Friday, September 2, 2011

Arizona: meet the CPS bunker By Laurie Roberts

It seemed a reasonable enough question.

A four-month-old baby is found not breathing and near death, according to Chandler police. Baby Josephine suffers 14 broken bones, bruises all over her face and a cigarette burn to her arm.
All this, while she is in the custody of a “safety monitor,” a woman entrusted with the infant's care by Child Protective Services.

So, as I said, it seemed reasonable to ask why CPS put the baby with this woman and what steps the agency took to ensure the baby would be safe — back before she became a punching bag and an ash tray.

Public: Meet bunker.

“Your request for public records in this matter is respectfully declined,” wrote Todd Stone, public records request coordinator for the Department of Economic Security, which oversees CPS.

To understand how outrageous the DES response is, you have to go back to 2007 when three Tucson children died on CPS's watch. While CPS was busy sweeping the story under its well-worn rug, this newspaper and The Arizona Daily Star sued to get the records, uncovering a stunning array of foul-ups and failures that hastened those children to their graves. As a result, the Legislature in 2008 passed a series of reforms, including a law opening CPS records when a child is beaten to death or nearly so.

The new law was simple. It says that CPS “shall promptly provide CPS information to the public regarding a case of child abuse, abandonment or neglect that has resulted in a fatality or near fatality.”

Now, fast forward to last week, when Chandler police arrested Angelica Jimenez and her boyfriend, Steven Saldana, for child abuse. According to police, baby Josephine was no longer breathing when she was discovered in the early hours of Aug. 3. She was taken to Cardon Children's Medical Center, near death and in seizures.

“The victim was found to have fourteen broken bones in the legs and ribs. There also was a cigarette burn to the left forearm along with bumps and bruises on the forehead as well as bruising on both sides of the face…,” police wrote in court documents. “Forensic doctors stated the child had suffered a near-death episode and the injuries were non-accidental trauma.”

Jimenez told police that the baby had been placed in her care by CPS, a fact which CPS confirmed.

So I asked for the records last week. I wanted to know why CPS felt Jimenez was an appropriate “safety monitor” and what steps the agency took to check her background and the background of her felon live-in boyfriend.

Within 24, hours, I was turned down flat.

I pointed out the police document that quoted the doctors … and was told CPS must have “a determination from a Doctor specifically stating that a near fatality occurred”.

Beyond, apparently, the determination of the doctors on the scene who talked to the police on the scene.

Arizona Republic attorney David Bodney wrote a four-page demand letter. Again, CPS said no.

“All appropriate parties were engaged in a review of the matter,” Stone wrote Wednesday. “In connection with such review, a conclusion was reached that the incident that is the subject of the public records request in question was not a near fatality.”

I asked who “all appropriate parties” were. Stone's reply: “The forensic physician involved in this case made the determination that this was not a near fatality.”

I don't know if it's the same forensic physician who told the police that it was a near-death episode. But since CPS is determined to go to great lengths to avoid answering questions about what it did -- or didn't do -- to protect baby Josephine, I'll toss out one more hurdle.

State and federal law define a near fatality as “an act that, as certified by a physician, places a child in serious or critical condition.”

Hard to see how 14 broken bones, a cigarette burn and a four-month-old baby not breathing wouldn't qualify.

Former House Speaker Kirk Adams, a prime sponsor of the 2008 law, called the CPS response “disturbing,” noting that the law requires openness in such cases so that children ultimately are better protected.

“It certainly was not our intent to provide a technical escape clause for them not to share what has happened in these cases,” he said. “There is incredible public interest to know whether or not an agency which has a nearly impossible but incredibly important task of protecting these children, whether or not things operated correctly, whether or not procedures are being followed.”

One would think that the CPS brass, given their budget woes, would have better things to do than spending a week working out how to avoid having to explain to the public what they did to ensure baby Josephine's safety before handing her over to the woman who now sits in jail.

But no. The bunker's been fortified, the blackout curtains have dropped, the moat's been dug and alligators are circling, to warn off any brave soul who might try to get a peek into the place.

(Column published Sept. 3, 2011, The Arizona Republic)

Friday, September 2, 2011 at 06:07 PM


Race A Major Factor In Foster Care Disparities

Written by Larry Aubry, (Columnist), on 08-29-2011 13:19

In Los Angeles and across the nation, there are clear disparities in foster care and Black children are faring far worse than their white counterparts. For Los Angeles Congresswoman Karen Bass, foster care reform has long care a top priority. She has repeatedly introduced legislation to increase foster care funding and the quality of services. Bass' efforts focus attention on the need to provide adequate resources as well as on race-based disparities that harm countless children. (A poignant and distressing example of the magnitude of the foster care problem is Los Angeles' predominantly Black Crenshaw High School- almost half of its students are in foster homes.)

The following excerpts are from a paper by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, whose primary mission is fostering public policies, reforms and community support that more effectively meet the needs of vulnerable children and families.

It is time to focus on disparities faced by African American children in our country's foster care system. Contrary to post-racial society rhetoric, race still weighs heavily on unification and permanence for foster kids. Children of color, especially African American children, fare far worse than whites on measures such as placement in foster care, length of stay in foster care, number of moves in foster care and length of time to permanency.

African American children, more than any other group, are more likely to exit the foster care system without being adopted, although a permanent home is the right of every child. The president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation says, "The basic human need for a family connection that can be counted on for life must be recognized as essential for all children and families, including those who interact with a child welfare system."

According to a 2007 Government Accountability Office report, African American children stay in foster care longer because of difficulties in recruiting adoptive parents and greater reliance on relatives to provide foster care who may be unwilling to terminate the parental rights as the child's parent or who, disproportionately, may need the financial subsidy they receive while the child is in foster care.

Research shows that African American children are no more likely to experience maltreatment than white children, yet they are greatly overrepresented among the child welfare population, especially while in foster care. Child maltreatment reports for children of color are also more likely to be confirmed than reports for white children.

African American children are also more likely to languish in foster care despite research proving that there is no real difference in the overall incidents of child abuse and neglect between African American and white children within similar income groups. Even for infants, disparities face African American in foster care and they are less likely to experience unification than white infants. Further, African American children over ten-years of age are significantly less likely to return home than white youth.

Practice and policy recommendations: Change federal fiscal policy to better promote permanence and well-being. To make a difference in child welfare outcomes, the federal government should have to right the balance between funds dedicated solely to out-of-home care and those that can be used more flexibly to keep families together.

Promising proposals include: Giving states the option of receiving funds solely for out-of-home care in exchange for more flexible and innovative funding that can be used to prevent out-of-home placement, while limiting states' financial risks if child welfare caseloads increase. The federal government must also take a leadership role in reducing pervasive racial disparities found throughout the child welfare system. Children of color are more likely than white children to be placed in foster care, less likely to receive the services they need and more likely to remain in care for a long time, even when the effects of poverty and thy type of maltreatment alleged are taken into account.

Child welfare information systems remain a generation behind the times, hampering efforts at all levels to track and improve performance. The federal government must support the development and dissemination of new information technologies for child welfare, combining mobile computer capability with worker-level decision support tools and proven practice guides.

Concerned citizens, African Americans especially, should urge their congressional delegations to vote for Bass's pending foster care bill- it represents an important step toward actual reform. And broad dissemination of the kind of information presented here, pressure on public administrators and elected officials and collaborating with families and interested others, are indispensable for sustainable foster-care reform.


L.A. County health official's dual roles are questioned

Child welfare agency medical director Dr. Charles Sophy also has a private practice where he works on such reality TV shows as 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.'

By Amy Kaufman and Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times

September 2, 2011, 5:45 p.m.

Dr. Charles Sophy, medical director for Los Angeles County's beleaguered child welfare agency, carries two cellphones in his pocket.

One BlackBerry tethers him to his county job, where he is responsible for the mental health needs of nearly 20,000 foster children. The second — kept in a plastic case adorned with images of dollar bills — is reserved for his Beverly Hills-based private psychiatric practice, where his patients have included Paris Hilton, and for scheduling appearances on television interview and reality shows. Among his recent on-camera sessions was counseling of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast member Taylor Armstrong and her husband, Russell, before Russell Armstrong committed suicide Aug. 15.

The two phones, Sophy said, signal his commitment to strictly segregate his public and private worlds. Despite those efforts, the two roles have overlapped in ways that have attracted attention.

Some say the county is fortunate to have a nationally recognized mental health expert on staff and that Sophy has made significant improvements in foster child care. But others argue that he has grown gradually more distracted over the years, and they question his commitment to the $256,000 county post.

"He's a guy who is preoccupied. I think the county comes second. Why is he involved in all this outside work when he has a house that is not in order at DCFS?" asked Aubrey Manual, president of a local foster parent association.

Sophy and the executive team in charge of the Department of Children and Family Services have come under repeated criticism for systemic breakdowns that contributed to the fatalities of children under their supervision. Sophy's unit has been specifically faulted in some of those deaths, and Supervisor Gloria Molina harshly scolded him in a closed-door meeting this year, according to officials familiar with the exchange.

Specifically, the department has been faulted for slow progress implementing a legal settlement that requires it to dramatically improve care for thousands of mentally ill children requiring intensive treatment.

Yet Sophy still enjoys high regard among many in the child welfare community, and he said county officials recently asked him to apply to lead the agency. Even some of the agency's most trenchant critics praise him.

Kim Lewis, the lead plaintiff attorney in the class action against the county, said Sophy has been an effective partner. Furthermore, she said it was important that Sophy is the longest-serving member in the agency's management team, a group notorious for its revolving door.

"I think he is one of the few folks who brings a sense of continuity to the important issues, and I think he has shown himself to care significantly about the issues and the kids," Lewis said. "I think he is an advocate for change."

Sophy, 50, maintains that he gets more out of helping the underprivileged than the rich and famous, pointing to his own background as the son of a Pennsylvania coal miner as evidence of his connection to hard-scrabble life. He earned his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, worked as a psychiatrist for the county Department of Mental Health and has been medical director since 2003.

"Honest to God, this is where my heart is," Sophy said in his government office, where the walls are covered with diplomas, children's artwork and photos of his 9-year-old son. "I put it all into perspective. There are many times I go to see my patients in 90210 and I'm like, 'Do you have any idea that I was just in a home where they didn't have dinner?'"

Sophy, who has a personal publicist who promotes him to various news outlets, has devoted a growing portion of his time to his more glamorous endeavors. This year alone, he has appeared on nearly 20 news programs, including 11 appearances on NBC's "Today" show.

In 2007, he took extended lunch breaks from his county job to visit Hilton in jail and meet with sheriff's officials to tell them that the Lynwood lockup was imperiling her mental health. Sophy said the trips were approved by Trish Ploehn, the agency's director at the time.

The same year, Sophy frequently appeared on TV as an expert commentator on the case of Nadya Suleman, the Whittier woman who gave birth to octuplets after treatment by a fertility physician.

Suleman's situation caused numerous calls to the county's child abuse hotline, and department officials say they are strictly barred from speaking about such cases.

Nevertheless, Sophy went on CNN's "Larry King Live" to offer his opinion on Suleman. "I think it's an outrageous number of children," he said.

Sophy said he believed the interview did not pose a conflict of interest, because the department had not initiated a formal investigation of Suleman in L.A. County.

Many of Sophy's television interviews in the last year supported a 2010 book he co-wrote about mother and daughter relationships that received glowing endorsements from Hilton, actress Sharon Stone and Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew." In 2008, Sophy began appearing on episodes of Pinsky's VH1 program about stars facing serious addiction issues. He has done a variety of other consulting work for reality television — most of which, he said, he is not paid for.

"When I'm on these shows, I go back to — 'No, this is about teaching. This is about breaking the stigma. This is about treatment,'" Sophy said. "These shows can be helpful, and you can watch and project your own issues on them and learn how to navigate problems."

But Dr. Paul Root Wolpe, director for the Center for Ethics at Emory University, questioned if it's in the best interests of patients to broadcast their therapy.

"The nature of therapy suggests that there are things people don't know about themselves that they need to reveal, so how can one truly consent to having that process filmed when one doesn't really know what they'll end up saying?" Wolpe questioned. "The highest standards of medical ethics would say you don't put someone in that risky a situation."

Last year, Sophy said, he was in discussions with ABC to host two reality shows, but they "never really panned out." Instead, he has devoted time to teaching at USC, Pierce College and UCLA, and he does occasional national paid speaking engagements across the country.

"If he is out of town, we are usually told," said Lisa Mandel, an aide to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "Wherever he goes, he's accessible. If I need him at 10 at night, I can call him."

That sentiment was echoed by one of Sophy's private patients, Melanie Brown, a former Spice Girl who has been working with him for more than three years.

"I could email him or call him right now, and he'd been on the phone in five minutes," said Brown, who once featured therapy sessions with Sophy on her reality show, "Mel B: It's a Scary World." "If I'm having a difficult time, no matter where he is in the world, no matter where I am — he's there for me."

In a statement of economic interest provided to the county, Sophy said his outside employment generated $10,001 to $100,000 last year. He also said he complies with a county policy that limits employees to 24 hours of outside work per week.

Sophy — whose everyday uniform consists of a well-tailored suit and dress shoes, sans socks — lives in a Beverly Hills home whose value was assessed at $3.5 million in 2007. He also owns two smaller properties in Rancho Mirage.

Although the Armstrong suicide focused renewed attention on Sophy's private practice, Sophy declined to comment on his relationship with the couple, citing physician-patient confidentiality. A person close to the production, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press, confirmed that Sophy's session with the Armstrongs were filmed.

It's not clear how much of that will appear on the new season of "Housewives," which debuts Monday on Bravo.


Fighting CPS: Guilty Until Proven Innocent of Child Protective Services Charges

From Irene Watson's Blog

Fighting CPS: Guilty Until Proven Innocent of Child Protective Services Charges

The back cover notes of “Fighting CPS” by Deborah K. Frontiera state that the book “chronicles thirteen months of agony and frustration suffered by the innocent Bonilla and Frontiera families as a result of Children’s Protective Services removal of young James Bonilla from his parents.” But the significance of the story this book tells reverberates far beyond the Child Protective Services Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on which the book focuses. This book is relevant for all fifty states with similar agencies charged with responsibility for investigating reports of abuse and neglect of children.

Few Americans take exception to the mission of child protective services and their primary goal of protecting children. But a mounting body of evidence, like that presented in “Fighting CPS,” has made it clear that an alarming number of state agencies and family court systems are broken. This reality has resulted in a growing grassroots movement demanding change and reform in numerous states. Based on Frontiera’s book, it’s hard to imagine a state in greater disrepair than Texas!

On the other hand, once the reader uncoils from their own initial reaction of disbelief, made possible by the detailed documentation drawn from the author’s own copious journal notes, no imagination is required to comprehend the ordeal of young James Bonilla, his parents Rufina and Julio and grandparents Deborah and Jasper Frontiera. I wonder, however, if those individuals from Texas CPS who were involved with this case understand, or even care, about the ramifications of their ineptitude. I was not, in the case of James Bonilla. Many reform advocates believe that the investigative component of the process would best be executed by trained law enforcement agencies. And, to make a difficult process even more daunting, the Bonilla case was handed off to thirteen different case workers over thirteen months. Nearly all of them failed to even find time to read the case file.

In “Fighting CPS,” Deborah Frontiera shares her story in an honest, open and endearing manner. I felt her agony and frustrations and sometimes intense anger throughout the book. I was eager to keep reading so that I could celebrate the victory that I wished for this family to achieve. While Frontiera follows-up on her own story with ten other case studies in answerer to the question of whether or not her case was typical, it is her own story that undoubtedly will compel others to engage with this issue or become involved with a movement. At least that was the case for me. Before penning my final draft of this review, I began researching the current condition of CPS in my own county and state. I hope the author will tell James and his parents that the sharing of his story has already had an impact on someone who read the book.

Fighting CPS: Guilty Until Proven Innocent of Child Protective Services Charges
Deborah K. Frontiera
Bluebonnets, Boots and Books (2011)
ISBN 9780980006162
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views (8/11)


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Justice Brownstone Talks About Child Protection and What To Do When CPS Is At Your Door

Billed as:

Find out what to do when child protection services come knocking on your door. Justice Brownstone interviews two lawyers - one that represents families against child protection agencies, and the other that represents the agencies in disputes.

Our Opinion:

This video is done on the side of the courts, in our opinion. It does offer a bit of information on the inner workings. Otherwise, they don't really offer parents any advice on what to do to protect themselves, their children or their rights.

The best advice in this video - Get A Lawyer!

IFCAA Fighting State Court-Based Racketeering Announces Advances in Illinois, Georgia, PA and Utah

On June 19, 2006, the Chicago-based grassroots, non-profit organization, Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates (IFCAA) issued its first press release on BusinessWire announcing that, despite the obstacle of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan representing the judges engaged in alleged racketeering enterprises, they had taken on apparent judicial corruption in the Cook County Circuit Court family court, called "the model for the nation" by Chief Judge Timothy Evans. Today IFCAA announces several major advances by grassroots efforts and the federal government nationally:

An April 2, 2008 Illinois appellate court opinion which, based on her one hour of testimony under oath, stated, "Dr. Sheila Mannix of the IFCAA assisted Lynch in bringing charges and filing complaints against the corrupt judges. Although Mannix did not provide Lynch with any information regarding Judge White, she produced direct evidence regarding several other judges' involvement in the bribery scheme." [382 Ill. App. 3d 960]

An April 10, 2010 certified report produced by the Illinois Family Law Study Committee [formed under the authority of House Resolution (HR1101) on May 19, 2008] was obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request which report stated: "(T)he effect of the present system, in practice, has created cottage industries of GALs/child representatives, custody evaluators and others..."

Mannix attached the report to a grand jury motion in her case against the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (U.S.D.C. Case No. 10 C 3849). On September 14, 2010, Chief Judge William Holderman of the federal court in Chicago deferred alleged "direct evidence of federal funding fraud underlying the 'cottage industries' operating in the State of Illinois' family court system" to District U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, stating in a written order, "The United States Attorney may exercise the full prosecutorial authority of the Executive Branch of the United States Government in bringing the matter to the attention of the grand jury."

An October 28, 2010, Chicago Defender article, "Grand jury demands documents on Ill. Grants," reported that the prior month, August 2010, Holderman had already convened a grand jury and Fitzgerald had issued upwards of 50 subpoenas to Illinois agencies in receipt of public funds in an "official criminal investigation."

A July 30, 2011 press release on Illinois' Republican U.S Senator Mark Kirk's official website states, "WASHINGTON - Just weeks after the conviction of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill which included Senator Mark Kirk's (R-Ill.) "honest services" priority with bipartisan support. The Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act, of which Sen. Kirk is a cosponsor, increases penalties for various public corruption crimes and provides additional tools for prosecutors to further crack down on public corruption."

An encouraging August 21, 2011, AP release out of Georgia, "FBI squad to investigate corruption among judges, legislators" reported, "The FBI has assembled a new squad to investigate corruption among judges and legislators in Georgia, though the top federal agent in the state is being tightlipped about what cases are developing." "Brian Lamkin, who heads the FBI office in Georgia," stated ""We don't take this lightly," he said."These are truly the types of investigations that are being done in the back room. And the circle of friends is very small. In order to penetrate that inner circle, you've got to have a strong and tenacious group to develop the intelligence.""

And the August, 11, 2011, 28-year sentence against Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. in the successful "Kids-for-Cash" investigation by three federal agencies (FBI, IRS, and District U.S. Attorney's Office) could signal a harbinger of more good things to come in line with the words of Chicago's top prosecutor, Fitzgerald, after his second successful conviction of an Illinois governor within five years for "white collar crimes;" that he hopes "the message is heard this time" that the federal government will not tolerate public corruption.

Similarly, Utah citizens, who have alerted their state and federal authorities for over eight years to evidence of alleged criminal acts and due process violations in cases involving alleged "judicial kidnapping and child trafficking" as exemplified in the August 19, 2011 NBC Dateline report of the "adoption" of "Baby Emma" from her father involving the Utah and Virginia courts, are encouraged by the nomination of David Barlow for their District U.S. Attorney in hopes that he is appointed and, along with their new FBI Special Agent in Charge David Johnson, will follow the lead of Chicago's Fitzgerald and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant.

David Barlow, is the general counsel to U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) who, in June 2011, received a binder of direct evidence of alleged federal crimes hand delivered to his district office by Utah child advocate, Connie Fielding. Ms. Fielding also hand delivered the binder of evidence to the district office of Senate Judiciary Committee senior member, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), on November 30, 2010 upon the direct request of his aide (a former agent of the Secret Service according to Hatch) with whom Mannix met in D.C. on November 16, 2010.

Dr. Mannix comments, "After working these past six years to help stop the apparent State-court based crimes which literally exploit the nation's children as "commodities" in judicial system "profit centers," I've found that an essential factor is differentiating between, on the one hand, the behaviors of traumatized parents being forced to watch their children irreparably harmed while being retaliated against, defamed, and impoverished and, on the other hand, the irrefutable sociopathic behaviors observed in public officials who have fiduciary obligations to stop that which they are participating in and enabling. I believe Mr. Fitzgerald summed it up best on June 27, 2011 after the solid conviction of ex-governor Blagojevich on 17 counts of federal crimes; he said, "There is legitimate politics. There are gray areas. Selling a Senate seat, shaking down a children's hospital and squeezing a person to give money before you sign a bill that benefits them is not a gray area. It's a crime." Likewise, the evidence indicates that what is going on in the venue provided by the nation's State courts in which private assets and federal funds can be unlawfully accessed are not "legitimate judicial proceedings" but crime, specifically, apparent violations of Federal funding laws and other Federal civil and criminal laws including alleged racketeering activity among public officials and State court actors."

In addition to helping provide evidence to state and federal authorities in pursuit of indictments of allegedly corrupt public officials including Mormon judges, Mannix has networked with Virginia citizens as well as Utah citizens, the latter of which have specifically called upon their Mormon GOP state legislators to launch an independent forensic audit of all Federal taxpayers' dollars coming into the State's family court-related programs.

Dr. Mannix concludes, "No one will be able to balance any government budget until the public corruption involving hundreds of billions of the nation's taxpayers' hard-earned income, which, in part, is literally being using to perpetrate that which the U.S. Congress voted it is to prevent, specifically, child and elder abuse, domestic violence, parental deprivation, and child support avoidance, is stopped once and for all by more criminal investigations, forensic audits, and tough new laws which result in the loss of pensions in entirety and deterrent-based, long-term prison sentences for involved officials acting in positions of public trust. Onward for the children."=

About IFCAA:

Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates (IFCAA) is a volunteer, non-profit organization which was co-founded in June 2005 by licensed mental health practitioners, educators, and victims of the alleged fraudulently-concealed racketeering activity in the Cook County family court involving domestic violence cases. IFCAA is operating under said assumed name for the non-profit organization, In All Our Best Interest, which Dr. Sheila Mannix founded in 1995 when she was engaged in her pre-family court racket professional activities and whose mission is to stop child abuse and other social dysfunction through education, activism, and advocacy.

Media Contact:
Dr. Sheila Mannix, Co-Founder
Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates (IFCAA)
(847) 971-6679

Source: Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates (IFCAA)

Illinois DHS Pays Sex Offenders to Babysit Children

Under the Illinois DHS Child Care Assistance Program, child care is subsidized for welfare recipients. While most babysitters are above board, the state has paid sex offenders, rapists, child molesters and violent criminals to care for children.

The CCAP program, in effect since the 1990s, did not properly screen those it employed as babysitters. In 2009, crack-down legislation went into effect to weed out child care providers with felonious records. It still took 18 months to get the ball rolling.

Visiting the CCAP website, I could find little information on provider qualifications. The bulk of verification is involved with income issues: preventing parents from claiming benefits for caring for their children, making sure the provider doesn't live in the home and restrictions of financial eligibility.

The only mention of child care provider criminal history is retrospective. The initial babysitter vetting process seems cursory, as is borne out by investigations launched by the Chicago Tribune. An investigation occurs only if the babysitter's probation officer calls to report them, if the state becomes aware of past criminal history or if someone sees the offender on a public website or on television. In the case of misdemeanor assault, the conviction may also not prevent the babysitter from obtaining a child care license.

Click Here To Read The Rest Of The Story.

CPS seeing a growing number of child abuse deaths in Arizona

Oregon - Girl’s death spurs lawsuit

The state Department of Human Services faces a $1.5 million case over the abuse suffered by Jeanette Maples

By Karen McCowan

The Register-Guard

Oregon’s child protective services agency faces a $1.5 million lawsuit for failing to prevent the 2009 starvation, torture and beating death of north Eugene teenager Jeanette Maples.

Portland attorney David Paul mailed the wrongful death complaint Monday to Lane County Circuit Court. The court clerk had not received or filed the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon, but Paul’s legal assistant provided a copy to The Register-Guard. Paul has successfully represented children injured in state foster care, including a record-breaking $2 million settlement for twins injured by poor foster care.

The suit on behalf of Jeanette’s estate targets the state Department of Human Services, which is responsible for investigating reports of child abuse and neglect. The complaint accuses the agency of failing to reasonably respond to multiple reports over four years that Jeanette was being abused. It called the state’s inaction “a substantial factor” in her death at age 15.

Jeanette’s mother, Angela McAnulty, is on Oregon’s death row after pleading guilty in February to the aggravated murder of her daughter. The dead teen’s stepfather, Richard McAnulty, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder by abuse. He denied inflicting harm, but admitted failing to protect Jeanette from her mother or to report her injuries and starvation to authorities.

“Jeanette Maples’ death could have been prevented if the State of Oregon exercised reasonable care in responding to reports that Jeanette Maples was being abused,” the suit charges. It alleges that state workers failed to “investigate and heed” allegations of abuse from reliable sources beginning in 2006, four years before Jeanette died. It also accuses the agency of failing to consider Angela McAnulty’s documented history of child abuse in California before moving to Oregon.

The suit also faults the agency for failing to adequately assess Jeanette’s “vulnerability to abuse.” It says workers wrongfully concluded that Jeanette “could fend for herself as a young teenager” despite “a history of abuse and neglect by the adult parents in her home.”

Those charges echoed the January 2010 findings of an internal Department of Human Services critical incident team.

The suit says state “negligence” was a substantial factor in Jeanette’s “suffering, humiliation, pain, fear, anguish, and torture” and ultimately in her violent death. As a result, she suffered “severe hunger, starvation, anemia, dehydration, alienation of affection, distress and a lack of the enjoyment of her short life, to her non-economic damage in the amount of $500,000.”

Siblings not considered heirs

The Oregon Attorney General’s Office, which will defend the Department of Human Services in the case, declined comment on the suit Tuesday.

“It is the policy of the Department of Justice not to comment on pending litigation,” spokesman Tony Green said.

The bulk of the lawsuit’s damages would go to Jeanette’s father, Anthony Maples, of California. The suit seeks $1 million in noneconomic damages for his loss of Jeanette’s “society, love and companionship.” As her “lone qualified heir” under Oregon law, Anthony Maples would also receive $500,000 the suit seeks as the value of the estate his daughter would probably have accumulated in her lifetime if not for her wrongful death.

The suit seeks an additional $7,000 to cover the teen’s burial and related expenses.

Anthony Maples could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He told The Register-Guard shortly after Jeanette’s death that he had not been in touch with his daughter for nearly a decade. According to his unsuccessful February 2010 court petition to be appointed personal representative of her estate, he had nine drug possession convictions — at least five involving methamphetamine — between 1990 and 2008. The petition shows that he was in and out of jail until late 2008, when he entered and completed a one-year residential treatment program. According to a June 2010 declaration in support of that petition, Maples had been clean and sober for 16 months.

Lane County Circuit Judge Lauren Holland in August 2010 denied Maples’ request, instead appointing Portland attorney Erin Olson as the estate’s personal representative.

Step-grandmother speaks out

The prospect of Anthony Maples collecting damages from the suit distressed Jeanette’s step-grandmother, Lynn McAnulty. She testified during Angela McAnulty’s trial that she made multiple — and apparently futile — abuse reports to the Department of Human Services in the last months of the teen’s life.

“Why should he profit off Jeanette’s death?” the Leaburg woman said. “He doesn’t deserve it because he wasn’t involved in her life. He didn’t know her. He didn’t even come to her memorial service.”

Lynn McAnulty said lawsuit proceeds would more rightfully go to Jeanette’s surviving half-siblings — a 14-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy — both in foster homes and in state protective custody. Absent a will, however, only a deceased person’s parents, spouse or children are legal heirs under Oregon law.

In a interview this month, McAnulty elaborated on her trial testimony that she repeatedly and unsuccessfully phoned child protective service workers in 2009, urging them to investigate Jeanette’s emaciation and injuries. She acknowledged posing as a concerned neighbor, saying she feared losing the limited access she had to her grandchildren if Angela McAnulty learned she’d reported abuse. (According to child protection caseworkers, the agency protects the confidentiality of people who report abuse.)

Lynn McAnulty said she told one phone screener, “This child looks like an Ethiopian (famine victim),” only to have the screener respond with “something like, ‘You’re telling us she needs medical help — that’s not us,’ and, ‘Are you sure she’s not anorexic?’ ”

McAnulty said she placed her last call to the agency the week before Jeanette died, after her son called to tell her he’d caught the girl drinking from the toilet.

“I said, ‘Someone needs to go there. Something’s wrong with this child. It’s urgent,’” McAnulty said. “I told her, ‘I’ve called several times,’ and she said, ‘We don’t just drop everything — we have to go through channels.’ ”

McAnulty also reiterated her trial testimony that she asked one screener if she should call the police, but was advised that child protection workers could more effectively investigate.

The agency’s internal investigation, now posted on its website ( without the redactions that originally blacked out information that might have compromised Angela McAnulty’s trial, reports only two calls in 2009, both from “the same individual” on Dec. 1. It says the person reported that Angela McAnulty’s children were being “abused and neglected, especially the older one.”

Report details decisions

The newly public material says the caller reported that the older child — Jeanette — was not attending school, had “current marks and bruises” and “appeared malnourished.” It also said the caller reported that the child was “not allowed to speak with her.”

“The (caller) initially would not provide the last name of the children or an address,” the state’s internal report said. “In a subsequent call that same day, the reporter called back and provided the last name and address for the family. Concluding that the call did not constitute a report of abuse or neglect, the matter was closed at screening.”

The critical incident team found that conclusion to be in error, the internal report said.

“This report in fact constituted abuse or neglect and should have been assigned for child protective service assessment,” it said.

The team’s report also acknowledged that additional calls “may have been made but not documented” if they “did not rise to the level of abuse or neglect.”

The newly public material from the internal report shows that the agency responded to two 2006 reports that Jeanette was “being punished by being forced to kneel on the tile floor with her nose to the wall and hands behind her back for extended periods of time, that she was being forced to eat chili peppers, and that her hair was being pulled making her head sore.” But the agency “could not determine whether there was a safety threat” to the girl because of inconsistent information about food deprivation and punishment from Angela and Richard McAnulty, Jeanette’s sister, and Jeanette herself.

The new material also details the agency’s response to a 2007 report from “a credible source” that Jeanette had a bruise on her chin. It says the critical incident team found that the agency erred in closing that case without further assessment, based on Jeanette’s “denial that abuse had occurred.”

The agency has adopted new protocols in response to the internal report — including a policy of more thoroughly investigating cases involving children such as Jeanette, who are not in school or other settings where other adults can see their condition.


Oregon woman loses fight to keep sons from home of child killer

August 30, 2011

She was a Brownie troop leader, a room mother, a Sunday school teacher and almost the definition of an Orange County soccer mom -- until she shot her two small daughters to death in 1991 while they slept in their home in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Kristine Cushing, then 39, said she was the victim of anti-depression medication, a debilitating heart condition and worry over the impending dissolution of her 17-year marriage to former Marine Corps fighter pilot John Cushing Jr. when she shot her daughters, ages 4 and 8, and then attempted to kill herself.

She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent four years in a mental hospital. In 2005, California authorities concluded that she posed no risk and granted her an unconditional release.

Fast forward to now: The Cushings are back together, living on Vashon Island in Washington state, and an Oregon woman who married John Cushing four years after the killings has temporarily lost her legal bid to prevent her own teenage sons from living with the couple.

In his ruling, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing said Trisha Conlon, who only recently discovered that Kristine was living in the home, has not proved that Kristine Cushing poses an immediate threat to Conlon's two boys, ages 13 and 14, though he called for a full investigation to determine an appropriate final order.

John Cushing married Conlon in 1995, and the couple had two sons. But they divorced in 2005 and Cushing, unbeknownst to Conlon until recently, got back together with his first wife.

Conlon's elder son has been living with the Cushings full time during the school year; custody of the two boys is shared during summers and holidays.

Both boys until recently had been told by their father to refer to the woman who had effectively become their stepmother simply as "Mrs. M." After learning the truth, Conlon, who lives in Silverton, Ore., went immediately to court to try to modify the custody order to keep her boys away from Kristine Cushing.

John Cushing has argued in court that Kristine is fully recovered and has a good relationship with the boys. "She is busy, enjoys life and loves me and my sons," he wrote in a court declaration.

The court recognized that the elder boy has been thriving socially and academically under the Cushings' care. But Conlon was doubtful. Why, she wondered, had Kristine Cushing's therapist contacted Washington state's Child Protective Services in 2007, informing them that the children were living with his client, if there wasn't cause for some concern?

Court commissioner Leon Ponomarchuk ruled this summer that the current custody plan should remain in place, and Conlon was forced to drop off both boys with the Cushings at the beginning of August.

"It wasn’t easy," she said in an interview with NBC's Today show. "It was gut-wrenching. I don’t even have words to describe it."

Ponomarchuk acknowledged in his legal finding that there is no cause to remove the children from the Cushings' custody, but his personal inclination as a parent might be different.

"I have to look at this dispassionately," Ponomarchuk said. "Would I ever want my children around her? I would say no. But that is an emotional reaction coming from a parent."

The new ruling overturns the commissioner and says the parenting plan can be reviewed, but the judge found no reason to set it aside immediately, pending a thorough study by a court-appointed guardian over the next 90 days.

In the meantime, the judge ordered that John Cushing ensure that there are no firearms or other deadly weapons in the home, that he stop living with Kristine if she does not follow her doctors' recommendations, including those for medications, and that he comply with any "safety plan" imposed by state child protection workers.

19 Year Old Impregnates 12 Year Old Special Needs Sister

What was going on here?

Houston, TX (KTRK/CNN) - A Houston woman is accused of going to extreme measures to protect her son from sexual assault charges.

We should warn you, the details of this case may be disturbing to some.

Cynthia Greenwood was in court Monday to answer to charges that she took her 12-year-old special needs adoptive daughter to get an abortion because the father was her song.

Isaac Greenwood, who is now 19, is charged with three counts of aggravated assault of a child.

Child Protective Services launched its investigation after someone locally called in an anonymous tip stating the 12-year-old became hysterical when Greenwood took her in for an abortion and refused to give details about how her daughter got pregnant.

A week later, on October 22, 2010, Greenwood allegedly took her daughter to a women's clinic in Cleveland, Ohio to have the abortion.

She was 22 weeks pregnant.

Two months later, in a videotaped interview, the young special needs girl claimed she got pregnant because her brother had sex with her.

"These forensics interviewers are trained to interview children of all ages and children with special needs also to try to get from them the truth and what happened," said Estella Olguin with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Greenwood used to live in North Harris. A former neighbor didn't know Greenwood well, but described her as polite, and family oriented.

"The alleged victim is now 13 and in foster care.


Detroit mom cleared of charges that stemmed from standoff at home

11:14 PM, Aug. 29, 2011

In a case that sparked debate about parental rights versus state involvement in the medical care of children, a Detroit woman won a major victory Monday when all the charges against her were dropped.

Maryanne Godboldo, 57, was accused of firing a gun at Detroit police officers who were assisting a state Child Protective Services worker when they came to her Blaine Street home on March 24 to get her daughter.

The charges against Godboldo were dismissed at her preliminary examination in 36th District Court in Detroit. Judge Ronald Giles agreed with her lawyers that the court order to remove Godboldo's 13-year-old daughter was not valid.

"I am very, very happy and blessed that Judge Giles did the right thing," Godboldo said at a news conference at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.

Giles also agreed that there was no evidence supporting the charge that Godboldo fired a gun at police during the standoff.

When asked about Giles' ruling, Detroit Police Sgt. Eren Stephens said: "Ms. Godboldo was afforded her due process under the law. We abide by and respect the decision."

Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, said the prosecutor will appeal the dismissal of charges.

Godboldo legal team confident that case will survive an appeal

Maryanne Godboldo's legal team is confident that a Wayne County District Court judge's dismissal of all charges against her on Monday will survive an appeal.

"The standard is abuse of discretion," said Byron Pitts, one of Godboldo's lawyers. "The court today did not abuse his discretion."

Godboldo, 57, of Detroit was charged with discharge of a weapon, three counts of felonious assault, resisting and obstructing an officer and felony firearm.

She was accused of firing a gun at police who had accompanied a state Child Protective Services employee to Godboldo's home on Blaine on March 24.

The employee had a Juvenile Court order to take Godboldo's 13-year-old daughter after Godboldo had been accused of neglecting her by discontinuing a psychotropic drug. Godboldo has maintained she has the right to decide her daughter's medical treatment.

Police said Godboldo barricaded herself in her home with her daughter and shot at them.

After hearing testimony at Godboldo's preliminary examination in 36th District Court on Monday in Detroit, Judge Ronald Giles ruled that the court order was not valid and that there was insufficient evidence that Godboldo fired at police officers.

Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor's Office, said the dismissed charges will be appealed. Miller said that Wayne County Circuit Judge Lynne Pierce earlier determined at a Juvenile Court hearing that the order to remove the child was valid.

The appeal will be heard in Wayne County Circuit Court.

At a news conference Monday at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Pitts and Godboldo's other attorney, Allison Folmar, explained why they prevailed.

Folmar said Godboldo "never shot at an officer -- period. It never happened."

They said the court order was not valid because a court clerk stamped the judge's name to the order without consulting the judge.

"A judge never looked at this, never saw it," Pitts said. "It has to be an elected authority. This lady took the judge's stamp, stamped the judge's name and off she goes."

He called it "a huge constitutional error."

As a result of this case, Pitts said, there has been a policy change. Court employees are no longer allowed to stamp judges' names on court orders.

Godboldo's supporters say Giles' ruling was justice.

Sandra Hines, a member of the Godboldo Action Committee, said: "This case is rooted on the grounds of parental rights. It's the right of every parent to be the custodial caregiver over their child."

Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said, "It's a victory for parental rights."

He also said that "Citizens have the right not to adhere to questionable reasons for entering their home. A person does not have to allow an unreasonable search and seizure to their home."

Neema Yacen of Detroit and a member of the Godboldo Action Committee, said it was a case of state overreach. "This is a mother who said her child had a problem, took her to the people who she thought could help her, and they crucified her."

Godboldo, whose daughter is now in the custody of her sister Penny Godboldo, is working to get her child back.

Judge Pierce has said she needs to evaluate the girl's current treatment and is seeking a report from her doctor.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Boy Dies After No Water Punishment By Parents

Once again, where was CPS? It is hard to believe that this was the first abuse dished out to the James children due to the evil and torturous nature of the abuse in this report. How was this kind of thing allowed to happen?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Safety of group homes hard to check

Why wasn't CPS called in on this situation? Why are these "homes" allowed to take children if they are abusing them? Why aren't they more closely monitored (even for the adults) when many of these patients can not defend themselves? Why....? Why..? Why???

By JULIE MURPHY, Staff writer
August 28, 2011 12:30 AM

GLENWOOD -- Chris Nicoles sits and draws at the kitchen table while Louise Harwin watches television in the family room.

It's a familiar scenario in homes everywhere, except that Nicoles and Harwin live in a group home for adults with disabilities.

"These houses are supposed to look like any other house in the neighborhood," said Ed DeBardeleben, area administrator for the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities. "These (group homes) are their homes."

Outside of making frequent personal visits, there's little parents or guardians can do to ensure the safety and well-being of loved ones who live in such group homes. Most are left to trust that the system and its safeguards are working.

But are they?

Reviews and violations found on a state website for 57 licensed group homes in Volusia and Flagler counties, as well as for other group homes statewide, are often outdated, with the most recent reports in many cases being more than 3 years old. State inspection reports are often vague, providing few, if any, details about a particular home's overall condition or employees' qualifications.

A recent case of criminal abuse of a disabled Palm Coast teen living in a Palatka group home run by O'Carroll Homes illustrates that sometimes problems slip through cracks.

O'Carroll Homes, which runs several facilities in Palatka and one in Hastings, had its Medicaid waiver agreements pulled by the state after four workers and a former employee accused of burning the 17-year-old girl with a clothes iron were arrested and charged in January.

One of the workers was sentenced to four years in prison earlier this month for his role in the abuse case. Four others have September court dates, according to the State Attorney's Office.


Many group home providers are paid through Medicaid waiver agreements, according to Agency for Persons with Disabilities spokeswoman Melanie Etters. The waivers pay for care and supplies for adults diagnosed with certain disabilities before the age of 18.

While pulling Medicaid waivers doesn't technically close a home, its residents or their families would have to pay for their care privately. Costs vary widely based on behavioral issues, daily living and medical needs, but can run between $35,000 and $150,000 per year, Etters said.

"In general, APD typically closes about two group homes a month statewide," Etters said. "Generally, there are two main reasons why this occurs. First would be some major incident occurs at the group home endangering the health and safety of one or more individuals. Second would be when a home is continually cited for issues during monthly monitoring and has not corrected any of the issues within a reasonable amount of time, and the agency is concerned for the health and safety of the people living in the home."

After her daughter was burned in January, Jeanette Roscoe moved her to another group home in North Florida and thought she had found an ideal site -- just as she had when she took her daughter to the O'Carroll Homes facility in Palatka 11 years ago.

"The first time I did research, (O'Carroll Homes) were long-standing and had all the credentials," Roscoe said. "I looked at the cleanliness, that she'd have her own room and the ratio of staff to patients."

Roscoe also closely inspected the North Florida facility where she decided to move her daughter, who she said has the mind of a 2- or 3-year-old. Again, Roscoe studied employee folders and resumes, scrutinizing who administered medications and where they were kept.

But again, her daughter suffered serious injuries. This time, she jumped through a window at 5:30 a.m. Aug. 10 and wound up needing more than 100 stitches and staples to close her wounds, Roscoe said.

"It was a 5- to 6-foot drop out the window," Roscoe wrote in an email to The News-Journal that included images of her daughter's injuries. "I thought she had one-on-one supervision, but she didn't. At least she didn't then."


The group homes overseen by DeBardeleben's office, which covers Volusia and Flagler counties, include small family-run operations as well as homes owned by large businesses such as Duvall Home, LifeShare, Sunrise Community and National Mentor.

Group home workers are expected to undergo criminal background checks through the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and local agencies. They must also sign an affidavit that they are of good moral character, DeBardeleben said. "Zero tolerance" training is also required and employees are instructed to treat residents with dignity and respect, as well as to look for signs of abuse or neglect and to report it to law enforcement.

But researching group homes is complicated, said Jim King, executive director for The Arc of Volusia, which provides programs to increase independence and quality of life for adults with developmental disabilities.

"It's not an easy situation," King said. "There (is) a waiting list of people not getting any services. Funding has always been limited and it keeps getting cut. These are all independent businesses -- some big, some small."

DeBardeleben said more than 20,000 people are on the waiting list for Medicaid waivers statewide.

Martin Favis, president of the Duvall Home -- among the largest care providers for the developmentally disabled in the country -- said the challenge is to provide a homey setting for its 160 residents who live in 10 group homes and one larger congregate-living facility. Some pay privately while others have Medicaid waivers.

"Not every individual has a vested parent or guardian," Favis said as he walked through the home where Nicoles and Harwin live. "We want to have compatible homes where people have things in common. This is their home and it should feel that way."

Favis admits things weren't picture-perfect at Duvall before his arrival three years ago.

"We've come a long way in three years," he said. "APD (Agency for Persons with Disabilities) wasn't happy with us. There were funding cuts and financial problems. We had to really mend our relationship."

Group homes are monitored monthly, typically by a two-person team from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. The exception is "respite homes," those that only take people who need temporary care -- for instance, if a family goes on vacation. They are not inspected if they have no residents during a given month.

"Group homes have their own niche," DeBardeleben said. "We want clients to have a choice so they integrate into the community, and different clients have different needs."


Some homes have nurses on staff. Others are "intensive behavioral residential habitation group homes," which handle patients who may be a danger to themselves or others.

One Duvall Home niche is that it is an adult-only facility.

"I'm hoping to get (my daughter) placed in Duvall," Roscoe said. "She turns 18 on Sept. 9 and hopefully we'll be able to transfer her that day."

Roscoe, her daughter, her daughter's case manager -- officially referred to as a waiver support coordinator -- and other officials from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, as well as Favis, are working together to help Roscoe's daughter make the transition.

"I'm waiting for this to all settle down," Roscoe said before breaking into tears.

Roscoe believes her daughter should have been reassessed in January after she was burned. A reassessment is usually done once every three years, with exceptions made for crises.

"That was a crisis," Roscoe said. "I think she was in shock immediately afterward, but I can only guess that because of her limited verbal communication. She wets the bed now and has been self-mutilating. It's post-traumatic stress. And I'm tired. I'm trying to protect her. I'm trying to protect her from other people. I'm trying to protect other people."


County says child-protection rifts are mending

By Courtney Vaughn
Hi-Desert Star
Published: Saturday, August 27, 2011 2:14 AM CDT

SAN BERNARDINO — A representative from the county’s Children’s Assessment Center says it is working with partner agencies to resolve many of the shortcomings identified in a grand jury report.

An investigation into the Children and Family Services Department of San Bernardino County and its partner agencies found a dysfunctional relationship between CFS and the assessment center. The Children’s Assessment Center is a private-public partnership that provides medical and psychological evaluations to children of physical and sexual abuse. It partners with CFS, along with Loma Linda University Medical Center, law enforcement, the District Attorney and county Health Department to ensure child abuse cases are properly handled.

According to the report, the center sees between 80 and 100 children each month.

The investigation of CFS, formerly referred to as Child Protective Services, was done on behalf of the grand jury’s Human Services Committee, which reviews social services operations in the county.

Spokesmen from the county don’t deny tensions and communication barriers among CFS, the assessment center and other partner agencies, but they reject many allegations made in the grand jury report.

Assessment center affiliates alleged to grand jurors that some of the county’s social workers were unqualified and didn’t follow protocol.

“There is confusion as to how to work a case. Morale is low,” investigators wrote in their final report.

Despite their statements, jurors do not provide evidence to show CFS ever did anything wrong in its operations.

The grand jury listed lack of accountability and oversight as endemic problems in the CFS department. Jurors say Riverside County CFS uses an auditing system called Technical Assistance, Review and Consultation (TRAC). San Bernardino County CFS was offered training for the system but turned down the offer.

CFS has a heavy burden of responsibility. The county agency takes on numerous cases of potentially harmful home environments each month. In Yucca Valley alone, 60 cases have been referred to the CFS office this month. A local office worker, who did not want to be identified, said the number of cases usually increases during the beginning of the school season.

Department dissolves board of advisors

Jurors charged that CFS has eroded the leadership structure at the assessment center. They noted that CFS representatives discontinued the Child Assessment Center’s advisory board a few years ago and stopped attending other partner agency meetings.

Gregory Devereaux, CEO of San Bernardino County and chairman of the assessment center, said what occurred was a gradual lack of participation by key people from partner agencies.

“When it started, it was a high-level partnership with high-level involvement by all the players…. Over time, responsibilities would get passed down to the next level and the next level and the next. It wasn’t that the commitment waned, but the board got passed down to lower levels in those organizations,” Devereaux said via phone on Friday.

He said the advisory board needed people who had the capability to solve resource problems.

Devereaux says CFS and other agencies were aware of the communication issues and were working to resolve them during the time of the grand jury investigation. He and county spokesman David Wert acknowledged the discord between partnerships, but say none of the behind-the-scenes problems ever affected service to families or children.

Shrinking budgets, tightening tensions

A rift between CFS and Loma Linda University Medical Center, which provides forensic medical exams for children at the assessment center, can be traced to budget constraints.

In 2007, Loma Linda raised its rates of service. David Wert, public information officer for the county, says county administrators instructed CFS to see if the work could be done by another medical facility for a lower rate.

“Everybody’s budgets were already getting tight,” Wert said in a telephone interview Friday. “Some tension developed at that point.”

After CFS requested proposals from other hospitals, it was determined that Loma Linda was the only facility with qualified staff to perform the services needed.

The grand jury report noted CFS started asking the Sheriff’s Department to request and fund forensic medical exams, to offset some of the financial pressure.

‘Right people’ are working at it, CEO says

Aside from visible tensions, the report stated CFS was uncooperative with the grand jury when asked to release information. And the jury wasn’t the only one. CFS also requested a subpoena before releasing any information to the assessment center’s Child Death Review Team, which was investigating a child’s death.

“CFS hides behind a screen of confidentiality, and does not want to give out any information,” jurors wrote.

Devereaux said the “screen of confidentiality” isn’t a screen, but the law.

“The people that they interviewed don’t know the law,” he said.

Devereaux said by law, no agency can release information about its clients or patients unless subpoenaed by a judge.

Allegations aside, Devereaux and Wert said working relationships that once faltered are being restored. “We’ve gone to a new structure. We’ve got the right people at the table and relationships are being rebuilt,” Devereaux said.