Yamhill County couple starved foster children, ages 4 and 5, police say


By Elliot Njus | The Oregonian/OregonLive 

UPDATE: Oregon DHS places staff on leave after Yamhill County neglect case
Investigators say a rural Yamhill County couple starved two foster children so severely that the young children lost weight over their four years under the couple's care.
 John Henry Yates (left) and Danielle Yvonne YatesYamhill County Sheriff's Office
Yamhill County Sheriff's Office detectives on Wednesday arrested Danielle Yvonne Yates, 31, and John Henry Yates, 42, on suspicion of two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment following a grand jury indictment.
The couple were legal guardians for the children, a 4-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. In addition to suffering from malnourishment, the children didn't have adequate medical care, police said.
The investigation came after the children spent a week in a hospital after a relative of the learned of their condition around Christmas.
Oregon Department of Human Services spokeswoman Andrea Cantu-Schomus declined to comment on the case, citing the criminal investigation.
The couple was in Yamhill County Jail with bail set at $350,000 each. The children have been placed in a care one of their biological relatives, Yamhill County Sgt. Chris Ray said.
The Yamhill County Sheriff's Office, whose Special Investigations Unit conducted the inquiry, asked anyone with information to call Detective Marc Brodeur at 503-434-7506.

-- Elliot Njus

Foster parent in jail following infant's death


By Dylan Stephens, Reporter
dstephens@kswo.com

FLETCHER, Okla._A Fletcher woman is in jail following an infant's death Sunday night that is currently being investigated as a homicide.
County investigators say they were called to the Elgin Fire Department Sunday night where the baby was taken, shortly after the suspect's husband found the boy unconscious inside their Fletcher home.
The suspect and victim's names have not yet been released, but we do know the woman was the baby's foster parent.
Sheriff Kenny Stradley says the husband of the suspect found the baby unconscious at their home in Fletcher and rushed the infant to the Elgin Fire Department, where first responders tried to resuscitate him.
"The baby was not breathing and they were trying, and they got a little bit of the baby breathing and went ahead and took it on to the hospital. They worked on it quite a while up there," said Sheriff Stradley.
Sheriff's deputies responded to the fire station and questioned the husband about what happened.
"He just made the statement that, ‘my wife had hurt the baby'," said Sheriff Stradley.
The baby later died in the ER at Comanche County Memorial Hospital. The Comanche County Sheriff's Department is now waiting on the exact cause of death from the medical examiner, but his injuries were suspicious.
"It looks like the baby was hit several times in the head. Possibly with a fist," said Sheriff Stradley.
The two were foster parents for the victim and his 7-month-old baby brother. That boy is now in DHS care, and Sheriff Stradley says the brother had no signs of injury. He says a child's death is always difficult to investigate, and will do everything in their power to seek the truth.
"This child can't speak for itself, it can't do anything because it was two-years-old. So, we try to make sure everything is done right, investigation is done right and nothing else for that child that we did it right and justice will prevail," said Sheriff Stradley.

The sheriff says his investigators were at the woman's home until around 5:00 a.m. Monday collecting evidence. They do not expect to present a case to the District Attorney for a day or two.

Former Fremont County foster parent faces sexual assault charges involving kids in his care




The Associated Press
RIVERTON — A 66-year-old Lander man has been accused of sexually assaulting two children about seven years ago while he was their foster father.
Court papers say one child was 9 or 10 years old and the other 8 years old when they lived with the man from August 2007 to July 2008.
Identifying information about the children has been redacted from court documents, and identifying the man could identify the victims.
The Fremont County Attorney's Office has charged him with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The maximum penalty for each is 50 years in prison.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt has decided there is enough information to send the case to District Court for trial.

Foster child sexually abused on state’s watch wins $1.3M settlement


Attorney: Girl ‘endured pain that no one should ever endure’

BY LEVI PULKKINEN, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
A former foster child abused in three state-licensed foster homes after Washington child services workers took her from her drug-addicted mother has won a $1.3 million settlement with the state.
Suing the state last April, attorneys for the young woman claimed she was sexually assaulted at three foster homes after she was pulled from her mother’s care as a young child. Two of her former foster fathers have since been convicted of child molestation, as has one of her foster brothers.
Now, the state has agreed to pay the young woman and her attorneys $1.3 million in compensation for the damage done to her on the Department of Social and Health Services’ watch.
“Nothing was ever done to remotely ascertain if this child was in a safe home,” the woman’s attorneys said in a statement. She was represented by Vito de la Cruz, Bryan Smith and Sergio Garcidueñas-Sease of Tamaki Law Offices.
“Our client will finally have an opportunity for a safe and stable life, a life she always deserved,” Garcidueñas-Sease continued. “She endured pain that no one should ever endure, especially a foster child.”
A spokeswoman for the department’s Children’s Administration acknowledged that DSHS agreed to settle what she described as “a 10-year-old child abuse case.”
“Our intent is that the plaintiff … is able to use the settlement funds for any mental health treatment she may need stemming from the trauma she suffered at the hands of her perpetrators,” the spokeswoman said.
DSHS leaders did not apologize for the abuse the young woman, among others, suffered at the homes.
Born to drug-addicted, mentally ill parents, the girl became a ward of the state at age 4. DSHS reports from her time before foster care indicate she was living in a filthy home. One investigator found a kitchen sink filled with moldy dishes and a bed with a dead mouse on it.
She was first placed with Jose Miranda and his wife, Juanita. Jose Miranda would later become infamous for the sexual abuse he perpetrated on children during the nine years he was a foster father.
The Mirandas were licensed as foster parents even though Juanita Miranda’s own children had been taken from her while she was living in California. Having been convicted of crimes in Washington, Oregon and California, Juanita Miranda also tested positive for opiates while she was pregnant six years before the girl was placed with the couple.
According to the lawsuit, Juanita Miranda was under Department of Corrections supervision for a felony theft when she and her husband were approved as foster parents. Both lied to DSHS on questionnaires meant to prevent convicts, addicts and people too sick to care for children from becoming foster parents.
Speaking after the lawsuit was filed, a DSHS spokesman said foster parents now undergo an extensive background check. A history of criminal convictions or problematic court orders – such as losing custody of one’s children – prompts a second level of scrutiny by department leaders, who are unlikely to approve applicants with less than sterling records.
Attorneys for the young woman disputed the claim and argued that more must be done to protect Washington foster children.
“This case highlights a great need for change in a state foster system that is intrinsically broken,” Garcidueñas-Sease said.
The girl was placed with the Mirandas in March 1998. By May, the state was investigating problems with her care, and she was removed from the home that June.
During her three months in the home, Jose Miranda molested the girl, forced her to shower with him and made her wipe his behind when he soiled himself.
Six years passed before reports of sexual abuse at the home prompted an investigation that ultimately saw Jose Miranda convicted of child molestation and related crimes. Rather than prison, though, he received a suspended sentence.


Cops: Ridley Township man charged with molesting children



By Cindy Scharr, Delaware County Daily Times


RIDLEY TOWNSHIP >> Police say a 20-year-old township man sexually abused several children who were being cared for by his parents at their Hazel Avenue home.
Anthony Lamey is being held in Delaware County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $100,000 bail.
Authorities say Lamey, whose parents are involved with the foster care of children and also provide babysitting services, molested several children who were in his parents’ care.
“Right now, no foster children are in the home,” said Police Lt. Scott Willoughby. “It would be our contention they never have foster children again, ever.”
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Lamey’s parents have not been charged with a crime.
According to the affidavit of probable cause written by lead investigators Ridley Detective Edmund Kienzle and Delaware County Detective Mark Bucci: Lamey assaulted both boys and girls over a period of several years. The alleged victims were all under the age of 12, police said.
When investigators learned of the alleged abuse, they arranged to have Jodi Kaplan, director of the Delaware County Children’s Advocacy Center and child forensic interviewer, speak with several of the alleged victims.
Kaplan spoke with one little girl, who told her when she and her older sister would visit the Lamey house, “Anthony does bad things,” according to the affidavit. The little girl told the interviewer the Lamey exposed his penis to her and her sister as well as other children who would be at the house.
The child also said that Lamey would often try to kiss her and the other children, according to the affidavit.
Kaplan also interviewed the first victim’s sister, who said Lamey would try to kiss her when she was in the house. She also described one incident about five years ago when Lamey exposed his penis to her, according to the criminal complaint.
On Nov. 17, Bucci interviewed a boy who said Lamey fondled his “private area” as well as his buttocks on numerous occasions, both over and under his clothing, according to the affidavit.
The boy also said he witnessed three other children being molested by Lamey, the court document indicates. He described one incident in which he walked into a bedroom and saw a young girl, around the age of 7, naked, lying on top of Lamey who had his hands around her waist, according to the criminal complaint. The boy said he was unsure whether Lamey’s pants were undone or his penis was exposed. He told investigators he was upset by what he witnessed and walked out of the room, the affidavit states.
The boy also told investigators that Lamey played a pornographic video on a device connected to the television and saw pornographic depictions on Lamey’s iPad.
“Foster children are put into an environment that is supposed to be safe and secure while their parents are getting their issues worked out,” Willoughby said. “Instead, they were put into a lion’s den.”
Willoughby also described conditions inside of the Lameys’ home in the 500 block of Hazel Avenue as “horrific,” adding that the investigation is ongoing.
Lamey was arraigned on charges of indecent assault of a person less than 13 years old and corruption of minors , both felonies. He is also charged with indecent exposure and open lewdness. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 23.
About the Author

Cindy Scharr works the dayside police beat for the Daily Times. Reach the author at cscharr@delcotimes.com .

Suspect’s name in foster child’s death released


By Dylan Stephens, Reporter
dstephens@kswo.com

FLETCHER, Okla._Investigators have identified the suspect in the death of a foster child as 24-year-old Heather Adams, the child's foster mother.
Adams is in jail on a complaint of second-degree murder, but she has not been charged. Adams was arrested Monday, shortly after her husband found the child unconscious in their Fletcher home. The baby was taken to Comanche County Memorial Hospital where he later died.
Tuesday, the agency that trained Adams to be a foster parent, Tallgrass Family Services, says they're working to make sure nothing like this happens again.
Not just anyone can be a foster parent. They have a background check that goes beyond criminal, like a health check to see if they can physically and emotionally handle it. The checks have to be taken yearly. They also have to have at least 6 references, most have around 15.
The training consists of small groups that have video training on how to handle the stress that comes with being a foster parent and how to handle trauma. Then, when they pass, Tallgrass doesn't stop there. They say they do in-house checks monthly and they call new foster parents at least every other day.
"Everyone is deeply shocked and heartbroken by the tragic death of a child," said Jeanette Owens, director of Tallgrass Family Services.
Owens says they have been one of three agencies used by Oklahoma's Department of Human Services to recruit, train and support foster parents since 2013. She says first thing Monday morning, Tallgrass started looking at what they can do to make sure this death is an isolated situation.
"We definitely, as an agency, our staff has dedicated their lives and their careers to make sure we are helping children and families. So yeah, we do everything we can to prevent," said Owens.
Owens didn't have an answer as to how something like this could happen, just that they are working with law enforcement and DHS.
"There are dedicated people inside and outside of our organization working diligently to find answers as to what happened. We are committed to the safety of the children we serve," said Owens.
One thing Owens doesn't want from this tragic situation is for all foster parents to be lumped into one category.
"There's not typically a day that goes by that I don't hear a heartwarming story of something one of our parents have done to go above and beyond," said Owens.
Owens says they want to make sure any changes to their policies are the right ones. So, they don't expect any to happen for a few weeks.
The state Department of Human Services also makes monthly visits to foster homes. They released a statement Tuesday about the 2-year-old's death, which said,
"Everyone at DHS is shocked and devastated by the tragic death of this child at a foster home. We are working closely with local law enforcement and Tallgrass on the investigation to find out exactly what happened and why. The safety of the children we serve is our highest priority. We will not rest until we have answers."

Sheriff Kenny Stradley says his investigators are still conducting interviews and hopes to present a case to the District Attorney's office by the end of the week.

Convicted of killing her foster child, Lamie gets life in prison



Uphoff reminded the court Friday that several doctors testified during the trial that the amount of force needed to bring about that trauma was "acute" and "catastrophic."
"Even Dr. [William] Puga [a witness for the defense] was taken back by the extent of the injuries," Uphoff said.
Lamie's attorney, John Coghlan, maintained throughout the trial, and again on Friday, that Kianna's injuries were self-inflicted, that she was a troubled child and a head-banger.
Before Livingston County Associate Judge Mark Fellheimer handed down natural life in prison sentence — mandated by law because of Kianna's age — Lamie said she wished she would have been more responsive to a bruise Kianna suffered near her ear during a fall the day before.
"I didn't think it was anything more than a bruise," she said.
But Uphoff said the injuries that killed Kianna "didn't occur the day before. It was a light's out type of event." He also noted that Kianna had defensive wounds on her hand.
"The person who inflicts that kind of violence doesn't deserve to spend life outside the walls of a state prison," Uphoff said.
In a victim impact statement written by Kianna's grandmother, Wendy Palmer, and read to the court by Uphoff, Palmer remembered the day Kianna came into her life and when she started talking.
"She'd say, 'Nana, you're my best friend,'" Palmer wrote. "Grammas are there to spoil, protect and comfort. That's been taken away from me."
She recounted going to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, where Kianna had been taken, and seeing her after surgery to try to relieve the pressure on her brain.
"She had staples on her head ... her long, beautiful hair had been cut," Palmer wrote. "Her head, body and hands were covered in bruises. The doctors said this was abuse. Who could have hated her so much to inflict this kind of pain on her?"
Kianna's father, James Rudesill, wrote a letter saying his "world has been turned upside down. I lost a piece of myself that day."
Coghlan submitted 63 letters from Lamie's friends and families. Lamie's mother-in-law, Sheila Lamie, testified that Heather Lamie loved Kianna and her three siblings, who also were foster children in the home.
Sheila Lamie said Heather Lamie was the "rock of the family. Her daughters need their mother," she said.
Coghlan asked the judge to acquit Lamie, saying there was insufficient evidence she committed the crimes. He said if the judge was not convinced of that, he asked the verdict be reduced to second-degree murder and referred to Uphoff's closing argument in which he speculated Lamie snapped when Kianna spilled dog food on the floor.
But Scott Ripley, a special prosecutor who helped the state with the case, said, "I don't believe you can deny that you had anything to do with it and then say, 'but if I did, I was provoked.'"
Fellheimer upheld the murder verdict and said he did not have the authority to reduce the charge. He also denied Coghlan's request for a new trial.

Lamie has 30 days to appeal. Coghlan asked the court to appoint an appellate defender

New dangers for Montana's 2,400 foster kids


By PAT BELLINGHAUSEN

(HELENA -- Yoga pants is such a popular topic that it was suggested I write about yoga pants and other pointless pieces of legislation floating around the Montana Capitol. So I'm writing about yoga pants, but first I want to tell readers about a real crisis that demands lawmakers' action.
Montana's child protection system is struggling with a 60 percent increase in child abuse and neglect cases since 2008. The number of Montana kids in foster care was 2,398 last November, -- a 20 percent increase in the past two years.
The Montana Child Abuse Hotline rang nearly 100 times a day last year.
Child and Family Services Division social workers have investigated more reports, placed more children in out-of-home care and worked with more parents and other kin to safely reunify families. The increase in paid foster care hasn't been as great as the surge in the number of neglected or abused children because CFSD has been placing more children with relatives who can keep them safe.
"We're sort of drowning," Sarah Corbally, CFSD administrator told a legislative appropriations subcommittee last week.
There are many reasons why more abuse and neglect is being reported. A leading contributor is the surge in methamphetamine abuse by parents, who become unable to change diapers and feed their children. Untreated mental illnesses and domestic violence are factors in many cases.
As a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children in Yellowstone County, I and other unpaid, volunteer CASA's see these kids in their homes, foster homes and schools. An alarming number of children coming into foster care are babies who were exposed to drugs before they were born.
I have seen overloaded caseworkers still manage to find a good fit in foster care to keep siblings together. Kids in foster care have asked me why their caseworker doesn't come to see them. She has lots of kids to take care of, I replied. That's tougher because most have special needs for things like counseling, speech therapy and remedial education.
To cope with the burgeoning numbers of abused and neglected children, the Bullock administration asked the 2013 Legislature for 13 additional front-line case workers. That request was denied.
Then the number of child abuse cases grew 20 percent. Gov. Steve Bullock used money appropriated to his office to hire temporary child protection workers. The division converted some existing positions into front-line caseworkers and revamped the supervisory structure to become more efficient. CFSD had a 42 percent annual staff turnover when the 2013 session convened. Since then, it implemented new training, based on findings from a University of Montana study. The division supplied caseworkers with computer tablets, so they no longer have to make case notes on paper and type them into a desk top.
Turnover is down to 22 percent, but Corbally said it's still too high.
Montana isn't even close to meeting federal standards for caseworker visits with foster children The Bullock administration has asked the 2015 Legislature for $3 million for the biennium to permanently fund the emergency/temporary caseworker positions it nixed last session. The money would be used to bring Montana's child protection system up to national accreditation standards within two years.
Last week, the House Health and Human Service Committee voted to fund only $1 million of the $3 million request in HB305 -- as if CFSD could simply not serve two-thirds of Montana's neglected and abused children. Further, the motion by committee chairman Rep. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, requires $500,000 of the $1 million to come from the governor's office budget.
It's early in the session for budget decisions with plenty of time for changes. Child protection is a place where change is desperately needed.
When a lawmaker says he thinks wearing yoga pants should be illegal, the news buzzes across the state. When lawmakers say no to protecting abused and neglected kids, Montanans ought to be buzzing with outrage.
For the record, yoga pants opponent Rep. David Moore didn't actually mention yoga pants in his bill to revise the state indecent exposure law, but sought to criminalize the wearing of "a device, costume or covering that gives the appearance or simulates" genitals or the female breast. Fortunately, that bill's flaws were exposed in the House Judiciary Committee, which killed it Wednesday.


Foster parents speak out about man accused in porn ring


Megan Terlecky, News Channel 3 Anchor & Reporter, megan.terlecky@kesq.com

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -
We're learning more about one of three men accused of sex crimes as part of a child porn ring.  John Yoder is a special-education aide  and a foster and adoptive parent.
Foster parents who knew him say he's not representative of the foster parent community.
"We call ourselves family, all of the kids refer to each other as cousins and we do a lot of stuff together," said For the Children founder Silvia Signoret.
About 145 kids and close to 50 families make up For the Children, a nonprofit support group for both foster and adoptive parents.
"By being such a large group, we take care of each other and we keep an eye on each other too," said Signoret.
Yoder, who's awaiting trial on multiple charges of sex crimes against children, was a part of the group before he had any kids in his care.
"I knew him when he first started doing training," said Signoret.
Yoder is a licensed foster care provider but Signoret says he's only fostered the kids he adopted.
"You can never really be a straight adoptive parent because you foster for the first six months of a child anyway, so that's where he becomes a foster parent.  He's been an adoptive parent more. He's never had kids in and out of their home," said Signoret.
A very different situation than that of Martha Medina who's fostered 150 kids over the last 14 years and adopted five.
"You have to have a heart with kids and the love and be able to make a difference in their lives, and that is why we all do what we do. There is a lot of great people out there," said Medina.
Yoder's membership didn't last long. He was asked to leave, but Signoret says there were no signs of any inappropriate behavior.
"His attitude, he was loudmouth, he was very arrogant. He just didn't fit in with the type of people we are," explains Signoret.
While it's the bad homes we often hear about the most, For the Children wants people to know about the good homes as well.
"Currently we have an 18-month-old little girl. We got her when she was only 3 months old," said foster parent Rocio Anzora.
Anzora became a foster parent two years ago.
"Just seeing so many kids needing a home and love, it's just something you feel you are called to do," said Anzora.
Signoret herself is a foster and adoptive mom: "I have two biological children. We've adopted seven children and are in the process of adopting our eighth."
She says you don't become one overnight.
"It's a pretty intense program, it's not as easy as people want to think it is. Background checks are local background checks, then you go through state background checks," said Signoret.
There's also required classes, and home visits that continue even after children get placed, and rules for how you can parent.
"If you have a foster child in your home, if you were ever to, say, raise your voice at your own kids, you can't do that. You can never spank you own children if you have foster children in your home," said Signoret.
These are all things Yoder should have been subjected to as an adoptive parent.
"It really hurts to get someone like that related to fostering because we are in desperate need of foster parents," said Signoret.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent or joining For the Children, click here.


Activists want to see changes to foster care system in wake of child porn case


John David Yoder, 43, is a Special Education aid at Desert Hot Springs High School and licensed foster care parent
Joe Galli, Reporter News Channel 3 & CBS Local 2, joseph.galli@kesq.com

This comes in the wake of the arrest of John David Yoder, 43, is a licensed foster parent and special education aid who worked at the high school and now charged with sex crimes.
Yoder was arrested on January 30 and has been charged with sexual assault of a child under 14, human trafficking of a victim under 18, conspiracy, lewd acts with a child under 14 and aiding to avoid the arrest of another. Investigators also believe he was paid by another suspect to recruit children for child pornography.
"It made me sick to my stomach and I think of how many children that are still just suffering and being placed in such homes as John Yoder's," said Rosie Vincent, founder of TEARS.
TEARS stands for Total Transparent, Evaluate and Expose, Abuses of Child Protective Services, Reform and Regulate Social Services.
"We need more thorough background checks and actually getting back and checking with neighbors and speaking to the people in the neighborhood," said Vincent.
"Children are the most precious thing that God gives us all of us and we need to be protecting children, there's only a few people who abuse their children and I can't imagine someone abusing their child, but I know they do so there needs to be a safeguard for them," said Cheri Campbell, President of TEARS and Rachel's Tears Ministry out of the Church of Morongo.
The group also believes changes need to be made in way people are hired to work with children.
"I can't hardly believe that this man got a job here I don't know how someone could fall through the cracks and something like this could happen," said Campbell.
"They give lie detector tests to certain individuals and maybe we should start doing that for school personnel or anyone who has to work with children," said Vincent.
"Palm Springs Unified School District is cooperating completely with the District Attorney's Office and all law enforcement officials," said PSUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Mauricio Arellano. "The individual has been placed on leave without pay pending the outcome of the trial. Since this is a personnel matter, the district cannot comment any further as personal matters are strictly confidential. The safety of all children in PSUSD remains our highest priority."
District officials said Yoder is only an aid that helps kids with special needs in the classroom, they do not teach, and they are never left alone with kids on campus.

Authorities believe it is possible that there may be additional victims who investigators are not aware of. Anyone who believes they may have had suspicious or illegal contact with any of these defendants is asked to call the SAFE/ICAC task force toll-free at (866) SAFE595 or (866) 723-3595.

Police: Foster Parent Involved In One Of State’s Worst Child-Exploitation Schemes


February 17, 2015 5:13 PM

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — Authorities in the Inland Empire said they have busted one of the worst child-exploitation schemes in Southern California in recent years, allegedly involving a teaching assistant and foster parent.
Investigators say John Yoder is one of three men who prosecutors said lured victims by posing as modeling agents, preying on children younger than 10 in parks across Riverside County.
Yoder is a foster parent, and an investigation found that he also teaches special education for the Palm Springs Unified School District, according to Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin.
“Ultimately, the children were forced into making child pornography, and were ultimately sexually assaulted,” Sheriff’s Department investigator Andy Liu said.
Police say that their late-January arrest of fugitive William Thompson sparked the investigation after he attempted to contact his accomplices. This led investigators to Yoder and Erick Monsivais.
While authorities did not confirm how long Yoder had worked for the Palm Springs School District or how long he had been a foster parent, one state official did confirm that Yoder had adopted two children.
Officials are looking into how he was able to enter the foster system.
“At this point, we are doing a review of our practices, and at this point, we have not reached any conclusions,” Department of Public and Social Services’ Susan von Zabern said. “But we will be looking at any opportunity to strengthen our system.”
Authorities say there are multiple victims but have not confirmed any number.

Anyone who may recognize any of these men or who may have information is asked to contact the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. 

Huntsville foster mother indicted on charges she beat, burned foster kids


By Crystal Bonvillian | cbonvillian@al.com 
A Huntsville woman was indicted this month on charges that she physically abused two of her foster children, one of whom she allegedly immersed in scalding water.
 Meghan Hargress (Madison County jail)
Meghan Hargress, 29, of Huntsville faces three charges of child abuse. The indictment shows that two of the charges involve one child and the third charge involves a second victim.
Hargress was arrested in October 2013. At that time, she was foster mother to three children, two girls and a boy.
One of the girls was scalded with hot water, according to police. A second charge of abuse was levied because Hargress did not seek medical treatment for the girl's burns.
The third charge stems from Hargress beating one of the other children, the indictment shows.

Child abuse is a Class C felony punishable by between one and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

A For-Profit Foster Care Agency, Traded on the Stock Exchange, Deadly to Children


Written by Michele Bittner  

One of the nation’s largest for-profit foster care agencies, Mentor, has recently come under scrutiny after investigation has revealed a string of missteps leading to abuse, mistreatment, and several deaths. While organization executives have dismissed claims that National Mentor Holdings’ negligence has resulted in substandard services, the company has received some of the highest numbers of serious violations in several states, including Massachusetts, Georgia, and Texas.
In some of its most severe instances of abuse, failed background checks on foster parents had detrimental results to the children in Mentor’s care. At Last Chance Farm in Maryland, boy after boy was sexually abused at the hands of foster parent Stephen Merritt. Even after reports by foster children, a letter from a former victim’s psychologist, and several police investigations, Mentor continued to place young boys in Merritt’s care for at least seven years.
In Texas, failed screenings of potential parents allowed for several failed placements with Sherill Small. Mentor failed to interview adequate numbers of relatives, relying instead on the reference of Small’s daughter, who was herself convicted of aggravated kidnapping and robbery. Meanwhile, Small’s husband was also approved as a foster parent despite his admission to a long-time cocaine addiction. After several failed placements, two-year-old Alexandria Hill was placed in Small’s care, and then murdered at Small’s hand in a fit of frustration.
And while both foster parents would never have been approved had adequate screening and background check policies been in place, poor decision-making by Mentor staff enabled the abuse to occur. Such cases have lead to investigations into the company as a whole, and as a result, Mentor’s organizational goals have been questioned.
Instead of a strong focus on quality services to children, former staff members of Mentor claim that the central focus of operation is increased profit margins. According a former employee, “You feel the pressure. You have to make those targets. I went there because I care about services for kids. I eventually became a machine that cared about profits. I didn’t care about kids.”
As a company traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, there were undoubtedly times when the costs of quality services at Mentor have come into conflict with the demand for higher shareholder profits. Foster care agencies are intended to serve as a safety net for vulnerable children, and the rapid expansion of corporate entities for increased market share in such human service industries capitalizes on resources that should be passed on in services to those in need.

With this in mind, many foster care agencies contracted by state and local governments are nonprofit agencies focused on quality service over profits. Yet the past thirty years have seen increases in for-profit companies entering the field. While some local and state governments have restricted contracts with for-profit agencies, strong partnerships between entities such as Mentor and nonprofit sister organizations have allowed their position in foster care to continue. Similar to the relationship between charter schools and related for-profit entities, such intertwined relationships between nonprofits and for-profit entities bring questions of accountability and motive in a variety of industries.—Michele Bittner

67-year-old Lander man accused of raping two of his foster children


(Lander, Wyo.) – A 67-year-old Lander man has been bound over to Wyoming’s Ninth District on charges that he raped two girls who were his foster children about 7 years ago. The victims were reportedly 8 and 10 years old at the time of the crime.
Tom Passey has been charged with two counts of First Degree Sexual Assault of a Minor relating to two sisters who were in his care when he allegedly raped them. Each charge is punishable by 5 to 50 years in prison, so if he is found guilty of both, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 100 years. He is currently being held on a $100,000 cash bond.
In this afternoon’s preliminary hearing in Lander’s Circuit Court, Lander Police indicated they learned about the sexual assaults when one of the girls’ counselors alerted them to what the girl had told them. She ultimately detailed to investigators an encounter in which Passey forced himself on her while she was in his care when she was 8. Passey was 60 at the time. She claimed that she cried and told him “no” multiple times, court testimony indicated.
Her older sister who now lives out of town testified to a similar event at the same home and around the same time. The younger reportedly told investigators that Passey told her “she would be sorry” if she told anyone.
The detective then testified that Passey admitted to having sexual intercourse with both of them, both during a polygraph test at the local FBI office and during an interview with investigators. The difference between his account and the girls’ accounts, the investigator said, was that Passey did not remember either of them resisting.
Passey’s attorney, Terry Martin, argued that the state did not present sufficient evidence that intercourse had occurred. He also emphasized that investigators did not look into whether the girls had stayed in any other foster homes in Lander.
The girls were not identified in court. They are reportedly under the custody of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Department of Family Services.

The case will be continued in District Court. An arraignment date for when Passey will enter a plea has not yet been set.