Oklahoma Judge, Husband Continue To Get DHS Payments Despite Charges


OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma judge and her husband have turned themselves in to authorities after facing more than 30 felony counts of perjury and fraudulent claims.
Oklahoma District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure and her husband Karlos Antonio LeSure Sr. face four counts of perjury and 32 counts of fraudulent claims for allegedly accepting false claims of foster care reimbursements from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney filed charges against the two Friday.
Karlos LeSure and his attorney were the first to arrive at the Oklahoma County jail just before 10 a.m. Monday. Minutes later, Tammy Bass-LeSure arrived with her attorney to also turn herself in.
According to the charges filed "Tammy Bass-LeSure knowingly, willfully and feloniously made fraudulent claims for public funds in the form of foster care reimbursement payments against the state of Oklahoma."
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the LeSures applied in January 2008 to become foster-care providers for the children and to receive payments from the state. The couple adopted the siblings after the children's biological parents terminated their parental rights, the affidavit said.
The District Attorney said the LeSures accepted more than $19,000 to take care of two twin foster children that were supposed to live with Judge Bass-LeSure and her husband, but who court records state actually lived with her bailiff's sister, Ravonda Edwards.
"We are cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation. We will have to wait and see what actually comes out of this investigation to see whether the charges against Judge LeSure are founded or not, and we'll have to see what information comes from that if there needs to be any changes made to our processes," said Sheree Powell, DHS spokesperson.
The twins are now in state custody, but payments will continue to be sent to the LeSures  because the LeSures are still legally and financially responsible for the them. By law DHS cannot suspend payments, even though the judge and her husband are being investigated for fraud and perjury.
Judge Bass-LeSure's attorney said the judge maintains her innocence.
"Strong, courageous, compassionate woman; strong, courageous compassionate judge," said LeSure's attorney "This matter is going to be decided in a courtroom and she maintains 100 percent she's innocent of the charges."
The couple was arraigned and both pleaded not guilty on all counts. They were both released on their own recognizance.
A preliminary hearing conference has been set for March 31 at 9 a.m.
Kapri Whitehead is the birthmother of the twins. She said she wanted to keep her son and daughter but felt constantly pressured to give them up.
"She took me through the ringer. She took me through all this mess. All this type of stuff from my past resurfaced, and I didn't even know nothing about it, and I know that was her doing. I know that was her making me look bad in court," Whitehead said.
Meanwhile Edwards is facing several criminal charges.
Edwards faces a first-degree arson charge stemming from a incident at a former partner's home on June 4, according to court documents.
Court documents also show Edwards is being charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, kidnapping and a charge of causing malicious injury. She was also charged with a first-degree burglary charge in July.
Almost all the criminal charges against Edwards occurred during the same time prosecutors said she was caring for the twin babies thought to be living with Judge LeSure.
DHS confirmed Edwards was a caseworker from June of 2005 to January of 2010. DHS officials said policy would have prohibited her from being an alternative caregiver for the LeSures only if she was the caseworker assigned to that case.
Santiago calls for stricter rules on foster care
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called on Monday for stricter rules in foster care to protect foster children from abuse or negligence.
Senate Bill No. 2486, also known as the Foster Care Act, is currently being debated upon in the Senate plenary. It was authored by Senators Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, Manny Villar, Pia Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, and Franklin Drilon.
Santiago takes exception in the definition of “family” in the bill. Under SB No. 2486, the family refers to “the Parents and relatives of the Child within the fourth (4th) degree of consanguinity or affinity, including, but not limited to, the Child’s ascendants, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters.”
According to the senator, the above definition runs counter to the definition of “family” under the Family Code.
“In any law that concerns the family, the definition of ‘family’ in the Family Code should always be followed,” she said. “Hence, pursuant to the Code, ‘family’ only refers to the parents, ascendants, and brothers and sisters, whether of full or half-blood, of the child. Any person not falling within this classification should get a license to foster the child.”
Santiago said the State should exhaust all means to find a home for the child with his/her family members, whether that home is a permanent one through adoption or temporary one through foster care. If placement within the child’s extended family is not possible, only then should the child placed for adoption or even foster care by non-relatives.
Santiago added that the bill should ensure that the prospective foster parent is fit to take care of a child.
“It is not enough that a foster parent should be of legal age and at least sixteen years older that the child to be placed in foster care. The parent should be more mature than the child and can credibly carry out the responsibilities of a parent and demand obedience of the child,” Santiago said.
The senator suggested that the bill should provide for a section on the Rights and Duties of Foster Parents. Further, foster parents should not be allowed to use corporal punishment to discipline their foster children.
“We should make sure that foster parents are able to provide the child under their care the love, understanding, and security as if they are of their own flesh and blood,” Santiago said.
The bill provides for a monthly subsidy given by the government to a foster parent to cover the foster child’s basic needs. In this light, Santiago wants the bill to put a limitation to the number of children a foster parent may foster.
“This limitation ensures that the principal motivation for an individual to become a foster parent is not to earn a living but to give a home to a child. Further, given that parents, including foster parents, have a myriad of responsibilities, they ought not to be distracted by too many obligations,” Santiago said.

Broward child welfare officials failed to stop abuse of infant who suffered brain damage, attorney says

Broward County child welfare officials failed to protect an infant who suffered brain damage after he was allowed to continue living with his mother and her boyfriend despite signs of abuse, one of the child's attorneys told jurors Monday.
Two months before Jace Manning's skull was fractured, his grandmother warned authorities that the 5-month-old was in danger after he was hospitalized with an unexplained bruise under his chin, said Gary M. Cohen, part of the legal team suing the Broward Sheriff's Office and Broward County on Jace's behalf. Opening statements in the Broward Circuit Court case were Monday.
"This never should have happened," Cohen said. "They had two months to get it right."
An attorney for the Sheriff's Office countered that the child protection investigator assigned to Jace's case did her job, trying to do what was right while following the law. The investigator was only "one spoke in the wheel" of the child protection system, said Sheri Weissenborn, part of the sheriff's legal team in the case.
Jace was rushed to an emergency room on Feb. 2, 2006, after his mother's boyfriend called 911 to report the boy was having a seizure in their Coral Springs apartment. The head trauma has left the now 5-year-old boy developmentally disabled. He needs intensive speech therapy and walks with a limp.
Jace's attorneys did not indicate to jurors Monday how much money they are seeking for the boy, who now lives with his grandmother. The initial lawsuit filed on Jace's behalf had listed 10 defendants, but the other eight defendants — including the state Department of Children & Families and Florida Department of Health — have resolved their parts of the case out of court. The settlements with the state agencies were not readily available Monday.
No one was ever criminally charged with hurting Jace. The Broward State Attorney's Office concluded it couldn't prove who injured the boy.
Cohen told the six-person jury that Jace was first taken to the hospital in October 2005 after his mother's boyfriend said he had to perform CPR on the boy when he appeared to stop breathing.
The next time he was hospitalized — Dec. 1, 2005 — the boy was lethargic, anemic and bruised, Cohen said. That's when Jace's grandmother, Denise Manning, and a hospital employee separately called the Florida Abuse Hotline, prompting Jace's first contact with the child welfare system.
Jace's grandmother handed a letter to child welfare officials stating she believed he was in danger.
Denise Manning wrote that her daughter's boyfriend thought it was funny to scare the baby and when he looked at the boy he was reminded that his girlfriend had been with another man. On one occasion, the boyfriend cut off the arms and legs of one of Jace's toys because he mad at the boy's mother, Jace's grandmother wrote.
Cohen said the child protection investigator in Jace's case failed to conduct the needed interviews and approached the case as if it was the result of clashes between the boy's mother and grandmother. Jace was allowed to go back to his mother with Broward County's Child Protection Team recommending she receive services and counseling and her boyfriend have no contact with the boy, Cohen said.
A week after Jace left the hospital, the medical director of the Child Protection Team reviewed the boy's records and concluded there was evidence to support the boy was being abused, Cohen said.
Yet Jace was allowed to stay with his mother, who was still living at her boyfriend's apartment, Cohen said.
Weissenborn said the Sheriff's Office did its job investigating the abuse report and that it's up to the Florida Attorney General's Office to decide whether to petition for a child's removal from a home. The ultimate decision would be left to a judge, Weissenborn said.
Broward County is being sued because it is responsible for the Child Protection Team. The county's attorney, Reginald Hicks, argued the team only does medical assessments and referrals and has no authority over what happens to a child.
Testimony is expected to continue Tuesday in the case before Circuit Judge John Bowman. The trial is expected to last at least three weeks.

Oklahoma Judge, Husband Continue To Get DHS Payments Despite Charges

OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma judge and her husband have turned themselves in to authorities after facing more than 30 felony counts of perjury and fraudulent claims.
Oklahoma District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure and her husband Karlos Antonio LeSure Sr. face four counts of perjury and 32 counts of fraudulent claims for allegedly accepting false claims of foster care reimbursements from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney filed charges against the two Friday.
Karlos LeSure and his attorney were the first to arrive at the Oklahoma County jail just before 10 a.m. Monday. Minutes later, Tammy Bass-LeSure arrived with her attorney to also turn herself in.
According to the charges filed "Tammy Bass-LeSure knowingly, willfully and feloniously made fraudulent claims for public funds in the form of foster care reimbursement payments against the state of Oklahoma."
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the LeSures applied in January 2008 to become foster-care providers for the children and to receive payments from the state. The couple adopted the siblings after the children's biological parents terminated their parental rights, the affidavit said.
The District Attorney said the LeSures accepted more than $19,000 to take care of two twin foster children that were supposed to live with Judge Bass-LeSure and her husband, but who court records state actually lived with her bailiff's sister, Ravonda Edwards.
"We are cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation. We will have to wait and see what actually comes out of this investigation to see whether the charges against Judge LeSure are founded or not, and we'll have to see what information comes from that if there needs to be any changes made to our processes," said Sheree Powell, DHS spokesperson.
The twins are now in state custody, but payments will continue to be sent to the LeSures  because the LeSures are still legally and financially responsible for the them. By law DHS cannot suspend payments, even though the judge and her husband are being investigated for fraud and perjury.
Judge Bass-LeSure's attorney said the judge maintains her innocence.
"Strong, courageous, compassionate woman; strong, courageous compassionate judge," said LeSure's attorney "This matter is going to be decided in a courtroom and she maintains 100 percent she's innocent of the charges."
The couple was arraigned and both pleaded not guilty on all counts. They were both released on their own recognizance.
A preliminary hearing conference has been set for March 31 at 9 a.m.
Kapri Whitehead is the birthmother of the twins. She said she wanted to keep her son and daughter but felt constantly pressured to give them up.
"She took me through the ringer. She took me through all this mess. All this type of stuff from my past resurfaced, and I didn't even know nothing about it, and I know that was her doing. I know that was her making me look bad in court," Whitehead said.
Meanwhile Edwards is facing several criminal charges.
Edwards faces a first-degree arson charge stemming from a incident at a former partner's home on June 4, according to court documents.
Court documents also show Edwards is being charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, kidnapping and a charge of causing malicious injury. She was also charged with a first-degree burglary charge in July.
Almost all the criminal charges against Edwards occurred during the same time prosecutors said she was caring for the twin babies thought to be living with Judge LeSure.
DHS confirmed Edwards was a caseworker from June of 2005 to January of 2010. DHS officials said policy would have prohibited her from being an alternative caregiver for the LeSures only if she was the caseworker assigned to that case.
Santiago calls for stricter rules on foster care
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called on Monday for stricter rules in foster care to protect foster children from abuse or negligence.
Senate Bill No. 2486, also known as the Foster Care Act, is currently being debated upon in the Senate plenary. It was authored by Senators Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, Manny Villar, Pia Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, and Franklin Drilon.
Santiago takes exception in the definition of “family” in the bill. Under SB No. 2486, the family refers to “the Parents and relatives of the Child within the fourth (4th) degree of consanguinity or affinity, including, but not limited to, the Child’s ascendants, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters.”
According to the senator, the above definition runs counter to the definition of “family” under the Family Code.
“In any law that concerns the family, the definition of ‘family’ in the Family Code should always be followed,” she said. “Hence, pursuant to the Code, ‘family’ only refers to the parents, ascendants, and brothers and sisters, whether of full or half-blood, of the child. Any person not falling within this classification should get a license to foster the child.”
Santiago said the State should exhaust all means to find a home for the child with his/her family members, whether that home is a permanent one through adoption or temporary one through foster care. If placement within the child’s extended family is not possible, only then should the child placed for adoption or even foster care by non-relatives.
Santiago added that the bill should ensure that the prospective foster parent is fit to take care of a child.
“It is not enough that a foster parent should be of legal age and at least sixteen years older that the child to be placed in foster care. The parent should be more mature than the child and can credibly carry out the responsibilities of a parent and demand obedience of the child,” Santiago said.
The senator suggested that the bill should provide for a section on the Rights and Duties of Foster Parents. Further, foster parents should not be allowed to use corporal punishment to discipline their foster children.
“We should make sure that foster parents are able to provide the child under their care the love, understanding, and security as if they are of their own flesh and blood,” Santiago said.
The bill provides for a monthly subsidy given by the government to a foster parent to cover the foster child’s basic needs. In this light, Santiago wants the bill to put a limitation to the number of children a foster parent may foster.
“This limitation ensures that the principal motivation for an individual to become a foster parent is not to earn a living but to give a home to a child. Further, given that parents, including foster parents, have a myriad of responsibilities, they ought not to be distracted by too many obligations,” Santiago said.

Former Alberta child protection worker found guilty of child porn, voyeurism

1/24/2011
A former school counsellor in northern Alberta has been found guilty of possessing child pornography and voyeurism.
Jason Keough was found not guilty of making child pornography and sexual touching.
A 20-year-old male who lived with Keough in Athabasca, testified that Keough told him his then 16-year-old girlfriend could only stay over if the couple made sex tapes.
He testified they made seven or eight videos, and Keough kept all of them.
The male testified he felt ``awful'' making the videos, and the girlfriend described the situation as ``disgusting.''
Keough spent 18 months as a native education counsellor at Edwin Parr Composite High School in Athabasca and was a child and protection worker with Alberta Child and Family Services, but was fired when the charges were laid.

DA: Social worker stole death benefits from foster child

A social worker from White Plains has been accused of stealing $16,260 worth of death benefits from a 16-year-old client who was under her supervision.
Kimberly Coelho, 46, of 37 Waldo Ave., was charged with third-degree grand larceny, a felony, after her arrest Monday by investigators from the Westchester County District Attorney's Office.
Coelho, a social worker at the Irvington-based Abbott House social service agency, is accused of making numerous withdrawals from a Social Security Death Benefit fund account that was set up for the 16-year-old boy last year by his foster mother. Authorities said the foster mother had adopted the boy and was dying of cancer when she started the account and gave Coelho access to it.
Following the adoptive mother's death, the boy was sent to another foster home and his new foster parent reported in November that money was missing from the account.
An investigation by the DA's office revealed that Coelho allegedly withdrew money several times last year between April and November.
Coelho, who is to be arraigned in White Plains City Court on Feb. 7, faces up to seven years in state prison if convicted.

Torture of Antioch foster twins, death, reaching courthouse climax

By John Simerman
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 01/25/2011 04:38:08 PM PST
Updated: 01/26/2011 05:00:21 AM PST

Blame spreads around, it seems, for the brutal death of 15-year-old Jazzmin Davis, of Antioch, in 2008 and the torture authorities say she and her twin brother suffered for years at the hands of their aunt and foster mom, Shemeeka Davis.
San Francisco officials have agreed in principle to pay $4 million to Jazzmin's brother to settle a lawsuit against the city's child welfare agency and social worker Ann Marie Smith, accused of turning a blind eye to abuse at the house on Killdeer Drive in Antioch.
The Antioch Unified School District also is poised to pay as part of the same lawsuit, although Superintendent Don Gill said a judge has yet to finalize a settlement and declined to reveal an amount. Lawyers for Jazzmin's brother accuse school employees of ignoring clear signs of abuse and failing to report her habitual truancy -- the result of her captivity in a bedroom where authorities say Shemeeka Davis burned, battered and starved the twins to skin and bones, scars and bruises.
In May, the court-appointed advocate for the foster twins, Tali Soltz, agreed to settle with Jazzmin's brother for $100,000, court records show.
Meanwhile, a March 14 trial date approaches for Davis, 40, who faces five felony charges and a possible life sentence, accused of abusing and torturing the twins and killing Jazzmin.
The developments come 21/2 years after police climbed the stairs to the barren bedroom and found Jazzmin's naked corpse covered in open wounds, sores and scars. Among the evidence: a bloody and broken closet rod, a belt with a padlock attached to the end, a clothes iron that police said Davis would level hot on her skin. Davis also would strafe carpet tack strips across the twins' bodies as punishment, police said.
Jazzmin, at 5-feet-7, weighed 78 pounds. Bay Area News Group is not naming her brother, who police said looked the same -- only alive. He turns 18 next month and faces myriad mental and physical problems, according to court documents.
Darren Kessler, an attorney for the brother, declined to discuss the case pending final approval of the San Francisco settlement. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors was scheduled to introduce the settlement deal late Tuesday for review.
Child welfare documents obtained by Bay Area News Group through a court petition shortly after Jazzmin's death revealed that Smith, a veteran social worker, violated state regulations that require regular reports from doctors, therapists and others. She also failed to verify Jazzmin's school attendance, among other lapses, all the while steering Davis toward legal guardianship of the twins.
A San Francisco judge awarded the aunt legal guardianship on Aug. 27, 2008, ending the county's oversight six days before Jazzmin's death.
The head of the San Francisco Human Services Agency, Trent Rhorer, at first said the case file showed "that we've done everything that was within our power to protect these kids and others from abuse and neglect." He later acknowledged that the case logs raised doubts about the medical documentation, but that Smith had little cause to question Davis' honesty about the children's care.
Davis took in the twins from San Francisco as infants in 1993.
"A placement that's as stable as this, for as long as this -- there was no reason to believe Shemeeka would be hiding anything, or Jazzmin hiding anything," Rhorer said in November 2008. "There were no cues."
The case files, however, showed evidence over the years that Davis struggled with the twins and failed to meet requirements for their medical care. The lawsuit goes further, accusing Smith of "malicious and oppressive" conduct.
The twins told her during a home visit that they received "whoopings," the lawsuit claims, "and instead of inquiring about the nature of the 'whoopings,' Smith responded by admonishing the kids to behave." It also claims Smith ignored "warnings and stern instructions" from a public health nurse to get long overdue physical exams for the twins. Further, it accuses Smith of failing to inspect the room where Jazzmin and her brother lived.
"Had she done so, she would have seen a room that was bare, without clothing for the kids, and floors soaked with urine and feces, especially the closet where they were imprisoned." Police said the twins had been locked in the bedroom and closet for months before Jazzmin's death.
At school, the lawsuit claims, a vice principal "observed scars and scratches on Jazzmin's body, and that she had a black eye," but failed to ask questions or report it. The lawsuit claims the district and others knew of the abuse three years before Jazzmin died, and that school officials dropped the ball on reporting her truancy.
School records showed she last attended Antioch High School for about six weeks at the start of the 2007 year. School officials dropped her from the rolls for lack of attendance. Her brother planned to attend the high school in August 2008, but Davis refused to allow it because of his behavior, according to an investigative report after Jazzmin's death.
Jazzmin's brother said Davis whipped her with an extension cord just before her death for urinating on the carpet and doorframe of Davis' room. He blamed himself for the beatings that left his body scarred. He said he'd been abused with extension cords, belts and an iron for years.
"I didn't think it was anything bad. I thought it was punishment for doing wrong," he said. "I deserved it."
A pediatrician examined him a day after Jazzmin's death. His sickle cell anemia had gone untreated for three years. But the boy had other worries.
"(He) is most concerned that (Davis) does not know that he loves her."

Judge adopts twins for money, then gives them away

OKLAHOMA CITY (CNN) - An Oklahoma judge is accused of defrauding the state out of tens of thousands of dollars is now facing dozens of felony charges and more may be filed soon.
Prosecutors said Judge Tammy Bass-Lesure adopted twin orphans, but then gave them away to a friend to raise while still accepting money from the state.
The judge is accused of taking nearly $22,000 dollars from the Department of Human Services (DHS).
"She and her husband adopted two children that they had fostered in June of last year," Sheree Powell of DHS said.
According to the district attorney's office, Bass-Lesure and her husband never actually cared for the 3-year-old twins.
Dating back to February 2008, the District Attorney said that Bass-Lesure received dozens of payments, most of which were for $730.
Court papers said some of the money was spent at spas, nail salons and casinos.
DHS would not comment on the charges against the judge, but did explain how the payment system works.
"All of our foster parents and adopted parents are eligible for a subsidy payment to help defray some of the cost of caring for the children," Powell said.
Bass-Lesure had been a foster parent with the state since 2004.
Powell said there are safeguards in place to make sure the state is not cheated out of money, but there are fewer protections once children are adopted.
"We always go out and do assessments and valuations of children in foster care, once the child is adopted they are then the children of the person who adopts them," she said.
Bass-Lesure's husband is also facing charges.
According to court papers, the twins involved are still in

Audit: Too many kids diverted to foster care

Legislative auditors believe too many Utah children are being diverted to foster care instead of being treated, along with their families, at home.
A report released this week by Utah’s Legislative Auditor General says putting more children into foster care is costing the state too much money when alternatives are available that also can protect children, plus help resolve family issues.
The auditors pointed out that more than 700 children have been added to the Utah foster care system in the past decade, a 38 percent increase, and a trend opposite to what has happened around the U.S.
“This is … troubling to us,” noted the authors of the report, which was presented Tuesday to the audit subcommittee of the Legislative Management Committee. “We found…that other states are reducing their foster care populations.”
In total, the audit of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) made 19 performance recommendations to the agency, none of which agency leaders said they disagreed with as long as the agency can continue to protect children, where appropriate.
“We plan to use the recommendations … to implement positive change and improvement within the division,” answered Brent Platt, the DCFS director, in responding to the report.
A settlement from the 1993 David C. lawsuit, which challenged the child welfare system in Utah, started the state on a major change in how it treated kids who were at risk of abuse, neglect or dependency.
Since 1993, Utah has more than tripled the DCFS budget and the number of agency employees.
But in talking with DCFS workers, auditors said they were told the changes from the lawsuit made DCFS and the court employees more “risk averse,” leading employees to believe the system can better protect children in foster care than in-home.
Platt, who took his post during the past year, believes a growing underage population, more complicated cases and recent funding cuts also contributed in the switch to foster care options, which could include new homes or institutions.
But the auditors said the division should reverse its practice of diverting resources from in-home programs and find other efficiencies to balance out how kids and their families are handled by DCFS.
Those in-home programs include counseling, education, case management and various tests and assessments.

Woman who killed child denied new attorney

Sentencing is set to go ahead as planned next week for a Santa Maria woman who murdered her 3-year-old foster son, after a Superior Court judge denied her request for a new attorney.
Sylvia Dominguez, 30, and her attorney, Senior Deputy Public Defender David Ogren, took part Friday in a closed hearing with Judge Edward Bullard in which they apparently discussed Dominguez’s concerns over her legal representation.
When a defendant indicates he or she wants a new lawyer, the judge must hold a “Marsden hearing” if the attorney is court-appointed. A hearing on a Marsden motion is what transpired Friday.
In order to obtain new counsel, the defendant must show that representation is inadequate or that defendant and counsel have become embroiled in an irreconcilable conflict that makes ineffective representation likely.
Ogren remains Dominguez’s attorney, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley, the case prosecutor, and the sentencing hearing for Dominguez and her co-defendant is still slated for Thursday.
Ogren could not be reached.
Dominguez pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in the death of 3-year-old Gilbert Dominguez, her nephew and foster son, in June 2008.
Her long-term boyfriend, 34-year-old Gabriel Peralta of Santa Maria, pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and admitted an allegation he caused great bodily injury to a child under 5.
Dominguez is facing a term of 15 years to life in prison, and Peralta is expected to get 12 years in prison.
The pair share three biological children.
The prosecution has presented evidence that Dominguez, after becoming angry with Gilbert, drowned him with bathtub water on June 11, 2008.
Santa Maria police Officer Andy Magallon testified at a prior hearing that Peralta admitted he had “crossed the line” before while disciplining Gilbert, and that he did not call 9-1-1 when Dominguez told him over the phone that Gilbert wasn't breathing.
Dominguez told police at the time that Gilbert wasn't breathing possibly because he choked on peanut butter.


Death reviews show government failed to protect children

Staffing shortages, inexperienced social workers and inadequate supervision continue to undermine the B.C. government's efforts to protect vulnerable children, its own internal reviews of several child deaths have found.
Nine of 12 reviews posted recently on the Ministry of Children and Family Development website detail significant gaps in services to children or youth before they died.
As well as staffing issues, the reports cite competing caseload demands, poor communication between agencies, superficial investigations and the lack of a coordinated approach to helping children and families.
Only three cases cite exemplary or strong social work.
The reviews, which were posted shortly before Christmas, examine the ministry's involvement with the children before they died. Six of the children died while in government care. The other six were "known to the ministry," meaning they were the subject of a child protection report or had received ministry services in the 12 months before their death.
The reviews do not identify the children or youth, nor do they indicate where, when or how they died.
But Christine Ash, spokeswoman for the ministry, said in an email to Postmedia News that it continues to face challenges recruiting and keeping staff in rural and remote areas. "This is not a budget issue, but a recruitment issue," she said.
The ministry is trying to address the problem by enhancing northern recruitment and allowing social workers to spend more time in their communities while training, she said.
"As well, part of this strategy will include conducting a large region-wide recruitment process, which could include over-hiring to keep up with the demand."
The ministry has also discussed plans to recruit third-and fourth-year social-work students at post-secondary institutions this spring.
Ash said only that the deaths occurred over the past three years. The documents, however, show that nine of the 12 who died were aboriginal.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s independent representative for children and youth, said the posted reports lack sufficient detail to provide a clear picture of what happened in each case.
But as "vague" as the reports are, they still raise significant concerns about whether the ministry is meeting its own standards, she said.
"They also point to the fact that this is a ministry which is continuing to struggle with some fundamental issues," she said. "I'm seeking more assurances that these issues are being addressed everywhere."
Turpel-Lafond, who expects to release her own report on a number of infant deaths in a few weeks, expressed concern about the lack of regular internal audits by the ministry.
"We have these reviews, which suggest some real deficiencies in practice -- whether the root cause is inadequate staffing, practice change itself or what have you -- and we need to have that comfort in each region that the practice is up to the standards that are in place," she said.
Some of the government's reviews are particularly scathing. One report documents a case in which a call to the ministry was assessed and closed before the identity of the family was known.
"The shortfall in practice and service included not clarifying caller information at the time of the child protection report, not properly documenting events, not communicating with the ministry program regarding services following the incident, and potentially leaving the youth's sibling at risk," the review stated.
In another case, the ministry failed to carry out a comprehensive assessment, in part because of the "social worker's inconsistent followup and competing casework responsibilities, staff shortages, and unavailability of supervisory consultation."
A third report cites "systemic barriers such as competing caseload demands, staff inexperience, and availability of supervisory consultation."

Abuse, murder case may net foster child $4 million

A boy who suffered abuse while in San Francisco’s foster care system and whose twin sister was murdered by their guardian is poised to receive $4 million to settle a lawsuit he filed against The City.
In 2008, Antioch foster mother Shameeka Davis was charged by the Contra Costa County district attorney with torturing and murdering her 15-year-old niece Jazzmin Davis and abusing her twin brother.
The children were under the supervision of the San Francisco Department of Child Protective Services.
Examinations reportedly showed both had been burned with hot irons and whipped with belts and electrical cords over time. In August 2009, the brother filed a lawsuit against The City.
A $4 million settlement agreement will be introduced Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors for review and approval.
The San Francisco Examiner is not naming the brother because he’s a minor.
The case raised questions about the state of San Francisco’s foster care system.
At the time of the incident, Trent Rhorer, executive director of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency, was quoted in the press as saying neither San Francisco nor Contra Costa children’s services received any reports of suspected abuse. A social worker had visited Jazzmin in March 2008 and reportedly found no evidence of abuse. Jazzmin was found dead in September of that year.
“This is not something that goes away,” said Darren Kessler, the plaintiff’s attorney. “This is something that will be with him for the rest of his life.”
Kessler said a “central focus” of the case should be on why the abuse happened in the first place.
“There has been a lax attitude toward children in the foster care system.” Kessler said, adding, “Hopefully this outcome will make a difference.”

Racial Disparities in Dallas Foster Care System

By Imani Evans, Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner –
No one will ever pretend that the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) has an easy job. As an agency charged with protecting minor children from abuse, neglect, and exploitation - and empowered to remove children from homes, if necessary - DFPS will always be a political hot-button. Concerns about equity, fairness, and effectiveness have always dogged the agency, which is why it's not surprising that certain state legislators, notably State Senator Royce West, seek to make DFPS reform part of the legislative agenda for the 2011 session.
Last month, West, in conjunction with the DFPS in Region 3, sponsored a town hall meeting at Head Start of Greater Dallas to solicit comment and raise public awareness of racial disparities within the foster care system - DFPS' domain. The issue at hand is emotionally charged: the overrepresentation of children of color in the foster care system in Dallas County. Despite being 20 percent of all children, minority children are 42 percent of confirmed victims of abuse and neglect, 50 percent of children removed from homes, and 42 percent of children waiting adoption at the end of the year.
The speakers at the town hall included Audrey Deckinga, assistant commissioner for Child Protective Services, and Joyce James, director of the recently established Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities, a division of the Texas Health and Human Services System.
"The purpose of the meeting was to revisit the community and the issues that had previously been brought out in a town hall meeting about five years prior, when the work began," said Sheila Sturgis Craig, Disproportionality Project Manager. "And Senator West wanted to have folks really come back out and talk about what unfolded as a result of the efforts that had been made around addressing disproportionality."
According to Maxine Jones Robinson, DFPS Disproportionality Specialist for Region 3 which includes Dallas and Tarrant counties, "African American children are overrepresented in the child welfare system and there are many, many causes for this. When you see the numbers, they are continuously going up, but if you look at Anglo children's numbers, they are constantly decreasing."
Last month’s town hall meeting also served as a progress report of sorts for the DFPS Disproportionality Project, which was created as a result of DFPS' effort to understand and remedy the issue since submitting two reports to the Legislature in 2006. The first report was a study of the problem, the second a remediation plan. As part of the effort, DFPS formed an advisory board consisting of community leaders, educators, service providers, and judges.
"We're trying to bring people to the table that our families often have some kind of contact with," said Robinson of DFPS. "For instance, oftentimes our families come into contact with public housing and with the food stamp system. They come into contact with the judicial system. They come into contact with law enforcement. Oftentimes, the same families that we're serving are also being served by these other entities and so we have found that there are many, many causes for the disproportionality."
Recognizing this interconnectedness between the concerns of DFPS and the practices of other institutions that Black families interface with is a central feature of the remediation effort.
"It is not just a Child Protective Services problem. It's a problem that occurs in the juvenile justice system, the health care system, the school system, etc. There are many systems where African American families have disparate outcomes as a result of their interactions with those systems," Robinson said.
According to Craig, the town hall meeting was successful. It touched on issues such as support for caregivers, the challenges faced by prospective foster and adoptive parents who are African American, and airing community concerns. Although disproportionality on the whole has not decreased in Dallas County, according to Craig, although there has been a reduction in removals. Craig attributes this to intensified efforts to work with birth families in the interest of keeping children in their homes.
The DFPS analysis also emphasizes the multifaceted nature of the problem, defying one-size-fits-all solutions. For example, Robinson points out that families served by DFPS are often younger, less educated, and mired in poverty, all variables that co-mingle with race. Reporter bias, as shown by caseworkers unable to clearly distinguish between neglect and poverty, also plays a role.
In its totality, the situation may be best described as the vexing result of systemic weakness combined with the failure of some front-line CPS workers to take stock of their own cultural prejudices, or lacking guidance on how to do so.
"We're looking at our policies and practices to make sure that any policies and practices that we have that create a disparity between groups we bring to the attention of our leadership in Austin so that we can look at possibly trying to change," Jones said. "Some things we can't change because they're legislatively mandated. That's why we're working with legislators as well so they can have a good understanding of disproportionality, cultural differences and disparities."

Stabile Center Reports on The Overmedication of Foster Children

Orphan earmarks, drugged cops and overmedicated children in foster care: These were the subjects of investigations published by students of Columbia University’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism this past month.
USA Today led its Jan. 5 edition with a Stabile Center investigation into how congressional earmarks have cost states $7.5 billion dollars in lost highway funding over the last 20 years.
Stabile Center student Cezary Podkul began researching  “orphan earmarks” last summer and found over 7,000 congressionally directed highway projects in which the money, or a good portion of it, remains unspent for various reasons. At least 3,600 of these haven’t been spent at all because of typographical or other errors.  But states cannot reallocate these unspent earmarks, which are counted against their share of federal highway funds.
Podkul pieced together the information  by doing freedom of information requests in 50 states in order to build a nationwide database on orphan earmarks. He spent four months researching the project on his own and two months working on the story with USA Today.
The story has also been featured in the  NBC Nightly News.
On Dec. 12, the New Jersey Star-Ledger  published the first of a three-part series, “Strong at any Cost,” documenting the extent of steroid and HGH abuse within law-enforcement agencies in New Jersey. Stabile Center student Amy Brittain and Star-Ledger reporter Mark Mueller worked seven months on the series. Brittain began working on the project in the fall of 2009 while enrolled at Columbia University's Journalism School.
The reporters interviewed more than 200 people including doctors, patients, , police chiefs, local and state officials and nationally recognized experts on steroids and other hormones.
They identified 248 officers and firefighters illegally using steroids by comparing the records of the New Jersey pharmacy that supplied them with public databases containing the names of every law enforcement officer and firefighter in the state.
On Jan. 7, the PBS program “Need to Know,” aired an investigation on the abuses in the foster care system in Texas that led to children being overprescribed with antipsychotic drugs. The report was produced by Stabile students Mar Cabra and Sarah Fitzgerald and Need to Know correspondent Shoshana Guy. The journalists traveled to Texas and followed a 12-year-old who had been prescribed 26 psychotropic drugs by nine doctors in the nine years he was in the Texas foster care system.
The project received support from the Stabile Center, The Nation Investigative Fund and the New York Chapter of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

Westport foster parents charged with child abuse

John Nickerson, Staff Writer
Published: 10:44 a.m., Friday, January 21, 2011


WESTPORT -- The foster parents of four children were arrested this week for allegedly injuring a 6-month-old boy so severely he had bleeding on the brain and endangering the welfare of the other young children.
Debbie DeCarvalho, 42, and Mario Leone, 38, of 1040 Post Road East, turned themselves in to police Wednesday and were charged with first-degree assault and risk of injury to a minor.
DeCarvalho, kennel manager and pet stylist at a pet grooming business, Town House for Dogs and Cats, located at her Post Road East address, told police she was the caretaker of the youngsters, and was additionally charged with four counts of risk of injury to a minor.
DeCarvalho was freed after posting a $50,000 cash bond; her husband, Leone, was freed after posting a $25,000 cash bond. The two are to appear in court on Jan. 28, but the date may be moved to Feb. 3, their attorney said.
An investigation of DeCarvalho began when she took the boy to Norwalk Hospital on July 2, 2010, saying the infant had a "seizure like episode," her four-page arrest warrant affidavit said.
After examining the baby and ordering a CAT scan, doctors discovered the child had bleeding on the brain and a possible skull fracture -- injuries indicative of shaken baby syndrome, the affidavit said.
DeCarvalho's attorney, Vicki Hutchinson, said she has not seen any of the medical records or statements from any of doctors or witnesses.
"At this point I have no comment on any of this," Hutchinson said.
DeCarvalho, who had the baby for three weeks, said the baby's arms went stiff, then lifeless before experiencing breathing problems when she was changing him, the affidavit states; DeCarvalho, who also runs a nonprofit dog rescue organization called Tiny Paws Wet Noses, was adamant the baby had not had a recent fall or any reason to experience blunt trauma to the head.
But when police spoke to Leone -- after initially ruling out a fall -- he confessed the infant had fallen off the couch, but even though the baby had been with them for three weeks, could not say when the fall occurred, according to the affidavit.
When state Department of Children and Families workers interviewed the other children, they said while DeCarvalho worked at her pet grooming business she paid little attention to them. The three said they were left alone watching television during the day while DeCarvalho groomed the animals.
DeCarvalho said she checked on the kids once an hour and told police they all knew that if they needed anything all they had to do was hit the intercom button on their baby monitors.

Family sues Idaho after child dies in foster care

Associated Press - January 20, 2011 11:14 AM ET
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) - The family of a northern Idaho toddler who died after sustaining injuries while in foster care has filed a lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the foster parents, and two state employees.
The child's biological mother, Samantha Richardson, and maternal grandmother, Karin Rogers, filed the lawsuit last month in federal court. The Spokesman-Review reports that the family is seeking at least $50,000 along with attorney fees.
2-year-old Karina Janay Moore died Jan. 16, 2009, about a week after a foster parent told police the girl fell down a flight of carpeted stairs at the Post Falls foster home.
The Medical Examiner's Office in Spokane County in Washington state ruled the death a homicide due to blunt force head injuries. Police say no arrests have been made.
Officials at the state Department of Health and Welfare declined to comment.

Inquiry examines death of girl in foster care

CBC News
A fatality inquiry is looking into the death of a 13-year-old disabled girl who spent most of her life in foster care.
Samantha Martin died of a heart attack in December 2006, five months after she began living full-time with her biological family.
The girl had a rare chromosomal abnormality called Tetrasomy 18p.
Doctors told the Martin family Samantha would never lead a normal life, her mother Velvet Martin told the inquiry.
Shortly after Samantha was born, her parents put her in foster care upon the advice of workers from the provincial department of Children’s Services, Martin said.
Children’s Services told them Samantha would have access to better medical treatment, said Martin.
The Martin family claims Samantha was mistreated while in foster care. When Samantha visited the Martin home she was starving, Martin said.
She would check Samantha for bruising finding one bruise that stretched from her eye socket to her chin, she said.
At one point during the inquiry Tuesday Martin blurted out to the foster parents, "It's difficult to be in this room especially when you're smiling at me."
The inquiry, scheduled for two weeks, will look into the cause of her death and circumstances leading up to it.

Okla judge charged in foster-care claims case

Associated Press - January 21, 2011 8:15 PM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma County judge and her husband have been charged for allegedly submitting nearly $20,000 in fraudulent foster care reimbursement claims to the state for children who didn't live with them.
Tammy Bass-LeSure was accused Friday in 32 counts of making a false, fictitious or fraudulent claim against the state and two counts of perjury. Karlos LeSure was charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of making a false, fictitious or fraudulent claim.
According to court documents, the LeSures applied to become foster-care providers and receive payments for two children in 2008. A woman identified as the sister of Bass-LeSure's bailiff told investigators she has had physical custody of the toddlers since they were placed with the couple.
A telephone number for the LeSures couldn't be found Friday

Foster parents arrested for abusing baby

Posted on 01/21/2011 By STEVE KOBAK
Hour Staff Writer

A pair of Westport foster parents were arrested for abusing a 6-month-old infant Wednesday after a six-month investigation that began when the infant was admitted to Norwalk Hospital, suffering from Shaken Baby Syndrome, police said.
Debbie DeCarvalho, 42, and Mario Leone, 38, were each charged with first-degree assault and risk of injury to a minor. Both suspects posted $50,000 bond and will appear in court Jan. 28.
The couple had four foster children, including the infant, and the Department of Children and Families removed the children from their custody when the investigation began, according to Lt. Vincent Penna, a spokesman for the Westport Police Department.
Leone and DeCarvalho admitted the infant to Norwalk Hospital on July 2, and the infant's condition triggered a red flag with doctors, who suspected child abuse and called police, according to an affidavit.
The infant, who had only been in the foster parents' care for three weeks before the incident, was taken to Westchester Medical Center because of the severity of the infant's injuries, police said.
Leone and DeCarvalho took the baby to the hospital because it had a "seizure-like episode," but doctors discovered that the infant had bleeding in the brain and a skull fracture, according to police.
Doctors said the wounds were "indicative" of Shaken Baby Syndrome, police said.
DeCarvalho told a Norwalk Hospital pediatrician that "the baby had not experienced any accidental falls or blunt trauma," according to court documents.

Family sues Idaho after child dies in foster care

Associated Press - January 20, 2011 11:14 AM ET

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) - The family of a northern Idaho toddler who died after sustaining injuries while in foster care has filed a lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the foster parents, and two state employees.
The child's biological mother, Samantha Richardson, and maternal grandmother, Karin Rogers, filed the lawsuit last month in federal court. The Spokesman-Review reports that the family is seeking at least $50,000 along with attorney fees.
2-year-old Karina Janay Moore died Jan. 16, 2009, about a week after a foster parent told police the girl fell down a flight of carpeted stairs at the Post Falls foster home.
The Medical Examiner's Office in Spokane County in Washington state ruled the death a homicide due to blunt force head injuries. Police say no arrests have been made.
Officials at the state Department of Health and Welfare declined to comment.

New study finds court flaws in foster care system

It says foster care leaves many voiceless, adrift.
By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje
Published: 12:00 a.m., Friday, January 21, 2011

A new study commissioned by the state found that thousands of children bounce around in the foster care system for years and never find a permanent home, partly because of flaws in the judicial system.
Conducted by Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based social justice group, the study examined data for all 21,000 children in long-term foster care in Texas in 2008. It revealed that children in state custody for more than three years experienced an average of 11 different placements, according to a news release issued by the group.
“Too often, these children are forgotten once they enter the state's permanent managing conservatorship,” said Rebecca Lightsey, executive director of Texas Appleseed. “Their placement review hearings are little more than status reports, for which some stakeholders are often ill-prepared. The sense of urgency to find these children safe, permanent homes is lost.”
In Texas, African American children are twice as likely to be removed from their homes and placed in foster care as Anglo children, but they are less likely to leave foster care before aging out at 18.
Marcy Greer, a partner at Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, which helped conduct the study, said children in foster care often have little or no opportunity to express their desires to the judge in the case review hearings.
“Texas has good statutes on the books and many well-intentioned people working in the child welfare system,” she said. “But our judicial system must do a better job at holding all stakeholders accountable for doing everything possible to find permanent placements for these children. It is unacceptable that there are so many children in (permanent state care) without an advocate. Many cannot even identify the attorney assigned to protect their interests.”
The current Texas statute requires that all children attend their placement review hearings, but few do, Lightsey said.
Foster parents also frequently fail to receive notice of the hearings, she said.
The study offers recommendations to help remedy the problem, including safeguards that ensure children are heard in court or in chambers during placement reviews and that the same judge conducts the reviews while they remain in state care.
Other recommendations include the appointment of a court advocate for every child and improvements in the docketing and notice of hearings.
The Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth & Families, which commissioned the study, is spearheading an effort to develop a pilot program, triggered by the study, to see if changes in the scope, frequency and nature of case review hearings will help place more children in permanent homes, Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman said.
Given the current budget crisis, the study's recommendations won't cost additional state money, Appleseed said.

Child advocates rate Nevada a D-

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Posted: Jan. 21, 2011 | 11:05 a.m.


When it comes to the welfare of Nevada's children, the state continues to do a barely passable job compared to the nation, a child advocacy group reports.

In its 2010 Nevada Children's Report Card released Friday, the Children's Advocacy Alliance gave the state a D-minus overall grade, down from the D-plus of two years ago.
"The state of Nevada will never be better than the state of our families," said Gard Jameson, the group's president.
The report card assigns letter grades based on the state's national ranking in 20 categories covering child health, safety, education and teen years.
Nevada received one B for its ranking in child mortality. Four categories received C's, five received D's and the rest were F's. The lowest grade indicates a bottom-10 national ranking.
"Although the grades seem pretty much the same, I see a lot of sprouts of hope," Jameson said.
He pointed to community groups that are working to address larger problems affecting children, such as hunger, homelessness and health care. Those community efforts are especially important when state and local budgets are tight, he said.
Volunteers can also play an important part in improving children's lives by becoming foster parents or court-appointed special advocates for children in the child welfare system, he said.
"We need human capital because we don't have much financial capital," Jameson said.

Inquiry into disabled girl's death draws emotions

EDMONTON -- The fatality inquiry into the death of a severely disabled 13-year-old girl is so emotionally charged it drew placard-carrying activists all the way from Ontario to an Edmonton courtroom Monday.
"We're here for Samantha," said Linda Plourde of Protecting Canadian Children, a group that advocates for kids who are wards of the state. "Her story is all over the Internet."
Somehow, Plourde and Margaret Steiss managed to carry several placards and banners with Samantha Martin's picture into the courtroom before sheriffs ordered the women to take them out of the building.
"Why aren't you protecting the children?" Plourde demanded of the sheriffs.
Samantha Martin died in Dec. 2006, of cardiac arrest. It was six months after she moved back into her St. Albert, Alta., parents' home following more than a decade in foster care.
She had a rare genetic disorder called Tetrasomy 18p, which left her mentally and physically disabled. She lived in a foster home that specialized in children with disabilities not far from St. Albert.
Samantha's parents, John and Velvet Martin, are convinced that her time in foster care contributed to her death.
"Our daughter was ill-treated," Velvet told the inquiry. "There were things going on with our daughter that were not good."
No criminal charges were ever laid in connection with Samantha's death, and an internal review by children's services in 2007 concluded there was no link between the foster system and the tragedy.
Since then, Velvet pushed for a public fatality inquiry. They do not look for blame, but examine the circumstances surrounding a death to see if there's anything that can done to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Velvet said shortly after Samantha died she found documents showing the foster home -- which cannot be identified under the law -- had been investigated for something not connected to her daughter.
She also said she found that the school had several "incident reports" about Samantha, but their details were not revealed Monday.
Velvet also accused Samantha's caseworker with children's services of failing to keep proper records, describing the child's file as "skeletal."
She said the foster family ignored concerns from the school that Samantha was having frequent tiny seizures.
Velvet testified that when it was clear shortly after Samantha was born that she was severely disabled, social workers urged the Martins give their child over to foster care.
They were told that if Samantha was in care she'd get full access to programming she needed, which they would have to pay for themselves if she lived with them.
They signed a voluntary "permanent guardianship agreement" -- an order they could have cancelled with 10-days notice, but Velvet said, "We thought (if we did that), Samantha wouldn't get what she needed."
In 2005, children's services was reorganized and Samantha's file was transferred to another office, Velvet said.
"They said, 'Oh my God, this is a mess.' We don't know what to do with you.'"
She was told the permanent guardianship agreement had been done away with previously, and it "doesn't exist under law," but no one had told them.
Velvet continues to testify Tuesday, when she's expected to be cross-examined by lawyers for the foster family and children's services. The inquiry is expected to last three weeks.

Child sexually abused in foster care



Prosecutor says system failed victim
Updated: Tuesday, 18 Jan 2011, 10:16 PM CST
Published : Tuesday, 18 Jan 2011, 10:15 PM CST

Shannon Wolfson

Austin (KXAN) - A foster father was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a teenage girl who was placed in his care by the state of Texas.

A Hays County jury sentenced Jesus "Jesse" Aranda, of Dripping Springs, on January 14.  According to an indictment, Aranda committed the assault in April of 2008. Testimony in trial indicated he paid his foster daughter to perform oral sex on him.
Court documents said the 15-year-old was in the care of Aranda and his wife, who were foster parents to the victim and several other children. The victim was removed from her home and placed with the Aranda's after she was sexually abused.
"I was really appalled by the lack of support for this victim," said Hays County Prosecutor Cathy Compton, who said she believes the victim in this case was failed more than once by the system.
The state placed the victim with the Arandas through the Settlement Home agency in Austin. Compton said she was "appalled" that employees from the Settlement Home appeared to show support for Aranda in court.
"They sat with his family- they were there supporting him- even after the jury came back with a verdict of guilty," said Compton. "The mission is to be supportive of that child and it does appall me when people for whatever reason lose their objectivity. Maybe if you don't know who to believe, then be neutral."
Phone calls made by KXAN to the Settlement Home Director were not returned.
Aranda is not eligible for bond pending any appeal due to both the length of the sentence and the nature of the

Advocates ask for RI foster care suit to proceed...

By Eric Tucker
Associated Press / January 19, 2011

 PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A lawsuit alleging that Rhode Island's foster children are routinely neglected and abused should move forward, the advocates who brought the case say in new court papers. The lawsuit alleges that the state's foster care system is broken, with caseworkers who are saddled by excessive caseloads and children in state custody who are at risk of harm and are shuffled from home-to-home without having their needs met. About 2,300 children are in the state foster care system, the advocacy group says.
The suit was initially dismissed in 2009 but reinstated last year by a federal appeals court.
The state has again asked a judge to throw the case out, arguing that the federal court has no jurisdiction to hear it and that the 2007 suit is moot since several of the 10 children who were named as plaintiffs have been adopted and are no longer in the state's legal custody.
But lawyers for Children's Rights, a national watchdog group that brought the case, say in court papers filed late Tuesday that the state is trying to avoid responsibility for a failed system and is refusing to address the merits of the lawsuit.
"What they're saying is we don't want those claims to be heard at all," said Shirim Nothenberg, a staff attorney for Children's Rights. "There's been a lot of energy spent trying to avoid having the merits of these children's claims heard."
She said the problems are so systemic that they can't be fixed individually at the family court level but rather require a federal lawsuit. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status.
The group's suggested changes include requiring the Department of Children, Youth and Families to limit caseworker caseloads and to adequately recruit, screen and train adoptive parents.
Jim Lee, the chief of the civil division at the state attorney general's office, which is representing the state in the lawsuit, said the child advocate's office -- which also brought the suit -- could and should have addressed any concerns about individual children with the state's family court. But that, he said, has not happened.
"The child advocate can walk in there today, yesterday or three years ago and tell the judge, 'This is a problem. Here's my position. Act on it,'" Lee said.

Oklahoma City police officer arrested on sex crime complaints


Police Sgt. Maurice Anthony Martinez, 44, was arrested Wednesday on complaints of lewd acts with a child younger than 16 and forcible sodomy, police spokesman Capt. Patrick Stewart said. Martinez has been placed on paid administrative leave.
An Oklahoma City police officer, who was honored as a top foster parent, was arrested Wednesday on child sex abuse complaints.
Sgt. Maurice Anthony Martinez, 44, was arrested on complaints of lewd acts with a child younger than 16 and forcible sodomy, police spokesman Capt. Patrick Stewart said. Martinez has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Martinez began taking in foster children in 2001 and has had about 60 foster children come through his home, said Sheree Powell, DHS spokeswoman. The award he received along with five other people in 2010 recognizes foster parents for their “selfless dedication to the safety and well-being of children placed in their homes.”
Martinez had three adopted sons and three foster sons in his care at the time of his arrest, Stewart said. The boys, who are between 12 and 17 years old, have been taken into protective custody.
Martinez specialized in providing foster care only for boys, The Oklahoman confirmed.
An anonymous complaint to the Department of Human Services led to an investigation of Martinez, Stewart said. Martinez was interviewed by police, but Stewart would not discuss the details of the interview.
Police only know of one victim, but an investigation is ongoing, Stewart said. He would not say whether the accusations involve any of the children living with Martinez. Oklahoma City police do not publicly identify victims of alleged sex crimes.
“We are surprised and disappointed about the information that has been reported from this investigation,” Powell said.
DHS officials are cooperating with law enforcement officers and are willing to help them track down Martinez’s former foster children for questioning if asked to do so, Powell said.
“Our first priority is the safety of these children and we have taken all appropriate steps to ensure their safety,” Powell said. “Until the investigation is complete, no children will be placed in that home.”
Martinez is the only adult living in his home, Stewart said. The 18-year veteran is a patrol officer assigned to the south side of Oklahoma City. Martinez was not married during the years he was an adoptive and foster parent, and he has another adopted son who is now an adult, Stewart said.
There is no DHS rule against placing children in single-parent homes, Powell said.
“We do have a very rigorous background check, reference check and home studies that they must all pass,” she said.
Once children are placed in a foster home, DHS has an ongoing relationship with the foster parents and children, she said.
Martinez will remain on leave pending the outcome of criminal and internal investigations, Stewart said.
Martinez was booked into Oklahoma County jail and later released on $80,000 bail, jail records show. He had not been charged Thursday.
Oklahoma City attorney Irven Box said he will be representing Martinez, but he had not yet spoken to his client Thursday and had no comment.
Martinez did not answer his telephone Thursday.
He was recognized in 2010 by the Foster Care and Adoptive Association of Oklahoma and the state Department of Human Services as one of six resource parents of the year