $25 per day. A Moviewatcher Pass includes admission to all festival screenings for the day purchased, a coupon to redeem one medium popcorn and one medium soft drink, and three ballots to case for your favorite short, documentary or feature film. Mari Frankel has served as a community advocate for the State of Florida Guardian ad Litem Program for the last six years. For the last 15 years, she has been on the board of Adopt-A-Family, a non-profit that assists formerly homeless and income-challenged working families. Mari specifically assists with their after-school program, Project Grow, which serves children in grades K through five, to build their social, emotional and educational skills. Foster Shock is a Miss Mari Film. Brian Bayerl is the award-winning cinematographer and editor of Foster Shock. His work has been seen on PBS, Showtime and in numerous feature films, as well as premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW in Austin. Bayerl's films have been screened at prestigious locations such as the Andy Warhol Museum, the Whitney Museum and the British Museum in London. Portrait of America was screened in three countries and won Best Film at London's Raindance Film Festival.  Source: http://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/16/08/p8382519/foster-care-film-questions-priority-of-privatized-system-money-or-child
Uganda to close the largest chain of commercial private schools over non-respect of basic education standards For immediate release Kampala, 12 August 2016 The Ugandan Minister of Education and Sports, Hon Janet Museveni, formally announced on Tuesday during a session of the parliament that the Government will soon close the schools operated by the largest and most controversial chain of commercial private schools worldwide, Bridge International Academies (BIA), which runs 63 nursery and primary schools in Uganda. Hon Museveni indicated having based her decision on technical reports from the Ministry that revealed that the schools did not respect national standards, in particular that “material used could not promote teacher pupil interaction” and that “poor hygiene and sanitation […] put the life and safety of the school children in danger”. “This decision, which is backed up by field visits of Ministry officials, confirms the grave concerns we have had about Bridge,” reacted Salima Namusobya, the Executive Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), a Ugandan NGO monitoring the realisation of the right to education in the country.  “We have long been worried that BIA schools did not respect the Government Guidelines on Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards for Schools for example regarding infrastructure, purposefully used unqualified teachers in order to reduce costs, in violations of Ugandan laws, and were developing a massive for-profit business without the agreement and proper oversight of the authorities.” Bridge International Academies is a for-profit commercial chain of low-cost private schools backed up by investors such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Pierre Omidyar (eBay), as well as the World Bank, and the US and British Governments. It aims at providing education to 10 million pupils by 2025 and already runs over 450 schools in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and soon Liberia and India. The company has been particularly criticised for using a non-transparent system of entirely scripted and standardised curriculum mostly designed in the USA, delivered by untrained teachers reading the script from a tablet, while selling this scheme as “world-class education” to poor people in developing countries in a bid to seek profits. The decision to close BIA schools follows several statements from United Nations (UN) human rights bodies as well as a report from a UK parliament watchdog that criticised BIA, suggesting that the development of these schools may lead to human rights breaches. “The Ugandan education system suffers from many shortcomings. However, it does not mean that any investors can come in and make profit out of the situation by delivering low-quality education while disregarding national authorities and standards. International treaties and a recent resolution from the UN Human Rights Council make clear that it is the duty of the government to close schools that are sub-standard or that lead to commercialisation of education, and we applaud the Government for upholding its obligations,” said Frederick Mwesigye, Executive Director of the Forum for Education NGOS in Uganda (FENU). “While it was unavoidable in this case, it is highly regrettable to have to come to the point where some schools have to be closed. The Government now has to ensure that all children have access to free quality education and no child’s education be disrupted. They made the wise decision to wait until the end of the term (early September) to close the Bridge schools, and we call on the authorities to use that time to help find alternative school for the children, while developing plans to build and improve the public education system,” added Saphina Nakulima, from ISER. BIA has faced a series of controversies in the last three months revealing some of the company’s corporate approach to education. Adding to a previous statement from May 2015 that demonstrated that, contrary to what it claims, Bridge charged fees that were unaffordable by the poorest and that there was no solid evidence about the quality of the schools, it recently emerged that the company: can be resorting to intimidation tactics such as the arrest of an academic researcher based on allegations which could not be proven, in order to avoid independent inquiry about its model; is considering using the data it collects on children for various commercial purposes, including “credit scoring and brokering to financial loan and other products” and “creation and brokering of low-cost health insurance”; is resisting requests from the Government of Liberia for an independent randomised analysis of its schools’ results in Liberia. The decision of the Ugandan Government is also relevant for its neighbour, Kenya, where BIA has the largest number of schools. A few months ago, the Kenyan Government halted the development of Bridge schools over similar allegations that the company was not respecting minimum national educational standards. According to Abraham Ochieng, from the East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights), “the situation in Kenya is unfortunately very similar to Uganda. It seems that only a handful of the 405 BIA schools in the country are registered, the curriculum they use has not been approved by the authorities, and they employ low-paid untrained teachers. Given that BIA started operating in Kenya in 2009 and seems to still not be complying with the Government’s requirements, and while recent revelations have shown the commercial motive of the company, it has become urgent to take action.” Camilla Croso, the President of the Global Campaign for Education, emphasised that “as they realise that commercialisation of their schools is far from being the solution to the education challenges they face, and is in fact detrimental, governments must now increase their funding to education in order to fulfil their obligations to realise the right to education, in particular by spending at least 20% of their budget or 6% of their GDP on education.” The 18 organisations that support this statement have declared that they are ready to work with the Governments of Uganda, Kenya, and other interested authorities to support the development of a quality public education system rather than a commercial system driven by foreign companies.  Source: http://globalinitiative-escr.org/groundbreaking-news-uganda-to-close-the-largest-chain-of-commercial-private-schools-over-non-respect-of-basic-education-standards/
Fort Worth mom questions how infant died in foster care Foster care death under investigation Foster care death under investigation  FORT WORTH — A young mother who had her children removed from her care following a Child Protective Services investigation is now asking how her 10-month-old daughter ended up dead while in foster care. Promise Waggoner died late Monday night, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner.   A cause of death is pending. The girl's birth mother, Trynisha Huey, says she's devastated. "It hurts because in two months she would've been a whole year. My baby is gone," said Huey as she fought back tears during an interview on Tuesday. The mother said she lost custody of Promise, and her older sister, Erica, after coming under scrutiny for allegedly having drugs in the home, and also not feeding her child. Although Huey denies the charges, the children were removed earlier this year in the 323rd District Court in Tarrant County. % Trynisha Huey    (Photo: WFAA) % A CPS spokeswoman said an email that a "...thorough and rigorous investigation" was underway by Residential Child Care Licensing into what happened at the foster care home in south Fort Worth. Fort Worth police confirmed that the Crimes Against Children Unit was leading the investigation but cautioned that no criminal charges have been filed. Huey said she was told by authorities her daughter was put to bed at about 7 p.m. and found unresponsive when an adult checked on her a couple of hours later. She said Promise was born premature but that her health was now fine. She fears for her older child's safety, who remains in foster care. "Can I have my oldest child back? Can I have her back?" she said. Her attorney, Oni Groves, said she's working to file paperwork that would ask for the court to revisit the case. "This tragedy is contrary to what anyone could imagine occurring on the Department’s watch," she said in an email. Police say their investigation is ongoing.  Source: http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/tarrant-county/mom-questions-how-infant-daughter-died-in-foster-care/306232220
Fort Collins disability board walks out during dad’s public comment about group home abuse Foothills Gateway board criticized after walking out during remarks by parent Keith Liddle  By Jennifer Brown | jbrown@denverpost.com PUBLISHED: August 25, 2016 at 5:41 pm | UPDATED: August 26, 2016 at 8:04 am YouTube Screenshot Keith Liddle addresses Foothills Gateway CCB. He spoke for 5 minutes & 16 seconds before he was interrupted and the subsequent walkout. They walked out on him before he was done speaking. The full version of this video is at the top of the playlist. Original recording date is 08/16/2016 in Fort Collins, CO Parents whose children have developmental disabilities are outraged after a community board that manages their benefit money walked out of a meeting while a father was speaking about his son’s treatment at a group home. The walkout by the Foothills Gateway board in Fort Collins was recorded by an audience member and posted on YouTube, then distributed by e-mail to hundreds of parents. In the video, board president John Haley  raises a hand and tells parent Keith Liddle that his “five minutes is up.” Liddle, a frequent speaker at board meetings, responds, “OK, let me go ahead and read this.” Haley repeats two more times that Liddle’s time is up and then abruptly calls for a recess. The entire board stood and walked out of the room while Liddle continued reading his prepared remarks for three more minutes. The exchange sparked uproar from parents and a letter to the board from Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat who sponsored legislation this year that requires periodic state audits of Colorado’s 20 community-centered boards that manage state and federal disability funds. The new law also requires boards to post financial documents on their websites and allow public comment at their meetings. “I encourage your board to develop alternative strategies to intervene in situations like this where families are having difficulty abiding by your expectations,” Aguilar wrote. “Despite your history with this parent, I found the behavior of the board disrespectful.” The senator said the board’s treatment of a parent “begs the question” of whether people with intellectual and developmental disabilities “are being treated better.” The board president, in a three-page letter distributed by e-mail to the parent group, said Liddle continues to bring up the same issues even though Foothills Gateway and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment resolved the neglect case involving Liddle’s son in August 2014.  “While the board is willing to listen to new issues of concern with regard to services and supports to the individuals we serve, we feel that this constant focus on incidents that are many years past are neither acceptable nor productive,” Haley wrote.  The board allocates 10 minutes at the beginning of its meetings for public comment, and did so prior to the new law. “Each speaker, at the chair’s discretion, may speak for up to five minutes,” the letter said. Liddle said he was the only person signed up to speak at the Aug. 16 meeting. Friction between parents and the state’s 20 boards have reached a high point this year after a Denver city audit of mill levy funds found misspending by Rocky Mountain Human Services, the board that serves Denver County residents with disabilities. The boards determine who is eligible for Medicaid and other public funds and help families arrange therapy, in-home care and group home placement. Highlands Ranch resident Dawn Caldwell, whose 15-year-old son has severe disabilities, said the video made her sick to her stomach. “How could you treat a human being this way, much less a taxpayer and a customer?” she said. “How are you treating people when there is not a camera?” “Really the message seems to be if you make waves at any given point in time then they’ll do their best to silence or ignore you,” said Stacy Warden of Broomfield, whose son has cerebral palsy.  Liddle’s 29-year-old son is non-verbal and has the function of a 2-year-old due to spinal meningitis as an infant. In 2014, a state investigation found his son was neglected at a group home and state officials asked Foothills Gateway for a “plan of action” to correct several issues. After staff noticed a rash on Liddle’s son, he did not see a doctor for 11 days and then was diagnosed with shingles. The state also found staff was negligent in placing him with an abusive roommate. During his public comment at the board meeting last week, Liddle was again asking the board for a copy of a “rebuttal letter” it wrote to the state after the investigation. Liddle said the board’s attorney told him Foothills Gateway is not required to release the letter. Liddle plans to return to the board’s meeting next month to finish reading his statement.  Source: http://www.denverpost.com/2016/08/25/fort-collins-disability-board-dads-public-comment-group-home-abuse/
Letters: Old-school TLC better than kids' boot camp Updated: August 26, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT Share Tweet Tumblr Email 1 Comment REPRINTS KATIE FALKENBERG / Los Angeles Times A student works on a painting at KinderPrep, a weeklong summer program in Santa Monica, Calif., for children who are about to enter kindergarten. ISSUE | EDUCATION Old-school TLC better than boot camp Many things separate the rich from the rest of us: mansions, yachts, private jets, and the $1,000 "weeklong boot camp" for their preschoolers ("Boot camp gets kids ready for kindergarten," Wednesday). I'd like to suggest another, equally good - if not better - educational tool: parenting. Read to your children daily from the day they are born; it bonds parent and child. Have them pick up their toys from the time they can bend over without falling on their heads; it teaches responsibility. Give them instructions and consequences when they don't follow through; it instills respect for authority. Discipline them when they misbehave; it demonstrates cause and effect. Talk and listen to your child; it imparts self-confidence and self-worth. Eat and do things with them; it gives them unconditional love. And turn off your cellphone; nothing says, "I don't care about you," like a parent who chooses his or her phone over his or her child. Children don't need a replacement parent, such as a prekindergarten boot camp, when parents are doing their jobs. |Carol Heim, Westmont  Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20160826_Letters__Old-school_TLC_better_than_kids__boot_camp.html
­ Morgantown foster care provider charged with felony abuse Posted by sunshinewiles on August 25, 2016 in Local News MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A foster parent faces felony abuse charges. A West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children unit investigation led to the arrest of a Morgantown woman. According to Sgt. Adam Scott, Kristina Singleton, 43, injured a 7-year-old girl living in Singleton’s foster care home. Scott received findings of a WV DHHR Institutional Investigation Unit report after Singleton’s foster home was investigated for abuse. The girl had severe, belt shaped, bruising on her rib cage and legs. Children in Singleton’s home told investigators she used belts, hands, flyswatters and plastics, wood and metal spoons to hit the children as punishment and that the victim was most severely punished. Singleton initially denied the abuse before Scott said she admitted to physically disciplining children but not causing injuries. She was charged with one felony count of child abuse resulting in injury. Source: http://wajr.com/morgantown-foster-care-provider-charged-with-felony-abuse/
Do Treatment Centers for Troubles Teens Inflict More Harm Than Good? By Abbie Kraft, Parent Herald | August 29, 9:11 PM A member of the gallery staff looks through a section of a rubber room which forms part of a new exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery on February 18, 2015 in London, England. ( Parents would only want what's best for their kids, thus those who are faced with troubled teenagers would opt for treatment centers. Though it may seem like the right thing to do, it was revealed that taking teens to treatment centers can do more harm than good. Advertisement One write up from Huffington Post revealed that troubled teens that were sent to treatment centers are actually going through tough times. It was then mentioned that treatment centers can actually do more harm than good especially when it comes to their mental health struggles. Sebastian Murdock noted that the treatment centers are making it worse for troubled teens, thus they don't tend to lie low when it comes to aggression. It was then mentioned that the staff treated the teenage patients so bad, up to a point that some of them would opt to commit suicide. Murdock mentioned that the treatment facility already lasted for a long time, yet nothing has changed over the years. Teenagers are still being tormented and parents were paying double for their child to be treated unjustly. Sebastian Murdock specifically mentioned Island View, which charged parents around $10,000/month for their kids. Though Murdock's write-up may only be one person's opinion, Vlad Diaz, an ex-employee from the facility backed his claims. According to Diaz, he already witnessed several suicide attempts during his 11 months of employment. Diaz also added that the treatment center's way of tending the confined teens is quite shocking. He then shared that one of the reasons on why the treatment facility was the fact that he can't stand to see the teens being treated like animals. Empowering Parents then added while sending a troubled teen to teen boot camps may be ideal for some parents, it was mentioned that one of the best ways to help a troubled child is to work with them in going through tough times. The website also noted that there are not guarantees that troubled teen programs "Your child isn't a digital camera that you can mail away and get fixed and returned to you in working order," the website mentioned. "You have to change the dynamic within your family if you want to see results."  Source: http://www.parentherald.com/articles/63974/20160829/parenting-talk-does-treatment-centers-for-troubles-teens-inflict-more-harm-than-good.htm
Widespread abuse uncovered during investigation into Rhode Island boarding school Published September 01, 2016 Associated Press Facebook0 Twitter0 Email Print St. George's School in Middletown, R.I. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) An independent investigator looking at sexual abuse at the elite Rhode Island boarding school St. George's issued a report Thursday documenting widespread abuse there in the 1970s and 1980s. ADVERTISEMENT Among the findings is that at least one in five girls who attended the school in the 1970s was abused by athletic trainer Al Gibbs. It also found 10 school employees sexually abused at least 51 students in the 1970s and 1980s, and at least 10 students were abused by fellow students. "In the 1970s and 1980s, St. George's School betrayed the trust of the many St. George's students who became the targets of sexual abuse when they came to the school, and likewise betrayed the trust of parents who sent those students to St. George's with the expectation that it would be a safe place for them to live and learn," according to the report by Boston lawyer Martin Murphy. Murphy was hired in January by the school and the survivors' group SGS for Healing. Gibbs was fired in 1980 after being caught taking photographs of a naked girl in his office, but the report found that he was paid a $1,200 annual grant for "distinguished service" that continued until he died in 1996. The school acknowledged in December that he abused 17 students, but the report said that number was at least 31. Another teacher received a recommendation from the dean of the faculty despite his firing in 1988 for inappropriate sexual contact with a student, the report said. The report also suggested that the school's current headmaster did not appropriately handle reports of sexual misconduct by a teacher in 2004 and should have fired him rather than put him on leave. It also criticized the current board of trustees for "victim shaming" by issuing a statement earlier this year that cast doubt on the credibility of a student who accused the teacher of molestation. Attorney Eric MacLeish, a St. George's alumnus who represented dozens of victims at the school, called the report the most comprehensive recounting to date of sexual abuse at an American boarding school. State police previously conducted their own investigation and said they wouldn't bring charges for a variety of reasons, including the statute of limitations and changes in the laws since some of the abuse occurred.  Source: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/09/01/widespread-abuse-uncovered-during-investigation-into-rhode-island-boarding-school.html
Gazette editorial: Don’t fall prey to high-priced, unregulated private ‘academies’ September 10, 2016 Good-hearted parents who pay large fees to send their troubled teens to fundamentalist residential “academies” need to be cautious. Some such schools have ominous records.Two years ago, state officials closed Miracle Meadows Seventh-day Adventist school, in Harrison County, because a teacher allegedly choked a student unconscious and locked another in handcuffs, and because student residents alleged sexual abuse by fellow students. Miracle Meadows chief Susan Gayle Clark pleaded guilty to misdeameanor child-neglect charges and was sentenced this year.ADVERTISINGinRead invented by TeadsRecently, a Kanawha County case was in the news. Parents are suing ministers who operated the former Blue Creek Academy, near Clendenin, alleging that students were starved, beaten and sexually abused. One student said he was beaten with a board if he failed a test or didn’t memorize scripture, and was put on a diet of beans and water.A long report on the Daily Beast site is titled “Rapes, Daily Beatings and No Escape: Christian School Was Hell for These Boys.” It says parents paid $1,000 a month to send sons to the unlicensed Blue Creek school, which promised in advertisements to “watch God move as he helps us snatch troubled souls out of Satan’s hand.”  The site says Blue Creek students suffered “isolation, physical beatings and mistreatment, and at least two students reported sexual abuse by another student.” It says boys were “bunkered in dilapidated quarters that were infested with rats and mice.” They weren’t permitted to speak in public, except to sing hymns for churches and the elderly; they weren’t taken to the doctor and their calls home were monitored.The national report continued: “Like thousands of other religious private schools around the country — many of which become havens for abuse — Blue Creek Academy operated unlicensed, unregulated, and wholly unmonitored by the state.”State schools Superintendent Michael Martirano forced closure of the academy two years ago — and its principal moved to Montana, where he opened a Christian “ranch” in a three-bedroom house.Parents must be extremely wary of unregulated schools that prey on parents’ worries and desires to give their children the best opportunities. - See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/gazette-editorials/20160910/gazette-editorial-dont-fall-prey-to-high-priced-unregulated-private-academies#sthash.ZlcCntq3.dpuf 
Tehachapi Mountain Boys Home closes following citations BY DARLA A. BAKER dbaker@tehachapinews.com Updated 22 hrs ago Amid a slew of health and safety violations, Tehachapi Mountain Boys Home closed its doors after voluntarily surrendering its operating license with the California Department of Social Services. The group home, located on Highline Road, was a privately held company operated by Annie R. Pritchard. It was licensed in April 2007 to serve six ambulatory boys between the ages of 12 and 17 with 24-hour, non-medical care and supervision, including two clients placed by Merced and Fresno counties. "They surrendered their license at the end of May following 12 complaint investigations," Michael Weston, a spokesman for the state Department of Social Services, said Thursday. As of May 31, the group home was assessed an estimated $33,150 in civil penalties resulting from cited violations issued in March and April 2016, according to the state Department of Social Services website. Also, according to its website, Department of Social Services-licensed evaluators made a total of 32 visits to the home since May 2012, which resulted in the group home receiving 15 Type A citations and 108 Type B citations. Type A citations are classified as having an immediate health, safety or personal rights impact, whereas Type B citations are classified as having a potential impact. According to Weston, the average number of annual visits per group home is based on many factors, including the number of previously issued citations. Weston stated that the number of citations issued at the Tehachapi Mountain Boys Home was "a high number." In addition, the group home was subjected to three unannounced inspections since opening, the latest on March 28. During this inspection, citations were written for faulty fixtures, furniture equipment and supplies, expired food and sanitation of building and grounds. In addition, civil penalties were assessed for lack of documentation, including minutes from the board of directors' meetings, posting of complaint procedures, a written disaster and mass casualty plan of action, personnel records on the administrator, records of cash resources and personal property of clients, and proof of mandatory training of child care staff members. "We did not receive proper training," said Becky Gage, who served as a child care worker for 19 months until the group home's closure. "In fact, I found a phony CPR license with my name on it, and I snagged a copy of it and gave it to Community Care Licensing." According to the CDSS website, on April 20, the group home received an additional citation for Pritchard's deficiency in maintaining the hours necessary to manage and administer the facility. "In the last eight or nine months prior to her shutting down, I did not see her (Pritchard)," Gage said. According to CDSS spokesman Weston, Tehachapi Mountain Boys Homes was classified as a Level 12 group home. The rate level is based on the experience and expertise of the staff at the group home. The higher the rate level, the higher the basic rate paid to the group home per child, per month, with Level 14 being the highest. "The average basic rate for Level 12 would be $9,182 per child, per month," said Weston, adding that this rate of pay had the potential to increase on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of the child, including therapeutic services. Weston said this money comes from a variety of sources, including federal, state and education funds, in addition to private parties who place their own children. Children in group homes who are under court jurisdiction may be placed there due to violations of law or as dependent children removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Weston stated that children are placed in group homes by placement agencies based on the needs of the child. According to Weston, even though the group home has closed and surrendered its license, Pritchard may still face further actions. "The department is still actively involved in the investigation of the group home," Weston said. As of press time, Pritchard had not responded to requests for comment.  Source: http://www.tehachapinews.com/news/tehachapi-mountain-boys-home-closes-following-citations/article_bcfc588a-76aa-11e6-a268-f79da2c9a316.html
Long Island Abuse Case Reveals Risks of Out-of-State Foster Care By NIKITA STEWART and JOSEPH GOLDSTEINSEPT. 13, 2016 Continue reading the main story Share This Page Continue reading the main story Share Tweet Email More Save Photo Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu’s house in Ridge, N.Y. Over the course of 20 years, he brought more than 100 children into his home. Credit Gordon M. Grant for The New York Times The website features photographs and short biographies of children, some with special needs. Choices can be narrowed by gender, age, race and ethnicity. The State of Washington turns to sites, like the Washington Adoption Resource Exchange, to help find adoptive parents for children. The state’s goal is to keep the children near family and familiar surroundings, but if officials cannot find a suitable match, they consider homes out of state — even across the country in New York. That is how Washington first found Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, who lives in Ridge, N.Y., on Long Island. He reached out after seeing children online in 2009. Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu eventually took in three boys from Washington, two of whom he adopted. They were among more than 100 children he cared for over some 20 years, a vast majority of whom came from New York City. But Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu, a foster parent trusted by so many social workers, is now in jail awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing five of his adopted sons and endangering the welfare of two foster children. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s arrest prompted questions about why it took so long for the alleged abuse to be revealed. But it also drew attention to the practice of sending foster children far from the communities they knew — in this case, nearly 3,000 miles — to find a home. Some states use such long-distance placement because their own systems are struggling to find a place for children with special needs. Advocates say such long-distance arrangements can be positive because they can help children find homes more quickly. But effective oversight of even local foster care providers has proved a difficult task for many child welfare agencies nationwide; distance adds another obstacle. Continue reading the main story Advertisement Continue reading the main story Records obtained by The New York Times show that social workers in Washington were confused about the status of a 2014 investigation into abuse in Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home across the country. At that time, they continued to actively guide Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu in his efforts to adopt a third boy because they did not know details of the investigation. “#1 Do you know anything about the investigation,” Amy Herring, a social worker in Washington, wrote in an email to Erin Coyle, who at the time was a director at SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit foster care agency in New York that monitored Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu on behalf of Washington. “#2 Do you know when the adoption paperwork may be done by?” Ms. Coyle “is no longer employed by the agency,” SCO said. Ms. Coyle did not respond to requests for comment through messages left by phone and sent via Facebook. For his part, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu, who was licensed to run a therapeutic home for special needs children, continued to be paid. From September 2010 through January 2016, when he was arrested, he received nearly $145,000 from Washington for caring for children placed with him, in addition to money he received from New York City for caring for local foster children. Photo Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. Credit New York Police Department Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. His lawyer, Donald Mates Jr., said the allegations were false. The first mention of Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s name in Washington State’s records was in late 2009, and was positive. He was interested in adopting a boy listed on an adoption website. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Lori Whittaker, a social worker, wrote in a case file in December 2009 that the staff thought he would be a “good placement.” Also, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had told them that none of the child’s special needs “scare me.” (The children’s names, as well as confidential information, were redacted from files given to The Times.) Soon after, on Feb. 3, 2010, another social worker, Veronica L. Mo, wrote something similar and said he had also asked about another child. Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu traveled to Washington to meet one of the boys, according to the records. He soon took another child. Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu was a one-man operation used by several different agencies that considered his home a safe haven for boys who were developmentally or physically disabled, or had severe behavioral problems. That dependency proved blinding for those agencies, law enforcement officials have said. Mr. Mates said that nothing was overlooked and that his client is innocent. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had been the subject of 30 to 40 complaints about abuse or other mistreatment of children, and the police or social services had investigated them all, Mr. Mates said. “Each and every time that an investigation was done, no charges were brought,” he said. Today’s Headlines Wake up each morning to the day’s top news, analysis and opinion delivered to your inbox. Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box. Invalid email address. Please re-enter. Receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services. Thank you for subscribing to Today’s Headlines. An error has occurred. Please try again later. You are already subscribed to this email. View all New York Times newsletters. See Sample Manage Email Preferences Not you? Privacy Policy And records suggested that the authorities at Washington’s child welfare agency were more directly involved in monitoring Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu than was New York City’s child welfare agency. Although New York’s agency sent more than 90 boys to him, it had outsourced oversight of Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu to the nonprofit SCO Family of Services. Through the years, there were several different agencies involved, like the boys’ schools, hospitals where they went for care, and a residential treatment center called Little Flower in Suffolk County. A developmentally disabled boy from Washington whom Gonzales-Mugaburu adopted left his direct supervision to live at Little Flower. There, in 2014, he told a psychotherapist about horrific abuses inside Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home on a quiet cul-de-sac. The therapist, Amy D’Antonio, alerted the authorities about the allegations, prompting an investigation by Suffolk County Child Protective Services. Ms. D’Antonio had helped the young man, who was 18 years old at the time, reconnect with his biological family in Washington. She said Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu objected, once approaching her in the parking lot of the treatment center and telling her that the teenager did not have the mental capacity to make such a decision. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu told her the boy was a “compulsive and pathological liar,” said Ms. D’Antonio, who in March sued Little Flower, her former employer, saying the agency should have acted more quickly to prevent further abuse of children in his care. Little Flower has disputed the claims in her lawsuit and says it “fully supported” her efforts to contact the authorities. Photo A car driving past the entrance to Little Flower, a residential treatment center in Suffolk County. A boy told a psychotherapist at Little Flower that Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had abused him. Credit Heather Walsh for The New York Times Yet while that investigation was underway, social workers in Washington were trying to place a third child with Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu. At the same time, Washington officials began to question why the state was paying Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu for a child who was no longer in his direct care. Questioned, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu became indignant, according to entries that social workers placed in his case file. He told Ms. Herring, the Washington social worker, that he resented being treated “like a crook and it hurts him.” “He reported that it also angers him deeply. They make him feel ‘dirty and undervalued,’” the entries read. Washington later found that Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu had, in fact, been overpaid. But Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu continued to complain. On Jan. 12 this year, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu told Ms. Herring that he felt “once again insulted” over the disputed payments, according to records. But two days later, Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu shifted the conversation. He told Ms. Herring that he was under investigation. “He reported that two ‘troubled boys’ are causing problems for him, and he wanted to make sure that the SW was aware of what is going on,” she wrote, using shorthand for social worker. At that point, one young man after another, including the 18-year-old adopted son from Washington, were coming forward with allegations of abuse. Two boys, 11 and 13, told the authorities about sexual misconduct in the home. Unlike allegations by boys in the past, theirs were believed, mostly because the boys did not have severe disabilities or emotional problems, said Detective Lt. Robert Donohue, commander of Suffolk County’s special victims unit. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Much of the blame for the failure to alert other agencies has been placed on SCO Family of Services in New York, which coordinated the placement of boys in Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home, with most coming from Long Island and the surrounding area. It has acknowledged that it could have taken more aggressive action after previous complaints. “Internal and external reviews have concluded that SCO had no knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct in this home,” the agency said. “Our review of this former foster parent, however, suggests that there were other issues with the home, and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made earlier.” It was child welfare officials in Washington who were most dependent on getting straight answers and accurate updates from SCO about conditions at Mr. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home and the status of investigations. Norah West, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said, “We rely on information from the agency that is contracted to ensure the well-being of the child in that receiving state.” The mother of the 18-year-old boy, whom The Times is not naming to protect her son’s identity, grew up in the foster care system herself. She said she had struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, and could not believe her son had suffered in a system that she thought would help him. “I can’t believe they put him with someone like that,” she said. “Look what I did to my son.”  Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/nyregion/long-island-abuse-case-reveals-risks-of-out-of-state-foster-care.html?_r=0
Caregiver charged with abusing autistic teen in group home Updated Sep 13, 2016 (0) NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Delaware State Police have arrested a caregiver they say hit a 13-year-old autistic resident of a group home where she works. The agency said in a news release that the caregiver worked at the Manor Group Home, which is owned by the Christina School District. Police say the caregiver was seen repeatedly hitting the boy, who is autistic and doesn't speak. Troopers say another staff member intervened and stopped the assault. Authorities say a school nurse wrote on an injury report that she saw redness and bruising on victim's right upper arm and scratches on the back of his neck. Officials say warrants were obtained and on Tuesday, 53-year-old Harrietta Kanda of New Castle was arrested. She is charged with felony child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.  Source: http://www.dailyprogress.com/caregiver-charged-with-abusing-autistic-teen-in-group-home/article_36ff1483-7dbe-5a2d-ac60-0feaa7241d9b.html
Sitka Academy closes its doors Created on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 02:00 | Written by Colin Staub | inShare Share JW_DISQUS_VIEW_COMMENTS Loss of students from CYFS program prompts school district to shutter facility Sitka Academy, a program operated by the Newberg School District to serve youths in the care of Chehalem Youth and Family Services, is not operating during this school year due to a lack of students to attend its classes. The academy was attended solely by youths living in CYFS group homes, which a Department of Human Services spokesperson and an attorney for CYFS both confirmed are no longer housing residents. The state agency notified CYFS in June of its intention to revoke the Newberg care provider’s license to operate residential youth homes. The notice cited a number of incidents that came to light during a long investigation, including alleged neglect, maltreatment, lack of supervision, failure to follow procedures in mandatory reporting and protection of residents’ health and safety, and financial mismanagement. CYFS has since appealed the state’s decision and will contest the findings in a hearing set for this fall, but in the meantime DHS has relocated all residents of the three group homes that together housed 16 youths. “DHS began moving children upon filing an intent to revoke in June 2016,” DHS spokesperson Andrea Cantu-Schomus confirmed in an email. A fourth CYFS home was shut down by DHS last fall through the same process, with similar incidents cited for the closure. For several years young people living in CYFS homes who were enrolled in public schooling received education through the Long Term Care and Treatment (LTCT) program provided by the Willamette Education Service District (WESD). Admittance into that program was automatic for students living in the group homes, Newberg School District spokesperson Claudia Stewart said. Education service districts are used to provide programs that are in limited demand and may not be cost effective for an individual school district to hire full-time. ESDs serve multiple school districts, meaning personnel are shared in an effort to reduce costs for each district. The LTCT program aims to tailor teaching to the issues the youths in CYFS homes face. “To be admitted to a group home, it’s indicative that they have social, behavior and academic struggles,” Stewart said. But in April 2015, the WESD told the Newberg district it would no longer provide that program for Newberg students, and that beginning in the 2015-2016 school year the district would have to find another option to educate that population. The school district could not find another program to contract with, Stewart said, so it began developing its own in-house program to educate the youths. New employees were hired and trained and when the YMCA branch on Sitka Avenue closed in August 2015 the school district leased the building to open the LTCT program. The facility was remodeled and furnished with new equipment, and was dubbed Sitka Academy. It opened in September 2015 to 35 students, a number that Stewart said fluctuated by five or six students during the year, although those who left were quickly replaced. Staffing also fluctuated from 10 to 12 employees, based on how many students there were and whether they required an individual aide. All in all, startup and operational costs for Sitka Academy came to $800,000, made up of federal funding as well as from the Newberg School District general fund. The school district hoped to expand the program so it could serve other school districts as well (similar to the WESD). “We built this program to continue to operate,” Stewart said. But beginning in about April (two months before the state issued the intent to revoke notice) the numbers of students began to decline, Stewart said. In the intent to revoke notice, DHS said new admissions to the group homes were officially closed on May 19. The school year closed with 12 students at Sitka, Stewart said, only a third as many as the program opened with. The dwindling population raised questions about whether Sitka would have anyone to serve in the coming school year – questions that elicited few solid answers. Stewart said school district officials “were asking those questions for at least two months, and there was just not a clear answer.” And with about a dozen staff members slated to work in that program, a decision had to be made. There were vacant staff positions in other departments that the Sitka employees could be moved into if the program was going to shut down, Stewart said. Then the news of the state’s intention to revoke CYFS’s license came in June. With the Sitka program populated entirely by residents of those group homes, DHS told the district there would not be any students to serve, and the school district made plans to close Sitka and move the staff members into other departments. But once CYFS appealed the state’s move to revoke its license, a protective seal was ordered by the Department of Justice that barred release of most information about the case. At that point DHS stopped talking to the school district, Stewart said. In early August the school district received further confirmation from CYFS there would be no students to attend the Sitka program in the fall. All the staff members who worked in the one-year-old program have been reassigned to other school departments, Stewart said, adding that there are not yet any alternative plans for the Sitka building. There’s also no definitive answer on whether the program will start back up. After all, CYFS has not actually had its license revoked (see sidebar), and if it wins its appeal youths could potentially move back into the group homes. “We’ve been hearing mixed messages about the residential program starting up, meaning that (the Newberg School District) would need to start up the (Sitka) program to provide services for kids,” Stewart said Monday. “Despite efforts, there is no clear answer from CYFS or DHS because of the ongoing litigation.” Last week the Oregon Department of Education contacted the school district, Stewart said, advising it to hold off on taking action with the Sitka building due to the potential for the program to start back up mid-year. That would presumably be the case if CYFS wins the appeal and retains its license. “So the future of the Sitka (LTCT) program remains unclear and the school district remains in a holding pattern,” Stewart said. Attorney Connor Harrington, representing CYFS, said that while the residential services program no longer has any youth to serve for now, CYFS “is focusing on serving the community through its Chehalem Counseling Center, Youth Opportunity Occupation Program (YOOP) and (Lucky Finds) thrift store, which are all currently operating.” CYFS Executive Director Deborah Cathers-Seymour noted the YOOP program provides education to a population that was not served by Sitka Academy: youths who have dropped out and are not enrolled in public education through the school district, and who are working to earn their GED, to receive community college credit or other certifications. The program also teaches employment skills to help students enter the workforce, she said. YOOP has two facilities, in Newberg and McMinnville, and has more than 100 youth participants right now, Cathers-Seymour said. Many of those enrolled in YOOP programs “struggle with poverty, homelessness and behavioral concerns,” she said. “They have not been successful in mainstream public school settings and have typically dropped out.” As for the youths who were moved out of the group homes by DHS, it’s unclear where they have been relocated to. DHS declined to comment due to the protective order.  Source: http://www.pamplinmedia.com/nbg/142-news/322597-202390-sitka-academy-closes-its-doors-
Child dies in foster care; removed from home after falsified drug test By Brianna Smith Published: September 15, 2016, 3:19 pm Updated: September 15, 2016, 6:14 pm According to a new lawsuit, a 3-year-old died after being removed from his family because of a falsified drug test by Accurate Diagnostics of Laurens County. Elijah Jack Oberdier was removed from his parents home in January of 2015, after a hair strand drug test result given to Laurens County DSS said Oberdier had marijuana in his system. Elijah went to live with family members and was taken to visit other family in Western North Carolina. While there, Elijah died inside a house fire. A year and a half later, Elijah’s parents were charged with Unlawful Neglect of Child, even after it was proved Elijah’s test results were falsified by Lynn Craig, the owner of Accurate Diagnostics Laurens County. 7 other families have now filed lawsuits against Lynn Craig, Accurate Diagnostics, and DSS because of children being pulled from family members over falsified drug tests. Watch at 6 for a full interview.  Source: http://wspa.com/2016/09/15/child-dies-in-foster-care-removed-because-of-falsified-drug-test/
Long Island abuse case reveals risks of out-of-state foster care Originally published September 14, 2016 at 9:42 pm Back to story Restart gallery More  Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu’s house in Ridge, N.Y., last March. During the course of 20 years, he brought more than 100 foster children into his home. Gonzales-Mugaburu, a foster parent trusted by so many social workers, is in... (GORDON M. GRANT/NYT) More When the state of Washington can’t find local placement for children in need, it reaches out to out-of-state foster care. Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu from New York took in three boys from Washington, two of whom he adopted. Now he waits trial on charges of sexual abuse. Share story By Nikita Stewart and JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN The New York Times The website features photographs and short biographies of children, some with special needs. Choices can be narrowed by gender, age, race and ethnicity. The state of Washington turns to such sites, like the Washington Adoption Resource Exchange, to help find adoptive parents for children. The state’s goal is to keep the children near family and familiar surroundings, but if officials cannot find a suitable match, they consider homes out of state — even across the country in New York. That is how Washington first found Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, who lives in Ridge, New York, on Long Island. He reached out after seeing children online in 2009. Gonzales-Mugaburu eventually took in three boys from Washington, two of whom he adopted. They were among more than 100 children he cared for over some 20 years, a vast majority of whom came from New York City.  But the foster parent, trusted by so many social workers, is now in jail awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing five of his adopted sons and endangering the welfare of two foster children. Gonzales-Mugaburu’s arrest prompted questions about why it took so long for the alleged abuse to be revealed. But it also drew attention to the practice of sending foster children far from their communities — in this case, nearly 3,000 miles — to find a home. Some states use such long-distance placement because their own systems are struggling to find a place for children with special needs. Advocates say such long-distance arrangements can be positive because they can help children find homes more quickly. But effective oversight of even local foster-care providers has proved difficult for many child-welfare agencies nationwide; distance adds another obstacle. Records obtained by The New York Times show that social workers in Washington were confused about the status of a 2014 investigation into abuse in Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home. At that time, they continued to guide Gonzales-Mugaburu in his efforts to adopt a third boy because they did not know details of the investigation. “#1 Do you know anything about the investigation,” Amy Herring, a social worker in Washington, wrote in an email to Erin Coyle, who at the time was a director at SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit foster-care agency in New York that monitored Gonzales-Mugaburu on behalf of Washington. “#2 Do you know when the adoption paperwork may be done by?” Coyle “is no longer employed by the agency,” SCO said. Coyle did not respond to requests for comment through messages left by phone and sent via Facebook. For his part, Gonzales-Mugaburu, who was licensed to run a therapeutic home for special-needs children, continued to be paid. From September 2010 through January 2016, when he was arrested, he received nearly $145,000 from Washington for caring for children placed with him, in addition to money he received from New York City for caring for local foster children. Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. His lawyer, Donald Mates Jr., said the allegations were false. The first mention of Gonzales-Mugaburu’s name in Washington state’s records was in late 2009, and it was positive. He was interested in adopting a boy listed on an adoption website. Lori Whittaker, a social worker, wrote in a case file in December 2009 that the staff thought he would be a “good placement.” Also, Gonzales-Mugaburu had told them that none of the child’s special needs “scare me.” (The children’s names, as well as confidential information, were redacted from files given to The Times.) Soon after, on Feb. 3, 2010, another social worker, Veronica Mo, wrote something similar and said he had also asked about another child. Gonzales-Mugaburu traveled to Washington to meet one of the boys, according to the records. He soon took another child. Gonzales-Mugaburu was a one-man operation used by several different agencies that considered his home a safe haven for boys who were developmentally or physically disabled or had severe behavioral problems. That dependency proved blinding for those agencies, law enforcement officials have said. Mates said that nothing was overlooked and that his client was innocent. Over the past 20 years, Gonzales-Mugaburu was the subject of 30 to 40 complaints about abuse or other mistreatment of children, and the police or social services investigated them all, Mates said. “Each and every time that an investigation was done, no charges were brought,” he said. And records suggested that the authorities at Washington’s child welfare agency were more directly involved in monitoring Gonzales-Mugaburu than New York City’s child welfare agency. Although New York’s agency sent more than 90 boys to him, it had outsourced oversight of Gonzales-Mugaburu to the nonprofit SCO Family of Services. Through the years, there were several different agencies involved, like the boys’ schools, hospitals where they went for care and a residential treatment center called Little Flower in Suffolk County. A developmentally disabled boy from Washington whom Gonzales-Mugaburu adopted left his direct supervision to live at Little Flower. There, in 2014, he told a psychotherapist about horrific abuses inside Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home on a quiet cul-de-sac. The therapist, Amy D’Antonio, alerted the authorities about the allegations, prompting an investigation by Suffolk County Child Protective Services. D’Antonio helped the young man, who was 18 at the time, reconnect with his biological family in Washington. She said Gonzales-Mugaburu objected, once approaching her in the parking lot of the treatment center and telling her that the teenager did not have the mental capacity to make such a decision. Gonzales-Mugaburu told her the boy was a “compulsive and pathological liar,” said D’Antonio, who in March sued Little Flower, her former employer, saying the agency should have acted more quickly to prevent further abuse of children in his care. Little Flower has disputed the claims in her lawsuit and says it “fully supported” her efforts to contact the authorities. Yet, while that investigation was under way, social workers in Washington were trying to place a third child with Gonzales-Mugaburu. At the same time, Washington officials began to question why the state was paying Gonzales-Mugaburu for a child who was no longer in his direct care. Questioned, Gonzales-Mugaburu became indignant, according to entries that social workers placed in his case file. He told Herring he resented being treated “like a crook and it hurts him.” “He reported that it also angers him deeply. They make him feel ‘dirty and undervalued,’” the entries read. Washington later found that Gonzales-Mugaburu had, in fact, been overpaid. But Gonzales-Mugaburu continued to complain. On Jan. 12 this year, Gonzales-Mugaburu told Herring, of SCO, that he felt “once again insulted” over the disputed payments, according to records. But two days later, Gonzales-Mugaburu shifted the conversation. He told Herring he was under investigation. “He reported that two ‘troubled boys’ are causing problems for him, and he wanted to make sure that the SW was aware of what is going on,” she wrote, using shorthand for social worker. At that point, one young man after another, including the 18-year-old adopted son from Washington, were coming forward with allegations of abuse. Two boys, 11 and 13, told the authorities about sexual misconduct in the home. Unlike allegations by boys in the past, theirs were believed, mostly because the boys did not have severe disabilities or emotional problems, said Detective Lt. Robert Donohue, commander of Suffolk County’s special victims unit. Much of the blame for the failure to alert other agencies has been placed on SCO Family of Services in New York, which coordinated the placement of boys in Gonzales-Mugaburu home, with most coming from Long Island and the surrounding area. It has acknowledged that it could have taken more aggressive action after previous complaints. “Internal and external reviews have concluded that SCO had no knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct in this home,” the agency said. “Our review of this former foster parent, however, suggests that there were other issues with the home, and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made earlier.” It was child-welfare officials in Washington who were most dependent on getting straight answers and accurate updates from SCO about conditions at Gonzales-Mugaburu’s home and the status of investigations. Norah West, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said, “We rely on information from the agency that is contracted to ensure the well-being of the child in that receiving state.” The mother of the 18-year-old boy, whom The Times is not naming to protect her son’s identity, grew up in the foster-care system herself. She said that she had struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, and that she found it unthinkable her son had suffered in a system she thought would help him. “I can’t believe they put him with someone like that,” she said. “Look what I did to my son.” Nikita Stewart JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN  Source: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/long-island-abuse-case-reveals-risks-of-out-of-state-foster-care/
Teenage Girl Dies After Incident at For-profit Group Home The 15-year-old was a resident at a Delaware facility owned by AdvoServ, which has faced decades of reports of abuse. by Heather Vogell ProPublica, Sep. 20, 2016, 3:56 p.m. 4 Comments Print Print This is part of an ongoing investigation Restraints Do you know a child who has been forcibly restrained or secluded at school? Help us investigate by sharing your story.  Update, Sep. 20, 2016: The Maryland Department of Human Resources said late Tuesday that it has terminated its contract with AdvoServ after determining “it is in the best interest of the children in our care” to move the children to other providers. “Our Department is moving swiftly, and with great care and consideration, to evaluate and identify placements that are the best fit, and that meet the unique needs of each child,” spokeswoman Katherine Morris said in a prepared statement. She did not say how many Maryland children are still in AdvoServ’s care and how long it will take to remove them all. A teenage girl died last week after an incident at a group home in Delaware run by a for-profit company, AdvoServ, whose long record of problematic treatment ProPublica chronicled last year. Attorney Chris Gowen, who has a lawsuit against AdvoServ concerning a different teen, said he has learned workers were manually restraining the girl when she became unresponsive. He and his clients have spoken to current and former workers about the incident. “While we await further information we do hope that a full investigation into this latest incident occurs,” he said. AdvoServ did not answer questions about the death. A spokesman declined to say whether the girl was being held down – manually restrained – before staff called 911. “Our staff is heartbroken over the loss of a young woman in our care, and our deepest sympathies go out to her mother and extended family,” the company said in a brief statement. The spokesman said mechanical restraint devices, which include wrist and ankle cuffs, were not involved in the Delaware death and are not used in group homes in that state anymore. The girl, whose name state police did not release, died Wednesday in a Delaware hospital, two days after an ambulance took her from the home for youth with developmental or intellectual disabilities and serious behavior challenges. Delaware state police and regulators also haven’t said what happened to the 15-year-old from Maryland. The state medical examiner’s office is conducting an autopsy, but a spokeswoman said the results will not be made public. Maryland is one of several states that send difficult cases to AdvoServ because they cannot find beds and schooling closer to home. The company, which is owned by a private equity firm, is based in Delaware and reported last year that it cared for roughly 700 children and adults in that state, Florida, and New Jersey, and was expanding into Virginia. Gowen filed a lawsuit this summer in Delaware against AdvoServ , on behalf of a young resident who says he was left unsupervised and raped repeatedly by other clients at AdvoServ homes during more than four years there. His neck was also injured during a restraint performed by workers. “[W]e learned of a significant number of instances where improper restraints were used involving our client,” Gowen said. Delaware state police and the state agency charged with licensing group homes and investigating abuse in institutions are looking into the girl’s death. Asked whether Delaware regulators were taking steps to sanction the company or putting extra precautions in place to ensure children’s safety there, Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families spokeswoman Dawn Thompson said the agency had begun an inquiry: “Once completed we will determine any next steps if warranted.” The girl is not the first child to die under questionable circumstances at AdvoServ’s homes and schools. In 2013, Paige Lunsford, 14 and autistic, died at the company’s Florida complex after a night in which she was restrained – at times latched to a bed and chair – while she vomited repeatedly. And in 1997, 14-year-old Jon Henley, who was autistic and had epilepsy, was found dead in his bed one morning after an apparent seizure. An autopsy revealed low levels of anti-seizure medication in his blood. Regulators in multiple states have fielded decades of complaints of abuse, neglect and inadequate medical care at AdvoServ facilities. Leslie Seid Margolis, a managing attorney with Disability Rights Maryland, said she has raised concerns about AdvoServ’s care in Delaware dating back a decade. Her agency, which represents people with disabilities, has received multiple complaints about AdvoServ – including two that came in last fall alleging sexual and physical abuse. Margolis said that a few years before, she had obtained a copy of AdvoServ’s policies for its Delaware homes – which she described as “draconian.” They outlined the use of measures including wrist, waist and ankle restraints. Unrestrained While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability. Read the story. What Happened to Adam It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos. Read the story. “Every kind of restraint you could imagine,” she said. “It was horrifying.” Maryland eventually told AdvoServ it could no longer use mechanical restraints on children from the state. A former worker for AdvoServ in Delaware, who asked that his name not be used, said he left three years ago in part because he felt staff did not receive enough training in deescalating conflicts or restraining clients. The company had been trying out new restraint procedures that were supposed to make restraints less forceful by involving more staff members. But, he said, with too few staff often available to carry out the restraints as planned, “It just becomes unsafe.” In response to the worker’s comments, AdvoServ’s spokesman pointed out that he left three years ago, but did not elaborate further. The company is one of the few group home operators that still use restraint devices to confine clients who become aggressive. As ProPublica has reported, AdvoServ staff used such mechanical restraints on clients at its 200-bed campus northwest of Orlando roughly 28,000 times. Florida officials said in June that they were moving clients out of AdvoServ’s complex and stationing an investigator there to provide extra oversight during the transition, which they expected to take months. If you have information about AdvoServ, email reporter Heather Vogell. Like this story? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get more of our best work.  Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/teenage-girl-dies-after-incident-at-for-profit-group-home
Man accused of assault on group home resident pleads guilty The Associated Press Updated 22 hrs ago (2) PAPILLION — A man who worked at a Bellevue group home for developmentally disabled people has been convicted in the sexual assault of one of the residents. Adrian Galbreath, 39, pleaded guilty Monday to attempted sexual assault and two counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult. Prosecutors lowered the assault charge in exchange for Galbreath's pleas. He's scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 21. Court records say Galbreath worked at Hands of Heartland and had invited the group home resident to Galbreath's Bellevue apartment on Sept. 23 last year. Authorities say Galbreath pushed down and began to assault the man after the man became intoxicated. A Hands of Heartland official has said Galbreath is no longer an employee.  Source: http://journalstar.com/news/local/911/man-accused-of-assault-on-group-home-resident-pleads-guilty/article_79bf33ba-abe9-5d57-b167-c1a1c40d1803.html
Stories of abuse at N.J. group homes spark lawmakers to demand action 1 / 24 Bill would provide oversight for developmentally disabled TRENTON - Monday, September 19, 2016 Chaired by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the state Assembly Human Service Committee meets to discuss a bill that would provide stronger oversight and investigative power of group homes and other housing for people with developmental disabilities. Aileen Rivera, who has a son Daniel, now 31, who she described as "a little boy in the inside," shows a graphic photograph of her son after she says he was beaten while living at a Northern New Jersey development center. At left is Martha Cray, of Roselle Park, mother and advocate, with Family Alliance to Stop Abuse and Neglect, NJ, (Michael Mancuso | For NJ.com) Michael Mancuso | For NJ.com Print Email By Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger Email the author | Follow on Twitter on September 19, 2016 at 6:40 PM, updated September 19, 2016 at 11:51 PM comments TRENTON — If a child came home from day care or school with bruises, burns and broken bones, parents would rightfully demand an explanation and administrators would expect to be held accountable. So why do people with developmental disabilities deserve any less of a response?  Gus Egizi of Hammonton politely but firmly posed this question Monday to members of the Assembly Human Services Committee as they debated a bill that would impose stricter rules on state licensed group home operators. Egizi said his 37-year-old son, Michael, suffered a sunburn so bad he needed hospital care, as well as multiple bruises and injuries while under the care of group home and hospital staff. He's hired lawyers to get answers, but those requests have been ignored. "This would not be tolerated if it had happened at a day care center or a school," Egizi said. "This is a human rights issue. This is a civil rights issue." Aileen Rivera, a councilwoman from Wayne, said her 31-year-old son still suffers from the anxiety from enduring beatings, being restrained for hours and humiliated when a worker urinated on him. "There is an urgency to this bill," Rivera said. "Lives depend on it." The committee approved the bill by a 6-0 vote that would require: Six unannounced inspections at a group home every year; Drug testing for group home employees; Family and guardian notification within an hour after a medical emergency; Investigators to seek input from families or guardians and provide them progress reports during investigations. The bill (A2503) is named for Stephen Komninos, a 22-year-old man who died in 2007 when he was left unsupervised against medical orders, and choked to death on a bagel. Panel OKs new inspection rules for disabled Both bills require the state to make unannounced site visits, and in the event a disabled person is harmed, the agency responsible must in most cases notify the family or guardian within two hours "The protections afforded by this bill are too late to save Stephen's life. He did not survive the system," said Thomas J. Komninos of Upper Saddle River said of his son. "But today you will hear about others who have, so far, survived. Please do what is right for these people. Let's start giving them the same rights and protections enjoyed by all the other people in New Jersey. Tom Baffuto, executive director for The Arc of New Jersey, a statewide advocacy organization that has group home providers in each county, said he was "crushed" to hear the stories about their loved ones' abuse and neglect. But the remedy offered through this bill won't help and could make conditions worse, Baffuto said. The state Department of Human Services does not have the staff to perform six unannounced visits a year, and adding more inspectors will divert money away from services, Baffuto said. Three inspections is more reasonable and was included in the bill's first iteration in 2014, he said. The same committee passed a similar bill two years ago, but chairwoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) who is also the sponsor, said she abandoned that measure in order to meet with interested parties and develop "more comprehensive legislation."  It's hard enough to attract a group home workforce when the average starting salary is a meager $10.50 an hour. Requiring applicants pay for the test will deter applicants, Baffuto said.  "Sometimes even with the best of intentions, things that look good on paper are virtually impossible to operationalize," Baffuto said. Susan K. Livio may be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.  Source: http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/09/stories_of_abuse_and_neglect_at_group_homes_sparks.html
Child care home in Jackson County license suspended Jon Szerlag 3:52 PM, Sep 20, 2016 3:53 PM, Sep 20, 2016 A judge's gavel is seen on February 2, 2009 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle Copyright Getty Images After investigating complaints into a group child care home in Jackson County, The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and the Bureau of Community and Health Systems issued an order of summary suspension and notice of intent to revoke the child care group home license. In a press release it states, the department received a complaint on Sept. 16 on the location, at 3800 Dormay. The license that is suspended belonged to Lisa Riggins, who has held a license to operate a group child care home since Oct. 27, 2011. The license was for 12 children. The investigation into the complaint found violations of the Child Care Organizations Act and administrative rules regarding caregiver and child care home family and caregiver responsibilities, states the release. LARA took emergency action to protect the health, welfare and safety of the children involved. The summary suspension order prohibits Riggins from operating a group child care home at the location, or any other address or location. She also cannot accept children for care after 6 p.m. Sept. 16, according to the release. The order also requires Riggins to inform all of the parents of children in her care that her license has been suspended and that she can no longer provide child care. According to the release, Michigan law defines a group child care home as “a private home in which more than 6 but not more than 12 minor children are given care and supervision for periods of less than 24 hours a day unattended by a parent or legal guardian, except children related to an adult member of the family by blood, marriage, or adoption. Group child care home includes a home in which care is given to an unrelated minor child for more than 4 weeks during a calendar year.” Riggins has the right to appeal the suspension, and the case will be forwarded to the Michigan Administrative Hearing System for a hearing date.  Source:  http://www.fox47news.com/news/local-news/child-care-home-in-jackson-county-license-suspended
Courage House Claimed to Save Sex-Trafficked Girls. Instead, It Used Them As Funding Bait While Playing Evangelical Christian Missionary Courage House received about $9,100 in government support per month per girl it took in. Elizabeth Nolan Brown|Sep. 20, 2016 9:40 am Courage Worldwide/FacebookOnce girls arrived at the house, they were expected to hand over their cellphones. Internet access was also strictly limited—Jenny's rules. For "her girls" to stay in good graces, they were expected to do as she said, go where she told them to, and be available when she wanted to show them off in photos or at events. It's the kind of controlling, exploitative situation police warn us that runaway teens are likely to end up in at the hands of human traffickers. But in this case, control came via the people ostensibly helping—and accepting a lot of private and government money to help—these girls, under the auspices of an organization called Courage Worldwide. Founded in 2011 by Jenny T. Williamson (on direct orders from God, or so she claims), the Sacramento-based organization provided housing and services for formerly sex-trafficked young women at a California group home (Courage House) as well as a sister site in Tanzania. For her work as CEO of the nonprofit, Williamson paid herself $115,000 in 2015, according to the organization's tax report. The group reported net assets of $1.4 million that year. In addition to accepting donations from numerous local businesses, it received about $9,100 in government support per month per girl it took in. Most of the girls that lived at Courage House were referred by social workers or probation officers. Once at Courage House, the girls were supposed to be able to heal in comfort and privacy. Instead, they found themselves cut off from the outside world, with services and staff lacking (one former employee said she was told there was only money for two of the six girls per month to see a psychiatrist), while being subjected to the invasive publicity demands of Williamson, according to a Sacramento Bee expose on the group. "Public documents show that Williamson voluntarily closed the six-bed facility, effective June 14, amid a flurry of state inspections that found numerous violations, including inadequate staffing levels and no current administrator working at the home," the paper reported in August. "Williamson is appealing many of the citations, and is adamant that the closure is only temporary." So temporary, apparently, that Williamson didn't bother telling her donors about the shutdown until after the Bee contacted them. A former Courage House employee told the newspaper that the group had been cited by the state 16 times between January and June of 2016, for violations including breaching residents' privacy and inadequate staffing. Last fall, it was cited for giving tours of the group home and holding lunches there, for forcing residents to attend Christian church services every week, and for not respecting residents' freedom of religion. In interviews with The Bee, six ex-employees and a former business associate described a volatile environment for workers and high turnover among line staff at Courage House. The former workers singled out Williamson as a temperamental leader with no child-development background who micromanaged her trained staff and became so swept up in her own publicity and expansion plans that the core mission began to falter. The workers described a corporate organization in which staff members were frequently countermanded or abruptly fired for raising questions about "the vision," or for expressing concerns over the corporate office's sharing of clients' confidential information in fundraising or publicity efforts. Several ex-employees said they were upset by the use of identifiable images of Courage House girls on the company's Facebook page. It sounds like Williamson acted more like the proverbial controlling pimp or madam than someone truly dedicated to helping exploited teenagers. Which would be gross enough for the sheer hypocrisy of it, but imagine how much it could also have further messed up these girls, assuming they did come to her because they had been forced or coerced into prostitution. Now the people who "rescued" them are employing the same sort of isolating and controlling techniques they escaped, treating them more like Courage Worldwide products than people, and publicizing their images and past horror stories to the whole community. DeAnne Brining, a licensed therapist who had contracted with Courage House, described the situation as "abusive" and said Williamson routinely "paraded the girls around" for marketing purposes. Another former employee told the Bee "everything was a photo op." (Read the whole damning expose here.) The publicity efforts, at least, worked: Williamson can be seen on the Courage Worldwide website posing alongside people like former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt and actresses Julianne Moore and Eva Longoria. She's been honored by the FBI and L'Oreal. Williamson complained to the Bee that caring for trafficked youth has left her tired. "It is difficult to love someone that does not love themself," she said. Courage Worldwide's website still touts the organization's expansion plan, which includes opening 10 new cottages for underage sex-trafficking victims, in both the U.S. and Tanzania. "Sex trafficking has become a 'cause celebre' in the evangelical community," notes Broadly. And as it has, church-backed "abolition" efforts and Christian group-homes for "rescued" girls have proliferated, with many evangelicals seeing the sex-trafficking angle as a new way to attack long-time opposition to prostitution and pornography. "The numbers of [houses] have surged because the issue has for ten-plus years been promoted by entities like the US federal government, which provides significant funding for rescue efforts," Laura Agustín, anthropologist and author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry, told Broadly. "It is not surprising that opportunists leap on the bandwagon, with or without good intentions." In the past few years, a number of high-profile rescue groups have been exposed for shady behavior. The most well-known was Somaly Mam, whose fraudulent foundation had been celebrated by everyone from Hillary Clinton to Nicholas Kristof to Meg Ryan before it crashed in a haze of half-truths and distortions. Then Chong Kim, the poster-victim for several sex-trafficking rescue groups (and subject of the 2012 film Eden), was also found to be fudging many details about her alleged abuse. Think things are better in other countries? Anne Elizabeth Moore's excellent comic book Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking, published earlier this year, shows how rescue organizations in places like Cambodia "save" women from the sex trade only to exploit them in garment factories. A 2015 report from Truthout looked at 50 of the most prominent (and well-funded) anti--human-trafficking organizations in America—groups with a net worth of about $686 million, or $13.7 million per group, per year. "The US anti-trafficking movement seems to be one of the few reliable growth areas in the United States' post-recession economy besides low-wage service work," Truthout reported. Its analysis found many of the groups were secretive about budgets and funding, promoted unsourced or patently false statistics about human trafficking, and offered dubious claims about the services they provide and the impact of their efforts. "All in all," concluded Truthout, "the impact numbers presented by anti-trafficking organizations— their justification for existence and, of course, funding—are simply absurd."  Source: http://reason.com/blog/2016/09/20/courage-house-claimed-to-save-but
Why we should do everything possible to avoid foster care and keep kids with their families Facebook Twitter Email 7Comments Print 1/1 File Photo/Staff Advocates for foster children, including Dallas CASA, announced a Stand Up for Children campaign in 2008 in Dallas.   By Cherylee Gillispie Contributor Published: 20 September 2016 02:35 PM Updated: 20 September 2016 03:25 PM When I read about the crisis in Texas foster care system, all I can think about is my beautiful younger sister Nannette. Nannette got out of foster care, but she didn't survive. She became a statistic, a victim of the consequences of what experts call adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. Research has shown that ACEs accumulate over time, and the number of these experiences in childhood predicts morbidity and mortality in adulthood. It doesn't say it on her death certificate, but Nannette died from too many ACEs.  When I was 12 and she was 11, our mother needed treatment for alcohol addiction. But, in those days — as is true today — the foster care payment system gave priority to placing kids in foster care instead of providing treatment that their parents needed in order to care for the children themselves. What happened to Nannette and to me was unspeakable child abuse in the home of foster parents who were paid to take care of us. What we wanted was for our mother to get better and for her to take care of us. What we got from the foster care system was abuse from our foster father and neglect by the system.  A bill before Congress would turn those priorities around, helping parents who are in treatment to become clean, sober, and better parents, so they can keep their kids. The Family First Prevention Services Act has passed out of the House but hit opposition in the Senate from Texas group home providers who want to protect the status quo. The legislation increases standards for residential care so kids aren't warehoused in group homes without getting the care they need. Over time, the Family First Act shifts some funding from foster care to programs that can provide treatment for parents so that they can safely care for their own kids. That's exactly what Nannette and I longed for so many years ago.  My childhood experience drove me to succeed. I worked very hard to get through college and raise three wonderful boys. My family now includes a caring husband, beautiful daughters-in-law, seven fabulous grandchildren and even a new great-grandbaby. But my passion has become advocating for Texas abused and neglected children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for more than three years. I have the responsibility to make sure that children in foster care have a caring adult who advocates for what is best for them.  For the kids I work with, the best for them is to stay with their parents whenever possible. The trauma of separating from their parents just adds to their number of ACEs, and the vast majority of children who are removed in Texas are in the system because of their parents' substance abuse and mental health treatment needs, according to scientific reports and unpublished data presented by the Administration on Children Youth and Families officials.  It's no longer news that the Texas foster care system is in crisis. There are not enough foster placements so kids are sleeping in social work offices. More kids are coming into the system. It is astonishing to me that in the midst of this crisis, our state policymakers don't support legislation to prevent kids from needing foster care in the first place. We need a different track for families reported for neglect, with family-based treatment centers providing on-site substance abuse and mental health services. Various studies show that family-based treatment is not only more cost effective than placement in foster care. It reduces trauma and ACEs scores so children can thrive. This legislation will save money and lives. Cherylee Gillispie is an advocate for abused and neglected children as a court appointed special advocate and volunteer with nonprofit children and family agencies in the Dallas area. Email: Cherylee2177@gmail.com   Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20160920-why-we-should-do-everything-possible-to-avoid-foster-care-and-keep-kids-with-their-families.ece
Foster care system doesn’t meet two-thirds of requirements, audit finds Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Department for Children and Families, answers questions in July about the audit of her department at a Post Audit Committee meeting in Topeka. EMILY DESHAZER/THE CAPITAL-JOURN File photo i By Gabriella Dunn gdunn@wichitaeagle.com LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story Topeka The state’s foster care system complies with only about a third of the federal requirements assessed by state auditors, according to a report released Wednesday. The findings come after a July audit that found the state system failed to ensure the safety of kids in foster care. The July findings prompted some Democrats to call for the resignation of the secretary for the Department for Children and Families, which oversees Kansas’ privatized foster care system. Wednesday’s report found that the Department for Children and Families did not consistently meet requirements aimed at providing stability for children. For example, sometimes a child’s schoolwork is disrupted because the system does not try to keep the child in the same school district or school. The state also didn’t meet requirements for the percentage of children who should be adopted within one to two years after entering into foster care, according to the audit. But it did consistently meet federal requirements about placing children with relatives and siblings. Three-part audit These audits are part of a three-part investigation. The first audit focused on safety concerns. The second part, released Wednesday, focused on compliance with applicable state and federal laws governing the foster care system. The final portion of the audit will research foster care costs, resources and outcomes. That audit will be released next year. Wednesday’s findings showed the Department for Children and Families did not meet all federal requirements related to monitoring and paying the private companies it contracts with to provide foster care. And self-reported data showed Kansas met or exceeded about half of the federal outcome requirements for fiscal year 2016, which ended in June. A federal audit revealed the Department for Children and Families was in compliance with about a third of the areas assessed and “not in substantial compliance” with the other two-thirds.     The audit in July revealed that foster parents received initial background checks, but other people in the home did not; not all children received monthly case-management visits; and the Department for Children and Families did not ensure that licensed foster homes had enough money to care for the child. Addressing issues Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, spoke Wednesday to legislators about efforts to resolve the issues highlighted in the July report and ways it’s already working to resolve the issues brought up in Wednesday’s report. She talked about bolstering social worker recruitment and training and gave updates on regulation changes at the state level. One included expanding background checks for everyone over the age of 10 in a child’s home. The state previously required background checks only for foster parents. Gilmore also said the agency plans to receive real-time updates on arrests or charges against people living in the child’s home. And the department will submit an improvement plan to the federal government about how it will address areas where it was not in compliance. She also tried to address concerns from legislators by emphasizing lower rates of abuse and maltreatment. “Children are not suffering maltreatment while they’re in custody,” Gilmore said. “There’s lots of trauma when they’re removed from the home, (but) while they’re in custody in Kansas, children are safe by all measurements.” Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, disagreed. “I have to take exception with ‘children are not in maltreatment,’ ” Kelly said, citing a Topeka case in which a child was being abused. “You need to be very careful making those blanket statements that are not true.” Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article103311982.html#storylink=cpy 
Grand jury probing foster care; new charges filed in NY case By FRANK ELTMAN Sep. 22, 2016 2:09 PM EDT Share article   2 photos FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office in... Read more i By: FRANK ELTMAN (AP) RIVERHEAD, N.Y.Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 40.917-72.662 RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (AP) — A special grand jury has been empaneled to investigate New York's foster care system following the arrest of a Long Island man on child sex abuse charges. The man had welcomed dozens of boys into his Ridge home, dating back two decades, before allegations of sex abuse surfaced, creating questions about oversight over the foster parent system. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Thursday the special grand jury, which has been meeting since mid-August and may not conclude its work until early 2017, is "assessing all of the facts and circumstances involving how he was able to take all these boys in." It also is investigating other possible crimes involving the suspect. It was not clear if the grand jury would file additional criminal charges or issue a report on its findings, with recommendations for changes in the foster care system. Various governmental agencies and private foster care organizations are being examined. Spota also told reporters the grand jury would investigate how the suspect was able to obtain some of the children in his care from out-of-state foster care agencies, including Washington.  Undo Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was arrested last winter and charged with victimizing seven children as young as 8. One count in an indictment alleges he sexually abused a dog in front of a child. On Thursday, a new indictment was unsealed accusing him of abusing one additional child and added charges involving some of the children identified as victims in the initial charges. A prosecutor also said it was likely some charges from the first indictment may be dropped because some of the alleged crimes happened too long ago to fall under statute of limitations laws. Defense attorney Donald Mates entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client; Gonzales-Mugaburu is being held without bail. Mates told reporters after the arraignment that his client denies ever abusing children, and suggested the alleged victims were lying. Spota said previously that statute of limitations laws prevented prosecutors from filing charges involving other abuse allegations. Since the scandal erupted, separate investigations have been started by state, city and Long Island officials. Questions remain about how Gonzales-Mugaburu was able to keep getting children placed in his home despite years of concern about his conduct. Before his arrest, Gonzales-Mugaburu was the subject of nine previous investigations involving alleged abuse dating to 1998, according to a spokeswoman for Suffolk County. Each of those inquiries led to a finding at the time that the allegations weren't credible, and none of them immediately led to the removal of children from his split-level ranch home on eastern Long Island. A break came in January, when detectives said two brothers who lived in the house came forward with credible stories of abuse. Once Gonzales-Mugaburu was in custody, others felt more comfortable coming forward, authorities said. SCO Family of Services, an agency that placed 72 New York City children in Gonzales-Mugaburu's care over 20 years, said it never uncovered evidence of sexual abuse or improper sexual behavior in the home. But the organization's chief strategy officer, Rose Anello said in July that there were other issues with the home, particularly around 2013, "and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made at that time." She said those issues involved Gonzales-Mugaburu being uncooperative and unwilling to accept staff guidance on parenting style, but none of the issues then hinted at anything like the allegations uncovered this year. Following the Gonzales-Mugaburu arrest, the city's Administration for Children's Services temporarily halted placing children in SCO foster homes, but announced in July that a review of 370 homes operated by SCO uncovered no indications abuse was occurring at any of those sites. ___ This story has been corrected to show children stopped being placed in SCO foster homes, not SCO facilities.  Source: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/9540df69180c45008ea91bc9835498e4/ap-newsbreak-da-grand-jury-probing-ny-foster-care-system#
Fort Lauderdale Finally Shuts Down Troubled Group Home; Director’s $2.25 Million Mansion for Sale Friday, September 23, 2016 at 8:54 a.m. By Antonia Noori Farzan EXPAND Chrysalis Health executive director Manuel Menendez's home, which is currently for sale. Photo by Antonia Farzan A A Facebook 74 Twitter 4 More shares recommend reddit email - 1 For at least six years, Crescent House, a Fort Lauderdale group home for teenage boys, was the source of constant calls to the police. Neighbors found crack cocaine baggies littering the streets and said that kids pelted their cars with rocks. This summer, the city finally shut down the facility, which was run by Chrysalis Health, a for-profit company. But similar issues still persist at the five other group homes run by Chrysalis, Broward County public defenders say. “When I’ve visited in the past, I was shocked at the manner in which these homes are being run,” Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes says. “The lack of supervision, the autonomy that these children have to go out whenever they want, wherever they want… The kids could literally sleep all day and not go to school.” Kids who end up in a group home are typically there because they’ve been abandoned, abused, or neglected by their families, so placing them in a situation where they have minimal oversight and receive little in the way of therapeutic treatment is a recipe for disaster. (New Times documented the consequences, including rampant drug use and teen prostitution, in a lengthy investigation last year.) Related Stories After New Times Investigation, City Moves to Close Fort Lauderdale Group Home With Lax Supervision at State-Contracted Group Homes, Teen Prostitution and Drug Use Are Rampant “We’re talking about kids that are really on the cusp,” Weekes says. “They just shut them down and marginalize them, and as a result, they detach.” Meanwhile, as the city of Fort Lauderdale has been working to shut down Crescent House, Chrysalis Health executive director Manuel Menendez bought a mansion. According to Miami-Dade County property records, Menendez and his wife own a waterfront four-bedroom home in Coral Gables, which is valued just short of $1 million, as well as a South Miami mansion that’s currently for sale for $2.25 million. The listing on Zillow.com notes that it has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a home office, and a theater. Oh, and a “resort-style pool area” with a changing cabana, wet bar, outdoor kitchen, and tennis and basketball courts. So $2.25 million is a pretty good deal, considering. ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads Reached by phone, Menendez initially declined to comment, then admitted that he’d purchased the house with the intention of flipping it. “I’m a real estate investor,” he said. “I haven’t gotten a raise from Chrysalis in fifteen years.” Furthermore, he added, the money the company makes off group homes doesn’t even cover its administrative costs. (According to tax filings, Chrysalis receives more than $3 million a year from ChildNet, the nonprofit that contracts with the state to handle child welfare services in Broward and Palm Beach, for running residential group homes.) Menendez also claims that the City of Fort Lauderdale’s decision to shut down Crescent House was motivated by complaints from neighbors who were solely concerned about the group home’s impact on their property values. “Most of them don’t even live there — they’re just investing in the real estate,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because these kids need a place to go.”  Source: http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/news/fort-lauderdale-finally-shuts-down-troubled-group-home-director-s-225-million-mansion-for-sale-8104099
Payson woman sentenced for sexual abuse of 5 boys at treatment center By Gephardt Daily Staff - September 24, 2016 Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter Katherine Lynn Estep. Photo: Juab County NEPHI, Utah, Sept. 24, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — A former employee of Journey Ranch, a Mona residential treatment center for troubled teenage boys, has been sentenced to prison for sexually abusing five of the juvenile residents. Katherine Lynn Estep, 45, of Payson, on Friday was sentenced to seven terms of one to 15 years in prison, with those terms to run concurrently. Estep in June pleaded guilty to seven counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. Additional charges were dismissed. The original charges she faced were five counts of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony; 10 counts of forcible sexual assault, a second-degree felony; and two class C misdemeanor counts of providing electronic cigarettes to minors. Estep admitted touching boys age 16 and 17 inappropriately, according to court documents. Police said she also engaged in sex acts with the teens, and threatened two with “demerits” if they did not cooperate. The center, in Juab County, advertises that it treats boys, age 13 to 18, who suffer from moderate or severe behavioral problems and mental health issues. Estep rewarded the boys with use of her phone, e-cigarettes, pills or candy, according to charging documents. The court recommended Estep undergo therapy, according to sentencing documents: “Court recommends to the Board that the defendant participate in psychotherapy to address psychological nature of her physical symptoms as well as address her thinking errors through a cognitive restructuring therapy.”  Source: http://gephardtdaily.com/top-stories/payson-woman-sentenced/
Suit: Westchester Med Center 'taunted' young psych patients Michael Virtanen, The Associated Press 7:51 a.m. EDT September 27, 2016 Federal suit claims hospital staff provoked youngsters to justify medication, restraints that extended Medicaid-funded hospital stays  A doctor who trained for four years at the psychiatric unit of the Westchester Medical Center said in a lawsuit Monday that adolescent patients were routinely provoked and prodded into acting out, then restrained and drugged to extend their hospitalization and Medicaid payments. Dr. Alfred Robenzadeh said supervisors at the Valhalla hospital retaliated against him when he tried to address what he says was chronic patient abuse that increased the severity of diagnoses, with usual two-week inpatient stays often extended days or weeks. He alleges the practice defrauded Medicaid. When he complained, he said he was told to "keep your head down and do not make any more waves." LAWSUIT: Read the federal claims In his 22-page complaint, Robenzadeh charged that "the nursing staff's first and preferred response to the provoked behavior was to seek an order form a physician for the administration of chemical or physical restraints to sedate the patient." In one instance, he said he was called in to administer medication to a disruptive youngster and found that the nursing staff was "encroaching on the inpatient's space and using provocative and threatening language and tone." Instead, he said he used de-escalation techniques to calm the boy. "Great, now we can't even touch him," he said the nurse told him. Westchester Medical Center officials did not return calls for comment.  The lawsuit was filed under federal and New York state whistleblower laws. It seeks damages, including payment for lost employment and business opportunities, and litigation costs. It asks the court to order the hospital to certify his completion of four years of specialty training in psychiatry, saying the defendants have refused to do that. Robenzadeh said his training was terminated this year. He said allegations against him of improper moonlighting and later violating patient privacy in defending against those allegations were trumped up. His complaint named five doctors he says joined in retaliation against him and the hospital's director of labor relations. "The excessive use of force resulted in extended, unreasonable and unnecessary inpatient treatment days, for which the hospital is reimbursed by Medicaid," the lawsuit said. "Rather than using de-escalation techniques that would not require the administration of chemical or physical restraints, the nursing staff's first and preferred response to the provoked behavior was to seek an order from a physician for the administration of a chemical or physical restraint to sedate the patient." In addition, he said male patients, particularly those from residential treatment facilities who did not have parents, were particularly at risk. "Male patients were treated as second class and as troublemakers who were assumed to be aggressive and much more likely to be physically injured by staff," he said. "If the patient's complexion was any shade of brown, their concerns, e.g., pain, stress or hunger, were neglected because the culture of the unit devalued them as patients." Robenzadeh said that he proposed studying inpatient metrics to determine why stable patients were having incidents shortly before scheduled discharges and whether it was from policy and practice. Instead, he said, he was "marginalized," stymied in attempts to moonlight as other graduate trainees did, given more hospital patients than they had, and ultimately suspended and terminated from the fellowship program. Staff writer Jorge Fitz-Gibbon contributed to this report.  Source: http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/2016/09/26/westchester-medical-center-lawsuit/91130228/
Employee at Liberty Hill treatment center for children arrested for drug possession by CBS Austin Kathleen Redlin, 30, is charged with possession of a controlled substance in a drug free zone, a second degree felony. (Photo courtesy: Williamson County Sheriff's Office) An employee at a Liberty Hill treatment center for children was arrested Monday for possession of drugs. According to the arrest affidavit, Kathleen Redlin, 30, is charged with possession of a controlled substance in a drug free zone, a second degree felony. It happened at the Meridell Achievement Center, a private charter school which describes itself on its website as a residential treatment center that specializes in psychiatry and neuropsychiatry for children and adolescents. Court documents say an employee of the school contacted police after they received an anonymous tip that Redlin had drugs in her locker at the school. The locker was searched and several baggies believed to contain methamphetamine and marijuana were found. Redlin admitted to school officials that the drugs belonged to her, police say. The affidavit says officers questioned Redfin and asked if the purse found in the locker with drugs inside of it was hers -- and she admitted it and the drugs were hers, and that a glass pipe in the bag was used to smoke the meth. The meth weighed out to approximately 3.1 grams. The marijuana weighed approximately .05 ounces, according to court documents. Officials with Meridell Achievement Center says Redlin is no long employed by the center.  Source: http://keyetv.com/news/local/teacher-at-liberty-hill-treatment-center-for-children-arrested-for-drug-possession
Foster care is not good for children By Jessie Wagoner jessie@emporia.com Updated Sep 28, 2016 0 Last week the Department for Children and Families dealt with the controversy of a negative audit of the foster care services provided through the state. The report, released by the Legislature’s post-audit team, found many areas of concern regarding the safety of children in foster care in Kansas. After reading through the audit report, it is obvious there are areas for improvement. Is foster care good for children? No. No, of course foster care is not good for children. If foster care was good for children we would sign all of our children up rather than sending them to summer camp. Foster care is a system designed to be used in the most serious of situations as a temporary solution. It is not intended to be where children are raised for an indefinite period of time. Yet the number of children in foster care in Kansas continues to climb at alarming rates and they are remaining in foster care waiting for reintegration or adoptive placements for far too long. Could DCF make improvements to ensure children in foster care are safer? Absolutely! But, until the state begins to value children more than saving money, that is not likely to happen. Privatizing foster care has resulted in foster care agencies bidding against one another, each contractor promising to do more with less. This has led to higher caseloads and unrealistic expectations for front-line workers. In the end it is children and those front-line workers that pay the highest price while the state saves a buck. Governor Sam Brownback has led the state into a financial crisis that has resulted in cuts to preventative services that not only keep children in their homes, but also help to reintegrate children faster. Mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment and prevention services and programs like Parents as Teachers have all been cut. All services that promote healthy families. As the Legislature places blame on DCF, it is time they turn their pointed fingers back to themselves. It is our elected officials who determine the budget. It is our elected officials who have approved budgets that don’t meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens and it is now our elected officials who should bare some responsibility for the failures of a system they have created. Some day the children in foster care in Kansas will be old enough to vote. It is our responsibility to vote with them in mind in November. Jessie Wagoner Reporter   Source: http://www.emporiagazette.com/opinion/editorials/article_d9b61d7f-8563-5059-b8b7-0fff91720ba6.html
NYC juvenile detention aide faces 16 years for raping teen girl - NY Daily News Brooklyn juvenile detention center aide faces 16 years in prison for ‘repeatedly’ abusing, raping teen girl NYC juvenile detention aide faces 16 years for raping teen girl BY Leonard Greene NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 10:17 PMl Barry Proctor, 47, faces 16 years in prison for abusing and raping a teen girl "repeatedly for his own sexual gratification." (Frances Twitty/Getty Images/Getty Images) BY Leonard Greene NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 10:17 PM An aide at a Brooklyn juvenile detention center was convicted Wednesday on charges of raping and sexually abusing a teenage girl in his care. Barry Proctor, 47, of the Bronx, faces up to 16 years in prison for taking advantage of the girl, first by targeting the troubled teen, then by grooming her for sex. Proctor had been charged with abusing two other girls at the center, but was acquitted on those charges. The conviction stemmed from Proctor’s abuse of one of the underage girls over the course of several weeks in 2014, said Patricia Gunning, a special prosecutor for the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. Gunning said there were four separate instances during which he abused the girl. Teens incarcerated on Rikers Island will move to Bronx facility “This victim, already traumatized by violence in her life, was entrusted to the state’s care,” Gunning said. “In that setting, this defendant targeted her and abused her repeatedly for his own sexual gratification.” The Ella McQueen center serves as a 14-day processing facility for teens — generally between 13 and 18 — bound for a juvenile detention center, according to its website. The incidents were non-forcible, but the victims cannot legally consent to the sexual activity, according to the New York State Justice Center, which investigated the case.  Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/nyc-juvenile-detention-aide-faces-16-years-raping-teen-girl-article-1.2810906
Drugging Our Kids: Governor signs bills to curb psych drugs prescribed to California foster youth Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Click to print (Opens in new window) By Tracy Seipel | tseipel@bayareanewsgroup.com PUBLISHED: September 29, 2016 at 3:08 pm | UPDATED: September 30, 2016 at 5:07 am Capping years of efforts to stop California’s foster care system from overmedicating the state’s most vulnerable children, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a controversial bill that for the first time puts doctors who recklessly prescribe psychiatric drugs at risk of losing their medical license. The measure is part of a series of sweeping legislative reforms inspired by this news organization’s series “Drugging Our Kids” that disclosed the state’s dependence on psychotropic medications to control troubled children in the country’s largest child welfare system. Senate Bill 1174, by Sen. Mike McGuire, will require annual monitoring of high-prescribing doctors and allow the California Medical Board to crack down on violators — a major victory for foster youth advocates who for years had no voice to speak out against their doctors’ orders. “This bill ensures the state takes a no-tolerance approach to over-prescribing and that the Medical Board and attorney general get the data they need to protect California’s 66,000 foster youth,” said McGuire. The Healdsburg Democrat held a series of oversight hearings to champion the rights of foster youth who said they were being overmedicated. McGuire’s bill was the focus of a tense legislative battle in Sacramento with one of the state’s most powerful interests — psychiatrists who argued the bill would unfairly single out doctors who treat children with severe mental health needs. A Bay Area News Group analysis of five years of prescribing data revealed a fraction of the doctors may be fueling the medication use. A mere 10 percent of the state’s highest prescribers were responsible about 50 percent of the time when a foster child received an antipsychotic, the riskiest class of the drugs with some of the most harmful side effects. Veteran child psychiatrist Michael Barnett, whom the news organization’s analysis identified among the higher prescribers of antipsychotics, said he supports the new oversight but will continue to prescribe the drugs — even two at once — when he believes it will help his young patients. “There are definitely times where you could easily rationalize prescribing two antipsychotics to an individual,’’ he said. “I will still do that. And if they want to give me a speeding ticket (under the new law SB 1174) or ask me about it, I will tell them about it.’’ McGuire’s bill was one of three sent to Brown’s desk this year, after the governor signed three separate bills last year in the first wave of legislation spurred by this news organization’s series. On Thursday, Brown also gave his blessing to Senate Bill 1291, by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose. It will require more transparency and tracking of mental health services for foster kids in every California county. “We cannot allow our foster care system to strictly rely on dosing foster children with mind-altering medications to manage their behavior,’’ Beall said in a statement Thursday. “We must ensure that less invasive and safer available treatments are the first options for our children rather than a pill. The system must provide foster youth with the services that address their trauma instead of depending on drugs to mask their trauma.’’ Beall’s legislation responds to recent state audit findings that revealed the foster care system has failed to adequately oversee the use of psychotropic drugs on foster children. Advocates for foster youth, including the National Center for Youth Law, which sponsored the bills, celebrated the signings after years of pushing policy makers and state officials for reforms. Policy director Anna Johnson said the nonprofit group is “grateful to our legislative champions for holding accountable the doctors who are overmedicating foster youth” and counties that she said “failed to provide services that will help foster youth deal with trauma, abuse and neglect.” But the governor also vetoed one of the group’s measures, saying it was too similar to legislation he signed last year. Senate Bill 253 by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, sought to create more rigorous court oversight before doctors can prescribe potentially harmful psychotropic drugs to foster children. The governor’s veto was a blow to National Center for Youth Law attorney Bill Grimm, who has always considered SB 253 the linchpin of legislative reforms to curtail the inappropriate, harmful impact of psychotropic drugs — before they can be prescribed. Still, the new laws are especially meaningful to current and former foster youth, such as Sarah Pauter, of San Diego. Growing up in foster care, she was so over-medicated with antidepressants, anticonvulsants and mood stabilizers that she went from being a straight-A high school student to attending a center for the learning-deficient. She is particularly pleased that Beall’s bill will force counties to provide better mental health alternatives to medications, and she is thrilled that McGuire’s bill will finally “hold psychiatrists accountable’’ for dangerous prescribing. “Finally,” she said, “we have a law that says, ‘If you don’t do right by these foster kids, there will be consequences.’’’  Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/29/drugging-our-kids-governor-signs-bills-to-curb-psych-drugs-prescribed-to-california-foster-youth/
Brown signs two more laws to curb overuse of meds on foster youth - SFGate Brown signs two more laws to curb overuse of meds on foster youth Published 4:41 pm, Thursday, September 29, 2016 1 California Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday signed two more bills to protect traumatized foster children from psychiatric care that is overly reliant on risky medications — cementing what is now the most comprehensive set of laws in the nation. Following three laws passed last year, the additional legislation will subject overprescribing physicians to stepped-up investigations and ensure that counties offer mental health services for foster children that include non-drug treatments. Brown vetoed a bill that would have enhanced juvenile court oversight of prescribing. But the courts have already launched a sweeping set of new standards requiring doctors to justify their prescriptions before judges approve them, and ensuring that foster children have a say in whether they want to take the untested drugs. “Unfortunately, the excessive prescribing has become the norm and it has impacted thousands of lives of California’s most vulnerable youth — foster kids,” said one of the bills’ authors, state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg. “These five pieces of legislation will finally provide foster youth with the protections they need from serial overprescribers and these mind-numbing drugs.” Another bill author, state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said overmedication has for too long been overlooked as one of the major problems in the foster care system. Now, “it’s become clear that if you just keep medicating them, they can’t think clearly, they can’t study and they can’t be successful.” Beall said the new laws are necessary because “the medication was so overprescribed, in so many different ways, and with no controls and no monitoring,” adding: “So we hope to get that out of the way now, and frame a more successful foster care system in California.” Lobbyists for doctors and the group home industry pushed back against the bills, arguing they overreached and could potentially harm children who needed medications. But an equally powerful lobby of foster youth also consistently showed up at policy committee hearings, testifying about debilitating side effects they suffered from antipsychotics, antidepressants and mood stabilizers, including severe lethargy, rapid-onset weight gain and irreversible tremors. McGuire said the legislation “wouldn’t have been a reality without hundreds of foster youth mobilizing to fight.” The two bills signed into law Thursday add more heft to related protections passed last year in California. Those laws enhanced scrutiny of residential group homes where prescribing is the highest; expanded public health nursing to monitor prescriptions, and funded training for professionals who work with and care for foster children. The six-bill package resulting in five new laws followed an exposé published in the San Jose Mercury News and extensive advocacy by the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law. Lobbyists representing physicians and group homes argued against many of the legislative changes, saying they will drive professionals from the field and curtail their professional authority. McGuire’s bill — which will hold outlying physicians responsible for their prescribing practices through greater enforcement by the state’s licensing agency — led to the most bitter fights. Physician groups said the new law will unfairly affect psychiatrists treating youth in residential programs and juvenile halls. Sen. Beall’s bill will hold counties more accountable for providing mental health treatment for foster youth. That means more than just a bottle of pills, said California’s ombudsperson for foster care, Rochelle Trochtenberg, who was taken from her parents due to abuse, and spent her teenage years in the Los Angeles County child welfare system. “If you have a child with diabetes, you don’t just give them insulin and keep feeding them sugary foods that makes them sicker,” she said. “If you translate that to kids in foster care, their medical condition is often trauma, and you’re not treating that trauma if you’re not not treating an array of issues.” Karen de Sá is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kdesa@sfchronicle.com  Source: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Brown-signs-two-more-laws-to-curb-overuse-of-meds-9458861.php
Gagging Kentucky’s social workers won’t save its children Bevin administration inherited crisis in child protection, but concealing shortcomings makes things worse Satirical tweet about warning sent to employees of Cabinet for Health and Family Services. One of a few satirical tweets about warning sent to employees of Cabinet for Health and Family Services. 1 of 2 i LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story Governors come, governors go, but the secrecy and stonewalling around Kentucky’s beleaguered child-protection bureaucracy is forever. Latest example: A memo warning employees that unauthorized contacts with news media could result in disciplinary action including firing. The warning comes at a time when the opioid crisis is devastating Kentucky families and overwhelming the decimated ranks of social workers who risk their safety to rescue children from sometimes violent situations. State officials insist the memo, which went out Sept. 23, was just a routine reminder and not a response to child-protection workers’ recent public complaints about dangerous working conditions and untenable caseloads. All employees of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, not just those working in child protection, received the memo. Even so, the warning was clumsy and insensitive coming just two days after child-protection workers had testified about their concerns to a legislative committee. A social worker told lawmakers that she was “terrified” about speaking out because “most of us have been conditioned for retaliation.” Child-protection workers also are expressing concerns on a Facebook page. In response, cabinet officials pledged that “the days of retaliation for workers making constructive criticism are over” and promised openness and transparency. Bevin administration officials strengthened their credibility by saying that caseloads are higher than previous administrations have admitted. They said they are working on a more accurate count and on ways to better support case workers and children. But then out came that memo from a cabinet that fought, unsuccessfully, for years to keep secret the records of how it handled cases in which children died of abuse or neglect. No wonder the memo drew cries of hypocrisy. Stress and low pay have long taken a toll on child-protection ranks, but the turnover has worsened. In Louisville, one-third of workers have resigned or retired this year. Statewide a record-high almost 8,000 children are in foster care in Kentucky. A long overdue pay raise for child-protection workers (supervisors are now making $40,800 a year) took effect in September and is a step in the right direction. The state also should unfreeze funding for relatives who care for children of unfit parents and extend the aid to out-of-state family and qualified friends. The cost of foster care is more than double the $300 monthly stipend for Kinship Care which has been frozen for three years. Placing children in foster care because a grandparent on a fixed income can’t afford to take them in is the height of false economy. The crisis in child protection has been building for a long time and was inherited by the Bevin administration which has been in office less than 10 months. But falling into old familiar patterns of talk-without-action and trying to hide the cabinet’s shortcomings will only make a bad situation worse.  Source: http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/editorials/article104998836.html
WATCHDOG: Louisiana children sent out of state for psychiatric care Lex Talamo, alexa.talamo@shreveporttimes.com 12:03 p.m. CDT October 1, 2016 --> Due to a lack of facilities that can meet mental and behavioral needs of children, Louisiana is sending her children to out-of-state facilities. (Video by Lex Talamo) Buy Photo The Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center in Dubach helps children with mental and behavioral problems learn skills by connecting with nature.(Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times)Buy Photo Lonnie is a transgender adolescent with mental and behavioral issues severe enough to qualify for residential psychiatric care. But Louisiana doesn’t have a facility that is adequate for meeting his behavioral needs. So he will be sent to an out-of-state facility, according to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services – the seventh child this year the department has referred to another state. Lonnie is not the boy's real name. Privacy requirements prevent the department from identifying him or his home parish. “We don’t want to send children out of state. But if it’s in the best interest of the child, we will make that choice,” DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters said. “When we send a child out of state, it’s because we haven’t found a facility in the state.” It's been well documented that Louisiana lacks a sufficient number of mental and behavioral health care services for children. That means dozens of Louisiana children needing residential psychiatric or therapeutic treatments are sent each year to out-of-state facilities, which often are not required to adhere to the same standards for supervision or safety as in-state facilities. RELATED: Children's mental health service shortage puts them at risk State agencies said they place children in other states as a last resort and closely monitor the well-being of their out-of-state wards— though the number of out-of-state placements has declined in recent years. But several Louisiana child advocates voiced concerns about the safety of children placed in other states, citing previous litigation against out-of-state facilities alleging violations of children’s rights. “States should be developing their own resources,” said Rick Wheat, CEO for Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services in Ruston. “As long as Louisiana’s leaders are willing to accept gaps in services for children and are willing to fund out-of-state placements, the child welfare system in Louisiana will continue to languish, and our children will pay for it.” Buy Photo Rick Wheat, president and CEO of the Louisiana United Methodist Children's Home in Ruston (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) A children’s mental health crisis More than 70,000 children in Louisiana received mental or behavioral services through Medicaid in 2014, including 2,000 children in Bossier Parish and 4,000 in Caddo Parish, according to Louisiana Department of Health data. Children with needs severe enough to require residential treatment interventions are placed in therapeutic foster care homes, therapeutic group homes or psychiatric residential treatment facilities, none of which have been able absorb the need in the state. The state has 10 therapeutic group homes – with a total of 85 beds – for the entire state. And Magellan, the former single statewide management organization for Medicaid funded specialized behavioral health services, has been sending children to psychiatric residential treatment facilities out-of-state for years, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. RELATED: More homes needed for drug-exposed babies than ever before The number of children placed out of state fluctuates. As of July, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 15 children in out-of-state care, a decline from the peak of 41 children sent out of state in 2014. In the past five years, DCFS reported sending a total of 13 children out of state. Both departments said they closely monitor children in out-of-state facilities. “It’s not that we send a child out of state and abandon them. We have people check up on them,” Walters said. Buy Photo The Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center uses nature to help teach skills to children with severe mental and behavioral needs. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Yvonne Domingue, who heads DCFS’s Behavioral Health and Placement Services, said welfare staff travel monthly to see children in treatment and meet with members of the out-of-state team. “Although the face-to-face visits occur only once a month, communication between caseworkers and treatment facilities is fluid,” Domingue said. “Reports between the treatment provider and the caseworker can happen on an as-needed basis, as does communication between the worker and the youth.” LDH’s spokesperson Samantha Faulkner said staff from the Healthy Louisiana plans– the five Bayou Health plans available for children eligible for Medicaid – review monthly reports about children from out-of-state facilities to ensure children are receiving therapeutic interventions that meet their needs. Faulkner said the health department won’t place children in unlicensed facilities. Walters said she isn’t aware of a single facility DCFS has used that hasn’t met standards. But Wheat said out-of-state facilities may adhere to standards that are different from Louisiana's. The Louisiana Department of Health's requirements for the staff-to-child ratio for psychiatric residential treatment facilities is 1 to 4 during the day, whereas Texas requirements for the same types of facilities are 1 to 5 (if no child requires treatment during the day) or 1 to 8 (if at least one child requires treatment.)  Similarly, Louisiana requires a staff to child ratio of 1 to 6 at night, whereas in Texas the ratios can be up to 1 to 24 (if no children require treatment at night and the caregiver stays awake) or 1 to 16 (if no children require treatment and the caregiver sleeps during the shift), according to Texas licensing requirements.  Louisiana also requires all therapeutic group homes to have a ratio of 1 staff to 5 children at all times, with at least two staff present at any time. Wheat also cited several cases – including the 1974's Gary W. v. Louisiana and 2015's M.D. v. Perry – where U.S. District Court judges have ruled that out-of-state facilities violated children’s rights and did not adequately monitor children's care, resulting in “serious safety incidents.” As recently as December 2015, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that certain Texas facilities had to change child supervision or be shut down. “They were sending them to so called residential treatment centers,which we proved at a long trial to have been bad,” said Stephen Dixon, an attorney who worked the 2015 case."That’s where we were putting Louisiana children, into a system that had serious problems.” Buy Photo A children's room at a therapeutic group home in Louisiana. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Dixon, who also works as a lawyer  for the New York-based nonprofit Children's Rights, said children placed in any out-of-state facility face additional challenges to recovery, including more barriers to communicating with their attorneys, caseworkers and families. Beth Salcedo, co-founder of the state’s only therapeutic group home for adolescent victims of sex trafficking, was surprised to hear children were being sent out of state. Her home, which can house up to 10 girls, had vacancies as of September 2016. Salcedo said only one of the young women currently residing in the program had been referred by DCFS, though Salcedo frequently hears about underage victims of sex trafficking recovered by undercover police operations— or "stings." “You hear about stings, but no one calls and asks about placement. I’ve wondered where they go,” Salcedo said. “I didn’t know there were girls being placed out of state. I have no idea why that is happening.” Faulkner said the health department places a child in out-of-state facilities for two main reasons: state psychiatric residential treatment facilities have refused placement because they can't provide for the child’s needs, or a stakeholder in the child’s treatment plan thinks an out-of-state facility has better programming for the child’s needs. A solution that’s not a last resort The Louisiana Methodist Children's Home in Ruston is one of the in-state facilities able to provide care to children with severe needs. The home provides therapeutic care for children, in part, through its Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center, which offers a high ropes course, equine-assisted psychotherapy, kayaking and team-building activities from its location in Dubach. Buy Photo The Louisiana United Methodist Children's Home in Ruston (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Patrick Blanchard, director of development and public relations for the home, said the 800-acre outdoor center highlights the progress some of the most troubled children can make when given the right resources. “We had a 16-year-old boy who came to us with 51 foster care placements before he came here. But you take him and put him next to a horse, and he’s a kid again,” Blanchard said. David Wheeler, vice president of clinical services at the children's home, said a major benefit for Louisiana’s children placed at in-state facilities is proximity to their family, which makes routine family visits more feasible. Wheat said family involvement during children’s treatment – unless prohibited by the treatment center – is critical to the child. Buy Photo The Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center offers equine-assisted therapy to help children with emotional and behavioral issues engage in the world in a productive way. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) “The closer a child is to her or his family or foster family, the easier it is for the family to participate in treatment,” Wheat said. “What we know for certain is that the more a family participates in treatment, the greater chance of a successful outcome.” Karla Venkataraman, Deputy Assistance Secretary of Child Welfare for DCFS,  said the department chose to send "Lonnie" to another state because the out-of-state facility would better address his behavioral needs than the available in-state facilities, but also because the out-of-state facility had a history of successfully working with transgender youth questioning their identities. Walters said her decision to sign the waiver for Lonnie stemmed from the department's mission to always do what is "in the best interest of the child." “There isn’t a treatment facility in Louisiana that can treat that child. We are sending the child to a very specialized center,” Walters said. Following the state’s transition away from Magellan in January, all five Bayou Health plans for children have been tasked with identifying out-of-state networks— already. RELATED: Children's mental health service provider in transition Buy Photo Patrick Blanchard at the Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center's maze, which is used in team-building activities. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Joshua Brett, spokesperson for AmeriHealth – one of the state’s Bayou Health plans – said his agency has committed to keeping children as close as possible to family but also will ensure they receive quality care if an out-of-state facility is needed. “If a member needs treatment out of state, we will work with the member and their family to find a suitable accredited and licensed Medicaid provider,” Brett wrote in an email. Wheat said better alternatives to identifying out-of-state facilities would include: Increasing funding to established in-state therapeutic group homes and psychiatric facilities. Providing start-up funds and provisional licenses so more therapeutic group homes can be established in parishes. Recruiting more child and adolescent psychiatrists to the state, which currently averages less than eight  for every 100,000 children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Development Buy Photo The Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center in Dubach helps children with mental and behavioral problems learn skills by connecting with nature. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times) Richard Carbo, spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said the governor is aware that the state’s children are being placed out of state but said resources are limited because of the state’s ongoing budget crisis. “Often times, a child’s needs can best be met by an out-of-state facility,” Carbo wrote in a statement. “However, it is a priority of the governor to ensure Louisiana’s children get the best help here at home as possible, and he’ll continue to work with state agencies to make improvements.”  Source: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/news/2016/10/01/watchdog-louisiana-children-sent-out-state-psychiatric-care/85994498/
Foster Parent, Former Teacher on Trial for Child Abuse Nicole Gomez-Vilchis is former teacher at Van Dyke Public Schools. By Barb Hall (Patch Staff) - September 30, 2016 3:48 pm ET ShareTweetGoogle PlusRedditEmailComments0 MACOMB COUNTY, MI – A former teacher and foster parent is on trial for abuse that allegedly happened more than two years ago. Nicole Gomez-Vilchis, 29, is accused of abusing a 15-month-old girl in 2014. The child and her brother were placed in foster care with Gomez-Vilchis and her husband Hugo in 2013 when the children were removed from their parents' home due to drug use, the Macomb Daily reports. The trial, in Macomb County Circuit Court, began Wednesday and is expected to continue next Tuesday. If convicted, Gomez-Vilchis faces 10 years in prison. At one point, Gomez-Vilchis was ordered by a judge to have no contact with children, but that order was rescinded when she gave birth to her own child, the Macomb Daily reports. School officials say she is no longer employed by the Van Dyke Public Schools in Warren where she was a middle school teacher. Get free real-time news alerts from the St. Clair Shores Patch. Subscribe According to testimony, the incident allegedly occurred in June of 2014. The report states that Gomez-Vilchis abused the child, now three years old, by squeezing her very tightly when the child became fussy after being put to bed for her a nap. Gomez-Vilchis denied the abuse at first but, according to testimony of police officers, later admitted to squeezing the girl. The two children were removed from the home the day after the alleged abuse occurred.  Source: http://patch.com/michigan/stclairshores/foster-parent-former-teacher-trial-child-abuse
State revokes licenses of two St. Paul youth group homes Assaults, neglect and 911 calls were common at youth homes.  By Chris Serres Star Tribune October 5, 2016 — 9:03pm Text size comment share tweet email Print more Share on:Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Share on Pinterest Copy shortlink: Purchase:Order Reprint State regulators will shut down two St. Paul-based group homes for troubled children, citing a broad range of “serious and chronic” licensing violations that exposed youth to assaults, serious injuries and inadequate medical care. The Vintage Place Inc., a nonprofit with a long history of run-ins with state regulators, failed to report incidents in which residents ran away and assaulted one another, resulting in some cases in serious injuries and medical treatment. At times, children at one of the homes went completely unsupervised, with no staff on duty. In an extensive and unusual order issued Monday revoking the operator’s licenses, the Minnesota Department of Human Services cited more than a dozen incidents last year in which police or emergency medical personnel were called to respond to assaults, damaged property and threatening behavior. Employees also failed to report at least seven cases in which residents ran away or went missing from the two group homes. “The nature and severity of the ongoing violations unacceptably jeopardize the health and safety of children in your program to receive services that are crucial to their well-being and development,” the revocation order said. Established in 2002, Vintage Place cares for troubled boys at two group homes, each housing up to six children, on St. Paul’s East Side. It has a history of regulatory violations dating back more than five years. In a 2011 licensing review, it was cited for 27 violations, from failing to report critical safety incidents to lacking a daily schedule of residents’ activities. In more recent years, Vintage Place employees have gotten into fights with residents. In 2013, a staff member grabbed a resident by the throat and threw him onto a bed; later the next year, a staff member punched a resident in the jaw during an altercation, state records show. Roberta Opheim, state ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities, questioned why regulators had not acted sooner. “How many kids over these five years were subjected to substandard care?” she asked. “These types of citations and the chronicity of the problem should not be allowed, especially when [public] funds are being used to pay for it.” In early June of this year, state licensing investigators visited the Vintage Place North home at 1853 Cottage Ave. E. in St. Paul and discovered that no staff were present to supervise the children. An employee told investigators that if staff needed to leave the home while residents were away at school, they posted a sign on the front door telling children to walk to the other Vintage Place facility, approximately a mile away. In interviews, children told regulators that on several occasions they had returned to the home on Cottage Avenue E. and “no one was there.” State investigators also found the group homes repeatedly failed to provide adequate health care. Medical records indicated that one child went without lithium, an antipsychotic medication, for eight days after the child’s supply had run out, while another child did not receive anti-depressants as prescribed for five days. The licensing revocation takes effect Oct. 17, though Vintage Place still has 10 days to appeal the order and can continue to operate until the appeals process concludes. Telephone calls and e-mails to the group homes were not returned Wednesday. According to its website, Vintage Place “teaches youth the values necessary to become a well-adjusted and contributing member of society through a family setting.” The group homes target boys, ages 10 to 18, who have been involved in the juvenile court system or have been diagnosed with a behavioral or mental health problem. “Many of the youth have not had a fair opportunity to succeed in life,” the website says. The move to shut down Vintage Place is highly unusual. Since 2011, the state has revoked the license of only one other children’s residential services facility.   Staff researcher John Wareham contributed to this report. Twitter: @chrisseres  Source: http://www.startribune.com/state-revokes-licenses-of-two-st-paul-youth-group-homes/396028711/
Federal Government Continues To Feed Charter School Beast Despite Auditor’s Warning Politicians always promise they will rid government of “waste, fraud, and abuse,” so let’s hope at least one political leader or policy maker will denounce our federal government’s new gift of nearly a quarter-billion dollars to charter schools. The cash dump to charters, courtesy of taxpayers, is from the U.S. Department of Education. As Education Week reports, the money is going to eight states and 15 charter school networks from the Charter Schools Program, a federal government operation that doles out millions every year to start new charter schools. This money is the latest installment of an over $3 billion gravy train the federal government has funded to help launch over 2,500 charter schools across the nation. Regardless of how you feel about these schools, you should be concerned about how this new government outlay to charters will be used, based on the extensive track record of financial malfeasance in these schools. Indeed, shortly after the USDE announcement, the Department’s own auditor warned that the money is very much at risk of ending up in the pockets of fraudsters and con artists rather than in the classrooms of diligent students and dedicated teachers. Again Education Week reports, the audit by the agency’s inspector general’s office examined 33 schools in six states and concluded that because of a general lack of oversight of charters there was a “risk that federal programs are not being implemented correctly and are wasting public money.” The risk stems from the “cozy relationships,” the EdWeek reporter’s words, between charter schools and companies that operate them, called Charter Management Organizations (CMOs). Of the 33 charter schools the audit examined, 22 had examples, sometimes multiple examples, of how CMOs take advantage of the unusual business relationship they have with their client charters to exploit federal education funds and redirect precious taxpayer dollars to private interests that have nothing to do with education. In one of the more egregious examples the audit round, “the CEO of one CMO in Pennsylvania had the authority to write and issue checks without charter school board approval and wrote checks to himself from the charter school’s accounts totaling about $11 million.” At another Pennsylvania charter, a vendor that supplied services to the school was owned by the charter school’s CMO and received $485,000 in payments from the school without charter school board approval. In Florida, a charter and a CMO that shared the same board entered into an expensive lease agreement for the school building, then expanded the facility, extended the lease, and increased the rental payments to the CMO. One CMO the audit examined, which operated three charters in Michigan and one in New York, required the charter schools to remit all federal, state, and local funds to the CMO and gave the CMO total responsibility, with no oversight by the charter board, for paying school expenditures. The auditor’s report doesn’t provide the names of these schools, so we don’t know if they have received federal grant money in the past or are some of the ones getting the new money. However, three of the six states the audit looked at – California, Texas, and Florida – are the same states the Department of Education just decided to send more money to. The other three – Michigan Pennsylvania, and New York – have received federal money for charters in the past, either sent to the state or to charter organizations operating in the state. These states, and presumably many others the feds send charter money to, often don’t sufficiently track how the money is used, according to the audit. Of the six states examined, half could not provide consistent funding data on charter schools with CMOs, a third could not identify which charter schools used CMOs, and a third that tracked whether charter schools used CMOs had unreliable information because charter schools self-reported their operations. The federal auditor’s revelations on charter school waste, fraud, and abuse is yet another dose of reality in a long line of factual reporting about these schools. A study released last year by the Center for Media and Democracy found “charter spending is largely a black hole.” That’s because the “flexibility” charters have been granted by the government is often being used not to create education innovations but to “allow an epidemic of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in public schools,” the CMD report found. Based on its extensive research on charters, CMD examined the list of new award grantees and noted Florida, that’s getting a grant of $58,454,516, has closed over 120 charter schools in a little over a decade. Texas, which is getting $30,498,392, has “an unknown number” of charter schools “housed in churches’ and “closely tied to, religious groups.” Tennessee, which is getting $15,172,732, is famous for having a statewide online charter school that is so bad, the state education chief tried to get rid of it but couldn’t because of political maneuvering by the charter lobby and lack of regulatory accountability. California, which is getting $27,329,904, has some of the worst charter school scandals in the nation, according to a report from the Center for Popular Democracy, which uncovered over $81,400,000 in fraud, waste, and abuse in the state. CPD call the alarming figure “likely just the tip of the iceberg.” Louisiana, another grantee getting $4,836,766 from the feds, has been ripped off by “tens of millions of dollars in undiscovered losses” from charter schools in the 2013-14 school year, according to another CPD analysis. “The state has insufficiently resourced financial oversight,” CPD contends, and has yet to put into place adequate reporting, staffing, and auditing. Three other states – Georgia, Massachusetts, and Washington – are getting the money just when they are deeply embroiled in heated controversies over charter schools. Georgia has a ballot initiative in November on whether to allow the state to operate an Opportunity School District that would summarily take over local schools and hand them over to charter operators. Massachusetts also has a November ballot initiative, called Question 2, that would allow the state to lift the cap on the number of charters allowed to operate in the state. And in Washington, a charter school battleground for over 20 years, court rulings, legislative shenanigans, lawsuits, and counter lawsuits related to charter schools continue to rage across the state. No doubt, this new money – over $41 million altogether for these three states – may now sweeten the pot if pro charter forces get their way. Regarding the individual CMOs the Department is sending money to, one of them, Uncommon Schools, is a charter chain which used to be led in part by the current head of USDE, Secretary John King. Uncommon is getting $8,004,576. No conflict of interest there. Another recipient – the Denver School of Science and Technology charter chain in Colorado, with a grant of $4,043,361 – has paid out between $20 to $50 million to a for-profit corporation owned by two of the charter chain’s director, according to another CPD analysis. A charter school chain in Indiana getting $1,923,866 is plagued with financial problems, low enrollment, and controversy over how the CEO spends money. No doubt the infusion of federal cash will help. The federal auditor’s report recommends the convening of a formal oversight group to look into charter school financial malfeasance, more rigorous review of charter school operations by federal agencies, and legislative changes in Congress to firm up government oversight. Here’s another recommendation: Stop federal funding to expand these schools. Source: http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/federal-government-continues-to-feed-charter-school-beast-despite-auditors-warning/
Is foster care protecting children? Andrew Setterholm, asetterholm@postbulletin.com Updated Oct 8, 2016 (1) 6 remaining of 7 Welcome! We hope that you enjoy our free content. The tragic death of 4-year-old Eric Dean in 2013 shocked Minnesotans to make changes to the state's child protection system. Some of the bigger changes took effect statewide earlier this year, and in some cases, the results have been drastic — and some are cause for concern, according to child protection employees at Olmsted County and the state of Minnesota. +1  This photograph of Eric Dean was taken by his daycare provider, Mindy DeGeer, and presented as evidence during the May 2014 trial of Eric's stepmother, Amanda Peltier.  Eric's case came to light in 2014, after a series of articles published by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. At the time he was killed in 2013, Eric was living at home with his mother, despite more than a dozen reports of abuse. Pope County investigated just one of those reports and found no maltreatment. In May 2014, Eric's mother, Amanda Peltier, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Later that year, the state jumped into action to address the glaring inadequacies of the system. In the years following, increased attention on child protection has driven a sizable increase in the volume of reports of child abuse. The state's changes also have had noticeable effects in 2015 and 2016: county child protective services are receiving more reports of abuse and, with new guidelines for screening reports, they are investigating more of those cases. Olmsted County is seeing another effect of the changes: More children are being placed in foster care. The county last year placed 195 children in out-of-home care. Foster care placements related to child protection cases increased 50 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to Olmsted County Jodi Wentland, director of the county's Child and Family Services Department. The state's changes to the system have provided consistency said James Koppel, Minnesota assistant commissioner for child and family services. Would the state's child services department be concerned if out-of-home placements for children continue to rise? "Absolutely," Koppel said. Following changes to the state's child protection system, Olmsted County is receiving more reports of child abuse and investigating a greater share of those reports. County staff have noticed another trend: More children are being placed in foster care. The data period for this trend is short because the changes are so recent, but it is enough to worry staff members at both the county and state levels. "I would say that, in general, a foster care placement for a child or children is a trauma. We consider that a trauma," said James Koppel, Minnesota assistant commissioner for child and family services. In addition to the immediate trauma of foster placements, children can experience mental health effects and negative outcomes later in life, Wentland said. Children who "age out" of foster care have higher likelihoods of incarceration and unemployment. The leading cause of homelessness among 18- to 24-year-old Minnesotans is aging out of foster care, Koppel said. "That cannot continue," Koppel said. "We cannot let our foster care system fail the very children that we have chosen to take out of homes due to maltreatment. We cannot fail those children in our foster care system." Out-of-home placements also are more expensive for counties and the statewide system. Spending on child protection statewide has increased 20 percent since 2014, according to a report compiled by Olmsted County. But state funding to county programs has not kept pace with changes in the system; local tax revenue has paid for about 75 percent of the spending increase, the county report said. Olmsted County last month redirected $600,000 in funding from its Child and Family Services department budget to accommodate increased costs for out-of-home placements. More attention Reporting on Eric Dean's death placed intense scrutiny on the state's child protective services. Lawmakers were pressured to review which reports of child abuse were accepted for further review — "screened in" — by county child protection agencies for assessment or investigation, when law enforcement became involved in cases and whether past reports of abuse should be considered in determining responses to reports. In 2014, Gov. Mark Dayton assembled a task force to address the issue: the Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children. Department of Human Services Commission Lucinda Jessen chaired the task force, and Gov. Dayton appointed legislators and experts from across the state, including Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi. The task force made 93 recommendations for changes to state law and county policies. The first was to revise Minnesota's Reporting of Maltreatment of Minors Act to state "child safety" as the paramount consideration for decision making. A second significant change was to repeal a statutory provision that prevented consideration of dismissed reports when caseworkers reviewed a new report of abuse. The task force also revised screening guidelines for child protective services, the framework for deciding which cases are reviewed and investigated. The screening guideline was reviewed by the Minnesota Legislature and became law on Jan. 1. The most immediate effects of the screening change have been an increase in the number of reports accepted for review by county child protection agencies and the intensity of counties' responses to those reports. County caseworkers have two paths of action available when a report of child abuse is received: Caseworkers can conduct a family assessment or a family investigation. A family assessment focuses on connecting parents and children with social services. Investigations take a forensic approach and involve law enforcement. An investigation also results in a legal finding — or no finding — of child maltreatment. The state's new screening requirements already have driven an increase in investigations. More than 36 percent of reports this year have resulted in investigations, Koppel said, compared to about 26 percent last year. Of those investigations, Koppel said 47 percent of cases have resulted in a finding of child maltreatment. Many, but not all, of those cases where maltreatment was discovered led to a child being placed in a foster care situation. The combined effect of counties taking more reports, screening in those reports and handling more reports as investigations could be contributing to the outcomes Olmsted County is experiencing — more children being placed in out-of-home care. "We're seeing both things, so it's a compounding effect of more reports screened in and a higher percent of the reports screened in going to an investigation," Koppel said. Olmsted County still conducts more assessments than investigations, but the balance is shifting. In 2013, the county screened in 412 cases; it conducted investigations in 77 of those cases. In the first half of this year, it has conducted 78 investigations in 269 total cases. Child protective services statewide screened in about 19,500 reports in 2013 and 20,000 in 2014. The state saw a dramatic increase in 2015 with more than 24,000 screened-in reports, and this year is on pace to show another jump to about 26,000 screened-in reports, Koppel said. Philosophical shift Investigations and out-of-home placements are what child protection workers call "back-end" services — resource-intensive responses to serious issues. Front-end services aim to address serious issues before they occur by providing social, economic and health supports, Wentland said. "There's a philosophical shift, or a philosophical pressure that's happening, at a state level around the use of out-of-home care," Wentland said. Wentland has tried to balance the department's resources to cope with new requirements while also directing adequate funding to front-end services. "My perspective, from an Olmsted perspective, we need to do even more work to try to slow this entry into (out of home) placement," Wentland said. "In clarifying that, children need to be safe. It's paramount. So placement decisions need to be around (keeping) children safe." Investing in front- and back-end services is not a "one or the other" situation but a careful balance, Wentland said. The county's investments in workforce development, education and housing could have direct effects on reports of maltreatment and out-of-home placements. "We can't do that on our own," Wentland said. "It's not going to happen in six months or a year. This is a long-term commitment for us." Supporting prevention +1  Buy Now Paul Fleissner The state's changes have seemed reactionary, said Olmsted County Community Services director Paul Fleissner. "The whole system is moving toward a reaction of pulling kids (out of homes)," Fleissner said. While the county has seen past successes in focusing on front-end services, those services are not tied to reliable funding sources. Mandated changes, such as the screening guidelines, are directly tied to funding allocated to counties. "What I've been concerned about is we've spent more time looking at what's wrong than at what's working," Fleissner said. Koppel said the changes at the state level have provided consistency that was lacking in the child protection system. "I believe that we did not have consistent practices around the state on how we treated calls and how we screened calls, how we screened cases. I think there are more consistent responses now across the state," he said. As for front-end services, the state has one prevention program, the Parent Support Outreach Program. The program has an annual statewide budget of $2 million. "That's the part that to me we ultimately need to be focused on is preventing families from entering our child protection system that is very expensive and in which children have already received, or in many cases experienced, trauma — and in too many cases (will) experience more trauma," Koppel said. Reaction to changes Olmsted County's child and family services workers regularly have updated the county's decision-makers, the Board of Commissioners, said board member Sheila Kiscaden. The move toward foster placements for children is worrying, she said. "We generally don't believe that that out-of-home placement for children is the solution," Kiscaden said. "There's real consequences to children when you take them out of their home. You might be protecting their physical safety, but there are mental health effects," Kiscaden said. The state's reforms made it clear — child safety is paramount, Koppel said. As counties continue to enact the 93 recommendations of the governor's task force, agencies at the state and county levels will continue to monitor another measure, in addition to safety: well being. "(Well being) includes that a child is safe, but it's much more aspirational, which is that a child is actually developing and has assets and is headed in a much more positive direction," Koppel said. "We want to make sure nothing bad happens to a child, but we strive for the well being."  Source: http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/is-foster-care-protecting-children/article_6c3900e4-8e3e-5f20-b1a9-c471753c80ad.html
A Baby Nearly Dies in Foster Care, Reigniting Questions About Connecticut's DCF By Jeff Tyson & Lucy Nalpathanchil • Oct 10, 2016 Related Program:  Where We Live ShareTwitter Facebook Google+ Email  Connecticut DCF Commissioner Joette Katz with Governor Dannel Malloy Dannel Malloy / Creative Commons Listen Listening... / 49:04 The state Department of Children and Families is back in the news facing sharp criticism over multiple issues. This hour, we dig into them and we'll examine what, if anything, needs to change within DCF. The Connecticut Health Investigative Team reports that adoptive parents are being asked by DCF to give up custody of their children so the kids can receive intensive mental health care. We find out more about this practice of “trading custody for care.” Also -- the state Child Advocate will join us to talk about a recent and troubling report about the near death of a baby that DCF had placed with a relative unfit to care for him. The child advocate says the case shows major systemic failures within the department. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz declined to come on the show to talk about this issue and others, but we are still going to talk about them. And we want to hear from you. Who holds DCF accountable when cases like the near starvation of a baby surface? Are they really just “outliers” as the agency suggests? Plus, the United Way has put out a new report that highlights the economic challenges facing many working families in Connecticut. We talk with the report’s author about the findings and how Connecticut compares to other states.  Source: http://wnpr.org/post/baby-nearly-dies-foster-care-reigniting-questions-about-connecticuts-dcf
Mom Blames Youth Ranch for Son's Death By ERIK DE LA GARZA  ShareThis        WACO, Texas (CN) — A grieving mother sued a Texas youth ranch, claiming it created a "Lord of the Flies atmosphere" that culminated when her 16-year-old son was kicked to death.      Elizabeth Acevedo says in her Oct. 7 federal lawsuit that Brookhaven Youth Ranch did little to protect her disabled son from being kicked to death in 2014 at the nonprofit residential treatment center in West, Texas.      She sued Brookhaven Youth Ranch, its foundation, its executive director Dennis Cooke, five security guards, and the teenage boy, "A.S.," who she says was convicted of murder "and sentenced to a lengthy prison term."      Acevedo says her son, Cristian Cuellar, fought with A.S. in a violent game called "King Pin," in which the stronger child attempted to restrain the weaker child on the floor to pin them. She says A.S. was older than Cristian, 6 inches taller, and outweighed him by more than 45 lbs. "Moreover, he had a documented history of 'physical aggression and anger management difficulties," the mother says in the complaint.      However, she adds: "The staff at the youth ranch would simply observe this child-on-child violence, without making any attempt to intervene, creating a 'Lord of the Flies' atmosphere at the youth ranch."      After breaking up the initial fight and separating the boys, a security guard tasked with supervising Cuellar "lost track of him," setting up the fatal incident when, "predictably," A.S. attacked Cuellar "again, as staff at the facility routinely allowed," Acevedo says.      "Because the facility was understaffed, there were insufficient security officers to immediately break up the fight," according to the complaint.      By the time guards arrived, A.S. had thrown her son to the floor "then viciously kicked Cristian in the head, killing him," his mother says.      Brookhaven executive director Dennis Cooke told Courthouse News on Tuesday that he had no knowledge of the lawsuit and declined comment.      Cooke and others at the center were not issued summonses until Tuesday because of the Columbus Day holiday, according to court records.      Acevedo claims that Cooke knew that children at the center were regularly assaulted, but he and his staff did little to prevent violence.      Brookhaven describes itself online as serving up to 61 teens between the ages of 13 and 17, referred mostly by two Texas agencies and various counties.      Its mission is to provide a "therapeutic sanctuary where children feel safe, parents feel reassured and referral sources feel appreciated and included in the effort to provide a compassionate, healing environment," the website states.      A spokesman for the Texas Justice Juvenile Department noted in an email that it no longer contracts with the ranch, and Acevedo says state agencies have cited the center numerous times for resident-on-resident violence.      An investigation of her son's death by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services found that a staff member "was not aware of the child's ongoing activity" on the date of the attack.      "As a result, the child was involved in a physical altercation with another resident," according to the letter sent from a licensing investigator to Brookhaven's executive director in 2015.      The state recommended the center implement a system to ensure that all residents are accounted for.      Acevedo said that in her son's case, the measures taken, if any, "were woefully ineffective," and said the staff was "wholly untrained and incapable of preventing violence at the facility."      She seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence, gross negligence, and civil rights violations.      She is represented by Jeffrey Edwards in Austin.  Source:  http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/10/12/mom-blames-youth-ranch-for-sons-death.htm
Maryland’s Move to Pull Children From Group Homes Came Too Late for Teenager Who Died After unannounced inspections revealed deficiencies, Maryland stopped placing young people at Delaware facilities owned by AdvoServ. by Heather Vogell ProPublica, Oct. 13, 2016, 7:59 a.m. 0 Comments Print Print This is part of an ongoing investigation Restraints Do you know a child who has been forcibly restrained or secluded at school? Help us investigate by sharing your story. Spur Reform in 2016 Support ProPublica’s mission to expose abuses of power and corruption. Once again, government actions against a controversial for-profit company’s chain of group homes for the disabled may have come too late to protect a child. ProPublica has learned that Maryland had begun pulling about 30 children out of homes owned and managed by AdvoServ in August, but hadn’t yet relocated a teenage girl when she died a month later after being manually restrained by staff. Maryland’s Department of Human Resources had also stopped placing children in AdvoServ homes, following inspections that identified deficiencies in quality control, record-keeping, and conditions in residential and common areas. Last year, ProPublica chronicled AdvoServ’s long record of problematic treatment, its use of mechanical restraints, and its efforts to weaken regulation as it took in more people with developmental or intellectual disabilities and behavior challenges. Maryland, which plans to terminate its contract with AdvoServ at the end of this month, isn’t the only state to have increased its scrutiny of the company since the ProPublica series. In March, Delaware placed the company on probation, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families said. In June, Florida officials said they had begun moving clients out of the company’s facility in the state, and stationed an investigator there. Through a spokesman, the company declined to comment on the decisions by Maryland and Delaware regulators. AdvoServ’s shortcomings add to the growing concerns about for-profit companies taking over delivery of human services, from prisons to hospice care, that were traditionally provided by government or non-profit agencies. The teenager’s death, in particular, points to the limits of state officials’ ability to safeguard the disabled people they place in group homes run by private contractors — even when such care is paid for with public money. Kevin Huckshorn, a national behavioral health consultant, said it matters less whether care providers are public or private — and more whether the public agency paying for services is keeping a close enough watch. “It’s out of sight, out of mind,” she said. “If you’re not able to do due diligence on oversight and monitoring, anything can happen.” She added that, because of the problems that have surfaced publicly, regulators should have been on alert for issues at AdvoServ homes. “That should have upped the ante,” she said. Fractured authority and multiple players — which at times have included as many as a dozen government agencies — have clouded oversight of the company’s operations. AdvoServ has expanded in the past two decades despite a stream of complaints of abuse and neglect. As far back as the 1990s, the state of New York pulled its children from AdvoServ’s predecessor, Au Clair, because its inspectors had found children living in trailers that reeked of urine and feces. Officials elsewhere have repeatedly backed off from sanctioning the company, which is aided by well-connected lobbyists that include prominent former state legislators. In 2012, for example, Florida reneged on plans to bar an AdvoServ home, where both adults and a child had allegedly been punched and kicked, from accepting new clients for a year. Now owned by a private equity firm, Delaware-based AdvoServ reported last year that it cared for about 700 children and adults in that state, Florida, and New Jersey, and was expanding into Virginia. The company said then it had about 60 people age 21 or younger in its Delaware program. When Delaware officials put AdvoServ on probation in March, they established a new oversight committee with representatives from several state agencies. They also increased visits by state workers to the company’s facilities, strengthened requirements for reporting complaints involving children, and tightened rules about documenting when a child left AdvoServ grounds, Delaware spokeswoman Dawn Thompson said in an email. Eight Delaware youth remain in AdvoServ homes, Thompson said. She did not provide details on why the company was placed on probation. The state has received eight complaints this year regarding alleged abuse of children at AdvoServ, as well as two complaints that resulted from the teenage girl’s death, Thompson said. Most of the complaints were filed by the company. Maryland is one of several states that send difficult cases to AdvoServ homes in Delaware when they cannot find beds and schooling closer to home. Maryland’s contract allows the state to pay AdvoServ up to $7.5 million a year to care for children referred either from its foster care program or after their parents had sought the agency’s help. This past June, a lawsuit was filed against AdvoServ in state court in Delaware, alleging that a teenage boy from Maryland was left unsupervised and raped repeatedly by other clients during more than four years in the company’s homes. His neck was injured during a restraint performed by workers, according to his lawyer, Chris Gowen. The case is pending. In early August, Maryland assembled a team of officials to make an unusual unannounced visit. Unrestrained While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability. Read the story. What Happened to Adam It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos. Read the story. The inspections, conducted on three days, prompted the pull-out of children and moratorium on new placements. As of this week, Maryland officials had moved 20 people under age 21 to new placements, with nine remaining at AdvoServ homes. Officials expected to move most of them by the end of this week and will have all removed before the state’s contract ends October 31. About a month after the inspection, a 15-year-old girl from Hyattsville, Maryland, became unresponsive while being restrained at a group home in a quiet stretch of old Delaware farm country southwest of Wilmington pocked with new housing developments. The girl, whose name has not been released, died in a Delaware hospital two days later. Maryland then ordered its staff to visit AdvoServ homes every day. The girl was not the first teenager to die at an AdvoServ home. In 1997, a 14-year-old autistic boy with epilepsy was found dead in his bed with low levels of anti-seizure medicine in his blood. In 2013, a 14-year-old autistic girl died at the company’s Florida home after a night in which she was restrained — at times fastened to a bed and chair — while she vomited repeatedly. “The safety of our children is DHR’s top priority and we are taking this case very seriously,” Maryland spokeswoman Katherine Morris said in an emailed statement, referring to the 15-year-old girl’s death. The company said in a brief statement last month that it was “heartbroken over the loss of a young woman in our care.”  Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/maryland-move-pull-children-from-group-homes-too-late-teenager-who-died
In Privatization Battle, Unions Go To Court To Block Conversions Of Group Homes Jane Vasseur Of Enfield, Sister Of Group-Home Resident Parents, siblings and guardians rally against privatizing group homes Thursday in Hartford, as unions file for court injunction blocking the conversions. Parents, siblings and guardians rally against privatizing group homes Thursday in Hartford, as unions file for court injunction blocking the conversions. Josh KovnerContact Reporter Court filings are mounting in the battle to prevent at least 30 state group homes from going private. Two unions representing state workers who have, or face, losing their jobs in the conversion, asked a judge on Thursday to block the transfer at least until a labor board considers the unions' assertion that the contract prevents state workers from losing their jobs over privatization. Representatives of the private sector lamented what they said was an "obstructionist" position by the unions. Toting placards urging the state not to disrupt relationships between workers and clients that have formed over many years, parents, siblings and guardians of some of the group-home residents joined current and former employees of the state Department of Developmental Disabilities and union organizers at a rally Thursday outside the Superior Court's civil division on Washington Street. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has ordered the conversion of at least 30 state-run group homes and the closing of two regional institutions to save money, and to reflect a national trend toward the privatization of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Some parents whose loved ones are in state care have expressed deep opposition to the move, saying that in some cases relationships formed with state workers over many years have kept their sons and daughters alive, and they say they distrust the private contractors who have been chronically underfunded by the state. "And they want to do this around the Christmas holidays - rip our families apart?" said Jane Vasseur of Enfield, whose brother, Billy, lives at Grey Pond group home in Simsbury. "They're selling our kids at half price -- this is the way I see it as a parent," said Lindsay Mathews, whose son, George Griffin, lives at a state group home in Hamden. She was referring to the cost of care in private group homes, which is half the state rate. Nearly 90 percent of the roughly 16,700 clients of DDS already receive services through private contractors. There are examples throughout the private sector of people with highly complex medical needs, including feeding and respiration tubes, being well cared for in private group homes, say parents with children in private care. The private sector also cares for clients with a range of difficult behaviors, including self-injury and Pica disorder, which is an appetite for non-edible objects or substances, advocates say. Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union also represents workers in private group homes in Connecticut. Those workers haven't had raises in several years, and many qualify for Husky insurance, and must work at least two jobs to support themselves and their families. David Pickus, president of Local 1199 said, the union doesn't see this as a public-private battle. "If it was the private group homes that were being disrupted in this manner, we'd be furious at that as well," Pickus said. The state is "rushing ahead with this conversion without considering its obligation to bargain with the union," he said. The last contract, which has expired but has been extended, prohibits layoffs from private conversions, said Pickus, but state officials have argued that the provision no longer exists. The union has filed a prohibitive-practice complaint with the state Board of Labor Relations and has requested an accelerated hearing. In the petition for an injunction filed Thursday, the union is asking for a temporary halt to the conversions until the labor board can rule. Mathews has filed a separate request for an injunction on behalf of her son, and a hearing is scheduled for Monday at Superior Court in New Haven. Lawyers for advocates who support private care said a key issue is whether the state has neglected the private sector. "The idea that state-run facilities are inherently superior to private group homes is simply not supported by our experience in Connecticut," said lawyer David Shaw, who represented the Arc Connecticut in cases that closed the Mansfield Training School and helped dozens of former residents of the Southbury Training School move to private community settings. "I think the question for the court will be whether the state has provided sufficient support [to the private sector] to enable them to provide adequate care," Shaw said. Gian-Carlo Casa, a former state policy and budget official who now heads the trade group representing dozens of private group-home operators, said the private sector has demonstrated that it can match the state's quality of care and do it for significantly less money. "It is unfortunate that the union is taking an obstructionist position on a plan that experience and research shows will only benefit the individuals in state care," Casa said Thursday. He said the lower cost of private care "could allow the state to provide services for many more families who are languishing on waiting lists." The federal government is also pushing states to close outmoded institutions and place clients in less restrictive, community-based settings. Advocates in Connecticut who support private care nonetheless acknowledge that the state's underfunding of private vendors has caused high turnover and driven qualified and talented people out of the field.  Source: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-group-homes-private-state-injunction-1014-20161013-story.html
Local parents ask for public ratings of group homes By Bayne Hughes Staff Writer Updated 18 hrs ago 0 Buy Now By Bayne Hughes Staff Writer James Perdue prev next Two Decatur parents asked state Mental Health Commissioner James Perdue for better group home ratings and more notice of pending closures during his visit to Decatur on Wednesday. They did not leave the meeting satisfied. Suzanne Johnson and Jennifer Chase, parents of two group home residents who are developmentally disabled, said they were concerned after Perdue’s town hall meeting at the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama that the state Department of Mental Health is more interested in protecting group home providers than in protecting the disabled clients. Perdue also told Mayor-elect Tab Bowling that he would be willing to work with the city on the use of the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama’s request for a $30,000 city allocation. Chase told Perdue she received 12 hours' notice in April before the state shut down the group home on Diane Street Southwest, where her daughter was living. Chase said her daughter was happy and she was pleased with her care, so they were unaware the group home was even possibly facing closure. Her daughter has adjusted well to the new home, but Chase said she lives in fear she will be blindsided again after the traumatic experience. “We need to know when a group home receives a low rating,” Chase said. Johnson’s daughter wasn’t involved in the closure of nine group homes in Decatur, but she said the state Department of Mental Health’s website doesn’t include ratings or grades of the licensed group homes. This prompted Johnson to unsuccessfully call Perdue’s department. “They weren’t allowed to tell us or direct us to the good homes,” Johnson said. “It was like they didn’t want to be responsible.” Perdue said some people want a rating system for group homes similar to the health ratings for restaurants, but it’s not that simple, especially when there’s a shortage of group providers. “Ratings can be misleading,” Perdue said. “A restaurant can get a 97, but you’ve still got a problem if you find a fly in your soup.” Perdue said it’s important to make sure the ratings “don’t cause undue alarm. We also need to maintain the privacy of the individual provider.” Perdue admitted his department needs to do a better job of managing the group home providers. This includes making sure they follow rules like not hiring convicted felons and not allowing medication to be left unlocked in the refrigerator, he said. The Mental Health Center’s request for the city allocation has been a controversial issue since the City Council cut the funding in 2014 as part of budget reductions. The center’s last allocation was $28,000 in 2013. The council refused to add the allocation back in the fiscal 2016 and 2017 budgets. However, Bowling made funding the center’s request a campaign issue in the municipal election in which he was elected mayor on Oct. 4. At least two of the newly elected council members also have said they support adding the Mental Health Center’s request to the new budget. Bowling asked Perdue to help the Decatur mental health center get a match to a city allocation through the federal Medicaid program. He believes the $28,000 match would create almost $94,000 for the center. “A long-term healthcare facility isn’t an option, but that would be a lot of money to add to the bucket and help more people,” Bowling said. Perdue said he doesn’t want to micromanage the local Mental Health Center, but putting the allocation up for the federal match creates federal government oversight that might not be worth the trouble. New Mental Health Center Executive Lisa Coleman said her center would keep a city allocation local to help indigent Decatur residents with psychiatric care. She said it’s hard to say how many patients an allocation would help because the cost varies with the amount of care required for each patient. Coleman said her center would need permission from Perdue on the state level to submit the city allocation for the potential Medicaid match. “It’s a very complicated process,” Coleman said. bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.  Source: http://www.decaturdaily.com/news/morgan_county/decatur/local-parents-ask-for-public-ratings-of-group-homes/article_6a3eaeca-746b-5541-8d61-fd30b0f2385d.html
Grand jury probing foster care; new charges filed in NY case Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2016 @ 2:11 PM Published: Thursday, September 22, 2016 @ 1:50 AM By: Associated Press FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Suffolk County District Attorney's office in Riverhead, N.Y., shows Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu. The Suffolk County prosecutor tells the Associated Press that a special grand jury has been empaneled to investigate the foster care system and "all the facts" surrounding the Gonzales-Mugaburu case. Gonzales-Mugaburu was arrested in the winter of 2016 and charged with victimizing multiple children in Ridge, N.Y. (Suffolk County District Attorney's Office via AP, File) Riverhead — A special grand jury has been empaneled to investigate New York's foster care system following the arrest of a Long Island man on child sex abuse charges. The man had welcomed dozens of boys into his Ridge home, dating back two decades, before allegations of sex abuse surfaced, creating questions about oversight over the foster parent system. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Thursday the special grand jury, which has been meeting since mid-August and may not conclude its work until early 2017, is "assessing all of the facts and circumstances involving how he was able to take all these boys in." It also is investigating other possible crimes involving the suspect. It was not clear if the grand jury would file additional criminal charges or issue a report on its findings, with recommendations for changes in the foster care system. Various governmental agencies and private foster care organizations are being examined. Spota also told reporters the grand jury would investigate how the suspect was able to obtain some of the children in his care from out-of-state foster care agencies, including Washington. Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was arrested last winter and charged with victimizing seven children as young as 8. One count in an indictment alleges he sexually abused a dog in front of a child. On Thursday, a new indictment was unsealed accusing him of abusing one additional child and added charges involving some of the children identified as victims in the initial charges. A prosecutor also said it was likely some charges from the first indictment may be dropped because some of the alleged crimes happened too long ago to fall under statute of limitations laws. Defense attorney Donald Mates entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client; Gonzales-Mugaburu is being held without bail. Mates told reporters after the arraignment that his client denies ever abusing children, and suggested the alleged victims were lying. Spota said previously that statute of limitations laws prevented prosecutors from filing charges involving other abuse allegations. Since the scandal erupted, separate investigations have been started by state, city and Long Island officials. Questions remain about how Gonzales-Mugaburu was able to keep getting children placed in his home despite years of concern about his conduct. Before his arrest, Gonzales-Mugaburu was the subject of nine previous investigations involving alleged abuse dating to 1998, according to a spokeswoman for Suffolk County. Each of those inquiries led to a finding at the time that the allegations weren't credible, and none of them immediately led to the removal of children from his split-level ranch home on eastern Long Island. A break came in January, when detectives said two brothers who lived in the house came forward with credible stories of abuse. Once Gonzales-Mugaburu was in custody, others felt more comfortable coming forward, authorities said. SCO Family of Services, an agency that placed 72 New York City children in Gonzales-Mugaburu's care over 20 years, said it never uncovered evidence of sexual abuse or improper sexual behavior in the home. But the organization's chief strategy officer, Rose Anello said in July that there were other issues with the home, particularly around 2013, "and in retrospect and knowing what we know now, a decision to close the home should have been made at that time." She said those issues involved Gonzales-Mugaburu being uncooperative and unwilling to accept staff guidance on parenting style, but none of the issues then hinted at anything like the allegations uncovered this year. Following the Gonzales-Mugaburu arrest, the city's Administration for Children's Services temporarily halted placing children in SCO foster homes, but announced in July that a review of 370 homes operated by SCO uncovered no indications abuse was occurring at any of those sites. ___ This story has been corrected to show children stopped being placed in SCO foster homes, not SCO facilities.  Source: http://www.whio.com/news/national/grand-jury-probing-foster-care-new-charges-filed-case/I7m4FFBabA14DnZruKzEaM/
Foster care worker convicted of sex crimes against foster child KSNW-TV Published: October 14, 2016, 9:03 am Updated: October 14, 2016, 10:24 am  WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A former family support worker with Saint Francis Community Services is being sentenced for child sex crimes. Bridgett Martinez was convicted of consensual sexual intercourse, lewd fondling, or sodomy with a foster child. The charges stemmed from an incident that occurred on May 23rd, 2016. Saint Francis Community Services of Salina says Martinez was placed on administrative leave when they found out about the charges back in July and was terminated on July 8th. Saint Francis Community Services released the following statement to KSN Thursday evening: A statement from The Very Reverend Robert N. Smith, Dean and CEO: “Saint Francis Community Services is aware of criminal charges filed against, and the sentence given by the court to, one of its former employees, Bridgett Martinez. Ms. Martinez was employed by Saint Francis Community Services as a Family Support Worker. Saint Francis Community Services placed Ms. Martinez on administrative leave immediately upon learning of her arrest. Her employment with Saint Francis Community Services ended July 8, 2016. The mission of Saint Francis Community Services is to serve those who are vulnerable and at risk. We condemn the actions of anyone who takes advantage of individuals and violates the laws which protect them. Saint Francis Community Services extends its heartfelt sympathy to the victim in this case.”  Source: http://ksn.com/2016/10/14/foster-care-worker-convicted-of-sex-crimes-against-foster-child/
Science backs how much foster care sucks — kids suffer more health problems  Science backs how much foster care sucks BY Nicole Lyn Pesce NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Monday, October 17, 2016, 1:14 PM facebook Tweet email Children in foster care are vulnerable to health and emotional problems. (Juanmonino/Getty Images) BY Nicole Lyn Pesce NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Monday, October 17, 2016, 1:14 PM Now it’s a scientific fact that foster kids have a hard-knock life. Children in the U.S. foster care system suffer significantly higher risks of emotional and physical health problems, the journal Pediatrics reported Monday, such as depression, asthma and obesity. University of California, Irvine sociologists surveyed more than 900,000 children. They found those in foster care were seven times more likely to be depressed, five times more likely to be anxious, and six times more prone to behavior problems than other kids in the general population, including those in single-mother and economically disadvantaged families. Foster kids were also three times more likely to have attention deficit disorder. “No previous research has considered how the mental and physical well-being of children who have spent time in foster care compares to that of children in the general population,” said study co-author Kristin Turney, UCI associate professor of sociology, in the report. Kate Middleton records children's mental health PSA And the suggested physical impact for the more than 400,000 kids in foster care was perhaps even more striking than the expected emotional fallout. Foster children were also three times more likely to have hearing and vision problems. They were twice as likely to develop asthma, become obese and experience speech problems or learning disabilities. “Foster care children are in considerably worse health than other children,” noted Turney. The report suggests this stems from any maltreatment they have endured, as well as risk factors such as poverty, parental drug and alcohol abuse and neighborhood disadvantage that likely led to their foster placement. The report advises pediatricians to take note of this in treating children who have been in foster care, and calls for more research for this vulnerable group. “This is typically a difficult-to-reach population, so having access to descriptive statistics on their living arrangements, physical well-being and behavior provided an excellent opportunity to help identify the health challenges they face,” Turney wrote.  Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/science-backs-foster-care-sucks-article-1.2833834
Kevin Morrison: Stop and understand the life of a foster child Story Comments Print Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size Share3 Previous Next kevin morrison Kevin Morrison, Tulsa County assistant public defender.  Editor's note Tulsa County’s public defenders help people accused of crimes who otherwise wouldn’t be represented in court. This is fifth in a series that takes a look at some of these men and women and their difficult jobs. Each is dedicated to provide the best legal representation possible. To read past stories, visit tulsabusiness.com. Posted: Monday, October 17, 2016 12:00 am Kevin Morrison: Stop and understand the life of a foster child By Ralph Schaefer TBLN Correspondent TulsaWorld.com | 0 comments Kids see the darnedest things but often suffer from those experiences. They end up on the deprived child docket in the Tulsa County Juvenile Court. They then face the possibility of being removed from their natural home. They just want and need to tell their story, and that responsibility falls to Kevin Morrison, Tulsa County assistant public defender. “We study the facts when the case is presented,” he said. “Our first order of business is to have a meeting with our clients — the children — to learn their viewpoint. “Our job is misunderstood by people. Our job is to make sure the child’s wishes are represented in court. Our position always will be to try to do what the child desires and get that outcome.” The child may or may not want to go home with the parent. There is an increasing trend to leave kids in the home unless there is a need for judicial intervention due to neglect, abuse or other unfitness at home. Unfitness is sexual or physical abuse and is the most commonly understood, Morrison said. But there is parental drug and/or alcohol abuse as well as domestic violence that has reached a point where there is a safety risk for the children. These conditions result in children having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) reactions, Morrison said. The court has the ability to order one or the other parent out of the home so the children can remain while issues are resolved, he said. The law allows parents no less than 90 days to take corrective action, but some cases are open ended. Oklahoma statutes provide that after a child has been in foster care for a defined period the state can file a motion to terminate parental responsibilities. The period out of the home could be as short as six months for very young children, but experience has shown that time extends to between nine and 12 months in difficult cases. Some cases last longer because parents are unable or unwilling to work on their issues. “Most kids want to go home,” Morrison said, “but they want their parents to get help. Something to change at home. They don’t want to be hit anymore. They don’t want mommy and daddy disappearing to the back room to use drugs.” Children react in different ways when they first meet with Morrison. He finds they will talk to him because he explains that he will represent them in the court proceedings so they don’t personally have to attend. He tells them that it is his job to get them back with their parents — if they want. By the time intervention occurs, most have a recognition there is a problem at home and many have a heightened awareness about their situations. “I tell people the children know their parents better than anyone and their viewpoint should be trusted,” he said. Morrison paused as he thought about the most significant challenge he has faced during his two decades at the Tulsa County Juvenile Court. That time includes working on the district attorney’s side. “I think the greatest challenge is avoiding burnout,” he said. “It’s not that we get burned out. It’s that we sometimes get overburdened. We deal with cases involving sexual and physical abuse daily. We look at pictures of children badly injured by parents or others. Some pictures include molestation by parents on a daily basis. That creates a pretty high level of stress. “Our legal system is adversarial by nature, and that is the way it is supposed to work. Everyone has an interest and an advocate that works against each other.” Morrison doesn’t get a lot of invitations to talk about his role at the juvenile court, but if he would, the message would be there are too many children in the foster care system. These children probably go to public schools, he said, and are likely struggling in class. “I live in Collinsville and am on the school board,” Morrison said. “There are many people in that community who are fostering children. It is a point of emphasis that I put into the schools — that they need to understand these are kids with troubles.” Many have PTSD and are acting out behaviors and symptoms, and people should be compassionate and help them. Morrison’s message would be to pay attention to what is going on around them. “We live in neighborhoods where we see children being neglected, children we suspect are being abused because it happens everywhere — not just in north Tulsa where everyone assumes that it happens,” he said. “Pay attention if you see something. Say something. If you see a child in need, try to help them, their parents. If you see something that looks dangerous to the child, call police. “Be vigilant. Not that I need more cases, but things to which people subject their children are surprising.” Adam Daigle 918-581-8480 Follow Adam Daigle on Twitter at @adamdaigleTW  Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/business/tulsabusiness/kevin-morrison-stop-and-understand-the-life-of-a-foster/article_4e841644-5e11-572b-9b83-d47db53e0fda.html
Foster care raises children's risk of mental, physical health problems Written by Honor Whiteman Published: Today Published: Today email Children in the United States who have been in foster care are at significantly higher risk of mental and physical health problems, including learning disabilities, depression, asthma, and obesity, compared with children who have not been in foster care. This is the finding of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers say children in foster care have much worse health than children in the general population. In 2014, more than 650,000 children in the U.S. spent time in foster care. On average, children in foster care spend 2 years waiting to be adopted. Previous studies have suggested that children in foster care may develop physical and mental health issues, primarily as a result of the trauma they have experienced, such as abuse and neglect. However, the authors of the new study - including Kristin Turney of the University of California-Irvine - note that no research has compared the health of children in foster care with that of children in the general population. With this in mind, Turney and team analyzed 2011-2012 data from the National Survey of Children's Health, which included more than 900,000 children across the U.S. Of these, around 1.3 percent had been in foster care. The researchers used logistic regression models to compare the risks of mental and physical health problems of children who had and had not spent time in foster care. Foster care 'a risk factor for health problems in childhood' On looking at the risks of physical health problems, the researchers found children who had been in foster care were twice as likely to have asthma and obesity and three times as likely to have hearing and vision problems, compared with children who had not spent time in foster care. When it came to mental health, children who had been in foster care were found to be at seven times greater risk of depression and five times greater risk of anxiety. Behavioral problems were six times more likely among children who spent time in foster care, the team reports, and they were also at three times greater risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and twice as likely to have learning disabilities and developmental delays. Turney says their study makes an "important contribution to the research community" by being the first to demonstrate that the health of children in foster care is much worse than children in other living conditions. "Our findings also present serious implications for pediatricians by suggesting that foster care placement is a risk factor for health problems in childhood," she adds. "This is typically a difficult-to-reach population, so having access to descriptive statistics on their living arrangements, physical well-being and behavior provided an excellent opportunity to help identify the health challenges they face. This study expands our understanding of the mental and physical health of these highly vulnerable children, but we must take a closer look if we are to understand how foster care really affects child well-being." Kristin Turney  Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313512.php
Panhandle group home director arrested on sex charges Photo: WJHG By Associated Press |  Posted: Tue 7:56 AM, Oct 18, 2016  |  Updated: Tue 7:57 AM, Oct 18, 2016 By: Associated Press October 18, 2016 PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- Authorities say the director of a group home for foster children in the Florida Panhandle is accused of having sex with a child. According to a Bay County Sheriff's Office report, 34-year-old Bryan Meeder was arrested over the weekend on lewd and lascivious battery. He's the director of Claire's House and officials say the alleged abuse took place while the girl lived in the home. The News-Herald reports the girl told investigators she came to live in the home when she was 13 and began a sexual relationship with Meeder when she was 14. She says it continued through her 18th birthday. Investigators obtained text messages and recordings of conversations between Meeder and the girl. An investigation is continuing. Records don't show whether Meeder has a lawyer.  Source: http://www.wctv.tv/content/news/Panhandle-Group-home-director-arrested-on-sex-charges-397425251.html
Families ask judge to stop planned privatization of group homes WTNH Staff Published: October 17, 2016, 6:08 pm Updated: October 19, 2016, 11:22 am Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) (WTNH) — Families of some developmentally delayed adults are fighting a move to privatize some of Connecticut’s group homes. One of those families has asked a judge to stop Gov. Malloy from going through with it. The state announced its plans to let private companies take over 40 of its 60 group homes, in an effort to trim money from the state budget. This comes after two unions announced they would file an injunction to stop the conversion of those state facilities into the private sector. In response, the head of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, Gian-Carl Casa released a statement saying; It is unfortunate that the union is taking an obstructionist position on a plan that experience and research shows will only benefit the individuals in state care. The high quality of care already being delivered by private providers to thousands of individuals with some of the most challenging and complex needs is equal, if not superior, to state facilities. And the lower cost of private care could allow the state to provide services for many more families who are languishing on waiting lists. Change is difficult. For the union to suggest that only state employees can deliver quality care is simply false, and ignores the fact that private providers already deliver care to the majority of individuals receiving state-supported services. We are confident that private, community-based agencies can provide care that individuals now living in state facilities need and deserve.” Some parents and guardians say they’ve had experience with private group homes, and that the move is not a good idea. “My brother was actually put in a private group home 20 years ago, and it was a total disaster. He was put into apartments, not supervised 24/7. He’s in no way appropriate to be unsupervised. He was roaming the community,” said Jefferey Wong. Group homes in line for privatization will do so by January 1st.  Source: http://wtnh.com/2016/10/17/families-ask-judge-to-stop-planned-privatization-of-group-homes/
Audit slams state agencies for drugging foster kids During a recent hearing at the Capitol, State Auditor Elaine Howle revealed the findings on her department's audit regarding the prescribing and oversight of psychotropic medications to children in foster care. (Oct. 19, 2016) Lilia Luciano, KXTV 6:22 AM. PDT October 20, 2016  During a recent hearing at the Capitol, State Auditor Elaine Howle revealed the findings on her department's audit regarding the prescribing and oversight of psychotropic medications to children in foster care. “The state authorized medications in dosages that exceed what’s in the guidance – multiple meds – excessive meds – than the guidance. Key overarching issues,” Howle said. Tisha Ortiz risked getting late to class to be at the hearing. She's studying criminal justice at California State University, East Bay. She sat among other former foster youth as she awaited her turn to testify.  “How is it my fault that I was abused? It's not,” Ortiz asked. “How is it my fault that I'm in a group home? It's not my fault. The foster care system is a pretty dark place.” California has, according to the auditor, the highest population of foster youth in America. Senator Mike McGuire, who called for the audit and led the hearing, noted that in 2006 only one percent of foster kids were on psych meds. That number has increased to 1 in 8 children today, McGuire noted. Often being the children of drug addicted parents, many foster children begin life at a disadvantage. Some of them are abused sexually, emotionally and physically and that’s how they end up in the hands of the state. For children like Ortiz, this life comes with increasing challenges. Ortiz said she suffered abuse at a group home. "My mom had just passed away,” Ortiz said. “She (a staff member at the group home) told me if she ever caught me crying, I'd be in serious trouble. I would hide in the showers just to cry. One time she got upset that I was crying and pulled me to the side and said, ‘Stop it, no one cares. No one is going to have empathy or sympathy for you ever. Why do you even care that your mother passed away when you weren't even close.’” Sometimes kids with behavioral problems, as many foster kids show, get into the mental health system, where they end up on prescription drugs that many say have no place in the body of a child.  Dr. Stuart Bair has worked with children in foster care for decades and has observed doctors resort to pills over therapy. “It's an easy fix or at least a superficial easy fix for a lot of systems, and a lot of doctors say, ‘Okay, here's the medication,’” Bair said. “’It will shut the kid up,' – very, very few of these kids have psychotic disorders for which these medications are clearly indicated.’” Ortiz’s case is not rare. According to Howle’s report, 12 percent of children in foster care are taking psychotropic meds, including antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, among others. When children under the age of 5 are excluded, the rate blows up, said Bill Grimm, a senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law. "Then you have a problem of about 25 percent or higher of every child in foster care between 6 and 17 being on one or more psychotropic medications, and that's a huge problem,” Grimm said. “Then when you look at the types of medications knowing that, at least our data seems to suggest, that half of those children are on antipsychotic medications that are only FDA-approved for a very, very limited diagnosis.” “The audit concludes that the state and its counties have failed to adequately oversee the prescribing of these medications,” Howle said. I asked Howle about those findings and she told me "we found that these children are receiving medications in excess of the dosages required or recommended in guidance.” “The prescribing was a problem and certainly the follow-up,” Howle said. “And then the other piece was in conjunction with receiving a medication like this, a child should be receiving mental health services, counseling services, and we didn’t see evidence of that happening for many of these children, so they were essentially being given medications, not being seen frequently enough and then not being provided the health services they need.” The audit found that in as many as 65 percent of cases, children are getting the meds without parental, guardian or court authorization, which, according to Grimm, is illegal. “In California, before a prisoner – before somebody convicted of a felony, somebody, in fact, who might have victimized and sexually molested a child in foster care – before that prisoner can be administered a psychotropic med against their will, we have a much more rigid process in place,” Grimm said. “Our prisoners are entitled to more protection of their rights than our children in foster care who'd done nothing wrong, nothing that would allow them to be punished in any way.” Ortiz said she often complained about the side effects of her medication. "They made me severely disabled. I couldn't wake up without wanting to go back to sleep,” she said. “I couldn't function on those medications. Even with just one medication, all I wanted to do was sleep all day. “One time when I was pretty drugged up, I couldn't wake up in the morning, I was feeling very sick,” she added. “I wanted to puke, and a staff member was upset that I wasn't waking up for school and decided to throw me and my bed against the wall because I wasn't waking up to go to school.” “The antipsychotics are clearly the biggest problem at this point,” Bair said. “Medication's side effects typically include serious sedation, movement disorders, and sometimes irreversible movement disorders. Sometimes where you just feel like you can't sit still and you're jumping around, which then looks as if you're more agitated when in fact it's a side effect of medication." I asked if this could possibly motivate another prescription. "Exactly. Exactly,” Bair said. “Then there are the long-term metabolic problems of increased risk of diabetes and obesity.” Ortiz said she went from 175 to 225 pounds while on the meds. “I still sometimes get the facial tics. I'll feel them; they're kind of embarrassing, especially around the eyes. I'll feel them mostly around the eyes, I'll get the facial tics. Definitely the heart problem I still suffer from, it's permanent now,” she said. “The weight gain, I've been fluctuating with weight. It wasn't until recently, like the last six months, I completely came off medications, because before it was really hard to come off all those medications." Ortiz decided to share her medical records with me. On her health and education passport, I noticed that at the age of 15, she was given Lithium, usually prescribed for bipolar disorder, which she wasn't diagnosed with. Simultaneously she was prescribed an antidepressant named Trazodone. I am far from an expert on medicine, but a simple Google search will show this drug has a major interaction with lithium. A drugs.com warning reads “The risk of interaction might outweigh the benefits.” Ortiz was also on Geodon, a powerful antipsychotic to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; none of these diagnoses appear on her records. Among its long list of side effects, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the drug may cause heart rhythm problems, a life-threatening neurological disorder, serious skin reactions, twitching, uncontrollable muscle movements, tiredness, sleepiness, increased hunger, thirst, weight gain and on and on. Dr. Bair described it as "trying to think through glue, so when you get these medications, your brain is fogged up and the things that kids need to do – they need to get educated, they need to learn how to develop peer relations." Bair thinks these side effects could significantly inhibit those processes. "We know things are not going well, so you have a kid who has essentially pharmacologically induced lack of development, immaturity,” Bair said. “And you also have a young person who may be 20, 30, 50 pounds overweight who wasn't able to learn anything in school because he or she was dead on her feet most of the time, doesn't know how to establish age-appropriate relationships either with his or her peers or with the adult world in general. It's not fair." Ortiz was also placed on Abilify, with its own long list of side effects, including specific effects for teenagers like increased mental and emotional problems and thoughts of suicide. I looked up her doctor’s name on the ProPublica Dollars for Doctors database, showing how much money doctors got from pharmaceutical companies, and just within a year of the study, her doctor had received $90 dollars in meals. Another doctor who switched her to a new antipsychotic, after she landed in the hospital likely from the side effects, got $168 dollars in food and beverage from the producers of this new medication. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money but research shows even a little incentive goes a long way. “Doctors who receive payments from the medical industry do indeed tend to prescribe drugs differently than their colleagues who don’t," according to the ProPublica study. It's that simple. “What happened a number of years ago was that there was move afoot to make doctors think that there was bipolar disorder all over the place in kids,” Bair said. “If you have bipolar disorder, it's kind of a straight shot antipsychotic. The pharmaceutical companies were really big on this and said ‘let's increase our market by having an entirely new patient population that is under 18.’” And that kind of medication isn’t cheap. “Out of the 12 most costly drugs nationwide, three of the 12 were antipsychotic meds,” Bair said. “That is one of the highest group of classes of drugs that are given to children in foster care. This is no doubt that these drugs are some of the most costly that are handed out to patients whose care is paid for by Medicaid. We don't even know how much money in California is spent on alternatives to medication." What we do know, thanks to a Mercury News study, is that over a decade, the state spent more than 226 million in taxpayer dollars on psych meds for foster children. "These are human beings. What we know is foster youth already have challenges related to their long-term success of their life,” McGuire said. “We are the guardians. The state of California are the guardians of these youth and we failed them. It's unacceptable." McGuire’s bill seeking to increase doctor accountability was recently signed by Governor Brown.  “It would confidentially turn over the medical records and prescription rates of California's foster youth to the Medical Board,” McGuire said. “The Medical Board would then be able to confidentially investigate serial over-prescribers via the medical and prescription records of foster youth. In addition, the bill would allow the attorney general to open up a case to go after a serial over-prescriber." I met with Jennifer Kent, Director of the Department of Health Care Services, which oversees the medical needs of children in foster care. She said her department agrees with the audit's findings. "I think, like all audits, it always provides room for improvement, points out places where we can make changes in our system to either deliver services in a better way or more efficient way,” Kent said. "In this particular audit, we agree with the findings, and so we’ve already made most of the changes. There are some that are still in process that we are making." Kent acknowledged that this population needs more scrutiny and that her department welcomes the opportunity to work with the Department of Social Services to gradually fix the issues.  Source: http://www.abc10.com/news/local/california/audit-slams-state-for-drugging-foster-kids/326887120
Maryland girl dies in Delaware facility for disabled youth Meredith CohnContact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun A Maryland girl died in a Delaware facility for disabled youth just ahead of being transferred. A 15-year-old Maryland girl died at a facility in Delaware for severely developmentally disabled youths, authorities said Tuesday, after the state already had decided to sever ties with the operators. The Maryland Department of Human Resources said that it had canceled its contract with AdvoServe effective Oct. 31, but had not found appropriate places to send all of the 31 youths housed in company institutions when the girl died. The unidentified girl died at the Bear, Del., facility in mid-September, authorities said. Neither AdvoServe nor the Department of Human Resouces would provide more information Tuesday. "Understandably, our agency and caseworkers were hit hard by this tragedy," Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Katherine Morris said in a statement. "The death of a child is never news that is easy to process," she said. "We are taking this case very seriously, as the safety and well-being of youth in our care is our top priority. DHR is in close contact with the authorities in Delaware who are investigating this incident." Sun Investigates: Group Homes A two-month investigation by The Baltimore Sun highlighted troubles at a LifeLine Inc. group home for disabled foster children, where a 10-year-old died in July. The Sun showed that state regulators were left in the dark about significant problems at LifeLine, including the founder’s conviction... A two-month investigation by The Baltimore Sun highlighted troubles at a LifeLine Inc. group home for disabled foster children, where a 10-year-old died in July. The Sun showed that state regulators were left in the dark about significant problems at LifeLine, including the founder’s conviction... Read more stories The Delaware State Police and the office of the medical examiner are investigating, according to the Delaware attorney general's office. There have been no charges. Morris said the Department of Human Resources had canceled its contract and instituted a moratorium on new placements "as a result of an intensive review of the program, including several unannounced visits DHR made to AdvoServ." She did not specify when the decision was made to cancel the contract, but said it was before the girl died. All but one of the Maryland youths has been placed elsewhere, Morris said. One was moved from a AdvoServ facility in Florida to another in that state.  Maryland's three-year contract with AdvoServ was approved in 2012 with two one-year extensions, according to documents provided by the Department of Human Resources. The contract was scheduled to expire in February. Payments to AdvoServe were not supposed to exceed about $7.9 million a year and were capped at about $39.8 million. It's unclear how much was paid to the company. AdvoServ declined to answer questions about the death. "Our staff is heartbroken over the loss of the young woman in our care, and our deepest sympathies go out to her mother and extended family," the company said in a statement. This is not the first time that a child has died in a group home managed by a state contractor. Damaud Martin, a 10-year-old Baltimore boy, died in July 2014 at a Laurel-area group home for disabled foster children. Maryland health regulators later said that they found serious violations at the LifeLine group home, including conflicting records on his care and miscommunication between staff and the emergency responders and medical personnel who labored to save him. However, they said none of the violations contributed to his death. That conclusion surprised child advocates who called the investgation flawed. Advocates for youth say the latest incident demonstrates the difficulty of providing services for children with the sometimes severe emotional and behavioral problems. Washington attorney Chris Gowen has filed a lawsuit on behalf of another Maryland child who he alleges was assaulted at a AdvoServ facility. "The state of Maryland has a real challenge to find alternative placements for youth with severe disabilities, and the answer to that challenge can't be to send them all out of state to a school that takes anyone," he said. Leslie Seid Margolis, a managing attorney with Disability Rights Maryland, said she's been warning the state of Maryland about AdvoServ's practices for years. She cited the company's use of a type of restraint prohibited under Maryland law. She said her group, a federally mandated advocate for people with disabilities, will investigate the death and determine what went wrong and how to prevent harm in the future. Maryland routinely sends children out of state when appropriate facilities are not available in the state. She called it a "system failure" that youths have to be sent away from home, in some cases far from home, for proper services and education. Margolis said some parents don't have the support or resources to care for their children and they have to allow them to be placed in facilities such as AdvoServ's. The company has facilities in Delaware, New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut. "I only wish Maryland had removed the kids sooner," she said. meredith.cohn@baltsun.com  Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/blog/bs-hs-child-death-20161018-story.html
Youth justice study finds prison counterproductive New report documents urgent need to replace youth prisons with rehabilitation-focused alternatives October 21, 2016 | Editor's Pick Popular Credit: iStock The youth prison model should be replaced with a continuum of community-based programs and, for the few youth who require secure confinement, smaller homelike facilities that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation, according to a report released today. Show more By Adam Schaffer, HKS Communications EmailTwitterFacebook A new report, published by Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), documents ineffectiveness, endemic abuses, and high costs in youth prisons throughout the country. The report systematically reviews recent research in developmental psychology and widespread reports of abuse to conclude that the youth prison model should be replaced with a continuum of community-based programs and, for the few youth who require secure confinement, smaller homelike facilities that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation. The authors, who are leading youth justice researchers and former youth correctional administrators, find that the current youth prison model, which emphasizes confinement and control, often exacerbates youth trauma and inhibits positive growth while failing to address public safety. Rather, the paper argues, programs work best when youths are in their home communities with rehabilitative programs or in smaller, homelike facilities that promote opportunities for healthy decision-making and development. Corrections agencies should provide a range of options depending on the individual’s needs, from smaller secure facilities to noncustodial programs. Annual youth imprisonment costs are approximately $150,000 per individual, yet recidivism rates remain close to 70 percent. The report examines the experiences of several states that have pursued alternative models and finds community-based approaches can reduce recidivism, control costs, and promote public safety. “Youth in trouble need guidance, education, and support, not incarceration in harmful and ineffective youth prisons,” said PCJ Senior Fellow Vincent Schiraldi, a co-author of the report. Previously, Schiraldi directed juvenile corrections in Washington, D.C., and served as commissioner of probation in New York City. “We now know from research and on-the-ground experience that youth prisons are not designed to best promote youth rehabilitation. This report offers concrete alternatives for policymakers across the country to maintain public safety, hold young people accountable, and turn their lives around.” “Juvenile-justice systems must have the clear purpose of giving each youth the tools he or she needs to get on the right path to a successful adulthood and to reintegrate into the community,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and chief executive officer of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a co-author of the report. Like Schiraldi, McCarthy is a former director of youth corrections — in his case, in Delaware. “By closing traditional youth prisons and leveraging increased political will to reform our country’s dependence on incarceration, states can use the savings to begin implementing a new, more effective approach to serving young people.” The report, authored by McCarthy, Schiraldi, and Miriam Shark, a former associate director at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is one of several emerging from the Executive Session on Community Corrections at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The Executive Sessions convene individuals of independent standing to take joint responsibility for rethinking and improving society’s responses to an issue. “The Future of Youth Justice: A Community-Based Alternative to the Youth Prison Model” will be presented today at the U.S. Department of Justice. A panel discussion with leading experts on community-based models for juvenile justice can be viewed via livestream from 10 a.m. to noon (EDT). This event is hosted by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.  Source: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/10/youth-justice-study-finds-prison-counterproductive/
Henry A. Giroux | The United States' War on Youth: From Schools to Debtors' Prisons Wednesday, 19 October 2016 00:00 By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis font size decrease font size increase font size Print Tweet (Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout; adapted from photo by US Government / Wikimedia Commons) Support your favorite writers by making sure we can keep publishing them! Make a donation to Truthout to ensure independent journalism survives. If one important measure of a democracy is how a society treats its children, especially poor youth of color, there can be little doubt that American society is failing. As the United States increasingly models its schools after prisons and subjects children to a criminal legal system marked by severe class and racial inequities, it becomes clear that such children are no longer viewed as a social investment but as suspects. Under a neoliberal regime in which some children are treated as criminals and increasingly deprived of decent health care, education, food and  housing, it has become clear that the United States has both failed its children and democracy itself. Not only is the United States the only nation in the world that sentences children to life in prison without parole, the criminal legal system often functions so as to make it more difficult for young people to escape the reach of a punishing and racist legal system. For instance, according to a recent report published by the Juvenile Law Center, there are close to a million children who appear in juvenile court each year subject to a legal system rife with racial disparities and injustices. This is made clear by Jessica Feierman, associate director of the Juvenile Law Center in her report "Debtors' Prison for Kids? The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System." In an interview with the Arkansas Times, Feierman said: Racial disparities pervade our juvenile justice system. Our research suggests that we can reduce those disparities through legislative action aimed at costs, fines, fees, and restitution ... In every state, youth and families can be required to pay juvenile court costs, fees, fines, or restitution. The costs for court related services, including probation, a "free appointed attorney," mental health evaluations, the costs of incarceration, treatment, or restitution payments, can push poor children deeper into the system and families deeper into debt. Youth who can't afford to pay for their freedom often face serious consequences, including incarceration, extended probation, or denial of treatment -- they are unfairly penalized for being poor. Many families either go into debt trying to pay these costs or forego basic necessities like groceries to keep up with payments. To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here. According to the report, sometimes when a family can't pay court fees and fines, the child is put in a juvenile detention facility. Such punitive measures are invoked without a degree of conscience or informed judgment as when children are fined for being truant from school. In her article in Common Dreams, Nika Knight pointed to one case in which a child was fined $500 for being truant and because he could not pay the fine, "spent three months in a locked facility at age 13." In many states, the parents are incarcerated if they cannot pay for their child's court fees. For many parents, such fines represent a crushing financial burden, which they cannot meet, and consequently their children are subjected to the harsh confines of juvenile detention centers. Erik Eckholm has written in The New York Times about the story of Dequan Jackson, which merges the horrid violence suffered by the poor in a Dickens novel with the mindless brutality and authoritarianism at the heart of one of Kafka's tales. Eckholm is worth quoting at length: When Dequan Jackson had his only brush with the law, at 13, he tried to do everything right. Charged with battery for banging into a teacher while horsing around in a hallway, he pleaded guilty with the promise that after one year of successful probation, the conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor. He worked 40 hours in a food bank. He met with an anger management counselor. He kept to an 8 p.m. curfew except when returning from football practice or church. And he kept out of trouble. But Dequan and his mother, who is struggling to raise two sons here on wisps of income, were unable to meet one final condition: payment of $200 in court and public defender fees. For that reason alone, his probation was extended for what turned out to be 14 more months, until they pulled together the money at a time when they had trouble finding quarters for the laundromat. Not only do such fines create a two-tier system of justice that serves the wealthy and punishes the poor, they also subject young people to a prison system fraught with incidents of violent assault, rape and suicide. Moreover, many young people have health needs and mental health problems that are not met in these detention centers, and incarceration also fuels mental health problems. Suicide rates behind bars "are more than four times higher than for adolescents overall," according to the Child Trends Data Bank. Moreover, "between 50 and 75 percent of adolescents who have spent time in juvenile detention centers are incarcerated later in life." Finally, as the "Debtors' Prison for Kids Report" makes clear, kids are being sent to jail at increasing rates while youth crime is decreasing. The criminal legal system is mired in a form of casino capitalism that not only produces wide inequalities in wealth, income and power, but it also corrupts municipal court systems that are underfunded and turn to unethical and corrupt practices in order to raise money, while creating new paths to prison, especially for children. Debtors' prisons for young people exemplify how a warfare culture can affect the most vulnerable populations in a society, exhibiting a degree of punitiveness and cruelty that indicts the most fundamental political, economic and social structures of a society. Debtors' prisons for young people have become the dumping grounds for those youth considered disposable, and they are also a shameful source of profit for municipalities across the United States. They operate as legalized extortion rackets, underscoring how our society has come to place profits above the welfare of children. They also indicate how a society has turned its back on young people, the most vulnerable group of people in our society. There is nothing new about the severity of the American government's attack on poor people, especially those on welfare, and both political parties have shared in this ignoble attack. What is often overlooked, however, is the degree to which children are impacted by scorched-earth policies that extend from cutting social provisions to the ongoing criminalization of a vast range of behaviors. It appears that particularly when it comes to young people, especially poor youth and youth of color, society's obligations to justice and social responsibility disappear. Modeling Schools After Prisons We live at a time in which institutions that were meant to limit human suffering and misfortune and protect young people from the excesses of the police state and the market have been either weakened or abolished. The consequences can be seen clearly in the ongoing and ruthless assault on public education, poor students and students of color. Schools have become, in many cases, punishment factories that increasingly subject students to pedagogies of control, discipline and surveillance. Pedagogy has been emptied of critical content and now imposes on students mind-numbing teaching practices organized around teaching for the test. The latter constitutes both a war on the imagination and a disciplinary practice meant to criminalize the behavior of children who do not accept a pedagogy of conformity and overbearing control. No longer considered democratic public spheres intended to create critically informed and engaged citizens, many schools now function as punishing factories, work stations that mediate between warehousing poor students of color and creating a path that will lead them into the hands of the criminal legal system and eventually, prison. Under such circumstances, it becomes more difficult to reclaim a notion of public schooling in which the culture of punishment and militarization is not the culture of education. Hope in this instance has to begin with a critical discourse among teachers, students, parents and administrators unwilling to model the schools after a prison culture. Many schools are now modeled after prisons and organized around the enactment of zero tolerance policies which, as John W. Whitehead has pointed out, put "youth in the bullseye of police violence." Whitehead argues rightfully that: The nation's public schools -- extensions of the world beyond the schoolhouse gates, a world that is increasingly hostile to freedom -- have become microcosms of the American police state, containing almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the "outside." Not only has there been an increase in the number of police in the schools, but the behavior of kids is being criminalized in ways that legitimate what many call the school-to-prison pipeline. School discipline has been transformed into a criminal matter now handled mostly by the police rather than by teachers and school administrators, especially in regard to the treatment of poor Black and Brown kids. But cops are doing more than arresting young people for trivial infractions, they are also handcuffing them, using tasers on children, applying physical violence on youth, and playing a crucial role in getting kids suspended or expelled from schools every year. The Civil Rights Project rightly argues that public schools are becoming "gateways to prisons." One estimate suggests that a growing number of young people will have been arrested for minor misbehaviors by the time they finish high school. This is not surprising in schools that already look like quasi-prisons with their drug-sniffing dogs, surveillance systems, metal detectors, police patrolling school corridors, and in some cases, police systems that resemble SWAT teams.   While there has been a great deal of publicity nationwide over police officers killing Black people, there has been too little scrutiny regarding the use of force by police in the schools. As Jaeah Lee observed in Mother Jones, the "use of force by cops in schools ... has drawn far less attention [in spite of the fact that] over the past five years at least 28 students have been seriously injured, and in one case shot to death, by so-called school resource officers -- sworn, uniformed police assigned to provide security on k-12 campuses." According to Democracy Now, there are over 17,000 school resource officers in more than half of the public schools in the United States, while only a small percentage have been trained to work in schools. In spite of the fact that violence in schools has dropped precipitously, school resource officers are the fastest growing segment of law enforcement and their presence has resulted in more kids being ticketed, fined, arrested, suspended and pushed into the criminal legal system. In 2014 over 92,000 students were subject to school-related arrests. In the last few years, videos have been aired showing a police officer inside Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina throwing a teenage girl to the ground and dragging her out of her classroom. In Mississippi schools, a student was handcuffed for not wearing a belt, a black female student was choked by the police, and one cop threatened to shoot students on a bus. Neoliberalism is not only obsessed with accumulating capital, it has also lowered the threshold for extreme violence to such a degree that it puts into place a law-and-order educational regime that criminalizes children who doodle on desks, bump into teachers in school corridors, throw peanuts at a bus, or fall asleep in class. Fear, insecurity, humiliation, and the threat of imprisonment are the new structuring principles in schools that house our most vulnerable populations. The school has become a microcosm of the warfare state, designed to provide a profit for the security industries, while imposing a pedagogy of repression on young people. According to the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, a disproportionate number of students subject to arrests are Black. It states: "While black students represent 16% of student enrollment, they represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest." Too many children in the Unites States confront violence in almost every space in which they find themselves -- in the streets, public schools, parks, and wider culture. In schools, according to Whitehead, "more than 3 million students are suspended or expelled every year." Violence has become central to America's identity both with regards to its foreign policy and increasingly in its domestic policies.  How else to explain what Lisa Armstrong revealed in The Intercept: "The United States is the only country in the world that routinely sentences children to life in prison without parole, and, according to estimates from nonprofits and advocacy groups, there are between 2,300 and 2,500 people serving life without parole for crimes committed when they were minors." The predatory financial system targets poor, Black and Brown children instead of crooked bankers, hedge fund managers, and big corporations who engage in massive corruption and fraud while pushing untold numbers of people into bankruptcy, poverty and even homelessness. For example, according to Forbes, the international banking giant HSBC exposed the US financial system to "a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing ... and channeled $7 billion into the U.S. between 2007 and 2008 which possibly included proceeds from illegal drug sales in the United States." Yet, no major CEO went to jail. Even more astounding is that "the profligate and dishonest behavior of Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis ... went virtually unpunished." Resisting Criminalization of School Discipline and Everyday Behavior Violence against children in various sites is generally addressed through specific reforms, such as substituting community service for detention centers, eliminating zero tolerance policies in schools, and replacing the police with social workers, while creating supportive environments for young people. The latter might include an immediate stoppage to suspending, expelling and arresting students for minor misbehaviors. Legal scholar Kerrin C. Wolf has proposed a promising three-tier system of reform that includes the following: The first tier of the system provides supports for the entire student body. Such supports include clearly defining and teaching expected behaviors, rewarding positive behavior, and applying a continuum of consequences for problem behavior. The second tier targets at-risk students -- students who exhibit behavior problems despite the supports provided in the first tier -- with enhanced interventions and supports, often in group settings. These may include sessions that teach social skills and informal meetings during which the students "check in" to discuss how they have been behaving. The third tier provided individualized and specialized interventions and supports for high-risk students -- students who do not respond to the first and second tier supports and interventions. The interventions and supports are based on a functional behavior assessment and involve a community of teachers and other school staff working with the student to change his or her behavior patterns. Regarding the larger culture of violence, there have also been public demands that police wear body cameras and come under the jurisdiction of community. In addition, there has been a strong but largely failed attempt on the part of gun reform advocates to establish policies and laws that would control the manufacture, sale, acquisition, circulation, use, transfer, modification or use of firearms by private citizens. At the same time, there is a growing effort to also pass legislation that would not allow such restrictions to be used as a further tool to incarcerate youth of color. In short, this means not allowing the war on gun violence to become another war on poor people of color similar to what happened under the racially biased war on drugs. And while such reforms are crucial in the most immediate sense to protect young people and lessen the violence to which they are subjected, they do not go far enough. Violence has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and bears down egregiously on children, especially poor youth and youth of color. If such violence is to be stopped, a wholesale restructuring of the warfare state must be addressed. The underlying structure of state and everyday violence must be made visible, challenged and dismantled. The violence waged against children must become a flashpoint politically to point to the struggles that must be waged against the gun industry, the military-industrial-academic complex, and an entertainment culture that fuels what Dr. Phil Wolfson describes in Tikkun Magazine as "fictive identifications" associated with "murderous combat illusions and delusions." Violence must be viewed as endemic to a regime of neoliberalism that breeds racism, class warfare, bigotry and a culture of cruelty. Capitalism produces the warfare state, and any reasonable struggle for a real democracy must address both the institutions organized for the production of violence and the political, social, educational and economic tools and strategies necessary for getting rid of it. Americans live at a time in which the destruction and violence pursued under the regime of neoliberalism is waged unapologetically and without pause. One consequence is that it has become more difficult to defend a system that punishes its children, destroys the lives of workers, derides public servants, plunders the planet and destroys public goods.  Americans live in an age of disposability in which the endless throwing away of goods is matched by a system that views an increasing number of people -- poor Black and Brown youth, immigrants, Muslims, unemployed workers and those unable to participate in the formal economy -- as excess and subject to zones of social and economic abandonment. As Gayatri Spivak rightly observes, "When human beings are valued as less than human, violence begins to emerge as the only response." At issue here is not just the crushing of the human spirit, mind and body, but the abandonment of democratic politics itself. Violence wages war against hope, obliterates the imagination, and undermines any sense of critical agency and collective struggle. Sites of Resistance Yet, resistance cannot be obliterated, and we are seeing hopeful signs of it all over the world. In the US, Black youth are challenging police and state violence, calling for widespread alliances among diverse groups of young people, such as the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), worker-controlled labor movements,  the movement around climate change, movements against austerity and movements that call for the abolition of the prison system among others. All of these are connecting single issues to a broader comprehensive politics, one that is generating radical policy proposals that reach deep into demands for power, freedom and justice. Such proposals extend from reforming the criminal legal system to ending the exploitative privatization of natural resources. What is being produced by these young people is less a blueprint for short-term reform than a vision of the power of the radical imagination in addressing long term, transformative organizing and a call for a radical restructuring of society. What we are seeing is the birth of a radical vision and a corresponding mode of politics that calls for the end of violence in all of its crude and militant death-dealing manifestations.  Such movements are not only calling for the death of the two-party system and the distribution of wealth, power and income, but also for a politics of civic memory and courage, one capable of analyzing the ideology, structures and mechanisms of capitalism and other forms of oppression. For the first time since the 1960s, political unity is no longer a pejorative term, new visions matter and coalitions arguing for a broad-based social movement appear possible again. A new politics of insurrection is in the air, one that is challenging the values, policies, structure and relations of power rooted in a warfare society and war culture that propagate intolerable violence. State violence in both its hidden and visible forms is no longer a cause for despair but for informed and collective resistance. Zygmunt Bauman is right in insisting that the bleakness and dystopian politics of our times necessitates the ability to dream otherwise, to imagine a society "which thinks it is not just enough, which questions the sufficiency of any achieved level of justice and considers justice always to be a step or more ahead. Above all, it is a society that reacts angrily to any case of injustice and promptly sets about correcting it." It is precisely such a collective spirit informing a resurgent politics within the Black Lives Matter movement and other movements -- a politics that is being rewritten in the discourse of critique and hope, emancipation and transformation. Once again, the left has a future and the future has a left.  Source: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38044-america-s-war-on-youth-from-schools-to-debtors-prisons
The Grandma Suing a Utah Prison Over Her Teenage Grandson's Suicide by Sirin Kale Oct 24 2016 2:11 PM Brock Tucker (left). Photo courtesy of Janet Crane Janet Crane alleges her intellectually disabled grandson spent most of his life being bullied, beaten and abused in various Utah facilities. Now she's fighting for justice. Before he hanged himself at age 19, Brock Tucker had experienced a life marked by instability and tragedy. As a toddler, Tucker was left brain damaged after a near fatal drowning accident. After an adolescence shunted between institutions ill-equipped to deal with his complex needs, he ended up in a federal penitentiary. According to the civil complaint filed by his grandmother, Janet Crane, Tucker was just five foot six and weighed 140 pounds when he was sent to the Central Utah Correctional Facility for auto theft and related charges at the age of 17. He resembled a child in both outlook and appearance: He had an IQ of only 70 and was highly impressionable, according to his neuropsychologist. Despite this, Tucker did have something going for him: A grandma who loved him tenaciously. Entering the Central Utah Correctional Facility (or Gunnison, as it is colloquially known), Tucker intended to use his time productively by studying for his high school diploma. Crane claims that she was not allowed to see Tucker once in his two years at Gunnison. Denied all visitation privileges, Tucker spent more than 154 days in solitary isolation. Court filings document how he spent his time: He tattooed himself; he converted to Hinduism; he contracted hepatitis. His mental condition deteriorated, and he was diagnosed in prison with unspecified psychosis and major depressive disorder. The complaint states that sometime in the afternoon of October 2, 2014—two months before he was due for parole—Tucker put a towel over his cell door's window and hung himself from his top bunk bed. He'd recently received a letter from Central Utah Academy informing him he'd be graduating high school. "Brock's siblings and I, we'll never be the same," Crane says over Skype. "It's with us every day. Someone will make a comment or I'll see a picture, and the memory of his youth will go through my mind." Her voice cracks. "He never even had a life." Now the 69-year-old is filing suit against the individuals and state agencies she believed failed her grandson. Read more: Here's Who Profits Off of Mass Incarceration After Private Prisons Close When Tucker was 12 years old, he began getting into trouble with the law, mostly for stealing cars: He'd recently moved with Crane and his two siblings to a deprived neighborhood. His grandma argues that Tucker was physically coerced into joining a gang, and that—as a result of the impulse control disorder resulting from his brain injury—he was impressionable and easily influenced. According to court filings, Tucker was in and out of juvenile institutions from the age of 13 after Utah's Division of Child and Family Services was awarded custody over him. Crane alleges that his time in two juvenile facilities in particular was characterized by repeated abuse. In 2008, he was sent to Futures Through Choice, a nonprofit that incarcerates juveniles on behalf of the state of Utah. Crane alleges that Tucker was physically assaulted by a staff member while in the care of Futures Through Choice. "One of the staff members repeatedly lifted Brock up," Crane's complaint reads, "and squeezed him until he could not breathe, then released Brock long enough to catch his breath." During the assault, the same staff member told Brock he was going to make him "cry like a bitch." According to Crane's court filings, the assault was substantiated by Utah's Child Protection Ombudsman. Brock with his nephews. Photo courtesy of Janet Crane. A 14-year-old Tucker later ran away from the facility. "He was on the run for almost a month," says Crane, bitterly. "This mentally challenged boy, running the streets. He was so hungry, and he slept behind trash bins. It was cold." In May 2009, Tucker found himself at Provo Canyon School, a for-profit facility run by Pennsylvanian-based corporation Universal Health Services. For most of the preceding year, Crane alleges that Tucker received no mental health treatment. Throughout Tucker's life, doctors and psychologists gave him different, and at times conflicting, diagnoses and treatment. After Tucker began exhibiting behavioral problems in early adolescence, Crane took him to Dr. David Nilsson, a neuropsychologist. "Truth is, I don't think anyone including Dr. Nilsson could ever give Brock a definitive diagnosis. He didn't quite fit this; he didn't quite fit that," Crane says. After tests, Dr. Nilsson ascertained that Tucker had an impulse control disorder, low IQ, and brain damage. According to Crane's civil complaint, Dr. Nilsson advised courts that a traditional reward/punishment system would exacerbate Tucker's illness, mandating a neurofeedback program instead. One time we went to see him and he could hardly talk and was shaking. Ostensibly, Provo Canyon should have been able to deal with Tucker's health needs—the school offered a neurofeedback program—but Crane alleges that this was not the case. "It was horrific. They would just randomly put him on different drugs. One time we went to see him and he could hardly talk and was shaking," Crane says. She also claims that Provo Canyon school staff physically abused Tucker repeatedly. On one occasion, Tucker was allegedly knocked unconscious after having his head repeatedly beaten into concrete by a staff member. The Child Protection Ombudsman again confirmed the assault allegation, but no protective action was taken. After two months at Provo Canyon, Crane alleges that Tucker attempted suicide for the first time. Between 2009 to 2011, Crane says that Tucker bounced between institutions and became involved in gang activity. In March 2012, Tucker found himself in a familiar place: a courtroom. This time, he was being tried as an adult for auto theft and related charges. Despite Dr. Nilsson's warning—reported in the civil complaint— to the court that a federal penitentiary would "break him" in August he was sentenced to a two to five year sentence in Utah State Prison. It's clear that Crane is haunted by her failure to save her grandson. "They never even gave him a chance," she says tearfully. Repeatedly, she tells me she "fought" for Tucker: But over time, he lost hope. "We walked outside [from one courtroom appearance] and Brock had tears in his eyes. He rarely cried. And he just said, 'Grandma, it doesn't do any good, no matter how hard I try. It doesn't matter. I give up.'" After serving just over two years in prison, Tucker hanged himself. For More Stories Like This, Sign Up for Our Newsletter Utah's suicide rate is consistently higher than the national average. No one is quite sure why, and explanations range from the Midwest's cultural history of self-reliance, high rates of gun ownership, or even lower oxygen levels on account of the altitude. What's certain is that Utahns are dying in their thousands, and many of them are young people. In 2014—the year Tucker killed himself—suicide was the leading cause of death for Utahns aged 10 to 17. The number of teenagers killing themselves has tripled in the last ten years. The World Health Organization identifies the following as indicators that someone might be at risk of committing suicide: A history of suicide attempts, mental illness, being incarcerated, and being a male aged 15-49. Tucker matches all these criteria. Crane directly blames the authorities at Gunnison for Tucker's death. "You're mentally ill, they've got you in solitary confinement and they're prescribing you drugs..." She tails off. "I mean, I have it in writing from Dr. Nilsson to the court, 'If you put this kid in prison he will wind up getting killed or will commit suicide.'" Despite this, Crane's court complaint states that the Utah prison system opted to keep Tucker in isolation for more than 154 days of the last year of his life. Crane alleges that Brock was alone in a cell and allowed out for at most an hour a day. He couldn't make phone calls, watch TV, receive visitors, exercise, or use the library. He couldn't even write letters, as his commissary privileges had been revoked—meaning that he was unable to purchase writing materials. No pens, no TV, no radios or books. How long is it going to take you to go crazy? "Imagine going into your bathroom," Crane asks me over Skype. "Maybe your bathroom is even bigger than Brock's cell. Now lock the door and have no contact with another human being. No pens, no TV, no radios or books. How long is it going to take you to go crazy?" Having worked variously as a nurse and paralegal throughout her career, Crane has many unanswered questions about Tucker's death. She recounts being told by medical workers after Tucker's death that he bled heavily in the emergency room. But if Tucker hung himself, why was there so much blood? "I went to the hospital where he was taken and they told me they couldn't resuscitate him because of all the blood. They just kept pumping up blood," Crane explains tearfully. "I'm like, Where did all the blood come from? You don't bleed when you hang yourself. No one can answer these questions for me." Janet Conway is from the Salt Lake City law firm that's taken on Crane's case. It's a huge case, involving ten separate suits against a mixture of institutions and individuals on the basis of federal and state laws. Crane is suing the Utah Department of Corrections, Futures through Choice, and Universal Health Services (which owns and operates Provo Canyon school). All were contacted by Broadly and declined or ignored requests for comment. She's also suing individuals who worked at Central Utah Correctional Facility and senior staff at Utah's child protection agencies, including the Division of Children and Family Services and Juvenile Justice Services. Conway tells me that were it not for Crane's scrupulous note-taking—a product of her career as a nurse and paralegal—the case wouldn't stand a shot. "Prisons have become the warehouses for the mentally ill, because we're not giving them proper support," Conway tells me over the phone. She says that the authorities repeatedly failed to give Tucker basic medical care, even after he was diagnosed with mental illness. It is estimated that 80,000 to 100,000 inmates are currently being held in solitary confinement in the USA, many of whom have serious mental illnesses. This form of imprisonment is known to devastate those with mental illness and exacerbate their condition. Given the circumstances of Tucker's confinement, Dr. Nilsson's warning that Tucker would attempt suicide didn't look like medical conjecture—it looks like a prediction. Crane tells me repeatedly throughout the course of our Skype that she's not doing this for the money—this is about change. "Children are dying across the USA in these for-profit programs," Crane argues. "I want all for-profit residential facilities for children abolished. I don't want any state to put a child in a for-profit program, because there are no safeguards, none." She stresses the last word. "And I want solitary confinement completely abolished. It's barbaric." I have to believe this is Brock's purpose in life. To change the world for the better. Although Conway's hopes are couched in stoic legalese, her ambitions are equally impassioned. "I'm going to fight the good fight, otherwise things will never change," she argues. "This is how we treat our mentally ill. It's got to stop. These entities are big businesses, and the only thing that gets their attention is a public embarrassment or a hit to their pocket book. That's what this case is about." Crane and Conway are taking on organizations with enormous legal resources—Universal Health Services, for example, is a Fortune 500 company. CEO Alan B. Miller is a leading figure in the healthcare industry, and has won prestigious awards. Conway estimates the civil suit will take between three and five years, and it's possible they won't win: The deck is stacked against them. "It's a little like Erin Brockovich," I comment unthinkingly. Conway laughs. "Yes, that's exactly what it's like. It is like Erin Brockovich."  Source: https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/grandma-janet-crane-suing-utah-prison-teenage-grandson-suicide
Foster Parent Pleads Guilty to 5 Child Sex Charges - Story Foster Parent Pleads Guilty to 5 Child Sex Charges Published 10/25 2016 03:37PM Updated 10/25 2016 03:37PM Clarence Garretson, 65/Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. FORT SMITH, Ark. – A Van Buren man pleaded guilty in court Tuesday morning to five counts of Interstate Transportation of a Minor with Intent to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity, his attorney announced. Clarence C. Garretson, 65, appeared with his attorney before the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith. The FBI began their investigation in May 2016, when the first minor came forward.  Minor #1: The first minor girl said that she had been raped by Garretson when he took her on a multi-state trip two years ago in 2014. Garretson was an over-the-road truck driver for C & T Trucking company in Van Buren, and he had requested and received a “rider waiver” from the trucking company so that the minor could accompany him on the trip. The girl was ten-years-old at the time of the incident and Garretson was 63. Garretson stipulated and agreed in the plea agreement that he transported the girl in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her, and the sexual activity he engaged in with her was Rape, a Class Y felony.  During the course of the investigation, it was learned that in 1998 Garretson and his wife were approved by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) to operate a foster home and later to become an adoptive home. The FBI Special Agent learned that DHS had received a report in 2002 from a foster child, living in Garretson's home at that time, that she had been sexually assaulted by him. Based on that information, the agent began locating individuals who had been in foster care at the Garretson residence. Minor #2: The second minor girl was interviewed in June 2016. This minor was a foster child in the home from 2000 to 2004. She said Garretson had taken her on over-the-road truck trips when she was his foster child. Garretson stipulated and agreed that he transported the minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her, and that the sexual activity he engaged in with her was Violation of a Minor in the First Degree, a Class C felony. At the time of the offense, she was between 13-18 years old, and the conduct engaged in was sexual intercourse. Garretson stipulated and agreed that the second minor was a foster child in his care, custody, and control when he transported her in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her. Minor #3: In 1999, DHS placed the third minor and his two older sisters in the Garretson home, and the third minor was legally adopted by them in 2001. This minor was interviewed by the FBI Special Agent in July 2016 and disclosed that Garretson had taken him on long distance truck trips starting in the summer of 2001 when he was 11 years old and that he had sexually assaulted him on multiple trips during summer vacation from school in 2002 and 2003. Garretson stipulated and agreed that he transported the minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with him, that the sexual activity he engaged in with him was Rape, a Class Y felony. Garretson stipulated and agreed that the minor was in his care, custody and control when he transported him in interstate commerce with intent to engage in sexual activity with him. Minor #4: In 1999, DHS placed the fourth minor and her two siblings in the Garretson home and she remained there until 2004. She was interviewed by the FBI Special Agent in July 2016 and disclosed that she was sexually assaulted by Garretson on an over-the-road trip to California during the summer of 2000 when she was 13 years old. Garretson stipulated and agreed that he transported the minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her, that the sexual activity he engaged in with her was Rape, a Class Y felony, and that the girl was in his care, custody, and control when he transported her in interstate commerce with intent to engage in sexual activity with her. Minor #5: This fifth minor was born in 1993, and was interviewed by the FBI Special Agent in September 2016. She stated that Garretson transported her and her siblings between Arkansas and California as a favor to her family since their parents lived in different states. She disclosed that in 2002, when she was 9 years old, Garretson had her sleep nude or partially nude in the bed with him inside the truck and engage in sexual activity with her. Garretson stipulated and agreed that he transported the girl in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her, and that the sexual activity he engaged in with her was Rape, a Class Y felony. He stipulated and agreed that the girl was in his care, custody and control when he transported her in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual activity with her. The aftermath:  Garretson was charged in a superseding indictment by a federal grand jury on October 4, 2016. Sentencing will be held at a later date. The maximum penalty for count one of the superseding indictment is a maximum term of imprisonment for Life; a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for 10 years; a maximum fine of $250,000; both imprisonment and fine. The maximum penalty for counts two, four, eight, and eleven are a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years per count; a maximum fine of $250,000 per count; both imprisonment and fine. The defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violations. "Today’s guilty plea sends a clear cut message to those who want to take advantage of our children. We will find you and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," stated Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI in Little Rock. "Garretson’s actions are horrifying and the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office will work doggedly to put these predators behind bars. I commend the FBI personnel and the USAO in their efforts to bring justice to these young people." This case was investigated by the FBI and assisted by the Van Buren Police Department.  Source: http://www.fox16.com/news/local-news/foster-parent-pleads-guilty-to-5-child-sex-charges
State shuts down Philly program after teen's death in fight with staff Updated: October 25, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT 162Share Tweet Tumblr Email Comment REPRINTS   The Wordsworth Academy's residential treatment program for troubled youths in West Philadelphia is ordered to be closed. by Chris Palmer, Staff Writer Chris Palmer Staff Writer Pennsylvania officials on Monday ordered the closure of Wordsworth Academy's residential treatment program for troubled youths in West Philadelphia, less than two weeks after a teenager died in a fight with staff. Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said the agency "issued an order for revocation of [Wordsworth's] license and emergency closure." She said department officials would be on site every day until all 83 residents are relocated. Debbie Albert, Wordsworth spokeswoman, said the process could take weeks. Launched in 2006, Wordsworth's residential program - just one aspect of the company's services - treats young people ages 10 to 21 who have emotional, behavioral, or academic difficulties, Albert said. In the Oct. 13 incident, a 17-year-old boy died after staff members tried to restrain him, according to police. The teen had barricaded himself inside a room, and had broken furniture and fixtures, police said. When staff members entered, the teen began "yelling and striking" them, police said. Staff members - whom police did not identify - tried to "gain control" of the boy but he lost consciousness, police said. Medics pronounced the boy dead at 9:36 p.m. Police have not identified him or said where he was from. No charges have been filed in the incident, and the Medical Examiner's Office said Monday afternoon that the cause of the teen's death had not been determined. The Philadelphia Defenders Association had been planning to ask a Family Court judge during special hearings this week to move or transfer all of its juvenile clients from the program. Keir Bradford-Grey, the association's chief defender, said her office was concerned about the safety of the approximately 30 young people it represents at the facility, each of whom was sent there by a judge for treatment after an arrest or due to family issues such as neglect or abuse. "One kid dying in a placement [facility] with staff not being trained well enough to handle issues involving youth is enough for us," Bradford-Grey said Monday. "To me, that place is not equipped to handle youth that need redirection in their life." Martin O'Rourke, spokesman for the First Judicial District, said those hearings would continue and would help determine where the affected youths would be sent. The courts had called for the hearings prior to the state's action, to determine whether children should remain at Wordsworth, O'Rourke said. Lisa Campbell, assistant chief of the defender association's juvenile unit, said the association had made similar requests for mass transfers in the past. In 2007, for example, it requested that youths be removed from the Chad Youth Enhancement Center near Nashville after a Philadelphia youth, Omega Leach, was strangled there by a staff member. Albert, the Wordsworth spokeswoman, said the rest of Wordsworth's services - which include special education schools, individual and family therapy, and foster care - would continue to operate. The residential treatment facility is at 3905 Ford Rd. in the River Park section. It is one of three Wordsworth campuses in the region, according to the school's website. cpalmer@phillynews.com 215-854-2817 @cs_palmer Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20161025_State_shuts_down_W__Philly_program_after_teen_s_death_in_fight_with_staff.html
Ex-Beacon Light employee accused of having relationship with student By RUTH BOGDAN Era Reporter r.bogdan@bradfordera.com Updated Oct 26, 2016 An ex-employee at Beacon Light Behavioral Health Systems has been criminally charged on allegations he had a romantic relationship with a student who lived there. Brian Malachi McLaughlin, 29, of 431 W. Washington St., Bradford, was not on duty Monday night, when the allegations took place, according to John Policastro, director of corporate Communications, Journey Health System & Beacon Light Behavioral Health System. Court records said on Monday night, Bradford City Police responded to a report that two juveniles females ran away from the Beacon Light shelter at 8 School St. It was one of these two girls — a 16-year-old — that McLaughlin was allegedly developing a relationship with. As Policastro explained, “Beacon Light maintains multiple group homes for children throughout the Bradford community. These homes treat children with various behavioral health challenges when they have been removed from their families by the court system or their home county. Beacon Light employs staff 24/7 in these homes, in therapeutic, night watch and direct care roles.” Regarding the search, “the staff on duty followed policy in notifying both Beacon Light management as well as the local police,” Policastro stated. “Within a few hours, both clients were located and safely returned to the group home. Our processes that are in place for when a client is absent from a facility were then followed,” he noted. Policastro indicated that employees learned one of the juveniles who ran away may have had contact with an employee when she left the group home. McLaughlin does not normally work at the home where the girl was living, Policastro said. Bradford City Police contacted Bradford Township Police when they learned one girl may have formed a relationship with a male employee who lives in Bradford Township, court records said. Bradford Township Police went to McLaughlin’s home, but McLaughlin was not there. He was asked by telephone to return home to talk to police about the missing teen. Court records said the teen told police she left 8 School St. and went to the home of another juvenile who lived nearby. They walked to McDonald’s, where the teen met with McLaughlin and went with him in his car. McLaughlin and the teen had discussed her running away before she did it, court records stated. The pair drove around for awhile, then parked at the McDowell Sports Center Fieldhouse parking lot on Campus Drive; they moved to the back seat and were kissing when he received the phone call from his father informing him the police wanted to talk to him, court records stated. He dropped her off in Bradford City and drove home. McLaughlin is no longer employed at Beacon Light. Policastro stated, “According to policy, when the accusations were made against an employee, the staff member in question was immediately suspended. Given the nature of the charges and subsequent arrest, the individual's employment was terminated.” In his statement, Policastro described the training Beacon Light staff members undergo, as well as the policies in place to keep group home residents safe. He explained, “We are confident that the group home staff followed policy and protocol during the initial runaway incident, but are deeply disturbed to learn of the charges filed against an off-duty staff member. We will continue to cooperate fully with the investigation and have a zero tolerance policy against any staff/client interactions insinuated in the charges. “We utilize multiple levels of supervision, policy, training and accountability in our staff, and want to stress that these criminal allegations were made to an individual not on duty at the agency at the time the incident occurred. We have treated and helped thousands of children with mental illness diagnoses in our group homes over the years and take every accusation against staff seriously. We employ nearly 600 people in our clinical companies, each of whom undergo extensive background checks prior to employment, and every two years after, along with undergoing dozens of hours of training each year. We take the safety and treatment of our clients with the utmost seriousness and will continue to work with local law enforcement and other oversight agencies in the ongoing investigation.” McLaughlin was arraigned early Tuesday morning before Magisterial District Judge Dominic Cercone on charges of interference with custody of children, a second-degree felony; institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor, all second-degree felonies, court records stated. He was committed to McKean County Jail in Smethport in lieu of 10 percent of $25,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in Central Court on Nov. 3.  Source: http://www.bradfordera.com/news/ex-beacon-light-employee-accused-of-having-relationship-with-student/article_008e9c68-9b25-11e6-8c2f-2bae3c968776.html
In wake of teen's death, Council to hold hearings on facilities for troubled youth Updated: October 28, 2016 — 1:09 AM EDT  The exterior view of Wordsworth Academy in West Philly. by Tricia L. Nadolny, Staff Writer Tricia L. Nadolny Staff Writer Three days after the state ordered a West Philadelphia residential treatment facility to close its doors following the death of a 17-year-old patient, City Council voted Thursday to hold hearings on that facility and others that care for troubled youth. "The question becomes: There were 80 kids there. What happens to them?" said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who visited Wordsworth Academy last year. The facility cared for youths with emotional, behavioral, or academic difficulties. It was closed after the Oct. 13 death of a teen who, state documents allege, stopped breathing when staff members restrained his legs and punched his rib cage. The reports describe hazardous living conditions, including broken heating and air-conditioning units, holes in walls, and rusted bathroom facilities. The documents also allege that staff members were not properly trained in restraining children. Jones, whose district includes Wordsworth and who called for the hearing, said he visited the facility after developing concerns about the private Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs) that the city's Department of Human Services contracts with to manage its cases. Wordsworth, which operates the residential facility as well as other programs, is one of those CUAs. Jones said his visit did not raise any red flags. "It was clean. The young people there seemed, on the surface, well taken care of," he said. "But that's when I was there." He said that if there were problems, he wished the facility had been open about them. "What concerns me is, that kid never gets a do-over," Jones said. In other business at Council's weekly meeting Thursday, members voted to hold a hearing on Rebuild, the program expected to launch next year that will pour an estimated $600 million into revitalizing parks, recreation centers, and libraries. Specifically, members are focused on ensuring those projects will be staffed with a diverse workforce. Though some on Council have long voiced concerns about a lack of diversity on city-funded projects, in particular those contracted to unions, Rebuild seems to be stimulating the discussions. "I want to make sure those individual projects are diverse and inclusive," said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who called for the hearing. "When people in the neighborhoods see we're doing ribbon cuttings and I'm asked the question, 'How can people from the neighborhood work on these particular projects?' . . . we want to make sure there's a strategic plan." Lauren Hitt, Mayor Kenney's spokeswoman, said in a statement that the mayor's office is working on an agreement with the building trades that would help increase diversity in the construction industry. She said Rebuild staff members are also working to better understand the challenges facing minority- and women-owned businesses, which also create barriers that keep construction managers, contractors, and unions from reaching diversity goals. "We concur with Council that diversity must be a core principle of Rebuild's implementation," Hitt said. In a rare move, Council members on Thursday also asked all Council staff, lobbyists, guests, and media to leave the caucus room so the group could discuss a matter in executive session. The members emerged after about 15 minutes. Council President Darrell L. Clarke declined to say what was discussed other than an "administrative" matter. Sources later said the group talked about the increasing number of honorary resolutions, which eat up time during each week's Council session, being introduced by members. Without discussing the topic, Clarke insisted the meeting was not in violation of the state Sunshine Act, which limits when public bodies can meet in private, because the group was not discussing legislation. Jane Roh, his spokeswoman, did acknowledge that Clarke failed to properly announce the executive session before it took place, as required by law. She said he did announce it, but so quietly that many people apparently did not hear him. "President Clarke recognizes that he should have announced more clearly and loudly that City Council was going into executive session to discuss an administrative matter," Roh said. "He regrets the error." tnadolny@phillynews.com 215-854-2730  Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20161028_In_wake_of_teen_s_death__Council_to_hold_hearings_on_facilities_for_troubled_youth.html
Treatment center president charged with DUI after crash Another employee of center faces drug possession charges Updated: 6:34 PM EDT Oct 27, 2016  Kristen Carosa News Reporter LEBANON, N.H. — The president of a residential treatment center in Plymouth has been put on a leave after he was charged with driving under the influence after a crash Wednesday morning. Advertisement Police said Jeffery Caron, 48, was arrested after he crashed into a utility pole in Lebanon. His passenger, Kellen Fitzgibbon-Bizel, 31, who is also an employee of the center, was also arrested. Police said he had prescription drugs that were not prescribed to him. "A single vehicle drove into a telephone pole on Dartmouth College Highway," Chief Richard Mello said. "Two occupants were in the vehicle. Both sustained injuries that were not life-threatening." A witness captured the crash on cellphone video. "Showing that it was traveling over the double yellow line," Mello said. "It nearly had a head-on collision a few moments before the actual accident, and then the video shows the vehicle trailing off to the right side of the road and then eventually striking and taking down a telephone pole." Caron was arrested at a hospital and charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and driving under the influence. Fitzgibbon-Bizel is facing five felony counts of possession of a controlled drug. Both men work for Mount Prospect Academy in Plymouth, an all-boys residential treatment center. Officials there said that the men been put on leaves of absence. According to staff members, Caron is the organization’s president and Fitzgibbon-Bizel is the director of facilities. The organization said it’s reviewing the incident, but wouldn’t comment further. "Certainly given the rush-hour commuter traffic, school traffic on a school day, there are a lot of things that could have happened, and we are fortunate that this wasn’t a lot worse," Mello said. The men were released after posting $10,000 bail. They are scheduled to be back in court in January.  Source: http://www.wmur.com/article/2-arrested-on-dui-drug-charges-after-slamming-into-pole-in-lebanon/7659846
Montco Child Care Agency Must Pay $5.35 Million in Child Sex Abuse Case After being sexually abused in her foster home, a 7-year-old girl was returned to the same home just months later, and was abused again. By Justin Heinze (Patch Staff) - October 28, 2016 3:21 pm ET  A Montgomery County foster care agency must pay $5.35 million in damages for repeatedly placing a young girl in a foster home where she was sexually assaulted, according to litigators. Lawyers with Kline and Specter P.C. said that Presbyterian Children's Village, based in twice placed the child, who was 7 years old at the time, in the home of Walter and Deborah Scott, where she was sexually abused. Walter Scott, now 61, later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three different children in his care. A Philadelphia jury ruled in a civil trial Friday that Presbyterian must pay $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages to the victim for placing her in that situation. “This verdict is a message that child safety must be protected," said Nadeem Bezar, who tried the plaintiff’s case with Emily Marks, both attorneys with Kline & Specter PC of Philadelphia. "This is a message from the jury to PCV and all foster care agencies that they must be diligent."  In November 2012, the child was placed in the care of Deborah and Walter Scott for three days, litigators said. When she was moved to a new foster home, she reported the abuse to her new foster mother. Despite knowing about the report, Presbyterian continued to place children with the Scotts, even after hearing another child make the same allegations, according to the suit. They then placed the original child with the Scotts for a second time in late February of 2013. The child reported abuse for a second time, and officials soon were able to identify two more victims.  Source: http://patch.com/pennsylvania/lansdale/montco-child-care-agency-must-pay-5-35-million-child-sex-abuse-case
Camera Catches Shoving Match with Group Home Worker Before Teenager’s Heart Stopped A video shows a healthy 15-year-old going into her bedroom at a for-profit AdvoServ facility. Thirty-two minutes later, she had no pulse. Nobody’s saying what happened. by Heather Vogell ProPublica, Nov. 2, 2016, 8 a.m. 3 Comments Print Print This is part of an ongoing investigation Restraints Do you know a child who has been forcibly restrained or secluded at school? Help us investigate by sharing your story. As she waited in a Delaware hospital for her daughter to die, Carla Thomas watched a silent video of the teenager’s last conscious hour. The video showed Janaia Barnhart, 15, bouncing down the stairs of the group home where she lived, Thomas said. The girl from Hyattsville, Maryland, had mental illness and threw tantrums, but on that September morning her expression suggested the mischievous laugh her mom knew well. Ahead of her carrying a black garbage bag was an employee of AdvoServ, the for-profit company that owned the home. The worker stepped toward the bedroom where the girl kept her most prized possessions — her MP3 player, movies, magic markers, karaoke machine. Seeing Janaia coming, the worker threw back an arm, shoving her hard against the hallway wall. Janaia, who was 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 227 pounds, shoved back. Both disappeared into the room, which was just big enough for a twin bed and dresser. Four more workers rushed in behind them. Thirty-two minutes later, according to Thomas, paramedics arrived to find Janaia on the floor, naked, with no pulse. Since then, Thomas has buried and mourned her daughter. But she has no idea what happened in those 32 minutes. “I still don’t have an inkling, nothing,” Thomas said in an exclusive interview with ProPublica. Janaia’s death represents another setback for AdvoServ, part of a growing, government-funded industry that provides housing and care nationwide for hundreds of thousands of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities.  Both Maryland and Delaware had already sanctioned the company, which is besieged with complaints about its treatment of a vulnerable population and the conditions of its homes. Thomas’s questions about her daughter’s death have only multiplied since AdvoServ chief executive Michael Martin played the video for her on his laptop. The footage didn’t show the inside of Janaia’s bedroom. And during four crucial minutes, a worker opened a closet door and blocked the view of the room’s entranceway. A photo of Janaia Barnhart, from a pamphlet handed out at her funeral. (Courtesy of Julia Arfaa) Staff at AdvoServ gave Thomas conflicting stories, acknowledging workers pinned Janaia down in her bedroom but never explaining why she lost consciousness. Doctors at the hospital told Thomas they did not know why the otherwise physically healthy teenager’s heart had stopped. Thomas and her lawyer, Julia Arfaa, say that Delaware officials have stymied their efforts to secure basic information. The state attorney general’s office told Arfaa that, while a police investigation was ongoing, it would not allow release of a recording of workers’ call to 911. “Releasing the 911 tape at this time could potentially jeopardize the investigation, because the call contains potentially sensitive information,” said Carl Kanefsky, spokesman for the attorney general’s office. The office will decide whether to file criminal charges after law enforcement agencies have finished their investigations, he said. A Delaware medical examiner refused Arfaa’s request for initial autopsy findings. Last week, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner said it has not completed the autopsy and will notify Janaia’s family when it does. Delaware state police won’t elaborate on the circumstances of the girl’s death or even release her name. “We’re blocked,” Arfaa said. Through a spokesman, AdvoServ declined to discuss what happened to Janaia. The company, which specializes in clients with behavior challenges, said in a statement at the time of her death that its employees were “heartbroken” over her loss. One worker who was in the home that day, Tosha Skinner, told ProPublica in a brief interview that Janaia was subjected to a “wrap-up behavior” intervention shortly before she stopped breathing. Skinner was present but didn’t participate, she said. It’s not clear what Skinner meant by “wrap-up behavior.” For years, AdvoServ has used “wrap mats,” which resemble full-body straitjackets, on some of its clients. Critics say such mechanical restraints traumatize patients, and most residential programs no longer use them. Delaware bans such tactics in most cases, and Maryland officials have instructed AdvoServ for years not to mechanically restrain children or teens. An AdvoServ spokesman said last week that no “wrap up” procedure involving mechanical restraints was used on Janaia that day. There were no wrap mats in the house, he said. For Thomas, the timing of her daughter’s death magnified the pain. The day after the incident, a Maryland official called to say the state had found Janaia a new home — something Thomas had been pushing for. Maryland began removing its 31 students from AdvoServ homes after an unannounced inspection in August found holes in walls, ripped mattresses, dirty kitchens, and broken furniture. One bedroom reeked of urine. A bathroom lacked hot water. Maryland’s contract with the company ended Monday. Janaia’s death adds to the tragic toll of the privately run residential programs, tucked away in neighborhoods across the country, that have largely replaced state institutions for the profoundly disabled and mentally ill. A ProPublica review last December found that at least 145 kids have died from avoidable causes in residential facilities over 35 years. At least 62 died after being restrained. In the last five years or so, however, as most group home providers adopted less hands-on methods for handling conflicts, restraint-related deaths became exceedingly rare — with news articles reporting only one or none a year. Owned by a private equity firm, Delaware-based AdvoServ reported last year that it cared for about 700 children and adults in that state, Florida, and New Jersey, and was expanding into Virginia. It had about 60 people age 21 or younger in Delaware programs. Delaware put AdvoServ on probation in March, and increased visits by state workers to company facilities. A lawsuit pending against AdvoServ in state court in Delaware alleges a teenage boy from Maryland was left unsupervised and raped repeatedly by other clients during more than four years in the company’s homes. Workers dislocated a vertebra in the boy’s neck while restraining him, according to his family. AdvoServ has grown in the past two decades despite a stream of complaints of abuse and neglect. As far back as the 1990s, the state of New York removed its children from AdvoServ’s predecessor, Au Clair, because its inspectors had found children living in trailers that smelled of urine and feces. Officials elsewhere have repeatedly backed off from disciplining the company, which is aided by well-connected lobbyists that include prominent former state legislators. The company in recent years successfully lobbied against a Congressional bill that would have limited the use of restraints in schools. Janaia was not the first teenager to die under AdvoServ’s care. In 1997, a 14-year-old autistic boy with epilepsy was found dead in his bed at the company’s Florida facility with low levels of anti-seizure medicine in his blood. In 2013, a 14-year-old autistic girl died at the same Florida complex after a night in which she was restrained — at times fastened to a bed and chair—while she vomited repeatedly. In that case, video of the girl’s final hours was accidentally deleted, AdvoServ officials said. Thomas, a certified medical assistant for the elderly who lives in a Maryland suburb, has learned more about the company’s problematic track record since her daughter’s death. “If I knew it was that bad, I would have signed her out,” Thomas said. Born in Washington, D.C., Janaia was diagnosed in first grade as bipolar and schizophrenic, with attention deficit disorder. She was hospitalized more than 20 times when she became a danger to herself or others, and lived in residential treatment centers in Maine, Tennessee and Maryland. At one facility about five years ago, Thomas said, a worker put Janaia in a chokehold and dragged her across the floor. Janaia sometimes attended schools, but they struggled to deal with her disorders. For all her troubles, Janaia had playful moods when she teased others and played pranks. She earned A’s in classes, when she tried. She loved Michael Jackson, animals, dancing and flowers. She was affectionate — a “hugger” — and needed to be reminded sometimes not to invade people’s personal space. She had no serious medical problems, having outgrown childhood symptoms of asthma. Her family called her “Nae Nae.” “She had her moments,” her mother said, “but she was very lovable.” In recent years, too, Thomas was pleased that her daughter was learning to recognize that her temper was about to flare. Janaia would let her mother know that she needed help. “It’s like a teakettle when you boil it,” Thomas said. “She knew when she was ready to explode.” Janaia’s mother, stepfather, brother and two sisters had started taking her out more, even bringing her with them on a skiing vacation last winter. Though AdvoServ bills itself as a last resort, Thomas said it was a less restrictive setting than earlier placements. She said the state sent Janaia there three years ago largely because AdvoServ offered schooling. Janaia Barnhart was living in this home on a quiet country road southwest of Wilmington when the incident occurred. (Heather Vogell/ProPublica) At AdvoServ, Janaia lived with other girls in a modest ranch home with white siding and maroon shutters on a quiet country road southwest of Wilmington, just a half-mile from the historic mansion where AdvoServ’s founder first opened a boarding school for autistic children in 1969. On a typical day, the home and its basketball court out back bustled with activity, as workers came and went and buses ferried the girls in the white house and an adjacent brick one to school. Sometimes, girls burst out of the homes and ran into the neighborhood, according to a local resident. Workers would chase them and often restrain them. Onlookers watched with unease, hoping no one would get hurt. “When I see that going on, I do try to keep my eyes on them,” one said. Thomas visited her daughter once a month, bringing electronics, music, supplies for arts and crafts, and foods, such as canned ravioli and instant oatmeal, that her daughter preferred over what AdvoServ provided. Sometimes, they’d stay in a hotel for the weekend and get her hair done, or go clothes shopping. This summer, Thomas worried that Janaia was backsliding. Other girls in the home were bullying her, Thomas said. During a fight with two of them, Janaia had grabbed a plastic fork and stabbed one in the ear. Police viewed Janaia as the aggressor and arrested her, her mother said. AdvoServ responded by having Janaia spend time after school in an adult home, instead of the youth home where she slept. Thomas wanted the state to find her daughter a new facility. The mother worried Janaia wasn’t supervised well enough and feared the consequences if she tangled with other girls again. Thomas didn’t like the adult language and behavior Janaia was picking up from the older clients. On the doorstep of her brick row house in Wilmington last week, Skinner — the AdvoServ employee — said she saw Janaia every day at the group home. “Janaia was my baby,” she said. “She was my child, every single day. This is crazy.” After Skinner cited the “wrap-up behavior” used on Janaia, she was asked to explain what the term meant. She said she had “nothing to hide” but didn’t know if she was allowed to talk to a reporter. After calling a supervisor, who advised her not to speak, she went inside her house and closed the door. Attempts to reach other workers involved were unsuccessful. On Monday September 12, Thomas was driving to work in Washington, D.C., when her cell phonerang. An AdvoServ staff member told her that when two workers went to Janaia’s room to help her dress, the girl had lost control of her bladder and bowels and passed out. Workers had called 911 and Janaia had gone into cardiac arrest. Thomas turned her car around, picked up Janaia’s older sister and drove frantically toward Delaware. En route, she learned that her daughter was being moved to the Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington. At the hospital, Thomas said she spoke to Janaia’s case manager at AdvoServ, who told her a different version of events: Her daughter, the case manager said, had been placed in a hold before becoming unresponsive. She then headed for the intensive care unit, where a phalanx of AdvoServ administrators greeted her at the elevator and expressed their sympathies. A doctor told Thomas that her daughter appeared to be brain-dead, and was on a respirator. For the next two days, Thomas kept vigil at her Janaia’s bedside. She didn’t leave to shower or rest. Unrestrained While evidence of abuse of the disabled has piled up for decades, one for-profit company has used its deep pockets and influence to bully weak regulators and evade accountability. Read the story. What Happened to Adam It took one mother seven years to learn that the for-profit school she trusted with her son had strapped him down again and again, one time after not picking up his Legos. Read the story. On the second day, a Delaware detective told Thomas he had watched the video and interviewed staff. According to the workers, as recounted by the police officer to Thomas, Janaia had been very aggressive that morning. Family visits were a privilege residents could lose, and workers were considering punishing her by not letting her see her mother that Friday as planned. She became angry. Ordered to clean her room, she attacked the staff member carrying the trash bag and grabbed her hair. The other staff members hurried to pull the girl off the worker, and put her in a hold until she calmed down and was talking to them. They were helping change her out of her soiled clothes. Janaia, who was lying down, asked them to take her glasses and put them on the dresser. She then turned her head to the side and passed out. Workers dialed 911. The workers told police they had done a proper hold with one worker on each arm and leg, and no one pressing on her chest. The detective told Thomas that the workers’ stories matched, and that it appeared there was no foul play, she said. Delaware state police declined comment on what the workers told them. Thomas, however, is skeptical. On the video, Janaia did not look angry until the worker shoved her. Thomas said that it would be unusual for her daughter to lose control and then suddenly calm down and start talking. And the bedroom was so small it seemed impossible that the four heavyset women she saw on the video could perform the restraint as they described it to police, Thomas said. “I’m not buying that,” she said. Workers were supposed to be trained to defuse such conflicts before they occurred — instead of escalating them, she added. “They’re trained to deal with behaviors like this.” She pressed AdvoServ officials until Martin showed her the video. He told her specifics such as the exact time when police had left the group home that evening. But he said he didn’t know what had happened in the fateful 32 minutes in her daughter’s bedroom. “It was amazing,” she said. “He had hands-on every single detail, but he can’t tell me nothing.” Thomas searched for clues as she waited in her daughter’s hospital room. She found a fingernail-shaped nick on one of Janaia’s fingers and a bruise on a knuckle. There was an unexplained mark in the center of Janaia’s chest that looked like a puncture wound. On Wednesday September 14, Janaia’s heart stopped. Thomas stayed with the body for five hours. She rubbed her daughter’s hair and cut a lock as a keepsake, noticing dried blood in one ear. As the hours ticked past, dark bruises emerged on her daughter’s left leg, below the knee. A nurse told her bruises often became more pronounced after death. The white house near the unincorporated community known as Kirkwood was silent on a recent day. A single SUV was parked in the driveway and no one came to the door. Thomas said AdvoServ returned Janaia’s clothes, neatly laundered, and other possessions. Among the items was a composition book her daughter kept as a journal. Thomas noticed several sheets had been ripped out. Scrawled on a remaining page was a haunting passage that reminded Thomas how hard her daughter had tried to curb her temper and pay attention to the adults in her life. “I listen to my mom and dad,” Janaia wrote, according to Thomas’s recollection. “Because if you don’t listen, you get hurt.”  Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/camera-shoving-match-group-home-worker-before-teenager-heart-stopped
Commentary: Wordsworth case shows it's time to rethink 'treatment' for juveniles Updated: November 3, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT Wordsworth Academy , a residential treatment center in West Philadelphia where a 17-year-old boy died on Oct. 13. by Mical Raz and Deborah Doroshow Mical Raz and Deborah Doroshow   A 17-year-old is dead. Assaulted in his room by the very adults responsible for his safety, he uttered his last words: "Get off me, I can't breathe." He died at Wordsworth Academy, a Philadelphia institution euphemistically described as a "treatment center" for children with behavioral problems. Currently housing 82 children and youth, the majority of whom were placed there by juvenile courts, Wordsworth Academy is responsible for providing rehabilitative treatment for this challenging population. Instead, according to state reports, children at Wordsworth are housed in unsanitary crowded conditions, abused physically and sexually, and now, a child is dead. In this case, therapy has proven worse than punishment. Unfortunately, this is the case with all too many treatment centers, to which children and adolescents are referred by courts and social services agencies. This child's death is not the first to happen in such a center, and sadly, it is unlikely to be the last. This wasn't always the case. Juvenile courts were created at the turn of the 20th century in order to rehabilitate, rather than simply punish, children whose illegal behavior was thought to stem from difficult home lives, poverty, or psychological troubles. By the 1940s and 1950s, a group of child-welfare experts founded small, progressive institutions called residential treatment centers to treat so-called delinquent and troubled children. They reclassified these children as "emotionally disturbed," tracing their problems back to difficult home lives and offering them intensive inpatient therapy, and ultimately, a chance at a better life. Fifty years before Wordsworth Academy, Walton Village in Philadelphia took such an approach to juvenile delinquency. There, boys received group and individual therapy, and were encouraged to set up a peer self-governance system. When they acted out, they were offered more treatment, rather than punishment. Unfortunately, such centers were small and often inaccessible, especially to racial and ethnic minorities. Instead, many poor African American children were sent to "training schools," punitive institutions where they often experienced verbal and physical abuse. By the 1970s, child mental-health and welfare experts were faced with an exploding population of emotionally disturbed children, many of whom were African American. Youthful offenders were increasingly viewed as dangerous, rather than emotionally disturbed. This coincided with a shift in racial demographics of arrests and imprisonment. More black boys were now involved with the juvenile justice system, and they received harsher treatment than their white counterparts. Fueled by racism and an unfounded concern over an increase in violent crime, the 1990s heralded the inflammatory rhetoric of "super-predators" and harsher sentencing. Still, rehabilitation remains the stated goal of the juvenile justice system. The therapeutic model gives the court a great deal of discretion, which is an opportunity for personal bias to come into play. Punishment does not need to fit the crime. Children can be sent for indeterminate periods of time to treatment institutions of questionable benefit until they are "fixed," a term with no clear definition. They can be moved from one institution to the other for "failure to adjust," which in Pennsylvania enables the system to place a child in a secure detention center until a new placement is found. There is little accountability as to what treatment entails, and when it is complete. Treatment centers, some of which are private for-profit companies, define measures of success, and have clear incentives to fill beds. But if centers like Wordsworth aren't the answer, what is? The success of the "Missouri model," a novel approach to juvenile justice, suggests that the residential treatment movement of the past can inform how we treat juvenile offenders today. In Missouri, youth offenders are sent by juvenile courts to small residential institutions, where they sleep in comfortable dorm rooms. When they feel upset or act out, the response is not strict punishment but rather a conversation with peers. This model seems to be working. Recidivism rates are lower than in states using a more traditional approach, violence has significantly decreased, suicides of youth in custody have stopped completely, and costs are down. Unfortunately, many "treatment centers" remain prisons by another name. Until juvenile justice is reformed, children will continue to suffer abuse and even death in the very facilities designed to treat them. Mical Raz (micalraz@mail.med.upenn.edu), M.D., and Deborah Doroshow (deborah.doroshow@yale.edu), M.D., are physicians and historians of medicine.  Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20161103_Commentary__Wordsworth_case_shows_it_s_time_to_rethink__treatment__for_juveniles.html
Texas urged to end foster care group homes, limit caseworker... | www.mystatesman.com Texas urged to end foster care group homes, limit caseworker workloads State & Regional Govt & Politics By Julie Chang - American-Statesman Staff 0  Posted: 6:48 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 Highlights The reports comes after a federal judge ruled that the Texas foster care system is unconstitutional. Court-appointed special masters issue dozens of recommendations. The special masters’ recommendations include better reporting, care and caseworker retention. Court-appointed special masters Friday released dozens of recommendations on how Texas should overhaul its troubled foster care system, including eliminating the use of foster care group homes, limiting the workload of caseworkers and proposing a plan to curb caseworker turnover rates. “This is a hugely important day for Texas children because this is the next step in crucial reform of the foster care system,” said Paul Yetter, a Houston attorney who is representing foster children suing the state. In December, U.S. District Judge Janis G. Jack of Corpus Christi found the Texas foster care system unconstitutional following a years-long case and suggested that foster children were better off before they entered the system. Jack ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services — which oversees the foster care system — to make some immediate changes and appoint special masters to recommend further ones. Those special masters, former New Jersey Commissioner of Children and Families Kevin Ryan and Francis McGovern, a Duke University law professor, made five dozen recommendations, which Jack will review and could force the agency to implement. READ: The entirety of the special masters’ report released Friday + Jay Janner Texas Department of Family and Protective Services chief Hank Whitman testifies at a Texas House Human Services Committee hearing in July. Jay Janner Texas Department of Family and Protective Services chief Hank Whitman testifies at a Texas House Human Services Committee hearing in July. Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the state’s child welfare agency, said the agency has been working to fix the foster care system, including finding more foster homes and ways to improve the health care of children, and ensuring caseworkers are spending more time with families and children. “The state of Texas has made improving foster care a priority and will continue to do so,” he said. Overhauling foster care + Jay Janner Mary Sweeney, left, is shown with her daughter Alexandria Hill, who was 2 years old when she was killed by her ... read more Jay Janner Mary Sweeney, left, is shown with her daughter Alexandria Hill, who was 2 years old when she was killed by her foster mother, Sherill Small, at a Rockdale home in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Mary Sweeney) The New York-based advocacy group Children’s Rights sued the state on behalf of foster children in 2011, accusing the state’s child welfare agency of maintaining insufficient numbers of caseworkers, moving children too frequently and putting them at risk of abuse and neglect. Attorneys representing the state argued that Texas’ caseworker turnover rate and rate of foster placements with relatives and adoptions were comparable to other states. The state is appealing Jack’s ruling. Eight foster children died from abuse or neglect in foster homes in fiscal 2013, up from two the year before. In 2014, three died in foster care. Kate Murphy with the advocacy group Texans Care for Children said that the special masters’ plan wouldn’t fix all the problems with the foster care system. She said the federal lawsuit and the special masters’ report only address children who are in foster care for at least a year and are permanently in the state’s custody — 10,795 of the state’s 30,000 foster care children as of Sept. 30, according to the state agency. “State leaders will have to do more to make sure that kids in foster care heal from the trauma they’ve already experienced and grow up healthy,” Murphy said. The state agency has reported that it has spent about $500,000 for the report. “The preparation of the report and the further billable hours it recommends come at considerable expense to Texas taxpayers. Though the litigation has brought attention to a broken system, it will not fix foster care,” said Brandon Logan with conservative Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation think tank. Recommendations The masters’ recommendations call for halting the use of foster group homes within 18 months of Jack’s potential court order. Ryan and McGovern said that until then the state should limit the number of children in group homes to eight, particularly for sibling groups. Foster group homes are supposed to have up to 12 children, but Jack in her ruling said that the limit isn’t enforced. She also cited several deficiencies in group homes, including the lack of round-the-clock supervision. She required all foster group homes to have 24-hour supervision, which the special masters echoed in their recommendations Friday. McGovern and Ryan also noted that they found that “children were not timely (or ever) examined by doctors to determine if they had been assaulted. Injuries went untreated. Necessary medical follow up did not occur. Incomplete and missing health care information was a common feature in the records.” They said foster care children needed better health care management, including regular doctors’ visits and establishment of health records. McGovern and Ryan also recommended that foster care caseworkers have a standard — not a fixed — caseload of 14 to 17 cases. They want the state agency to develop a plan to reduce the turnover rate of foster care caseworkers. The Child Protective Services caseworker turnover rate, which includes foster care caseworkers, was 25.4 percent in fiscal year 2016. Retaining caseworkers Last month, the commissioner of the state’s child welfare agency, Hank Whitman, asked for more state funding to hire 550 caseworkers and investigators — 105 of them for foster care children. He also recommended a $12,000 pay raise for them. Whitman said he was most concerned about the high numbers of children who had been reported potentially abused or neglected and weren’t seen by caseworkers in a timely manner. State Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has created a work group of five fellow committee members to consider Whitman’s plan and how to pay for it. “It is my strong belief that we cannot wait until the session to act,” Nelson said, referring to the legislative session that begins in January. State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, a member of the work group, said that if Jack orders the state to implement the special masters’ recommendations, lawmakers will have to find more money than what Whitman is requesting. “We have an unconstitutional system because these kids are not free of an unreasonable risk of harm. The way I hope we look at this is not with the first question being, ‘how much will it cost?’ Instead, ‘how do we protect these children?’” Watson said. Additional recommendations in the special masters’ report: Quality monthly face-to-face visits between foster care children and caseworkers. Centralized location for the child’s case records, including updated photos of the child. Better accessibility for foster children to report abuse. Better support services for children before they exit the foster care system. More transparency in investigations of foster homes. Ensuring that sexually abused or sexually aggressive foster children are separated from other children unless there is no documented safety risk. Reducing the risk of child-on-child abuse through better reporting, investigating and mental health assessments of children who have been sexually abused. Prohibiting placing unrelated children more than three years apart in age in the same room in a residential facility unless there’s a documented assessment that such a move is safe. Better tracking of the availability of foster homes that don’t have a child present. Decreasing the number of foster children who are placed outside of their home community. Submitting a plan to expand the number of foster homes. Stop placing foster children in agency offices or other unregulated facilities. Source: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/texas-urged-to-end-foster-care-group-homes-limit-c/ns4K5/
Peterborough foster parent charged with sexual assault Peterborough Police Lance Anderson next play/pause pre 1/1 Peterborough This Week By Lance Anderson PETERBOROUGH — A foster parent in Peterborough is facing several sexual assault charges following an investigation involving three victims. In October 2016 the Peterborough Police Service received information regarding several sexual offences that occurred between February 2016 and October 2016. The allegations involved three victims — two females under 16 years of age and one female under 17 years of age.   During all three incidents the suspect was providing foster care in the Peterborough area to the victims. On Friday, Nov. 4, officers went to the suspect's residence where he was placed under arrest. As a result of the investigation the accused was charged with the following: · Luring person under 16 years of age by means of telecommunication for the purpose of sexual invitation · Sexual assault on a person under 16 years of age · Sexual interference with a person under 16 years of age · Sexual exploitation The accused appeared in court on Nov. 4 and was remanded in custody and was scheduled to appear again in court on Monday (Nov. 7). The suspect’s name is not being released by police in order to protect the identity of the victims involved.  Source: http://www.mykawartha.com/news-story/6951916-peterborough-foster-parent-charged-with-sexual-assault/
Teen beaten unconscious at Dayton youth home is being relocated ODJFS: Teen beaten unconscious at Dayton youth home is being relocated Updated: Saturday, October 15, 2016 @ 11:28 AM By: Breaking News Staff 0 Share this on your timeline! From To Compose your message Thanks for sharing with your followers! ODJFS: Teen beaten unconscious at Dayton youth home is being relocated http://www.whio.com/news/local/odjfs-teen-beaten-unconscious-dayton-youth-home-being-relocated/UXsqBguFAi3QR7dJuOiZFN/ UPDATE @ 6:15 p.m. (Oct. 14): Cody Davidson is being relocated to a youth home facility in Columbus, an official with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said in a statement released this afternoon. The official also confirms that ODJFS is investigating the incident that occurred this week at Pilot House, on Salem Avenue. Davidson’s mother, Chasity Ranson, said she is continuing her campaign to get her son sent home to be with his family. FIRST REPORT (Oct. 13) A 16-year-old resident at Pilot House, a Dayton home for troubled youth, was beaten unconscious by another male resident and his mother wants to know why an employee watched the episode that left her son with a fractured skull and missing at least five teeth. Cody Davidson had been at Pilot House, on Salem Avenue, for five days when Chasity Ranson said he told her that on Monday night, people there gave him boxing gloves to spar with another young man at the facility. According to Montgomery County Children Services, the facility is a home that helps rehabilitate troubled youth. Davidson has aggression issues, according to his mother. According to Ranson, who has filed a complaint with police, the other boy took off his gloves and proceeded to beat her son as an employee looked on. Davidson was unconscious and bloody when police arrived, according to an incident report. “A shattered palette,” she told News Center 7’s Caroline Reinwald on Thursday night. “He’s missing five teeth. He’s going to have … reconstructive surgery to replace the teeth. He needed 36 stitches to replace his outer area of his mouth,” she said. Davidson — and the boy who administered the beating — are still residents at the facility. This news organization has asked children services for comment. Ransom said she is working to get her son out of the facility.  Source: http://www.whio.com/news/local/odjfs-teen-beaten-unconscious-dayton-youth-home-being-relocated/UXsqBguFAi3QR7dJuOiZFN/
Special-ed student confined 617 times in 6 months despite state laws Originally published November 12, 2016 at 6:04 pm Updated November 13, 2016 at 1:04 pm 1 of 5 Renay Ferguson, whose 10-year old son has ADHD, gave The Seattle Times school records that show her son was placed in isolation 148 times in the span of two years at two different elementary schools.... (Sophia Nahli Allison / The Seattle Times) More The effectiveness of a law limiting how often school officials physically restrain or isolate students is impossible to judge because nearly half the state’s school districts missed the reporting deadline. Share story By Ellie Silverman Seattle Times staff reporter During the first six months of 2016, staff members at Bellingham’s Sehome High School confined a student with a developmental disability alone in a room on 617 separate occasions — an average of about six times each school day. The extensive use of the approved but controversial technique occurred despite a 2015 state law that sought to limit how often school officials physically restrain or isolate students — tactics typically used to control outbursts from students with behavioral or emotional disabilities. The same law requires schools to report such incidents to state education officials, who “may use this data to investigate the training, practices, and other efforts used by schools and districts to reduce the use of restraint and isolation.” But a Seattle Times review of the fledgling attempt to collect this information found inconsistent compliance that makes it impossible to judge the effectiveness of the new legislation. Nearly half of the state’s 295 school districts missed a July 1 deadline to report incident numbers to Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. After questions from The Times about the poor compliance, state education officials extended the deadline and this month released a report based on data provided by 217 school districts. But even the numbers that state officials successfully compiled — showing 20,115 incidents over a six-month period — give no real insight into whether the restraint or isolation techniques were only used in an emergency where someone was likely to get seriously hurt, as the law requires. Therapeutic hold: Technique that pins a student’s arms across the chest or...  State Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, who sponsored the legislation, called the response rate by districts “dismal.” He said school districts resisted the new legislation from the beginning and as a result, he is still hearing “horror stories” from parents who consider the restraint and isolation techniques barbaric. “I have to say, we’ve got a long way to go to implement this properly,” Pollet said. “I don’t expect us to change the world by having the governor sign the legislation, but I think this has been tougher sledding than I had hoped for.” Linda Mullen, the communications director for the Washington Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said implementing the new requirements has been difficult because state lawmakers included no funding for training. “When I talk to teachers and paraprofessionals, they want their kids to be safe and they want to be safe,” Mullen said. “They want support from the district and the state to make sure they have the tools needed to do their jobs, which is to teach our kids.” Pollet said that if districts feel they need more resources to meet the requirements of the law, OSPI should assess the cost of adequate training and present a funding proposal to the legislature. However, education funding is already a contentious issue given the Washington state Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in McCleary vs. State of Washington that the state has neglected its financial obligations to schools. Several of the Puget Sound region’s largest school districts — including Seattle, Bellevue, Lake Washington and Edmonds — complied with the reporting requirements. Issaquah and Pasco were two of the largest school districts in the state to miss the initial reporting deadline, but both have since reported their data to the state. ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads Shelton is among the 78 districts that failed to report its incident numbers. Pam Farr, the executive director of teaching and learning at the Shelton School District, blamed unfamiliarity with the new requirement and noted that her district has undergone some staff turnover in the last few months. “It unfortunately was an oversight,” Farr said. The district is working to finish data collection now to either submit it late or prepare for next year, she said. Doug Gill, OSPI assistant superintendent for special education, said in August he did not know specific consequences for districts that did not report the data. But he expects districts to comply with the law limiting restraint and isolation techniques to emergency situations. “It is OSPI’s responsibility to help provide resources for districts to adjust practices, but it’s the responsibility of the district” to follow the law, Gil said. “I don’t think you can expect OSPI to monitor every classroom in the state.” The Sehome High School student with 617 isolation incidents stood out as the most extreme example in the OSPI data. The number was three times greater than a Valley View Middle School student whose 155 isolation incidents in the Snohomish District were the second most reported to the state for a single student. Michael Haberman, Bellingham’s special-education director, said the district does not restrain or isolate students outside of emergency situations. He said privacy laws prohibited him from commenting on the Sehome High student, but Haberman confirmed that the tally is accurate. “It’s not what we want to see,” Haberman said. “I don’t want to see any student restrained or isolated at all. There should be light shined on this.” New limits on techniques Federal law requires school districts to provide disabled students with a “free appropriate public education,” so a student in special education has specific academic and behavioral programs tailored to the individual’s needs. State data shows that 13.5 percent of Washington’s almost 1.1 million students have a special-education designation, and prior rules allowed teachers to include the use of restraint or isolation in their programs to correct disruptive behavior, even if it was not an emergency. Washington state’s House Bill 1240, which passed in 2015, requires school districts to limit such containment tactics to situations where there is an “imminent likelihood of serious harm.” The new law closely mirrors the U.S. Department of Education’s recommendation that restraint and seclusion should only occur when there is “a threat of imminent danger of serious physical harm to the student or others.” Washington’s law joined a growing movement around the country in which several states have pushed for limits on when students can be physically restrained — either in a hold by a school staffer or with a tether — or isolated in a special auxiliary room set aside for seclusion. Children’s control position: Another more aggressive hold that should only be... (Illustration by Kelly Shea) More The shift from what had been considered acceptable methods to discipline children with disabilities followed reports of injuries and even deaths of students restrained against their will. Parents, advocates and experts have also said that confining disabled students alone in a room can be a traumatic event. Renay Ferguson, whose 10-year old son has ADHD, gave The Seattle Times school records that show her son was placed in isolation 148 times in the span of two years at two different elementary schools. Each isolation incident ranged from two minutes to three hours, the records show. Ferguson’s son felt like he was “going to die” when he was in the Rose Hill Elementary isolation room in Kirkland, and he would take off his clothes to relieve the feeling of suffocation, he reported to his mother and doctor. While in the isolation room April 18, Ferguson’s son banged his head against the door and tied his shoelaces around his wrist and neck, according to district records. He suffered a concussion that day, according to a report from his doctor. Ferguson said she and her son no longer trust officials in the Lake Washington school district. “The school district cannot service these kids because they are different,” Ferguson said. Paul Vine, the district’s special services director, would not comment about Ferguson’s son specifically, but he said the Lake Washington School District policy aligns with the state legislation, and officials only use restraint or isolation when there is an emergency. Incomplete picture The OSPI data shows school staff isolated about 1,400 students and restrained about 2,400 others, although the same student may have been both restrained and isolated. Roughly 60 percent of those incidents occurred in elementary schools, according to The Times review of the state’s data. The data also tracks the specific method used against the student: closets for isolation, tethers for restraint, weighted blankets for calming and specific physical holds that restrict arm and leg movements. However, the data does not show what triggered the need for restraint or isolation and does not explain how it occurred in an emergency situation. In an effort to determine whether the reported incidents could all be considered an emergency, The Times obtained through the state’s public records law reports for more than 5,000 restraint and seclusion incidents from 10 districts. School officials must document each incident and provide those records to the parents, but the records are not reported to OSPI along with the district data. Some of the reports obtained by The Times included details indicating that students had turned violent, punched themselves, run into traffic or attempted to hurt another student or staff member. Others were vague or just had boilerplate language, leaving it unclear whether the techniques were used, as the law allows, to prevent serious harm. But many of the incidents, at least as they were reported, did not appear to justify the need for restraints or isolation. Team control position: A more aggressive hold that should only be used when a student is a risk to himself or others. (Illustration by Kelly Shea) For example, a ninth-grader in Puyallup was placed in isolation for 48 minutes on Nov. 4, 2015, because he had been yelling and wasn’t following directions, according to district records. Puyallup’s Executive Director of Special Education, Karen Mool, said she could not determine whether the case was an appropriate use of isolation based on only the report. “Every situation has its different uniquenesses. Were there other incidents during the day that added on to this?” she said. “It really depends on the situation and what’s happening in the classroom.” A May 6 incident report shows that Kent School District staff at Ridgewood Elementary School restrained and isolated a child for 30 minutes because the student threw glue sticks. The district’s report did not have more details on the incident. Chris Loftis, the district’s executive director of communications, clarified by email that although the incident originated with the student throwing glue sticks, “there was significant aggressive escalation from that point” that included the student punching the principal in the stomach. The district is currently revisiting its reporting forms to include more context for each incident, Loftis said. Two training programs, Right Response and Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), emphasize that physical restraint should be a last resort. The CPI training teaches educators to identify signs of anxiety, such as pacing, wringing hands or staring, and attempt to ease tensions by listening and giving the student some time to calm down. Two-person escort: Form of physical restraint used to move an agitated student from one location to another. (Illustration by Kelly Shea) If a student acts defensive by refusing to participate in activities or shouting, CPI advises teachers to ask the student to do something simple, such as standing up. The only time physical intervention should be used is if the student could hurt himself or others, such as hitting or self-injurious behavior, according to the training. Despite the uneven compliance with the new law, there does not appear to be widespread discontent with how education officials are using restraint and isolation techniques. State records show that OSPI completed 12 Special Education Citizen Complaint investigations concerning the techniques in 2016, with one case still pending as of mid-October. In one of those 12 cases, University Place School District staff put a first-grade student with high-functioning autism in seclusion “on a number of occasions” when there was no danger, according to OSPI files received in a public records request. The student told his mom that he “thought people hated him” when staff took him to the therapy room, according to the documents. Investigators found in that case and in four others that staff used restraint or isolation outside of emergency situations. Each time OSPI ordered school district officials to ensure its staff are properly trained, the records show. The Office of the Education Ombuds, an agency within the governor’s office that resolves complaints and makes policy recommendations, received a total of 34 complaints concerning the use of restraint or isolation techniques from July 2015 through June 2016, records show. Carrie Basas, director of the Ombuds office, said school district officials remain confused over how to implement changes and comply with the new law. “There’s just a mix of information out there that could be better supported through greater professional-development resources,” Basas said this summer. “Not everyone’s on the same page.” Seattle Times reporter Mike Baker contributed to this report. Mike Baker: mbaker@seattletimes.com. Ellie Silverman on Twitter @esilverman11  Source: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/special-ed-student-confined-617-times-in-6-months-despite-state-laws/
Advocate for troubled teens charged with fraud By Phil Fairbanks Published November 16, 2016 Updated November 16, 2016 SHARE TWEET EMAIL Umar Adeyola is well known for his work with at risk teens. Now he's the one in trouble with the law - again. Adeyola, head of the non-profit HEART Foundation, appeared in Buffalo federal court Wednesday to face allegations that he cheated local health insurers and a California non-profit group out of $365,000. Charged in a multi-count indictment, he is accused of submitting 4,000 fraudulent claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Univera Healthcare and Independent Health over a five-year period starting in 2009. Advertisement He also is accused of cheating the Latino Coalition for Faith and Community Leadership in California and its federally-funded program to help adults and high school dropouts prepare for employment. "There are 48 counts," Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura O'Donnell said of the charges against Adeyola. "It's going to be a complex case." Adeyola, who is well-known by judges and others for his advocacy on behalf of troubled teens, was released Wednesday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring device and limited his travel to Western New York. This is not Adeyola's first run in with the law. In 2001, he pleaded guilty to identity theft and admitted obtaining the personal information of General Motors employees in the Town of Tonawanda and using those identities to obtain fraudulent consumer loans. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Eight years later, Adeyola pleaded guilty again, this time in a case charging him with fraud and making false statements. He was accused of defrauding a local company. [Related: Funds pulled from city project tied to ex-con] For Adeyola, the allegations represent a sharp contrast to his reputation as an advocate for at-risk teens and youth diversion programs. His group, the HEART (Helping Empower At-Risk Teens) Foundation, is closed now but, for years, provided services intended to support young people, many of them in the criminal justice system. Founded in 2008, HEART provided a "full range of counseling, vocational and supportive services" with the goal of empowering teens to succeed, according to its web site. The group operated out of offices on Kensington Avenue. Prosecutors say Adeyola's non-profit organization also allowed him to bill local insurers for $228,000 worth of psychotherapy and other types of care that was never provided. They claim the defendant also cheated the Latino Coalition after the California group received $9 million in federal funding to start a jobs training program. Adeyola's group provided counseling, mental health therapy and other clinical services to the coalition but, according to prosecutors, fraudulently billed the coalition for $135,000 in expenses. The charges against Adeyola, which range from health care fraud to theft of government money, are the result of an investigation by the FBI, the U.S. dept of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Adeyola's defense lawyer declined to comment Wednesday. In 2011, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency awarded $2.18 million for a project to build housing for homeless veterans on Buffalo's East Side, a project that was sponsored by the HEART Foundation. The city agency later withdrew support for the project after reporters from The Buffalo News raised questions about Adeyola's background.  Source: http://buffalonews.com/2016/11/16/advocate-troubled-teens-charged-fraud/
Parents Of Child Who Nearly Died While In Foster Care Seek $20M From State Child Advocate Finds DCF At Fault In Near Starvation Of Infant A report by state Child Advocate Sarah Eagan finds that DCF workers assigned to the case of an infant boy placed with relatives in Groton were responsible for "staggering failure and omissions" in the child's near starvation. A report by state Child Advocate Sarah Eagan finds that DCF workers assigned to the case of an infant boy placed with relatives in Groton were responsible for "staggering failure and omissions" in the child's near starvation. Josh KovnerContact Reporter The biological parents of the child who nearly died of starvation, broken bones and head injuries while placed in foster care by the state are seeking permission to sue the Department of Children and Families for $20 million. In a 17-page notice filed with the state claims commissioner, the parents' lawyer, Shelley L. Graves, lays out a blistering portrayal of alleged malpractice and negligence on the part of DCF. With few exceptions, people looking to sue the state must gain permission from the claims commissioner. The foster mother, Crystal Magee of Groton, has been arrested and charged with child abuse, and the Office of the Child Advocate has issued a scathing report identifying breakdowns in care and oversight by DCF that endangered the child's life. Crystal Magee is a cousin of the boy's biological mother. The child, Dallas, was 13 months old when DCF, citing neglect, removed him and his siblings from the home of Kirsten Fauquet and John Stratzman, his biological parents, in June 2015. DCF supervisors and caseworkers placed the boy with Crystal and Donald Magee even though the Magees were not licensed foster-care parents, Donald Magee had a criminal record, and Crystal Magee had a history of child neglect, according to the notice of claim dated Thursday. The Magees also had no car to transport the child to medical appointments, neither had a job, both had significant medical problems, and Crystal Magee had a suspected substance-abuse issue, according to the claim. Many of the assertions in the parents' notice mirror the findings of Child Advocate Sarah Eagan's 64-page investigative report, released in October. After the attorney general's office files a response on behalf of DCF, Claims Commissioner Christy Scott will schedule hearings. Eagan and Associate Child Advocate Faith Vos Winkel called the DCF oversights in the case some of the most egregious they have seen. Several workers and supervisors were disciplined, and DCF Commissioner Joette Katz sent out memos that reaffirmed what appeared to be basic foster-care protocols and child-protection procedures. Dallas spent five months with the Magees – from June to November 2105, before he was removed. The lead social worker admitted in documents obtained by Eagan's office that he never saw the child awake during the times he visited the home. At one point, Crystal Magee called the Groton police and asked if she could get in trouble for allowing a child to cry nonstop for days on end. Crystal Magee also refused to allow child-development workers into the home on several occasions and the child missed medical appointments, according to the claim. Internal emails obtained by Eagan's office showed both an alarming sense of apathy about the case by some workers, and a deep concern by others about what the case said about DCF's foster-care practices in general. Under Katz, the department has emphasized placing children with relatives. Background checks and safety requirements are less stringent for relatives than they are for traditional foster-care families who are not related to the children they take in. The day after Dallas was removed from the Magee household, another foster parent rushed the boy to a local hospital. He was transferred to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford. Doctors found an extremely malnourished boy with broken bones and other traumatic injuries. The claim, drafted by Graves, of New London, lists Dallas' injuries. They included: A fracture of his left arm caused by trauma that likely occurred up to three weeks earlier; fractures of his right forearm, caused by trauma, that likely occurred up to six weeks before; traumatic head injuries, such as bleeding of the brain and a hemorrhage of his right eye; emaciation, sagging skin, loss of muscle mass, prominent ribs, sunken eyes, and wasted temple muscles that were "the result of severe malnourishment over a prolonged period of time"; bruises over his body; balding of the back of his head due to lying down for extended periods; burn marks; extensive developmental delays; and emotional trauma. Graves noted in the claim, as Eagan's office had, that the Magees never obtained their foster-care license during the time they had Dallas in their home, and that they lied on the foster-care application. Graves also pointed out that Crystal Magee repeatedly refused to submit to a substance-abuse evaluation requested by DCF. In addition, the claim identifies significant gaps in the electronic case record. Eagan's office found that a large number of entries were added to the electronic record in November, after Dallas' removal, that related to events weeks and moths earlier. Some of those events are suggestive of malpractice by DCF workers, according to the claim, For example, Graves writes that a social worker visited the Magee home on Sept. 29, 2015. He said in his notes that Dallas was asleep in his pack-and-play. But the worker "failed to assess Dallas' health at that visit, despite knowing that it had been 43 days since the worker's last visit," when Dallas was also asleep; that the Magees had been canceling medical appointments; that Crystal Magee had refused a drug-abuse evaluation; that outside counselors had expressed concerns about Crystal Magee's ability to cope; and that the Magees had failed to show up for two foster-care training sessions, which are part of the licensing process. Thirty days later, on Oct. 29, 2015, the social worker again visited Dallas, who was asleep in his pack-and-play. The worker wrote in his visit notes that he was "indeed able to confirm that Dallas was breathing," according both the claim and Eagan's report. The claim asserts that as a result of DCF's negligence, Dallas continues to suffer physical and emotional injuries and serious developmental delays. Source: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-dcf-abuse-claim-1116-20161115-story.html
SUFFERING IN SECRET: Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities Barbara Chyette holds up a picture of her late brother, Loren Braun, a group home resident who choked to death during a supervised outing. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) By Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan The house had no address; the dead man had no name. Illinois officials blacked out those details from their investigative report. Nobody else was supposed to learn the man's identity or the location of the state-funded facility where his body was found. The investigation was closed as it began, with no public disclosure, and the report was filed away, one of thousands that portray a hidden world of misery and harm. No one would know that Thomas Powers died at 3300 Essington Road in unincorporated Joliet, in a group home managed for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Or that his caregivers forced a 50-year-old man with the intellect of a small child to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor in a room used for storage. Or that the front door bore a building inspection sticker that warned, "Not approved for occupancy." Not even Powers' grieving family knew the state had looked into his death and found evidence of neglect. As Illinois steers thousands of low-income adults with disabilities into private group homes, a Tribune investigation found Powers was but one of many casualties in a botched strategy to save money and give some of the state's poorest and most vulnerable residents a better life. In the first comprehensive accounting of mistreatment inside Illinois' taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs, the Tribune uncovered a system where caregivers often failed to provide basic care while regulators cloaked harm and death with secrecy and silence. The Tribune identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases than publicly reported by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Confronted with those findings, Human Services officials retracted five years of erroneous reports and said the department had launched reforms to ensure accurate reporting. To circumvent state secrecy, the Tribune filed more than 100 public records requests with government agencies. But state files were so heavily redacted and unreliable that the newspaper had to build its own databases by mining state investigative files, court records, law enforcement cases, industry reports, federal audits, grant awards and Medicaid data. The Tribune found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. Residents fatally choked on improperly prepared food, succumbed to untreated bed sores and languished in pain from undiagnosed ailments. Other residents suffered forced indignities and loss of freedom, state records show. Some were mocked for their intellectual limitations, barricaded in rooms, abandoned in soiled clothing and deprived of food. A male group home resident, accused of stealing cookies, was beaten to death by his caregiver. Employees at one home bound a woman’s hands and ankles with duct tape, covered her head with a blanket and left her for several hours on the kitchen floor. For their own amusement, employees at another home repeatedly ridiculed residents to provoke outbursts, a game the caregivers called “breaking them.” And, all too often, vulnerable residents’ health and safety has been left to unlicensed, scantly trained employees. Front-line caregivers failed to promptly call 911, perform CPR or respond to medical emergencies that resulted in death. In hundreds of cases, the department allowed employees of group homes to investigate allegations of neglect and mental abuse in their own workplaces, the Tribune discovered. That alliance between group homes and Human Services’ investigative arm, the Office of the Inspector General, is not specifically disclosed in state investigative reports. Citing patient privacy laws, state officials maintain that the addresses of the more than 3,000 state-licensed group homes are secret. Illinois officials refuse to disclose the enforcement history of any home, even in cases of fatal abuse and neglect. In contrast, Illinois nursing homes must maintain copies of investigative reports and surveys for public inspection. Additionally, state health officials publish a quarterly report detailing violations accompanied by nursing home names and addresses. There are no similar disclosure requirements for group homes. In this culture of secrecy, even seemingly benign records get shielded from sight. For example, the Tribune requested a state-funded PowerPoint presentation that included a list of needed improvements to community care programs, including group homes. The state responded. Except for the word "Recommendations," the entire slide was blacked out. Citing the Tribune investigation, Human Services Secretary James Dimas has ordered widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations. "My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on," said Dimas, who was appointed last year. Dimas said he will push for legislative changes, if necessary, to allow public disclosure of group home enforcement histories. The shift in Illinois from large institutional facilities to less costly residential homes reflects the philosophy that these individuals, if supported, will lead fuller lives in the community, and more than 11,400 now live in group homes statewide. Known as Community Integrated Living Arrangements, or CILAs, these homes accommodate eight or fewer adults in ordinary apartment buildings or houses. The Arc of Illinois, a statewide advocacy group, reports that hundreds of people with disabilities have successfully transitioned into group homes in recent years. In 2011, a lawsuit brought by individuals who wanted to leave state-funded facilities resulted in a court decree that has forced Illinois to move more people into community settings. State officials have touted group homes as a preferred option, citing cost savings that can be used to fund more community care. The annual cost of care for an institutionalized resident is about $219,000 compared with $84,000 at a group home, according to state records. But Illinois has not increased reimbursement rates for group home staff wages in nearly nine years, leading to what industry leaders say are catastrophic conditions in which even the best operators are struggling to provide basic care. Illinois ranks among the five worst states for adequately funding community options, according to federal reports and studies by advocacy groups. Shirley Perez, who directs a family advocacy program for the Arc of Illinois, said: "Some of the phone calls I get from families are that they are afraid." Powers, born with a condition that led to brain damage, spent decades inside state institutions, unable to talk, unpredictable in behavior. When state officials promised him a better life in a real home and told his family he'd gain independence, Powers said yes the only way he knew how. He giggled. But this was not the life that Powers found. Nor did thousands of other adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, left to the mercy of a system designed to be invisible. Joe Powers talks about his late son, Thomas, at his daughter Kathy's home in Aurora. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune) Failures of care In one Will County group home, state records show, a caregiver left a frail woman alone in the bathroom after filling the bathtub with water, unaware that it was scalding because a maintenance worker forgot to install a temperature-control valve. The woman tumbled into the tub and was severely burned. The Trinity Services caregiver put the woman to bed, later pulled socks over her peeling, bleeding skin and didn't seek medical help for more than an hour. The woman died days later. At a Springfield home owned by Sparc, a caregiver forgot to give a man his anti-seizure medication before sending him to a day program in 2013. Rather than deliver the pills, investigators found, the caregiver told a colleague to throw them into the trash. The man suffered a major seizure, turned blue and was treated at a hospital. A caregiver at a Macomb group home managed by Mosaic allowed a man to sleep with a stuffed snowman even though he had been diagnosed with pica — a disorder that compels people to eat nonfood items — and had a history of consuming stuffing, according to inspector general records. In 2012 the man tore open the snowman, ate the filling and choked to death. In case after case, group home businesses have delegated frontline care to inexperienced caregivers with negligible training, a cost-cutting combination that has led to harm, the Tribune investigation found. Indeed, when the newspaper reviewed more than 200 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect, it found the vast majority of injuries and deaths are linked to inadequate staffing levels and failure to closely monitor fragile residents. Records show caregivers trying to cover up mistakes, failing to understand dangers of missed medications and underestimating the complex nature of disabilities. Sparc's chief operating officer, Ryan Dowd, said his company fired the caregiver who directed a colleague to throw out anti-convulsant medicine, added more surveillance cameras in its group homes and switched from paper to electronic medication records so a nurse can better catch mistakes. Nancy Davis, a Mosaic vice president, said her organization dismissed the caregiver who allowed the man to sleep with a stuffed snowman, hired outside behavioral experts to address the needs of residents with pica and retrained caregivers on how to protect those individuals. Caring for adults with profound intellectual and developmental disabilities can be challenging. Some have the strength of a weightlifter with the impulsiveness of a child. In the blink of an eye, they can find themselves in crisis. Yet caregivers in group homes earn an average of $9.35 an hour, according to the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. That wage is below the federal poverty level for a family of three. Low pay is a contributing factor in high staff turnover — more than 40 percent annually in some homes. "Staff turnover — it's like a cancer that affects care," said UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago CEO John Voit, who has worked in the industry since the 1970s. Group home executives complain that inadequate state funding has not allowed the industry to increase entry-level pay or raise existing salaries to retain skilled supervisors. They say caregivers can earn more money in many other industries, citing the experienced employees who recently resigned to take higher-paying jobs at Amazon warehouses. To fill vacancies, business operators said they have turned to workers whose backgrounds would have disqualified them from jobs in the past. "You're scraping the barrel," said Little City Executive Director Shawn Jeffers, whose agency's services include group homes for adults with disabilities in the Chicago area. "I have some folks who do some really dumb stuff." Responding to what group home owners call a staffing crisis, state lawmakers in both houses this summer overwhelmingly approved $330 million in funding to boost pay for caregivers. But Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure in August, citing a lack of state funds. The Tribune also found that the group home industry is exempt from basic staffing standards required elsewhere in the state's long-term care system. Nursing homes, state institutions and other extended-care facilities are required by law to employ on-site registered nurses who can detect and react to sudden changes in patient conditions. Even low-level employees must be state-certified aides who update skills through continuing education. Group homes are not bound by these requirements. Many group home residents are not examined by a licensed nurse for weeks at a time, sometimes for many months, state enforcement records show. Instead, registered nurses often work from remote locations and supervise dozens of residents over the telephone. Some unlicensed workers also are allowed to pass out prescription medications — a practice prohibited by law at nursing homes and state-owned facilities. These and many other relaxed policies place group home residents at greater risk of undetected complications. Few daily activities underscore the dangers of thin staff or the critical role of competent caregivers like the simple act of eating. In 2014, a UCP Seguin group home resident attending the company's day program in Cicero choked to death on a marshmallow that a caregiver handed out as a treat. The victim had dysphagia, putting him at high risk of choking, and staff were supposed to give him only pureed or finely chopped foods, the inspector general found. UCP Seguin CEO Voit said his organization, one of the state's largest group home providers, has retrained staff on choking risks and revised safety protocols. That same year, a man at a Trinity Services group home in Peoria fatally choked on a cheeseburger, carrots and applesauce when a caregiver stepped away. The victim's medical files warned he often swallowed food too fast and needed close supervision, but staff members were not properly trained about his special needs, state records show. In response, Trinity Service officials said, they created a training manual for each group home that details how to monitor residents with diet restrictions and choking risks, including pictures that illustrate how to chop or puree food properly. For Loren Braun, death came from a McDonald's hamburger and an inattentive caregiver who had been hired specifically to watch him. At 61, Braun had no teeth and couldn't wear dentures. Born with developmental disabilities and diagnosed with schizophrenia, he had lived since 1997 in a North Side group home managed by Anixter Center. Braun had a history of choking. His food had to be soft and cut into tiny pieces, and someone had to coach him at every meal to eat slowly and drink water between bites. Braun's sister, Barbara Chyette, tried to protect her younger brother as best she could. Loren Braun, who had no teeth and couldn't wear dentures, choked to death on food during an outing away from his group home. (Family photo) As a former social worker at an Ohio psychiatric hospital, she saw the advantages of a small group home but feared that staffing levels were often inadequate for high-risk residents. Tapping a family foundation set up by her late father, a postal worker, she donated money to pay Anixter for an extra caregiver to shadow her brother three days a week. She also donated a van to the home for community outings. In November 2014, caregivers loaded Braun and four other residents into that van for grocery shopping, haircuts and lunch at a McDonald's. After returning to the group home, a caregiver discovered Braun unconscious in the back seat. A Chicago Fire Department paramedic reported that he removed "almost an entire hamburger" from Braun's mouth and airway but was unable to revive him. He had choked to death. State investigators cited his personal caregiver for egregious neglect. In a wrongful death suit, Chyette alleges that Anixter failed to address his choking risk, served her brother unsafe food and didn't protect him from neglect. Anixter executives declined to comment. "Loren was like a baby," Chyette said. "Like you would have to be with a 2-year-old or 3-year-old — that's the kind of supervision that clients like Loren need. And the system does not provide that kind of supervision." The attacker next door Illinois group homes were first licensed in the 1970s as state-funded community options for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the beginning of a civil rights movement to empty large institutions and nursing facilities. This shift offered freedom and independence to scores of people with disabilities who were inappropriately consigned to institutional care. But as state downsizing continues, group homes are also destinations for individuals with a history of profound problems, often compounded by mental illness, requiring round-the-clock supervision for their safety and the safety of other residents. A majority of group home businesses report that they cannot afford to provide that level of protection, according to industry trade groups. Fragile individuals with disabilities sometimes live alongside those who have a history of violence or sexual aggression, a risky mix that has led to injury and death, state records show. Group home owners are not required to report resident-on-resident assaults to the inspector general's office unless someone suspects that neglect was a factor, according to state law. But law enforcement and state investigative reports reveal a troubling pattern of violence at group homes since 2010, including three homicides. At a Trinity Services group home in Peoria in 2010, John Vogel, 45, was fatally beaten by a resident whose acts of violence had sent two employees and two housemates to the emergency room months earlier, according to inspector general and coroner records. At a Bolingbrook group home managed by Individual Advocacy Group, Eduardo Formanski, 30, suffocated after another resident, who weighed nearly twice as much as he did, lay on top of him during a fight in 2011, according to police, court and medical examiner records. That same year, Tramayne Yarbrough, 35, died of head injuries after a housemate pushed him down the stairs of a Palos Park group home operated by St. Coletta's of Illinois, according to medical examiner and inspector general records. The assailant had a history of physical aggression and had pushed someone else down the stairs about two months earlier, the inspector general's office found. Responding to questions about the Vogel homicide, Trinity Service officials said they had provided extensive behavioral therapy to the resident responsible for the attack. Afterward, they said, group home employees received enhanced training to better deal with aggressive residents. Addressing the death at the Bolingbrook home, an official for Advocacy Group said it was the only fatal incident in the group home's 17-year history. Attempts to reach St. Coletta's of Illinois for comment were unsuccessful. Residents have also been victimized sexually by other residents, records show. At a West Side day program operated by group home provider Habilitative Systems, a 33-year-old man had a behavior plan that addressed his history of sexually inappropriate behavior, including "engaging in sexual activity without consent." The staff was supposed to make sure he remained at least 3 feet away from program participants, and his care plan called for employees to accompany him even to the restroom. But in July 2010, the man wandered away unnoticed and entered an unlocked restroom where he allegedly persuaded a 27-year-old man to perform oral sex, according to a state report that cited a witness account by a third man who entered the restroom and discovered the pair. An investigator with the inspector general's office termed the sexual act consensual, even though the younger man had profound disabilities, wasn't able to speak and "could not provide any information for this investigation." The office did cite the business for neglect. An official for Habilitative Systems declined to comment about the case. State law allows group home providers to mix defenseless residents with those who have histories of violence as long as businesses maintain adequate supervision and staffing. It's hard to imagine anyone more vulnerable than 36-year-old Aaron Stanley. Born with cerebral palsy and excess fluid in his brain, Stanley has the cognitive capacity of a 2-year-old, his mother said. Spastic quadriplegia restricts movement of his arms and legs, so he can't propel his own wheelchair. At a Berwyn group home managed by UCP Seguin, he was fully dependent on the staff. Colleen Stanley didn't know that her son's bedroom was next to that of a man who not only had an intellectual disability but also was diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder. A UCP Seguin employee later told police that Stanley's housemate was prone to episodes of unprovoked explosive violence and had "insurmountable strength." In October last year the housemate walked into Stanley's room during the pre-dawn hours and nearly pummeled him to death while he lay in bed — beating him repeatedly in the head with a fire extinguisher, a television and a picture frame before stabbing his face with glass from the broken frame, police records show. Stanley's swollen face was so covered with blood that first responders could not see his eyes. The sole UCP Seguin caregiver on duty that night — a woman alone in the house with seven disabled men — told police she tried to intervene but Stanley's housemate became more violent, and she was afraid he would attack her. No charges were filed against Stanley's housemate, whose psychiatrist told police the man could not comprehend his actions. Instead, Human Services admitted him to a state-run institution for individuals with developmental disabilities, police records show. Stanley, who had to undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries on his face, no longer lives at the UCP Seguin group home. His family is suing the provider for failing to protect him. Citing the lawsuit, UCP Seguin's Voit declined to comment on the specifics of the case. In a written statement he said that, in general, when a person is harmed, his organization figures out the causes, retrains staff, revises safety protocols and disciplines employees to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. "Ultimately, however," the statement said, "there are some occurrences or encounters that can neither be predicted nor prevented, even with the best of training, protocols and processes." In an interview before her death from breast cancer in August, Stanley's mother said the system has to change. "You can't put someone that's violent in the same house as someone that can't even get out of his way," she said. A suspicious death Even as a toddler, it was clear Thomas Powers would need a lifetime of care. He never learned to speak, use a toilet or hold a spoon. He could walk, even run, but he was awkward and crashed into walls and furniture. He couldn't comprehend simple gestures or words, and at times he had trouble recognizing his own family. But he loved to have his hand stroked and his back patted. And he seemed most happy when traveling in a vehicle and staring out the window, family members said. Thomas Powers as a child, front row, second from right, and as an adult with his sister Kathy at her home. (Family photos) Powers, one of nine children, had a rare inherited disorder – phenylketonuria, which can cause severe intellectual disability and medical problems. The condition is readily detected and treated today, but the test did not exist when he was born in 1960, and his disease went untreated as a child. His father, Joe Powers, 83, said the family made the agonizing decision to institutionalize Thomas at age 6, when he had become an oblivious danger to himself and others. In one of many frightening incidents, he held an infant sibling above his head and made a throwing motion. Thomas Powers spent four decades in state institutions, but in 2008 state officials pressured the family to move him because of planned downsizing at his facility, according to one of his sisters, Kathy Powers. She said they promised he would receive more individualized care. A state contractor then steered them to Trinity Services, the state's largest operator of group homes for adults with disabilities. Two years later, however, Trinity Services officials reported that Thomas Powers had become too much to handle. Caregivers complained that he was a whirlwind of motion and mayhem, running from kitchen to bedroom, tossing pans from the stove, breaking lamps, drinking water from the toilet, sometimes stripping naked to express displeasure. "He was just out of control," a Trinity Services supervisor later said in a court deposition. "He was like an animal." To better control Powers' behaviors, Trinity Services officials transferred him in May 2010 to another home, a 2,100-square-foot ranch house on Essington Road in unincorporated Joliet. Following the move, most of his daily activities would take place inside. Thomas Powers, born with a condition that led to brain damage, was found dead in 2010 in a group home in unincorporated Joliet, three days after being transferred from another group home. He was 50. (John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune) Canceled were Powers' weekday trips to a community day program where he had participated in arts and crafts projects with dozens of other people with disabilities. There would be no more of his favorite activity, riding in a transport van. When Powers arrived, three other men were living in the house, state records show. None of them should have been there. Two months earlier, a Will County building inspector had posted a "not approved for occupancy" sticker on the door after determining that Trinity Services had converted a residential property into a group home without proper permits and safety improvements. County officials charged that Trinity Services ignored that order to vacate the home. While Powers' bedroom was being renovated, he slept in a cramped room jammed with boxes of other people's belongings, according to state records. He should have never been left unsupervised with loose objects, medical records show, because he suffered from pica and indiscriminately stuffed items in his mouth. On his third day in the home, he was found dead. His caregiver told state investigators that Powers, wearing pajamas, had rested through the night on a fully assembled bed, according to police and court records. But sheriff's deputies found Powers dressed in blue jeans and belt, lying on the floor next to a mattress so stained that it was hauled away as garbage. The room was cluttered with ripped-open storage boxes, and a box spring with built-in bed frame leaned against a wall. Thomas Powers was living in a group home in unincorporated Joliet in 2010 when he was found dead lying next to a stained mattress in a cluttered room used for storage. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune; Will County sheriff's office) The caregiver first told deputies that she found Powers with a plastic bag "laying over his face, covering it." She later changed her description, saying "it was like a sheet of paper." Dr. J. Scott Denton, who conducted the autopsy for the Will County medical examiner's office, ruled the cause of death undetermined. But later, in a deposition, Denton testified that "it's more likely than not that something unnatural happened," citing Powers' suspicious bruises and cuts, the plastic bag or sheet, the room in disarray and other unusual circumstances. Powers' family, who maintained close contact with group home employees, filed a wrongful death suit and reached a confidential settlement last year. "We will never know what happened for sure," said Kathy Powers. "But something wrong happened." Trinity Services CEO Art Dykstra, a former state director for mental health and disability programs, said Powers thrived for years without incident but experienced sudden and unexplained weight loss and health complications in the months before his death. Caregivers transferred Powers to the Joliet home because it had fewer residents than the home where he lived and might offer a calmer environment to counter his increasingly disruptive behaviors, he said. Most of the building code violations in the Joliet home represented renovations that were underway or completed without proper permits, Dykstra said. "Everyone at Trinity Services feels terrible about this death," he said. "We've tried our hardest to help people with complex needs like Thomas." Records show that the Office of the Inspector General took five years to close the case, issuing its report after the Powers family settled its civil suit with Trinity Services. Investigators cited the business and the caregiver for neglect, noting that residents were placed in a home with code violations and that Powers was forced to sleep on a mattress placed on the floor in a room full of debris. But the state took no further action against Trinity Services. Under Illinois law, the inspector general's office is required to send a notification letter to families or guardians if neglect or abuse is found. But members of Powers' family said they were unaware of the state's investigation until contacted by the Tribune. Inspector General Michael McCotter acknowledged that his office had failed to notify them. Last summer, the Powers family received an apology from McCotter in the mail. mberens@chicagotribune.com pcallahan@chicagotribune.com Twitter @mjberens1 Twitter @tribunetrish Illinois' transition to group homes Illinois has been moving toward a group home model for decades. Here are some major factors behind that transition: Beginning in the 1970s, Illinois downsized state-funded institutions because scores of people were inappropriately confined there. In the late 1980s, state officials created a special license for group homes that provide care for eight or fewer adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These homes were designated Community Integrated Living Arrangements, or CILAs. There are more than 3,000 such homes today. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that people with disabilities have the right to live in the least restrictive setting possible. Known as the Olmstead decision, the ruling also stated that unnecessary institutionalization violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The decision forced states to fund more community services. In 2007, Illinois launched the Pathways to Community Living program, a federally funded initiative to transfer thousands of people with disabilities into group homes or other community placements from state institutions or nursing facilities providing long-term care. In a federal settlement known as the Ligas consent decree, Illinois agreed in 2011 to fund community access for adults with disabilities who lived in private intermediate-care facilities with nine or more beds, and those who lived at home but had sought community services or placement. Also in 2011, a federal court approved a sweeping agreement — the Colbert consent decree — that required Illinois to fund more community options for Medicaid-eligible nursing home residents with disabilities. In late 2011, then-Gov. Pat Quinn announced a cost-saving plan to close multiple state institutions and move hundreds of adults with disabilities into group homes. The Jacksonville Developmental Center was closed, but state officials shelved plans to shutter the Murray Developmental Center following a court fight with parents of residents.  Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-group-home-investigations-cila-met-20161117-htmlstory.html
When Home Feels Like Prison: My Year In A Group Home November 17, 2016 by Noel Anaya Featured on KQED Photo by: Denise Tejada Listen Now Download Share this story: Noel Anaya spent a year in a group home when he was 12 years old. I was put into foster care when I was two years old, and I’ve been in the system ever since. The moment I stepped into a group home when I was 12, I felt like it was a mistake. There I was, with about a dozen other teen boys. On my very first day, I got into a fight during a basketball game. I was physically restrained by a staff member and put on “lockdown.” That meant except for school, I had to stay in my room, eat alone, and keep apart from the other kids for seven days. I didn’t feel like a kid in time out. I felt like an inmate. Even on a regular week, our lives were super regimented. At night, staff walked the halls with flashlights, looking into the rooms. In addition to heavy security, I met regularly with a therapist who prescribed me medication. I remember almost all the kids there were on something. We lined up for our medicine, which was given out in those little, paper, condiment cups. The drugs made me feel like a zombie. After a year, because of good behavior, I was eventually returned to my foster family. It took me a long time to adjust to normal life. Because for so long, I couldn’t rely on anyone and I was always afraid of getting in trouble. We were sent to the group home to turn our lives around. But for some of us, we ended up worse off than when we started. That’s the problem: group homes are supposed to be a safe haven for kids. But often, they’re not. Our adolescent behavior was penalized harshly. New California law requires that starting next year, the state move away from placing teens in foster care in group homes. I have my doubts. But it’s a step in the right direction to rethink how we treat kids in foster care. With a Perspective, I’m Noel Anaya. Featured on KQED  Source: https://youthradio.org/journalism/when-home-feels-like-prison-my-year-in-a-group-home/
Investigation finds widespread abuse of the disabled in Illinois group homes THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 4 hrs ago 0 Getty Images prev next CHICAGO — A newspaper investigation found more than a thousand cases of abuse and neglect of Illinois adults with disabilities who were placed into private group homes. The Chicago Tribune says its investigation revealed mistreatment inside Illinois' taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs, with caregivers failing to provide basic care while regulators conceal harm and death with secrecy and silence. The investigation found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show. The Chicago Tribune's investigation also shows 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois' Department of Human Services. Thomas Powers was one of those unfortunate cases. He died in a Joliet group home for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Grieving relatives of Powers didn't know there was evidence found of neglect, which included an instance of the 50-year-old, with the intellect of a small child, being forced to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor in a room for storage. Other incidents similar or worse than Powers' experience have also been revealed. Advertisement Play Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Remaining Time -0:00 Stream TypeLIVE Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% 00:00 Fullscreen 00:00 Mute Playback Rate 1 Subtitles subtitles off Captions captions off Chapters Chapters A male group resident was beaten to death by his caregiver after being accused of stealing cookies. Employees at another home abused a female resident by binding her hands and ankles with duct tape, and covering her head with a blanket and leaving her on a kitchen floor for several hours. In many of these cases, the health and safety of residents has been left to unlicensed and scantly trained employees. The death toll has risen due to caregivers failing to promptly call 911, perform CPR or respond to medical emergencies. Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox TheSouthern.com Daily Headlines Obituaries I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site consitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy. The department in many instances let the group homes investigate allegations of neglect and mental abuse in their own workplaces, the Chicago Tribune found. Human Services officials retracted five years of erroneous reports after confronted with The Chicago Tribune's findings and said the department had launched reforms to ensure accurate reporting. The investigation results from the Chicago Tribune have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations. "My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on," Dimas said.  Source: http://thesouthern.com/news/local/state-and-regional/investigation-finds-widespread-abuse-of-the-disabled-in-illinois-group/article_251e7d20-f09a-5dbf-9810-66faba934032.html
Man who raped 15-year-old boy gets 18 years in prison Jeff Rumage , jrumage@gannett.com 8:01 a.m. CST November 23, 2016 Group home operator Jermarro Dantzler has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for second-degree sexual assault and felony bail jumping.(Photo: Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office) CONNECTTWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE Brown Deer - The group home owner who raped a 15-year-old boy at gunpoint behind bushes on Brown Deer Road in July 2015 was sentenced on Monday, Nov. 22, to 18 years in prison. Jermarro Dantzler, 38, of Brown Deer pleaded not guilty to second-degree sexual assault and felony bail jumping. In addition to the prison sentence, Dantzler was also sentenced to eight years of extended supervision. The 15-year-old victim told Brown Deer police he was walking home on July 19, 2015, when Dantzler allegedly grabbed him by the arm in the 6700 block of West Brown Deer Road. The boy said Dantzler was holding a gun, and warned him to "do exactly what I ask you," according to a criminal complaint. Dantzler led the boy behind some bushes and made him lay in the grass. He also asked the boy his name and where he went to high school, according to the complaint. After having sex with the boy behind the bushes, he gave the boy two $20 bills. More than a month after the alleged rape, the boy told Brown Deer police that he received a Facebook invitation from Dantzler, who he recognized as the alleged rapist. Dantzler was granted a group home license in 2009 to operate Rights of Passage Living Center, 7911 W. Beechwood Ave., Milwaukee. The group home's license was revoked on April 10, 2015, due to financial improprieties, but when Dantzler appealed the revocation, he was allowed to continue to operate during the appeals process. The Department of Children and Families shut down the group home after learning about his arrest.  Source: http://www.mynorthshorenow.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/11/22/man-who-raped-15-year-old-boy-gets18-years-prison/94306416/
Lawmakers to tackle human trafficking-foster care connection By Phil Prazan Published: November 20, 2016, 9:59 pm Updated: November 21, 2016, 5:41 am  AUSTIN (KXAN) – Monday, lawmakers at the capitol will tackle a growing issue in Texas, sex and human trafficking. Child advocates say a common victim are children in and out of the Texas foster care system. Steven Phenix looks through the blue prints and sketches of what will soon be “the refuge.” The longtime residential facility just broke ground and will soon house 40 teenage girls – a safe place after being rescued from the sex trade industry. “We’re failing our kids. They’re going after the most vulnerable,” said Phenix. If current statistics hold up, he says he expects three out of every four sex trafficking victim to be a product of Texas foster care. Texas is the second highest in the nation for number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resources Center. In 2015, there were 330 cases of human trafficking in Texas. Most of the victims were women and more than one hundred were minors. “It’s easier for them to grab a kid off the street who’s just run away, who’s run away from four, five, six times already from four or five, six different types of abuse – not as many people are out there looking for that kid unfortunately. So that’s the reason they are a target,” said Phenix. Texas’s child welfare system has been in the spotlight as a federal judge ruled it violated children’s civil rights. Hundreds of calls of abuse and neglect go un-responded to every day. Lawmakers hope to stem the flow of foster kids into sex trafficking circles. Phenix says more training and awareness can go far but to tackle the big picture it will take more money for more people to find vulnerable Texas children before they’re trafficked. Monday the House Human Services and the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues committees will have a joint hearing to: “Study and evaluate the practice of youth being recruited into human trafficking. Specifically, evaluate the scope of the pipeline of potential victims from foster care, including methods and means used to lure youth into trafficking. Evaluate the types of services that are available to support children and youth in the conservatorship of DFPS who are victims of human trafficking. Make necessary recommendations to assist DFPS in identifying, recovering, serving, or caring for children and youth who are victims of human trafficking prior to placement in foster care.”  Source: http://kxan.com/2016/11/20/lawmakers-to-tackle-human-trafficking-foster-care-connection/
Flawed investigations ignore neglect in Illinois group homes The Associated Press LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story CHICAGO A newspaper investigation has found that self-policing played a role in determining whether neglect has occurred in investigations of Illinois group homes serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2geSVt2 ) reports group home employees handled at least 550 cases and helped clear their own group home of wrongdoing in the majority of instances. Federal regulators say no other states have given caregivers at group homes full-fledged investigative powers. The examination of the state's network of 3,000 group homes also found Illinois Department Human Services officials routinely obscured evidence of harm from the public. The inspector general's office sealed more than 3,200 cases in the last six years in which it found some evidence of abuse or neglect. No one, including family members or even group home residents, are allowed to know the nature of those investigations, the strength of the evidence or what reforms, if any, were mandated or made. In one such case, the Tribune found, the inspector general's own investigators overlooked obvious clues pointing to neglect and were easily misled by a group home employee who later admitted she made up her story about what had transpired. Human Services Secretary James Dimas says he'll seek to make public the records of all unsubstantiated cases. "We're working hard to push the envelope to become more transparent," he said. "And we're prepared to seek a change to the legislation if we decide that becomes necessary."  Source: http://www.kentucky.com/living/health-and-medicine/article116242748.html
A third of Texas foster care runaways remain missing: CPS By Robert Maxwell Published: November 21, 2016, 6:08 pm  AUSTIN (KXAN) — A grim reality is adding to the ongoing shortage of foster homes in Texas. State lawmakers are now hearing a third of the children who ran away from foster care this year have not been found — some as young as 11. In Texas, 973 foster kids ran away this past year, sometimes simply because they didn’t like the house rules, others wanted to return to their parents. A third of those kids — 340 vulnerable young people — have simply disappeared. “We’re still looking for them. So that [973] was a number that was a point in time,” Angela Goodwin, director of Investigations for CPS told KXAN. “We always need the support from law enforcement to help look for missing runaways.” But Goodwin says some police departments won’t add a runaway 17 year old to missing kids’ databases since the law considers them an adult. Those who are found spend an average six weeks on their own. Goodwin told lawmakers Monday at a joint hearing of the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues and Human Services House Committees. That makes the kids prime targets for child sex traffickers and lifelong trauma, advocates say. Last legislative session, a law emerged that mandates CPS to interview rescued foster runaways to find out if they’ve been abused while on the run. This past year, 32 rescued foster runaways admitted they were sexually trafficked. It’s believed the true numbers are higher since some recovered children will not want to share all of what happened to them during their flight. 32 rescued foster runaways admitted they were sexually trafficked And while CPS now assigns a special investigator to each foster runaway to scour social media channels for instance, child safety groups warn sex traffickers can be luring a wayward teen within hours – not days. Some pimps will hang out at a neighborhood convenience store, a place they know teens will gravitate, lawmakers heard. East Texas Rep. James White, R – Woodville, urged CPS leaders to do more before the new legislative session. “My local constable [or sheriff’s deputy or game warden] could act proactively and go to [that road] where the [known] human traffickers are and shut them down today.” Long road to recovery And for those who are rescued, it’s not as simple as returning them to any foster family. Child advocates say these traumatized kids need intensive help. Right now in Texas that kind of safe, therapeutic foster home does not exist – fewer still are emergency beds for rescued foster kids. The Refuge near Austin is a soon-to-open option for sex trafficking survivors along with faith-based non-profits. “This is happening to the most vulnerable children in our community,” says Dixie Hairston, Children At Risk, a Dallas-based non-profit. “If law enforcement goes out, they do a sting operation and they do recover a child, where are they going to take them after they recover them there are just not those places out there.” Child safety groups such as Children at Risk are asking lawmakers to further fund CPS to it can hire specialized caseworkers who deal with only foster kids who have been sex trafficked. CPS also says it has trained thousands of its caseworkers as well as DPS troopers to recognize if someone is being trafficked. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has also created educational materials for law enforcement and teachers around the state.  Source: http://kxan.com/2016/11/21/a-third-of-texas-foster-care-runaways-remain-missing-cps/
Troy foster care agency raided | Dayton news Troy foster care agency raided Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2016 @ 2:26 PM By: Breaking News StaffTroy Police executed a search warrant Wednesday afternoon at Isaiah’s Place, a private state-funded foster care agency. Officers removed several documents from the agency, located at 1100 Wayne St. No arrest was made, said Capt. Joe Long of Troy police. He said officers acted on an anonymous tip that as much as $100,000 could be missing. They’ve been investigating the case for about two weeks, Long said. Source: http://www.whio.com/news/crime--law/troy-foster-care-agency-raided/Wo6oxLcn15a4lFnUI6jTpL/
South Carolina mother demands answers after son drowned in foster care By Nickelle Smith, WSPA Published: November 27, 2016, 10:48 am Updated: November 27, 2016, 10:52 am  GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — A South Carolina mother is demanding answers after her son drowned while in foster care. Njamena Wilcox says she still remembers getting the devastating phone call that her two-year-old son Za’Marion Wilcox drowned at a community pool in Greenville County, while under the care of foster parents. “I just kinda lost everything,” she said. “He was just full of life. He was my only little boy.” Wilcox held a press conference alongside Bruce Wilson, founder of the organization ‘Fighting Injustice Together.’ Since her son’s drowning, the Department of Social Services has been investigating what happened. “All we asked was to be included, for this investigation to be transparent so this mother can know what happened to her baby,” said Wilson. “That didn’t happen.” Media General affiliate WSPA learned the DSS investigation concluded this week and revealed Za’Marion’s death was caused by neglect due to lack of oversight by his foster parents. The foster parents are appealing that decision. “I was mad because no one called to let me know anything,” said Wilcox. “No one still hasn’t called to let me know what’s going on.” The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating to see if charges will be filed. Wilcox now wants her 7 year-old-daughter out of DSS custody, and back with her relatives. “They’re supposed to protect your kids but then when they get your kids, stuff like this happens like what happened to my son,” she said. “I don’t know what could happen to my daughter so I want her to be with family.” The Office of Administrative Hearings will now review the DSS decision after the foster parents’ appeal. If that outcome is not reversed the foster parents will be placed on the central registry of abuse and neglect, barring them from working in childcare positions and adopting or fostering again. Source: http://wric.com/2016/11/27/south-carolina-mother-demands-answers-after-son-drowned-in-foster-care/
Illinois agency revokes group home provider's license The Associated Press LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story CHICAGO The Illinois Department of Human Services has revoked a group home provider's license and cited the state-funded business for safety issues and rights violations of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. On Monday, the department's chief licensing official, Felicia Stanton Gray, told Reuben Goodwin Sr. she was revoking the license for his eight group homes and daytime training program, all under the name Disability Services of Illinois, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2fLA7zI ) reported. "I think we do a good job to make sure people are safe and that the staff is trained," said Goodwin in an interview last month.  Goodwin can appeal the decision by requesting a hearing before Dec. 23, but the department will still move 45 adults to other community-living options in the next two weeks. Human Services spokeswoman Meredith Krantz said the state agency will work toward changing the way group homes "are held accountable in order to ensure individuals with disabilities receive high levels of care." The move comes after Disability Services was spotlighted in an investigation by the newspaper this month that revealed the inspector general's office mishandled a 2012 investigation into neglect allegations at Goodwin's business. The investigation found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show. The probe also identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois' Department of Human Services. Results from Chicago Tribune's investigation have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations. "My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on," Dimas said previously. The newspaper's attempts to reach Goodwin for comment were unsuccessful. Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/news/article117933753.html#storylink=cpy 
Foster care agency funds may have been used for gambling | www.mydaytondailynews.com Foster care agency funds may have been used for gambling, vacations The director of Isaiah’s Place has resigned and her brother, the financial officer, has been terminated. Crime & Law By Nancy Bowman - Contributing Writer 0  Updated: 8:06 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016  |  Posted: 7:42 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 Investigators who seized computers and boxes of documents during a Nov. 23 search of the nonprofit Isaiah’s Place were looking into allegations of conversion of at least $100,000 in agency funds for personal uses, according to court documents. Isaiah’s Place at 1100 Wayne St. is a foster care agency based in Troy. No charges have been filed. Steven Justice, a Troy lawyer representing Isaiah’s Place, said the financial issues at the organization came to light during the past two weeks. The agency director, Kelley Gunter, resigned since the search warrant was served and the financial officer, Matthew Gunter, was terminated, Justice said. The Gunters are sister and brother. Employee Irene Early has been named interim director as Justice and board members work with the state on ensuring the agency continues operations, the attorney said. “The others who work there are very hard working people who do a fantastic job of running the agency,” Justice said. “This is a good agency. It has done good work.” An affidavit filed in Miami County Municipal Court outlines allegations of an agency employee who told police in November that agency funds had been used for gambling, casino trips, home repairs, vacations, clothing and tanning sessions, among other expenses. The alleged misuse was revealed to police by an employee before an audit because the employee said the audit would disclose the problems, according to the search warrant. Isaiah’s Place was founded in 2003 and is a Christian-based agency that works with foster agencies in 10 counties, according to its website. In the search warrant inventory, police reported seizing computers along with payroll and bank records, receipts, tax paperwork, board meeting information and other paperwork, according to the inventory from the search filed with the court. Troy Police Capt. Jeff Kunkleman said investigators contacted the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for advice due to the amount of documents seized. Source: http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/news/crime-law/foster-care-agency-funds-may-have-been-used-for-ga/ntGxW/
Illinois agency revokes group home provider's license Published: Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 10:27 a.m. CST By Chicago Tribune CHICAGO (AP) – The Illinois Department of Human Services has revoked a group home provider’s license and cited the state-funded business for safety issues and rights violations of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. On Monday, the department’s chief licensing official, Felicia Stanton Gray, told Reuben Goodwin Sr. she was revoking the license for his eight group homes and daytime training program, all under the name Disability Services of Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported. “I think we do a good job to make sure people are safe and that the staff is trained,” said Goodwin in an interview last month. Goodwin can appeal the decision by requesting a hearing before Dec. 23, but the department will still move 45 adults to other community-living options in the next two weeks. Human Services spokeswoman Meredith Krantz said the state agency will work toward changing the way group homes “are held accountable in order to ensure individuals with disabilities receive high levels of care.” The move comes after Disability Services was spotlighted in an investigation by the newspaper this month that revealed the inspector general’s office mishandled a 2012 investigation into neglect allegations at Goodwin’s business. The investigation found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the past 7 years. Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show. The probe also identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 – hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois’ Department of Human Services. Results from Chicago Tribune’s investigation have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations. “My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on,” Dimas said previously. The newspaper’s attempts to reach Goodwin for comment were unsuccessful.  Source: http://www.saukvalley.com/2016/12/01/illinois-agency-revokes-group-home-providers-license/arzkc8y/
Our prison restraint techniques can kill children. Why aren’t we using alternatives? Children’s prisons use the MMPR regime which is not humane, not safe and not the only option. Our government is responsible for appalling abuses ‘A risk assessment carried out by an independent medical adviser concluded that 28 of the 66 sanctioned restraints had a 40% to 60% chance of resulting in injuries.’  The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that the Ministry of Justice had been told that the restraint techniques it had approved for use on children in custody could kill them. A risk assessment carried out by an independent medical adviser concluded that 28 of the 66 sanctioned restraints had a 40% to 60% chance of resulting in injuries involving the airway, breathing or circulation that could have catastrophic consequences – catastrophic being defined as “death or permanent severe disability affecting everyday life”. It also revealed that many restraints are likely to result in so called “minor” or “moderate” injuries – such as fractures/dislocations and ligament/tendon damage. As well as explicitly chronicling the dangers we are subjecting our children in custody to, the risk assessment table demonstrates another important truth – that bad practice in secure training centres (STC) and young offender institutions (YOI) does not begin and end with G4S, or whichever private security firm is running them. The government itself is responsible for the appalling abuses carried out in the name of restraint because, quite simply, it sanctioned them in the first place. When Panorama and the Guardian exposed dangerous restraint techniques used in a children’s prison run by G4S earlier this year, there were howls of outrage from the prison establishment. First, Panorama secretly filmed a boy being squeezed by his windpipe by a guard in Medway secure training centre shouting out that he couldn’t breathe. Then the Guardian spoke to two women who had been detainees at Medway five years earlier who also said that they struggled to breathe while being restrained. A number of guards have been charged with misconduct in public office and taking photographs inside the prison. The stories you need to read, in one handy email Sign up to The Guardian Today and get the must-read stories delivered straight to your inbox each morning Read more Soon enough, the Ministry of Justice and the Youth Justice Board, which oversees the safety and security of children in detention, appeared to conclude that G4S itself was the bad apple. Having ordered the company to come up with an improvement plan to prove it was fit to run the STC, in May it announced that the private security company would be stripped of the Medway contract, and that the government would take over its running. In its final report, the Medway improvement board concluded that Medway’s leadership team “has driven a culture that appears to be based on control and contract compliance rather than rehabilitation and safeguarding vulnerable young people”. It also suggested that official figures on restraint could not be believed because of the allegation that they were being falsified downwards to ensure that G4S complied with its contract. The damning report was perfectly fair. G4S could not have made a bigger botch of running Medway. (In 2015 it also lost the contract to run Rainsbrook STC after a joint report by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and the chief inspector of prisons into the centre condemned it for a series of failings.) But what the Medway improvement board never acknowledged was the government’s role in nurturing this culture. Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:00 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% Mute This is a modal window. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Panorama exposes teenage prison abuse Perhaps this is unsurprising. After all, until the risk-assessment table was obtained through one of the many freedom of information requests made by the indefatigable children’s rights campaigner Carolyne Willow, we never knew that the government had been advised by an medical expert that its restraints could result in catastrophic injuries. Or to take one particular example, there is a 60% chance of a child being moved through a doorway while being restrained and wearing a waist restraint belt suffering injuries involving the airway, breathing or circulation that can be potentially catastrophic. The irony is that this relatively new restraint regime, known as Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint (MMPR) was only introduced in 2012 as a result of the death of two boys in secure training centres following restraints. (Fifteen-year-old Gareth Myatt choked on his vomit while being restrained by three officers; 14-year-old Adam Rickwood hanged himself after being restrained by four staff, one of whom inflicted a painful restraint on him known “nose distraction”.) MMPR was supposed to be more humane and safe. So what did the government do when it discovered that it wasn’t? It classified the risk-assessment table and heavily redacted the MMPR manual that is publicly available, concluding with absurd Kafkaesque logic that if everything about MMPR was publicly known, children would learn how to resist it and put themselves at more risk of being harmed. For four years, Willow has fought, unsuccessfully, to see the uncensored manuals. In refusing her most recent request, the MoJ wrote: “It is considered that on balance, the likely threat to the good order and security of YOIs and prisons and the safety implication of this for young people and staff in both YOIs and prisons favours non-disclosure of the unredacted version of the MMPR training manual.” When we approached the Youth Justice Board about the risk-assessment table, and the fact that it had only praised MMPR without mentioning the dangers, there was much off-the-record handwringing. What’s the option, it asked; tell us if a better system exists? Tough love: is this a model prison for children? Last month, 14 young people were compensated for their mistreatment in British prisons. What can we learn from a groundbreaking scheme for young offenders in Spain? Eric Allison and Simon Hattenstone find out Read more So we did. One better system already exists in England and Wales. Secure children’s homes are run by local authorities rather than the MoJ, and they house some of the country’s most severe child offenders as well as some of the country’s most vulnerable non-criminal children. MMPR is banned in secure children’s homes (yet shockingly private security guards taking children to and from them can use it). They are expensive to run, but have low children to staff ratios, are learning-focused and are regarded as the closest this country has to model institutions for children in custody. Advertisement Meanwhile, Spain offers an even more impressive model. In 2014 we visited children’s prisons in Spain run by a non-profit organisation Diagramma. Some of the buildings we saw were frankly terrifying – old-fashioned Victorian prisons surrounded by barbed wire. But the attitude of staff within them could not be more different to that too often found in the YOIs and STCs of England and Wales. In Spain, the prison officers are called educators, they all have degrees, are relatively well paid, and all have the children’s best interests at heart. There were guards on site, but they were rarely called to action. The educators and detainees called each other by first names, ate with each other and treated each other with respect. Love, even. Whereas there is an alarmingly fast turnover of staff in children’s prisons in the UK, in Spain we were told that staff rarely left. We asked the director of one institution we visited when restraint had last ended in injury, and he looked at us as if we were mad. Never, was the answer. In fact, he could not remember the last time restraint had been used, full stop. The way in which the staff in these prisons transformed dangerous and feckless youths into responsible young adults looking forward to a bright future was astonishing. If Spain can achieve something so miraculous, there is no reason why we can’t.  Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/06/prison-approved-restraint-techniques-kill-children-alternatives-prisons-mmpr
Dozens rally against plans to create joint Hennepin/Ramsey juvenile facility About 100 people disrupted a meeting in Richfield, holding signs with slogans such as "No Cages for Kids." The meeting ended with several people yelling.  By Kelly Smith Star Tribune December 6, 2016 — 9:47pm Kelly Smith, Star TribuneAbout 100 protesters came to Tuesday night's meeting in Richfield, the fourth of seven community input meetings on Hennepin and Ramsey counties' plans for a joint juvenile treatment center.  Dozens of protesters rallied Tuesday against plans for a juvenile facility for teenage criminal offenders in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, saying they preferred to place the youths in community-based programs instead. About 100 people disrupted a meeting in Richfield, holding signs with slogans such as “No Cages for Kids.” The meeting ended with several people yelling, ripping up poster boards and chanting “Foster us, don’t criminalize us.” Advertisement: Replay Ad Ads by ZINC 3 “We know this program doesn’t work,” said Tonja Honsey, who helped start a local campaign called Youth Prison Blockaders. “The systems are old. We need to start taking care of these youth.” Tuesday’s meeting was the fourth of seven community input meetings the counties are holding on the proposed joint facility. County leaders say that no final decision has been made on a new facility, where it would be located or whether there would be only one building. A final vote from both county boards isn’t expected until April, when a final report will be released. The next public meeting will be held in January, followed by ones in February and March. The joint facility would replace the Hennepin County Home School in Minnetonka and Ramsey County’s Boys Totem Town in St. Paul, which Honsey’s organization and other activists want shut down in favor of more community-based programs for young offenders. Activists have referred to the counties’ residential treatment centers as “super juvenile prisons” or “youth prisons.” Community input meetings • 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 10, Arlington Hills Community Center, 1200 Payne Av., St. Paul. • 6 to 8 p.m. Feb 7, Hennepin County Home School, 14300 County Rd. 62, Minnetonka. • 6 to 8 p.m. March 7, Neighborhood House, 179 E. Robie St., St. Paul. But Chet Cooper, Hennepin County community corrections director, said that’s a major misconception. He said that the nonsecure facilities, which provide therapy and behavioral treatment, are needed to help a small group of teens who have committed violent or sexual assaults make their way back to the community. “We’ve heard loud and clear that a big infrastructure, prison-like environment ... is not what the community wants and that’s not what we want,” Cooper said of community input. “We are not a youth prison ... we are a treatment facility.” For more than a century, courts have ordered juveniles committing felonies to attend the Home School and Totem Town. Both state-licensed facilities have aging infrastructure and have seen demand for their services decline as more juvenile offenders have been shifted to in-home treatment. Cooper said that it isn’t realistic to get rid of such facilities just yet. “Public safety is still No. 1,” he said. “We still have a small number of our youth that need a facility.” But he said that community input so far has resulted in helping the counties scale down plans and aim for a campuslike model with no more than 100 teens. IN Equality, which advocates for police and court reform, in November presented the Ramsey County Board with 1,000 postcards signed by people opposing the joint facility. The group is concerned about the disproportionate number of children of color who are sentenced, as well as Hennepin County’s 49 percent recidivism rate. In Ramsey County, District Judge Patrick Diamond is one of the juvenile court judges who see the same teens return. “It’s not working,” he said of a large residential treatment center. “It’s frustrating at times there aren’t more and better alternatives available.”  Source: http://www.startribune.com/dozens-rally-against-plans-to-create-joint-hennepin-ramsey-juvenile-facility/405127716/
Baldwin County group home teens asked neighbor for help By Grace Tennyson Thursday, December 8th 2016 SBALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WEAR) — No criminal charges have been filed against a boys group home in Baldwin County but the sheriff's office is now involved. The Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) removed 25 boys from Blessed Hope Boys Academy over the weekend. All the boys are from out-of-state. A neighbor told the news she alerted authorities after two teenagers from the academy came to her for help. “They had to do exercises some days up to 9 hours if they were bad,” said Tina Boyington. “They weren't allowed to tell their parents anything negative over the phone or their phone call would get cut off.” DHR investigates allegations of abuse or neglect but the department has not provided any details on this investigation. The sheriff’s office met with the department on Wednesday, no information has been released from them either.  Source: http://weartv.com/news/local/baldwin-county-group-home-update
Teen says foster parents locked him in basement for months, poured salt on his open wounds - The Washington Post Teen says foster parents locked him in basement for months, poured salt on his open wounds The inside track on Washington politics. Be the first to know about new stories from PowerPost. Sign up to follow, and we’ll e-mail you free updates as they’re published. You’ll receive free e-mail news updates each time a new story is published. You’re all set! Sign up *Invalid email address Got it Got it By Travis M. Andrews Morning Mix December 8 at 7:16 AM Alabama teen says he was locked in basement and tortured for months Embed Copy Share Play Video0:34 Last month, a 14-year-old boy was found close to death after being locked in an Alabama basement for months. The boy's brother Eddie Carter spoke out about similar abuse from their foster parents, who are now both in jail. (Reuters) Last month, a 14-year-old boy was found close to death after being locked in an Alabama basement for months. The boy's brother Eddie Carter spoke out about similar abuse from their foster parents, who are now both in jail. Eddie Carter, the brother of a teen found close to death in a Helena, Alabama basement, says he too suffered abuse from his foster parents. (Reuters) “It gets to that point where you’re like an animal. You feel like an animal.” These are the words of Eddie Carter, an 18-year-old reflecting on the years of abuse he told AL.com that he suffered, years during which he claims his parents would lock him in the basement, sometimes for several months straight. He spoke out to the news organization after his foster parents, Richard and Cynthia Kelly, were charged with aggravated child abuse for keeping his 14-year-old brother trapped in the basement of their Alabama home for much of two years. When the boy was found, he weighed 55 pounds. That’s half of the average weight of a 14-year-old boy, 110 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Associated Press reported the boy was in critical condition on Nov. 15, and the Helena Police Chief Pete Folmar called it the “worst case of neglect” he’s ever seen. The two will appear in court on Dec. 14 and 15 for preliminary hearings. They have not yet entered a plea. But Eddie Carter said he too was mistreated. The teenager was his younger brother, and Carter alleged that the couple once held him in the basement as well. He told AL.com that he and his brother were two of five siblings born to a woman in Huntsville, who eventually lost parental rights to all of them for reasons he did not explain. The five were passed around from foster home to foster home, but Carter and his brother were never separated. “I took care of him a lot, changing his diapers and stuff, making sure he was eating. When he was sleeping, I’d check his chest to make sure he was breathing,” Carter told the newspaper. “My little brother was like my golden egg. I just had to keep him safe. It was my main goal not to be separated ever.” When was 11 years old and his brother was 7, a Christian adoption agency brought them to the Kellys. Carter remembered feeling excited at the time. “It’s a big shot to get adopted,” he said. “It’s really exciting.” It didn’t take long for that to change, though. “Like people say, the true colors came out,” Carter said. “The honeymoon cycle is over and, after that, everything went to crap.” He claimed the couple sent him down to the basement as a punishment after about 18 months, where there was a bed but no bathroom. The light-switches didn’t work — they were controlled from the outside. The door to the outside world was locked, and the door to the house was equipped with a motion sensor, prepared to alert the family should he try to leave. Sometimes, he alleged, he would be locked down there for months at a time. If he needed to use the bathroom, he’d do so in a corner of the room, on the floor. “The room stank like piss,” he said. “It was really horrible.” Sometimes, they would feed him vegetables, which he hated, down there. Sometimes, they would only give him bread and water. “They would say, ‘Jesus survived off bread and water, so you can too,”’ he said. “It was like a torture method. They were upstairs eating pizza and Chinese, and I’d be eating bread and water.” He began chewing his lips until they would bleed, and he claimed the couple would pour salt on the open wounds as punishment. Eventually, he would show his anger. “I would bang on the walls just to keep people awake in the house,” Carter told AL.com. “I got aggressive, like, ‘I’m not about to stay down here. Hell no. I wasn’t having it, and think I said I was going to do something to somebody.” Wearing a hooded letter jacket and a baseball cap in his recorded interview with the newspaper, Carter  said, “I felt like a wild animal at any type of affection, after a while. I didn’t really trust anybody.” In 2013, Arizona rapper Nick Carter, who goes by Murs, adopted Carter. But not his brother. “I thought about him every single day,” Carter said. “At that point, I was blaming myself for getting sent away.” But there wasn’t much he could do, so he “prayed it didn’t happen to him.” But more was rotten in Carter’s life. A year after his adoption, Murs returned him to the foster care system after he claimed the boy filed false claims of neglect and abuse against him and his wife. “Nothing was substantiated,” Murs told Contact Music. “We definitely were able to clear it up once we went to court and they came to the house and also saw the damage he did to my property, and they quickly changed their tune.” Added Murs, “Even though he filed a false claim on us, I know he’s just angry, I tell him, ‘When you hit rock bottom, I’m there for you so call me.’” Now, Carter lives alone in Arizona. Murs and his wife remain Carter’s legal parents. The couple bought him a planet ticket to fly from Arizona to Alabama after his brother was found. The Kellys were not arrested for any of these allegations, but for the alleged child abuse of his brother. The arrest warrants alleged he was “subjected to forced isolation for extended period of time.” Two days after the teenager was found, a prayer vigil was held for the boy. Eighty people came to pray on a baseball field in the Helena Sports Complex. “We wanted to raise awareness to the unknown things that are going on in our community,” Amanda Shannell told the paper. “When we come together and pray together, miracles can happen.” For Carter, it seemed as if one did. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for his brother, who WHNT reported remains hospitalized at Children’s of Alabama. Richard and Cynthia Kelly are both being held at the Shelby County Jail, their bonds set at $1 million each. Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/12/08/teen-says-foster-parents-locked-him-in-basement-for-months-poured-salt-on-his-open-wounds/
Boot camp failures scored by judge Michael Moser Michael Moser Dec 8, 2016 Timothy Joel Boles pleaded guilty to methamphetamine selling charges and theft of property of more than $1,000 in January of this year and was supposed to four years in prison. In July, Boles was released to boot camp probation by the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He met with TDOC probation officer Chad McCaleb on July 6. Boles tested positive for meth — and admitted taking meth — on July 14. Assistant Public Defender Ellie Putman represented Boles in a probation violation hearing Friday and argued that he had completed the boot camp program and that most of his probation violations were “technical” ones. She asked that if his probation were to be revoked, that he be placed under house arrest supervision of community corrections and allowed to remain free. Assistant District Attorney Amanda Worley countered that Boles agreed to the four-year sentence when he pleaded guilty and 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