Monday, March 5, 2012

Child abuse attorney not trained - Penn.

By Terrie Morgan-Besecker

WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County has lost out on potentially thousands of dollars in state reimbursements because an attorney who represented children in abuse cases did not obtain training required by the state.

Frank Castano, executive director of Children and Youth Services, said he cannot seek reimbursement for work attorney John Bellino performed as a guardian ad litem after July 1, 2011 because Bellino did not obtain specialized training mandated by state legislation that went into effect last year.

The revelation comes as the court system faces mounting criticism for failing to monitor payments made to Angela Stevens, a Kingston attorney who admitted she double billed the county for representing parents in Children and Youth cases.

A Times Leader investigation revealed Stevens, who was paid more than $144,000 in 2011, charged the county for each fee petition she delivered to the court, even though many appeared to have been delivered in one trip.

President Judge Thomas Burke on Friday would not comment on why Bellino, who was paid a flat salary of $50,230, was permitted to remain employed if the county could not be reimbursed. Burke said he could not discuss the matter because it is a personnel issue.

Guardian ad litems are attorneys appointed by the court to represent children who are in the custody of Children and Youth Services to ensure their best interests are protected, independent of their parents’ interest.

The state Department of Public Welfare reimburses Luzerne County Children and Youth 50 percent for guardian services. As of July 1, the department no longer provided that funding for a guardian who did not obtain the training, which was mandated under an amendment to the state’s Adoption Act that went into effect last April.

Bellino, who had served as guardian for 11 years, was among the 59 county employees who were laid off Thursday.

It’s not known how much of Bellino’s salary from 2011 and 2012 might have been reimbursed by the state because the court system did not submit any invoices to Children and Youth detailing the number of hours he worked on cases, Castano said.

In the 2010-11 fiscal year, Castano said he sought 50 percent reimbursement for $48,208 in invoices submitted by court administration for work Bellino performed. The court had to submit invoices, even though Bellino was paid a flat salary, because DPW required documentation of the number of hours and cases on which he worked, Castano said.

Bellino said Friday he did not obtain the training because he did not know he was required to take it.

“I thought I was exempt from it because I’ve been doing this so long. I thought it was for new guardians,” Bellino said.

Bellino said was told by Castano of one training session held last year, but he did not learn about it until the last minute and could not attend due to a conflict. He said he assumed he could take it this year.

“When (Castano) told me that was a requirement for reimbursement, I believed at that point I could get it this coming year,” he said.

Children and Youth also has a contract with North Penn Legal Services to provide two attorneys as guardian ad litems. Castano said he was able to seek reimbursement for their work because both of those attorneys had received the training.

To date DPW has reimbursed the county $17,833 for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011-2012, according to deputy press secretary Ann Bale. The county spent a total of $66,252 with North Penn in the second quarter, which will be eligible for 50 percent reimbursement. That request has not yet been processed, Bale said.



  1. Who is Bellino kidding-this has been an issue for years. He is too lazy and at the bars 7 days a week. The only thing he knows how to do is extort money from parents and put their lives in danger. He rarly shows up in court and never checks on his cases.

    1. Please respond to

  2. There is more then that going on about John Bellino. Your article is very true and don't stop looking into it. When one door closes another one opens. How CPS knows that they are not allowed to hire an attorney to be a guardian ad litem that is not trained places all the children and families in danger. All cases that John Bellino had his hands in should be thrown out and the children he helped to Legally Kidnap Children along with Luzerne County CPS workers and Director of Luzerne County Children and Youth Services with the Head of Department of Human Resources.
    Several families in June of 2010 went to talk to the Head of Department of Human Resources and the Commissioners because how state police, District Magistrates, the authorizes above Luzerne County CPS workers are allowing the CPS workers to assault parents in front of state police offers and the police will not file a report on Luzerne County Children and Youth workers. You can tell Judge after Judge and here the workers from Luzerne County Children and Youth and the authorities above them are sweeping it under the carpet so there is no paper trail.
    You can go to the clerk of court office for your file, here the workers can't even find the whole file and where it's filed at. Here's the good part; Luzerne County wants to get out the corruption and several of them are sitting on the Luzerne County Counsel. Where does the corruption stop? When the ones that knowingly, willfully, and could be helping when he or she found out about it. Still sitting on his or her a double along with some of DA's Detectives that allow the workers from Luzerne County Children and Youth Services sign your name to documents. One DA's Detective stated they (CPS) are allowed to do that. Welcome to the Forth Right, Our Freedoms, Our Laws are no more when a social workers, law enforcement, the court house Judges, Commissioners, DAs and whom knows how far it goes allows these violations knowingly and willfully violating Families and Children's civil rights, constitutional rights, parental rights, human rights, and The Decoration of Independence.

    1. Please respond to

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.