State Halts Foster Care Placements With Contractor


Following the drowning of two foster children on Sunday, the Department of Family and Protective Services has halted placements by a state contractor that was responsible for overseeing the children’s care.
Following the drowning of two foster children in Lake Georgetown on Sunday, the Department of Family and Protective Services has placed a temporary hold on foster care placements by a state contractor that was responsible for overseeing the children’s care.
DFPS said on Monday that placements of foster care children with Providence Service Corporation have been temporarily suspended pending an investigation into the death of a 4-year-old boy and his 6-year-old sister, who had been placed in a Cedar Park foster home. Officials with Providence could not immediately be reached for comment.
The incident is likely to be met with scrutiny from child advocates who have suggested that the state’s “foster care redesign” initiative, which Providence is spearheading through a pilot program, could be problematic.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy,” DFPS Commissioner John Specia said in a statement. “We will find out exactly what happened and whether or not it could have been prevented. Foster children must be kept safe.”
The state has tasked Providence, which oversees 29 foster children in eight homes in Central Texas, with leading the redesign of the state’s foster care program, which pivots on increasing partnerships with private contractors to streamline the foster care placement process and keep children closer to home when they’re placed with a foster care family.
The redesign process formally began in 2010, though its first contract with Providence took effect in February 2013, according to DFPS.
Through its contract, Providence has received $8.3 million from the state for foster care services, according to DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins. Its contract for 2014 alone is estimated to be worth $30.4 million, and the corporation has a five-year contract with the state.
Opponents of foster care redesign have raised concerns about the oversight of the private contractors, and they have called for the state to examine the program’s outcomes before expanding.
The redesign has already been gradually rolled out in North Texas and West Texas, and the state is gearing up for a wider implementation.
Ashley Harris, a child welfare policy associate with Texans Care for Children, said the state “shouldn’t push further privatization” under the redesign initiative until it establishes better safety standards for children.
"We're still learning the details of this heartbreaking case, but we know that Texas needs stronger statewide standards for screening and training foster parents,” Harris said.
In its review of the department, staffers at the Sunset Advisory Commission, which is charged with identifying inefficiencies at state agencies, also recommended that DFPS further evaluate performance data from its current contractors to better assess the foster care redesign model before implementing it more broadly across the state.
DFPS said it agreed with the directive and was currently evaluating its contractors.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/07/07/cps-halts-foster-care-placements-state-contractor/.
Copyright 2014 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



Lawsuit accuses DSS of keeping siblings together in foster homes despite sexual abuse

 By MEG KINNARD  Associated Press

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — South Carolina's social services agency repeatedly placed a young girl and her brother together in the same foster homes, even though officials knew for years that one was sexually abusing the other, according to a lawsuit filed against the state Department of Social Services and others.
That allegation is part of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the girl, now 19, against DSS, several companies contracted to provide group home foster care, and several employees for grossly negligent supervision.
The case traces back to 1999, when the girl, then 4 years old girl was removed from her mother's South Carolina home along with her 8-year-old brother. The lawsuit says not only did relatives abuse both children but that the boy admitted having sex with his sister.
Despite that disclosure, the suit alleges, the department continued to place the siblings together, in foster homes, group homes and with relatives. The brother's abuse of the sister also continued despite a warning from a therapist in 2001 who had treated the girl to the department that the children had been intimate.
"True to form, DSS continued to attempt to place the children together," the girl's attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
Social Services officials even tried to have the children adopted together, according to the suit, but the girl was ultimately adopted alone in 2003. Her adoptive parents weren't given details about her abuse history and only learned about her past after the girl revealed the abuse during counseling, which her parents sought after she began to act out at home.
In court papers, DSS and the youth homes where the children lived have denied the allegations, saying they could not have anticipated the "alleged intentional and criminal conduct" of the girl's brother. In a statement to The Associated Press, a DSS spokeswoman said the agency works hard to ensure the safety of children in its care.
"There is nothing more important at the Department of Social Services than working to respond to families in crisis and the tragedies that result from abuse and neglect," Marilyn Matheus said. "Making sure our children in foster care are placed with the best foster parents possible and in safe and loving environments will always be one of our top priorities."
The girl subsequently suffered from behavioral problems and had to be confined to residential treatment for a time because her adoptive parents weren't able to control her, according to her attorneys. The agency's attitude toward children's safety ultimately breeds patterns of abuse that can eventually land the children in juvenile detention or jail.
"These children get raped, and they themselves become sexually aggressive," Robert Butcher, one of the girl's attorneys, said in a recent interview with the AP. "It's creating a cycle, and it's creating monsters within. And to compound the problem, they don't provide these children with sexual trauma therapy."
The girl's brother, who remained in the foster care system until he aged out, is currently in jail, accused of molesting another child, Butcher said.
"Although not every foster child becomes a criminal, you do understand that this is a symptom of South Carolina's illness, which is our foster care system," Butcher said.
________________________________________
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP



Foster mom bonds out of jail after child left in car at Publix



APOPKA, Fla. —
A foster care parent bonded out of the Orange County Jail Friday morning after police said she left a young child in a car at a Publix grocery store on Thursday.
Apopka police said Monique Williams, 53, left the 15-month-old boy unattended in her vehicle for approximately 20 minutes in the parking lot of the Publix on Rock Springs Road.
"A passerby noticed the child in the car," said Capt. Randy Fernandez with Apopka police.
Investigators said the car was not running and the windows were up.
Williams was taken to the Orange County Jail after being questioned at Apopak police headquarters.
"Why did  you leave a child in the car?" Channel 9 reporter Julie Salomone asked.
"It was a mistake," Williams said as she was being taken to a waiting patrol car. "He was very sick and just a mistake was made that's all."
The foster mother told police the child had an eye infection. Investigators believe it was about 90 degrees inside the car.
"The kid was wet from sweat and the medics were called to check on the child," said Fernandez.
Williams was charged with child neglect and fulfilled a $1,000 bond Friday morning. Officials said the boy has been returned to the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families







Dickson foster parent arrested for child sex abuse


DICKSON, OK -- A Dickson man, who's served as a foster parent for several years, has been arrested for child sexual abuse.
60-year-old Steven Wayne Anglin was arrested Monday night for child abuse and 4 counts of rape.
Anglin is accused of sexually abusing several children, boys and girls from ages 7 to 13.
Dickson Police Chief John Ruiz says the abuse may have taken place over a period of several years.
He says DHS and the Carter County Sheriff's Office are also assisting in the investigation.
Ruiz says, "It's still, like I said, it's early on in the investigation...i do have my report that I will be turning in first thing in the morning. But I feel that's just the beginning of more things that will come out."
Ruiz says Anglin is due in court tomorrow for an initial appearance.





Minn. Doctor Charged for Allegedly Choking Foster Child with Plastic Glove


By: Megan Stewart

A Hubbard County man has been charged with attempted murder of his foster son, according to the Hubbard County Attorney's Office.
Officials say Dennis James Sullivan has also been charged with first and third degree assault arising from an incident at their home in Benedict on Tuesday.
Sullivan was arrested in Fargo Thursday and waived extradition to Minnesota.
ABC-affiliate WDAZ reports the 50-year-old doctor tried to choke his 10-year-old special needs foster child with a plastic glove Tuesday night. The foster mother heard the 10-year-old choking. WDAZ reports she discovered Sullivan pushing the glove down the child's throat when she went to check on him.
WDAZ reports Sullivan then called the Grand Forks Stadter Center, saying he had homicidal thoughts. He drove to the facility, where police arrested him.
The Hubbard County Sheriff's Office expected Sullivan in court on Friday or Monday.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and North Dakota law enforcement agencies assisted in the investigation.



Foster mom suspected of giving drugs to girls



 RUSSELL — A foster parent was arrested Thursday in charges of possession of marijuana and endangering a child, Russell County Sheriff John Fletcher announced.
According to a statement released Friday, the arrest of Pam Pertl stemmed from a criminal investigation that began on June 5. Deputies from the RCSO were summoned to the third floor of the Russell County Courthouse. A social worker from the Hays office of the DCF called to request an officer and an ambulance, as they were there with St. Francis Community and Family Services doing a Kansas Department of Health and Environment investigation. Pertl, a foster mother, had allegedly tested positive for marijuana, as had three of the four girls.
One girl said the mother and the other girls drank bleach with milk in Bunker Hill.
Deputies applied for and obtained a search warrant for 105 8th St. in Bunker Hill and collected 11.65 grams of suspected marijuana, drug paraphernalia, cups with liquid for testing, and liquid bleach. All four foster children were removed from the house and place in other homes by St. Francis. Reports were filed with the Russell County Attorney’s Office.
At warrant was issued at 4:35 p.m. Thursday and Pertl was arrested at 6:40 p.m. for possession of marijuana, two counts of distribution of marijuana an three counts of aggravated endangering of a child. She was booked in the Russell County Jail with bond set at $40,000.        



Childhood abuse leads Reddick to seek foster care reform



The unsparing obituary

To read the full text of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick's obituary, go to:
http://archive.rgj.com/article/20130912/NEWS/130912005/Full-text-Marianne-Theresa-Johnson-Reddick-s-obituary

By Ellie Bogue of The News-Sentinel
Monday, June 16, 2014 - 8:00 am

The first time Katherine Reddick entered the foster care system she was 6 months old.
Until she was 7 years old, she bounced back and forth between her mother and foster care. While in foster care, her 16-month-old-brother was beaten to death. When she was 7, she was permanently placed in a children's home, where she remained until she was 18.
Even as an adult her mother continued to be an abusive force in her life. Reddick and her other siblings finally left town to get away from her. After her mother died September 30 Reddick and her brother wrote and published her mother's obituary in the newspaper. In the letter they revealed to the public the truth about their mother and her abusive treatment of her children.
The opening paragraph:
“Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick, born Jan 4, 1935 and died alone on Sept. 30, 2013. She is survived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible. While she neglected and abused her small children, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love.”
Reddick said she felt relief when her mother passed away: relief she no longer had to worry about dealing with her mother and relief she could now return to her hometown if she wanted to. She said she “wrote the obituary to re-ignite the discussion about child abuse in this country, and how our society has neglected to do much about it to help it.”
Reddick has taken her experience and used it to fuel her ambition to help others. At 57, she now holds a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology and is certified to be school principal and superintendent.
Working as an assistant principal at Ross Elementary School in Odessa, Texas, she sees the collateral damage every day: children who are either in the foster care system or live in abusive family situations. She wants to change the system. She doesn't blame the child-welfare system, but she said it just doesn't work. She wants to get groups involved who will be willing to provide services to help these kids make it in life.
“When you have been in the system, it's like you have been in prison, you have no idea how to interact socially and function once you are out on your own,” Reddick said.
“It's like taking your child and dropping (the child) into Japan. It is a foreign culture where you don't speak the language,” Reddick said.
Is it any wonder, Reddick asks, that 70 percent of the prisoners in the U.S. penal system were at one time in the foster-care system? In 2006, there were 400,000 children in the foster care system in the US.
Beginning June 26, Reddick will be in the area to spread her message of system reform.
Reddick will meet with Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards June 26, then speak at the Kendallville Library 5:30-6:30 p.m that evening. In the morning on June 27, she'll be on Theater for Ideas. On June 28, she'll speak at the main Allen County Public Library downtown at 2 p.m. and do workshops on foster care.
Reddick's visit is presented by Three Rivers Art Center for Kids TRACK and made possible by a grant from the Cable Fund Access Board.



Lincoln County mom pleads guilty of beating adopted daughter, foster child


LINCOLN COUNTY • The mother of several adopted children — including one who disappeared for more than seven hours in 2010, triggering a massive search — pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of child abuse.
Sharon Wilkerson, 55, of the first block of Lakota Acres, entered the plea before Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer as part of a deal with prosecutors. Wilkerson had faced 29 counts of child abuse. In exchange for pleading guilty to three, she received a suspended seven-year sentence and must serve 120 days of “shock time” in prison.
The charges involved one of Wilkerson’s adopted daughters and a foster child, authorities said. According to court documents, Wilkerson beat the girls with various instruments, including an arrow, a plumbing supply line, a curtain rod and hangers, in 2010 and 2011.
The daughter, who was 10 in 2010, disappeared that October for more than seven hours. She later said she took a walk with a family dog and became lost.
It is unclear how the abuse came to the attention of authorities.
Attorney Scott Rosenblum, who represented Wilkerson, declined to comment about any connection between the girl’s disappearance and the charges.
The children are no longer living with the Wilkersons, Rosenblum said. Prosecutor Leah Askey could not be reached for comment.
Susan Weich is a reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


Foster Children Mistreated in the System


BY LINDA JO MARTIN

A documentary about three former foster children highlights numerous problems with the child welfare system. These teenagers were frequently moved from place to place, medicated irresponsibly, and treated as if they did not matter to anyone.
Now they try to put their young lives back together. They need to learn to be adults, but that’s so hard for an eighteen-year-old who had no stable family life for so long.
The young people in this video documentary are from Montana. They were all in foster home placements for apparently good reasons, in true need of help, but while there, nobody embraced them with love like a true parent would. This has left a lasting mark on their souls.
This twenty-minute segment is part of a longer documentary that can be seen on Hulu.com: From Place to Place
Statistics from the film:
There are 423,000 foster children in the USA.
The USA spends about $8,000,000,000 (eight BILLION) dollars annually on foster “care.”
Twelve million Americans have been in foster “care.” (myself included)
Thirty thousand young people age out of foster “care” each year in the USA.
1 in 7 former foster children (aged out) are homeless at some point before age 21.
Half of all former foster children will be unemployed at some point before age 21.
71 percent of all female former foster children will become pregnant before they are 21.
77 percent of all male former foster children will be arrested prior to their 21st birthday.
A few quotes from the film:
“[If] you set out to design, intentionally, the worst possible child welfare system, it would look like the system we have.” — From Place to Place, anon.
“We move them from a situation of risk, to one of danger, when we place them into these temporary systems…” — From Place to Place, anon.
“The system can never provide real love: real heart-bonded love like a mother has.” – Codie, in From Place to Place
“I needed somebody who gave a damn, and not because they were getting paid to give a damn.” – , in From Place to Place
“How we care for young people in this country really defines the strength of us as a country, and it matters.” – From Place to Place, anon.
“It breaks you down, makes you hurt, tears your heart, kills your belief, and your vigor for life. Rejection hurts. It’s absolutely hell to grow up switching place to place.” – Kirsten, in From Place to Place
“Human beings are very deeply geared towards attachment. We cannot tolerate loneliness. We cannot tolerate being by ourselves. We cannot tolerate being just flecks of dust traveling through the universe. We need to be connected. And of course, our most natural connection system, are our families.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk, founder of The Trauma Center, (Credited with diagnosis of PTSD)





Foster father facing charges of sexual assault of children



Marsha Miller

A Dickson man is facing charges he sexually assaulted four of the seven foster children who were currently living in his home.
First Assistant District Attorney Heather Cooper on Wednesday filed four counts of rape by instrumentation against 60-year-old Steven Anglin. The charges allege the assaults occurred during the past year.
Anglin was arrested late Monday by Dickson police after the department received information concerning the allegations from Department of Human Services child welfare workers.
Anglin made an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon in Carter County District Court before special District Judge Thomas Baldwin. Bond was set at $300,000. A preliminary conference is set for July 15.


Kansas woman arrested after foster kids test positive for marijuana


BUNKER HILL, Kan. -- A Kansas woman is in jail after three of her four foster children tested positive for marijuana.
On June 5th, Deputies were called to the Russell County Courthouse. A social worker with the Hays Department of Children and Families and the KDHE were there investigating after 54-year-old Pam Pertl and the three girls tested positive for the drug.
One of the children told the social worker that Pertl and the girls also drank milk mixed with bleach, Sheriff John Fletcher said.
During a search of Pertl’s home in Bunker Hill, deputies found nearly 12 grams of marijuana and paraphernalia. Cups filled with liquid and a container of bleach were also taken as evidence.
All four of the children were removed from the home and placed in new ones by St. Francis Community and Family Services. Their ages were not released.
Pertl was arrested Thursday evening for possession of marijuana, two counts of marijuana distribution and three counts of aggravated child endangerment. She is being held in the Russell County Jail on $40,000 bond.
Further details were not provided.





Dad charged with homicide in foster daughter's death



By Kevin Parrish


STOCKTON - A 37-year-old Stockton man, accused in the "shaken baby" death of a foster child, had his bail raised to $2.2 million Tuesday.
The criminal complaint against Paul Teldeschi also has been amended. He is now being charged with assault "by means of force ... resulting in the child's death."
It is a homicide charge involving criminally abusive conduct against children under the age of 8, according to the California Penal Code.
If convicted, Teldeschi could face 25 years to life in state prison.
In a 30-second hearing before Superior Court Judge Franklin Stephenson, Teldeschi entered a plea of "not guilty."
A July 8 hearing was scheduled to establish a date for his preliminary hearing. Teldeschi is represented by attorney John Noonan of Pleasanton.
He is being prosecuted by San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Edward Garvey.
"The difference between this crime and other homicides, such as first-degree murder, is malice aforethought," said Garvey. "This charge is about willfully inflicting abuse on a child resulting in great bodily harm."
On March 30, emergency personnel responded to a call from the Teldeschi home on Cleveland Street. Eleven-month-old Prinsess, according to a Stockton Police Department search-warrant affidavit, was in cardiac arrest. Teldeschi was arrested in mid-April and Prinsess died May 9 at Children's Hospital Oakland, where she had been airlifted.
Before the death, Teldeschi faced lesser child-abuse charges and was being held on $1.2 million bail.
Her injuries, according to the criminal complaint, included "traumatic brain injury/subdural hematoma," a "fractured clavicle," 13 broken ribs and "traumatic spinal injury."
Doctors and medical personnel who examined the baby said she was "a clear-cut case of shaken baby syndrome."
Stockton police and the District Attorney's Office continue to wait for the final autopsy records from Children's Hospital.



Man lures foster home child, 13, outside for sex


Written by: Brian Wiechert,

WASHINGTON PARISH, LA (WVUE) -
Washington Parish Sheriff's deputies say they have arrested a man they who allegedly went to a foster home to lure a young girl outside for sex. 
Derrick Townshend, 26, was arrested on Tuesday. He has been charged with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
Officers say that Townsend would travel to a foster home a night, knock on the bedroom window and lure the child outside. Investigators say he would take the child to a nearby vacant mobile home where he would engage in sexual conduct with her.
Authorities say that two other foster children residing in the home admitted that Townsend had also approached them about having sexual activity but they refused. 
Townsend is being held in the Washington parish jail on a $15,000 bond.



Charges in cases of identity theft from children


By Jeremy Roebuck

A former social worker and three employees of a residential-care facility for the disabled have been charged with selling the identities of children in their care to help others cheat on their taxes - a scheme U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger described Thursday as "truly despicable."
Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing Gebah Kamara, 46, of Sharon Hill, of stealing personal information from several foster children he encountered while working for Catholic Social Services, the charitable wing of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Also charged were Musa Turay, 41; Ibrahim Kamara, 48; and Foday Mansaray, 38 - all employees of the Villanova-based Devereux Foundation, a charity that runs residential centers for patients with developmental disabilities. The three also held jobs at Medmans Financial Services, a Southwest Philadelphia tax-preparation firm.
IRS investigators say that company's owner, Mohamed Mansaray, paid Gebah Kamara and the others for the stolen Social Security numbers and other information, and then charged his clients $800 to claim the children as fraudulent dependents on their tax returns.
In addition to Mansaray and the three who worked for Devereux, two other employees of Medmans were also charged with counts of conspiracy, tax fraud, and identity theft.
Momolu Sirleaf, owner of a separate tax-preparation service in Darby Borough, also faces charges for a similar scheme involving identification information of foster children.
In all, prosecutors claim the purported fraud bilked the government out of at least $6 million in unpaid taxes from 2008 to 2013. Five of the eight defendants were arrested Thursday and made initial appearances in federal court in Philadelphia. All were released on bond after surrendering passports from West African nations such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Few had attorneys. Gebah Kamara and his lawyer, James Polyak, declined to comment about the case.
Representatives from Catholic Social Services did not return calls Thursday for comment. Gebah Kamara left the agency in 2011 for reasons unrelated to his arrest, Polyak said.
It remained unclear whether Devereux, whose spokeswoman also did not return calls, still employed Turay, Mansaray, and Ibrahim Kamara. It was unclear whether the two Kamaras and the two Mansarays were related.
If convicted, each of the eight defendants faces possible decades-long prison terms.



Former foster parent charged with raping children ruled competent to stand trial



CINCINNATI --  A Colerain Township woman accused of sexually abusing children she babysat was ruled competent to stand trial Monday.
Barbara Brooks, a 63-year-old former Hamilton County foster parent, pleaded not guilty in June 2012 to charges of sexually assaulting four different children she babysat between January 2000 and Feb. 27, 2007.
Officials said the rapes occurred in her homes in Mt. Healthy and Springfield Township.
During court proceedings in September 2013, defense attorneys attempted to introduce seven new witnesses to the case after opening remarks were made. Prosecutors were unaware of the witnesses, and some of them were in court listening to the start of the trial. That created an issue of separating witnesses from jurors and the court beforehand.
Prosecution in turn was offered an option to allow the witnesses, declare a mistrial, or not allow the witnesses to be called. The third option, according to prosecutors, would have left open doors for multiple appeals if a jury convicted Brooks.
Attorneys decided a mistrial, and a new trial date with new jurors, and possibly a new defense, was the best option.
That new trial will start Sept. 2.
Brooks is charged with 15 counts of rape and three counts of gross sexual imposition. If convicted of all the charges, she faces the possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison, said Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.
Brooks was a foster parent from 1996 until 2008, according to Hamilton County Job and Family Services spokesperson Brian Gregg.
Police arrested Brooks on June 7, 2012 after a relative of the alleged victims, who are now 18 and 23-years-old, reported to police that the babysitter had abused them between 2000 and 2003.
In 2008, a child sex abuse complaint was made against Brooks, said Gregg. Cincinnati police investigated, but didn't file charges. Brooks resigned from the foster care program and Job and Family Services officials permanently terminated their relationship with her.
"These cases are always difficult to comprehend," Deters said in a previous news release. "We are glad that the victims had the courage to come forward so that we can make sure that Brooks is never in a position to care for a child again."



Man charged after foster child falls from van


A man was charged with endangering children and a seat-belt violation after a 3-year-old girl fell from his moving van, police reported.
Police said James R. Vavrinak, 45, of Saul Drive in Hubbard told them he was driving about 5 mph down his street to “a few houses down” from his residence when the child, who was not restrained, opened the door and fell out at a stop sign around 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Police were called by a neighbor, who told them the girl “flew out the door” and rolled onto the street. The neighbor rushed to help, and the child was sitting up and screaming when she got to her.
The man had another girl, a 1-year-old, on his lap in the van, the report indicated.
When police arrived, the 3-year-old was playing with other children at the house a few doors down from Vavrinak’s residence.
An ambulance crew checked her and said she appeared to be fine, but said she should go to the hospital.
Vavrinak’s wife told police the girls are foster children. She said the 1-year-old also was recently burned by a fire at the couple’s home. She was wearing socklike covers on her hand and foot, the report said.
Police allowed the couple to take the 3-year-old to the hospital themselves, making sure they put her in a car seat and took her right away.
They contacted Trumbull County Children Services, which was working to remove the children from their care, the report said. Vavrinak is to appear in Girard Municipal Court at 9 a.m. Tuesday.



Foster mom accused of raping kids to stand trial


Jennifer Edwards Baker

A former Hamilton County foster mother accused of raping children in her care was found competent to stand trial Tuesday.
Barbara Brooks, 64, will go on trial Sept. 2 before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Martin. She faces 15 charges of rape and three charges of gross sexual imposition.
If convicted on all charges, she could spend the rest of her life in prison.
She has pleaded not guilty and has been locked up at the county jail on $500,000 bond since her June 7, 2012, arrest.
Brooks is accused of sexually molesting four children she babysat from Jan. 1, 2000, to Feb. 27, 2007, in her homes in Mount Healthy and Springfield Township.
In April 2011, two people accused Brooks of sexually abusing them while they were in her care.
That set off the investigation.
Brooks worked as a licensed foster parent for the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services from July 1996 to December 2008.
She was terminated as a foster parent in 2008 when JFS and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department investigated allegations of sexual abuse.

The charges could not be substantiated, so the case was dropped and no charges were filed.

Relationship details revealed between husband, foster daughter


 BY JACK SHEA

PAINESVILLE, Ohio–The behavior of Kevin Knoefel, 43, before and after his wife was murdered, was the subject of dramatic testimony on the third day of Knoefel’s murder conspiracy trial.
A corrections officer at the Lake County Jail testified that Kevin Knoefel showed up at the jail on the day after his wife, Lisa Knoefel, 41, was stabbed 178 times in the couple’s Willoughby Hills home by their foster daughter, Sabrina Zunich, 19.
Officer Jay Leonard said Knoefel wanted to visit Sabrina Zunich and seemed irritated when he was told he could not see Zunich. “There was a little counter on the top and he did put his hands on it to talk to me, said ‘you do not understand; I need to see her,” said Leonard.
Lake County social worker, Nicole Corbett, was devastated when she learned on November 16, 2012 that Lisa Knoefel had been murdered by Sabrina Zunich.
Corbett supervised Sabrina’s case and had recommended that the troubled teen be placed in the Knoefel home, despite a history of psychiatric problems.
When asked by defense attorney, Michael Connick, if she recalled incidents where Sabrina Zunich was hearing voices telling her to hurt people, Corbett said, “yes, once.”
After the murder of Lisa Knoefel, investigators discovered evidence that Kevin Knoefel had seduced Sabrina Zunich and was having a sexual relationship with his foster daughter.
The affair was a secret before the murder, and that’s why the case worker didn’t give it a second thought when she approved Sabrina’s request to take a modeling class, recommended by Kevin Knoefel, who had been taking photos of the girl. Corbett said, “So I had asked where this money was coming from, and she said that Kevin was helping pay for it.”
Corbett also told the jury that before the murder, Kevin Knoefel asked her if he would be able to get custody of Sabrina Zunich, if he and his wife divorced.
After Sabrina Zunich was arrested for the murder of Lisa Knoefel, the case worker went to visit Zunich in jail, and was surprised by what the accused killer said. “I had not mentioned anyone else, and I did let her know at the beginning of this that anything she says is not confidential, and she said, ‘I don’t know why people think Kevin had something to do with this. I don’t why they’d say that,’ and I had not mentioned his name at all.”
A Chase bank employee testified that Kevin Knoefel and Sabrina Zunich maintained a joint bank account, and that after the murder of his wife, Knoefel transferred thousands of dollars into Zunich’s account.



Foster care employee accused of sexual abuse


Rikki Salzman, 32, is charged with institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor.
Officials say the acts took place at the Aborvale Manor facility, a foster care placement home, in Millersville. Salzman was an employee there.
Officials first became aware of the alleged child abuse from the Department of Public Welfare on Jan. 16, 2014, according to the affidavit of probable cause. In a mandatory reporting form, the DPW relayed allegations that a female employee was involved in a sexual relationship with a juvenile male.
When investigators spoke to the supervisor of Arborvale Manor, Mervin Fahnestock, on Jan. 23, they learned that there had been an internal investigation and Salzman had been suspended and later fired. Staff logs from Arborvale showed that there had been documented meetings with Salzman to discuss a variety of "inappropriate and unprofessional" interactions between her and the male residents in the facility, according to the affidavit.
"Fahnestock also provided a video from the facility which is monitored by surveillance cameras that showed an inappropriate interaction between (Salzman) and (the alleged victim). Fahnestock also provided a documented interview of another male resident … in the facility that provided extensive information and details regarding the sexual/intimate relationship that was occurring between Salzman and (the alleged victim)," the affidavit states.
Several months later, the affidavit states that investigators talked to the alleged victim, who said that he and Salzman "were involved in an intimate relationship that included hugging and kissing on multiple occasions during his stay at Aborvale Manor."



Foster mother arrested after 19-month-old boy found with third-degree burns on legs: prosecutors



Shirley Verneus, 35, was charged with assault for allegedly scalding the toddler insider her Queens home.

BY OREN YANIV


A Queens foster mother was arrested for scalding a 19-month-old boy with boiling water until his skin peeled off, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Shirley Verneus, 35, was charged with assault for the disturbing incident in a tub at her St. Albans home.
“The child will be permanently scarred — both physically and emotionally — by the experience,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
The alleged abuse came to light when Verneus brought little Jaurelious Green for a meeting with his biological parents at the St. Christopher Ottile Foster Agency on Jan. 17. A case worker saw bandages on the boy’s legs and asked what happened.
The foster mom replied that she had left the toddler unattended in the bathtub with a 3-year-old two days earlier, court papers said.
She heard screams, then saw him in the tub with the water running and “observed the complainant’s skin peeling off,” according to the criminal complaint.
While Verneus claimed that she took the child to a clinic, she couldn’t show any record proving that, nor did she report the injuries to the foster agency, according to prosecutors.
And a doctor told investigators the second- and third-degree burns “from the top of his thighs down to the soles of his feet on both legs” and on his buttocks were more than a week old, the complaint said.
Jaurelious had to undergo surgeries and the delayed medical care exposed him to the risk of infections and other complications.
After an investigation, the foster mother was arrested and arraigned Tuesday night for first-degree assault, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.
Verneus was ordered held on a $100,000 bond. She faces as much as 25 years in prison if convicted.
She’s due back in court June 16.
Her lawyer didn’t return a call for comment.
Prosecutors could not say who is currently caring for Jaurelious or whether Verneus was fostering other children.
A spokesman for the Administration for Children’s Services did not immediately comment on the specifics of the case.


Caseload leads to tragedy in foster system


SAN ANTONIO — If anything, foster care is the one place where vulnerable, at-risk kids should be safe.
These are children who have been removed from troubled homes. While no one would ever expect a foster home and state oversight to replace a functional and loving family, it should at least be safer than a broken home.
Why else do the removal?
Yet, in fiscal 2013, seven young Texans died in foster care as a result of abuse and neglect from the caregiver. That's the highest number since 2007.
The standard should be zero.
It's hard not to imagine that high caseloads for Child Protective Services workers aren't having an impact on quality care and monitoring.
Foster care workers with CPS are tasked with checking in on these kids to ensure everything is OK in foster homes. The best practice is 17 children per worker, according to the Child Welfare League of America, but Texas comes up well short of this standard.
The typical CPS worker juggled 32 ongoing cases in 2013, or so says the annual report for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
The state has increased funding for DFPS, which should lead to more hiring. But even with this boost, that workload will still be nowhere near the standard for best practice.
“At one point, I had 40 kids on my caseload,” said Ashley Harris, a former CPS foster care worker and child welfare policy expert at Texans Care for Children, a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy organization. “And I can tell you that I was unable to see them monthly as required by the feds, which really compromised not only their safety, but just building that relationship with them.”
Texans Care for Children would like to see additional funding to lower these caseloads.
Unfortunately, DFPS Commissioner John Specia has pushed back on this very notion. Here's what he said at a recent House hearing when asked about the dangers of high caseloads.
“I have actually looked at the caseloads in the deaths and some people had high caseloads, but a lot of people have had either average caseloads or very low caseloads, so I haven't been able to draw a direct correlation on that,” he said.
He then thanked the Legislature for the additional funding last session.
“The Legislature has been very responsive to the needs of this agency since 2006.”
That's nice, but it's not enough. The agency remains critically overburdened, underfunded and undervalued.
While Specia might not be able to make a definitive connection between high caseloads and foster care fatalities, that doesn't justify the dynamic.
Besides, high caseloads certainly are one of the reasons workers leave the agency.
In response to the spike in foster care deaths, DFPS enacted a number of measures to improve child safety in foster care. These include unannounced visits to foster homes and foster kinship homes as well as reviews of all regular and frequent visitors to ensure background checks.
These are common-sense measures, but is it reasonable to expect workers with such high caseloads to always do these extra steps?
“DFPS put all these new mandates on workers to go see these children but did not provide that additional guidance or support to make that happen in a way that is best for the kids,” Harris said.
Nearly 28,000 children were in state custody in fiscal 2013, with nearly 17,000 in some type of paid foster care.
Most of the rest were with extended family.
So, here are two other questions worth considering: Does the state have the resources it needs to do what is best for the kids it protects and serves? On balance, would lower caseloads help do what's best for these kids?
This last one is a no-brainer, the other a matter of priorities. Kids first.


Jury selection completed for Willoughby Hills man accused of convincing foster daughter to kill wife


By Tracey Read
Jury selection has been completed in the case of a Willoughby Hills man accused of convincing his foster daughter to kill his wife.
Kevin Knoefel, 43, is on trial on charges of conspiracy and complicity to commit aggravated murder in the Nov. 16, 2012, death of 41-year-old Lisa Knoefel.
Co-defendant Sabrina Zunich, 19, is charged with murder for allegedly stabbing the victim to death but has not yet gone before the grand jury.
Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge Joe Gibson had set aside two days for jury selection. Opening arguments and a jury view are still slated to begin June 2, according to court officials.
Knoefel is also charged with sexual battery for allegedly having an illicit relationship with Zunich, his foster daughter, starting when she was 17.
Knoefel was not at home during the homicide and is claiming Zunich acted alone.


Goodyear foster father sentenced in child abuse case




By Greg Argos and Adam Longo
KPHO Channel 5
Official Media Partners
Updated May 23, 2014

GOODYEAR, Ariz. - A Valley foster father accused of severely injuring a 15-month-old girl in October 2013 has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison and lifetime probation.
Judge Jeanne Garcia sentenced Pedro Manzo, 36, Friday morning, according to Superior Court of Arizona spokeswoman Karen Arra.
Manzo had previously changed his November plea of not guilty to guilty on two counts of child abuse.
A probable cause complaint revealed the injured girl "kept throwing her sippie cup" so Manzo admitted he "grabbed under her jaw, shook her in a side-to-side motion and applied pressure to her jaw and throat that caused her to pass out."
"Her neck is fractured. She has blood clots," said Rosa Valle, the girl's biological mother, Oct. 30, 2013, two days after the incident. Valle showed pictures of her daughter in a neck brace at the hospital.
Valle said her 15-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son had been abused previously by Manzo, who is their foster father.
Goodyear police arrested Manzo on Oct. 29, 2013 and charged him with child abuse. Though Child Protective Services was not able to comment on the case, Valle provided documents that show Manzo is the foster father of the two children.
"(Manzo) is in jail, and I think he deserves to be in there," said Valle.
Manzo was released from custody just nine hours after being arrested for child abuse.
Valle said she notified CPS on several occasions that she suspected abuse in the home, but said her concerns were not addressed.
"My kid tells me, 'Mommy, mommy Peter (Manzo) hit me. Peter hits me, mommy. Peter don't let me eat,'" Valle said.
"It's a very rigorous process. We ask our (foster family) applicants to go through," said Mary Bankoff, with the Arizona Department of Economic Security, which oversees Child Protective Services.
Bankoff said it is a three- to six-month process to get approved as a foster family. There are roughly 5,000 approved foster families in the state.