Another toddler foster child is killed….

July 9, 2012

By Attorney David Engler

Another toddler was killed in a foster home, this time in Maryland. 

The two year old girl was beaten to death by the 12 year old son of the foster parents. 

Public child welfare agencies are the only ones who don’t see that our delivery system of child protection services is largely broken. They hide from scrutiny by cloaking themselves in rules of confidentiality.

Of the families I have represented the thread is common. They are usually poor, uneducated and unable to ask questions.  Perhaps that is why their children end up in children services care.

But once government gets involved, then it becomes our business and the death of one child who was given to an agency that was meant to protect should cause an immediate and open review and call for changing the bureaucratically bloated child protection system. 

Below is today’s editorial from the Washington Post.  It could have been written in all but a handful of states like Virginia, Kansas and Florida that have overhauled children protective services.

WHEN WELFARE authorities remove a child from the home, it is supposed to be for the child’s safety. It is simply unthinkable that a 2-year-old girl in Prince George’s County who was taken from her mother’s custody was beaten to death while in the care of a foster family. Not only must there be a thorough review by county and state authorities, but it’s important that circumstances of the case — including a determination of whether the tragedy could have been prevented — be made public.

Aniyah Batchelor, who turned 2 in March, died Tuesday of “blunt force trauma,” according to Prince George’s police, who said she was beaten inside her foster parents’ home in Fort Washington. A 12-year-old boy, son of the unnamed foster parents, was charged with second-degree murder. Police allege that the boy had “beaten the child repeatedly’’ in a single attack; no weapon was used. It appears that the parents were away and their 15-year-old daughter was sleeping.

When a foster child is killed confidentiality is no excuse for concealing what happened and why.

The toddler had been in foster care since November. “Our hearts go out to the families involved. Both families and the staff that worked with them will need our support in the coming days,” read a statement issued by the Maryland Department of Human Resources, parent agency for the Prince George’s County Social Services Department, which handled the child’s placement. There is no doubting the need for sympathy, but officials also must provide a better explanation of the actions taken in this case.

Predictably, they have chosen to hide behind a supposed need for confidentiality and privacy even as state spokesman Pat Hines acknowledged that the state can discuss some details about a child in foster care if there is “an allegation of abuse and neglect” resulting in a death. Incredibly, state legal authorities concluded that that exemption doesn’t apply to Aniyah’s case.

Perhaps this was a tragedy that could not be foreseen; maybe it occurred despite best and correct efforts. But there are unanswered questions. Was the foster home properly screened? Were the parents trained? Had there been any signs of trouble? Were there alternatives that would have allowed Aniyah to avoid foster care? The public, the 6,859 Maryland families with children in foster care and, above all, this little girl’s mother need more than expressions of sorrow. They deserve answers.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com/


“I Get Tired Chasing Tongue Draggers” from the lips of a fired teacher……

May 20, 2012

By Attorney David Engler

For the last 12 years I have been a school board member of a county board and a career and technical center. On the county board or Educational Service Center we provide the services to help local districts improve. We also run special schools including one for emotionally disturbed children with varying behavioral issues; a school run in conjunction with a great program started by the local Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick.  At the MCCTC almost a third of our students have an IEP. An IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. It is required by law and so many parents do not understand how important to ensure your child’s IEP is carefully constructed to specifically help your child no matter the cost or inconvenience to a district.

 

The worst thing I ever heard was from the lips of a fired teacher who told me how hard it was to chase after “tongue draggers” every day. My emotions were caught in between punching him and simply shaking my head. I am glad we fired him. Instead I will never forget those words and how insensitive some in education can be towards a child with a disability.  And if that disability is one of a severe emotional problem or a slight shade of Autism or Asperger’s, then most of our teachers are ill-trained to help the child with the different wiring. There are many teachers who just get it.  They are naturals at knowing how to reach the student with a disability that can be unnerving and tiring. They also understand the investment a parent has made in this child.  The teacher may have the child 6 hours a week or maybe more if an elementary student.

And often indifference is the answer from an administration concerned about increased costs.  So whether they admit it or not, every administrator knows that a diagnosis of a disability might bring years of extra costs for the district. In a famous case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (2009) the court ruled that the district should have reimbursed the parents for the costs of private schooling since the District should have been aware of the disability and provide assistance to the family.  The District claimed they had no idea there was a problem. Justice Stevens of the Supreme Court stated: “We conclude that IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) authorizes reimbursement for the cost of special education services when a school district fails to provide a FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education) and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school.” The cost to the district was $65000 to reimburse the parents and potentially $500000 in legal fees. 

Every school district is legally required to identify, locate, and evaluate children with disabilities (20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(3)). After the evaluation, the district may provide the child with specific programs and services to address special needs.

IDEA defines “children with disabilities” as individuals between the ages of three and 22 with one or more of the following conditions:

  • Mental retardation
  • Hearing impairment (including deafness)
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Visual impairment (including blindness)
  • Serious emotional impairment
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Autism
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Specific learning disability, or
  • Other health impairment                  (20 U.S.C. §1401(3); 34 C.F.R. §300.8).

For your child to qualify for special education under IDEA, it is not enough to have one of these disabilities. There must also be evidence that the disability adversely affects your child’s educational performance.

Now each school district should be well aware of its responsibilities.  But sadly not every administrator can see life from the eyes of a parent struggling to find help for their child.  The schools seem relieved if they can cause the child to graduate and be done with the financial exposure. The former Director of Special Ed for Maryland, Dr. Linda Bluth gave me the best advice ever.  “Our children do not fail…it is we who fail our children.” It is very difficult to cause a school culture to adopt this core belief.  It makes us accountable.  It denies us the ability to blame little to no achievement on a kid with a mental problem, a broken home, a history with children services, parents who think they know better(they almost always do) or some other societal bogeyman.  No we have to own it.  This means we will have failures.  And they will sting. 

But for the guardians and parents there is help for you. I have included some of the language in the federal IDEA statute above to help you know what to do.  The regulations can be found at www.gov/about/offices/list/users.  The country has 81 million students that fit this category.  Ohio has about 3 million.  We need more teachers and aides with special education training. We need to pay them more to encourage their numbers and recognize that their job makes teaching even tougher than it already is.  You can also look at www.mdlclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/pub-special-ed-handbook. This handbook gives you sample letters to ask for independent evaluations  and how the legal process works.  Or hire a lawyer.

Most importantly we need parents to step forward and be armed with the law as you demand the very best possible Free and Appropriate Public Education for your child. The key word to me is appropriate.  These children are all so very different.   Make sure the IEP has real goals that can be measured without someone guessing that your son or daughter has advanced with soft logic.  Don’t give up and never be afraid to ask to talk directly to the Board of Education.  Often the Board members are shielded from the other side of the story. Do not assume that they will side with the administrators standing in your way.  

You have been given a child with special needs because you can handle it.  I do not need to tell you your journey is tough. Not everyone is going to be understanding.  But I can tell you that the law is on your side and many more people than you could possibly imagine.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com/ and on eGuardianship.com http://eguardianship.wordpress.com//


Addiction Stronger Than Motherhood

May 11, 2012

By Attorney David Engler

Custody disputes take place in Juvenile Court, if the families are not married or Domestic Court, if the family is in the process of a divorce or have divorced previously.

Custody disputes take place in Juvenile Court, if the families are not married or Domestic Court, if the family is in the process of a divorce or have divorced previously.

Clearly having an agreement about how a couple will jointly parent the child or children is the best result.  But if there is no agreement, often accusations will fly.

And I warn all clients to be aware that the court might order a drug screen at any given time.  The courts will almost always take the child or children from the parent on illegal drugs and give custody to the parent who is not hooked.  Sometimes it is hard to find anyone not taking pain pills without a prescription. In one case both parents and a grandparent were dirty. In Ohio for the first time overdoses of drugs has overtaken auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental death.

In one case the mother was asked by the Magistrate to give a urine screen and she said she couldn’t because she had a yeast infection.  Everyone found that to be disgusting and a weak excuse.  Recently a nice looking young mother was asked to take a screen and at first she agreed.  Then after 15 minutes she comes back and said she had just pee’d before court.  The Court told her to drink some water. 30 minutes later still no urine.  I really didn’t need to see a drug test. She had all the signs.  Empty pill bottles without prescriptions.  Selling things from her house.  Unable to keep a schedule.  A doctor at an ER saying no narcotics for you after she came with a complaint of a tooth ache.  (I was thinking good for the doctor who checked the database from his Akron offices and saw she had filled 21 prescriptions for pain meds in the last two years.)

So she only sees her child if supervised.  That is the overwhelming power of the pain pill epidemic. This scourge does not see race, sex or income.  It is even more powerful than a mother’s natural instinct to care for her child. 

People can recover and get their children back.  But the road is very difficult and those who are nearest to the addict must not be fooled.  We the parents, or friend or guardian must dispense very tough love. Get help; call 211. You will find a counselor, clinic or N.A. Group.  It is a persistent enemy.  For some it is stronger than motherhood.

 

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com/ and on eGuardianship.com http://eguardianship.wordpress.com//


Abused Adults

April 3, 2012

By Attorney David Engler

Adult Protective Services (APS) is responsible for investigating reports of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of Ohioans aged 60 and older. Similar agencies exist in every state. APS is part of each Ohio County Department of Job & Family Services (CDJFS). The Ohio Revised Code defines “abuse” as infliction upon an adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish. “Neglect” is defined as the failure of an adult to provide for self the goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness or the failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services. “Exploitation” means the unlawful or improper act of a caretaker using an adult or an adult’s resources for their monetary or personal benefit, profit or gain.

Lady

APS can petition Probate Court for a temporary restraining order to prevent interference or obstruction of its investigation by any person, including the abused adult. The court must find (a) that there is reasonable cause to believe the adult is being or has been abused, neglected, or exploited, and (b) that access to the adult’s residence has been obstructed. APS can also petition the court to approve a service plan providing involuntary services. The adult must receive a notice describing his or her rights and the consequences of a court order at least five working days before a hearing on the petition. An indigent adult has the right to a court-appointed attorney. Notice of the hearing must also be sent to the adult’s guardian, attorney, caretaker and spouse.
The court must find by clear and convincing evidence that (a) the adult has been abused, neglected, or exploited; (b) the adult is in need of protective services; (c) the adult is incapacitated; and (d) no other person authorized by law is available to give consent. If the court so finds, it must issue an order requiring protective services for up to six months, but can be re-authorized for up to a year.

But like with any governmental organization, APS can be too intrusive. Before they act there needs to be clear authority that an adult can be removed.

Recently, I met a distressed couple who had their Mother literally yanked from their home in the final months of her life. An anonymous tip was given by the Mother’s long time “friend” that she wanted to go back to the care-takers residence. The mother was in full scale dementia and would answer a few questions correctly and if asked would parrot the name of the “friend.” In horror the family of the elderly woman watched as APS took the mother from their home and moved her back to the friend’s house. After the Mother was there the friend arranged for her entire estate to pass to him. An attorney helped in the sham transfer.

In a matter of months the family desperate for help asks the Probate Judge to order an evaluation of the Mother. She had dementia for at least a year and was unable to make any decisions on her own. Be careful when a governmental agency says that it knows best. Hold on to your liberty because they are about to snatch it from you.

Probate Court acted quickly but it was too late. The Mother died a few days after the mental health assessment. Her possessions real and personal would have passed to the children, but for the friend getting everything transferred.

More than the money the family loss the beauty of being with their parent as she lived her final months. All they are left with is bitterness towards a government going too far and a scrapbook of memories.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website

Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal Law

Also published on eGuardianship.com on April 3, 2012 http://eguardianship.wordpress.com// and Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com//


Poor Auntavia. When a child is murdered it should be asked: “What did we do wrong?”

December 29, 2011

A note to my friends: Thanks for your showing of support. I appreciate it. I have written another article for you and hope you will look at it and give me your feedback. I consider the writing part of my job fighting for people.

By Attorney David Engler

Nick Kerosky, the Director of Trumbull County Children Services expressed succinctly the attitude of most bureaucratic children service directors, “There’s no support that it [wrongdoing] ever happened. I don’t believe it ever happened,” Kerosky said.

“While the death of a child is always a tragedy, it is unfair and unethical to assume that a death means that there must be wrongdoing on the part of CSB.” Director Kerosky said in a press release, in response to allegations that the 2003 death of 3 year old Auntavia Diggs was in part due to CSB’s inaction

Kerosky believes that one, two or three children deaths in Trumbull County, Ohio during a 6 year period should not give rise to criticism of CSB. I suppose he is talking about me when he suggests it is unethical to assume a death means that there must be wrongdoing on the part of CSB.

I will not comment about my pending action on behalf of a dad who lost his only child, a daughter, (without being represented,) to a foster-parent who quickly murdered the little 22 month old, strangling the life out of her. CSB said she would be a good foster parent. She left the impression of her ring on the baby’s neck.

No I want to talk about poor Auntavia who was tortured, burned and then murdered by people CSB said were appropriate to watch children.

Relatives say Ethel Wilbert-Bethea who is serving 21 years for murder reached out to CSB three times to give the baby back. CSB’s records, which we learned from the State Audit are sometimes ‘adjusted after the fact’, reflect a Hogan’s Heroes Sargent Schultz mentality of “I’ve seen nothing. I’ve heard nothing.”

5 months earlier in 2003, little 4 year old Logan Guiton was murdered while in foster care by Michael Ledger. His head was cracked against a wall in the house where he was placed by CSB. Ledger is serving 15 years to life. The CSB director at that time said there were no records to suggest CSB had any culpability.

This is the point: when any child in their care dies, it should be assumed that children services erred. An agency should not be afraid to look at itself in every instance and find out how it could have prevented the tragedy.

Look at The CSB mission statement. …it is to protect children in Trumbull County from being abused in their schools, homes and to especially protect those children from the most likely abuser, a family member. The standard of care becomes even greater when the child falls into the care and custody of CSB. It would seem that a child being molested in CSB’s own building would be a clear case of a colossal CSB screwup when it was known or should have been known that the father was a voracious sexual predator who had his siblings removed from his home when he was released by department of Youth Services. While in Mahoning County lock up as a juvenile, he was a sexual predator. The grandmother complained to CSB about him being a sex offender. CSB does not keep notes, when it does not fit its story.

Trumbull County Children Services Bureau fails when a child gets sexually abused. Anywhere. Anytime.

It will happen again. And at every turn CSB should be asking itself what did we do wrong. This doesn’t mean CSB will be sued. It is a fundamental shift in philosophy from what Kerosky said about the murder of poor Auntavia, to a more principled belief, that when it comes to the safety of our children there is no margin of error. There can be no hesitancy to act. Each tragedy should be a moment to learn from mistakes and work harder to prevent the loss of a child in the future. CSB is protected from just about every form of liability except the one that springs forth from the expenditure of 15.5 million dollars of taxpayer money each year to affirmatively keep kids from dying. CSB is in a statistical tsunami of children’s deaths and abuse and its answer is to say bad things happen. The rate of children’s death by caregivers in Trumbull County is either a statistical anomaly or an indication that something is broken and needs fixed.

“Poor Joshua! Victim of repeated attacks by an irresponsible, bullying, cowardly, and intemperate father, and abandoned by respondents who placed him in a dangerous predicament and who knew or learned what was going on, and yet did essentially nothing except … dutifully recorded these incidents in [their] files.” It is a sad commentary upon American life, and constitutional principles – so full of late of patriotic fervor and proud proclamations about “liberty and justice for all” – that this child, Joshua DeShaney, now is assigned to live out the remainder of his life profoundly retarded. Joshua and his mother, as petitioners here, deserve – but now are denied by this Court – the opportunity to have the facts of their case considered in the light of the constitutional protection that 42 U.S.C. 1983 is meant to provide.”

This was the famous dissent given by Associate Justice Harry Blackmun in the DeShaney v. Winnebago County Children Services case that stands as law today. The mother of Joshua had sued the county CSB for allowing the child to go back to the care of his father despite a clear indication that the father was a child abusing bully. A child was abused by his father and CSB failed to act. The majority in the case stated that Joshua could not recover from Winnebago County because the federal laws are meant to protect violations of a state actor, not a private actor like Joshua’s father or in the case in Trumbull County, Wilbert-Bethea who murdered Auntavia. The Supreme Court did say that there might be state court remedies, but those are unlikely since governmental immunities protect CSB from all but the most egregious acts of indifference. They are not protected however when the offender who kills or molests is an agent of the State like a foster parent or the harm takes place on its own property.

It is unlikely that CSB will change from within and become the type of agency that understands that every death of a child is one too many and at each death or each incident of abuse CSB should ask itself what it did wrong.

Our victimized children do not fail us, we fail them.
CSB is given $15.5 million dollars a year to perform a job the rest of us believe is proper and right.

And this is not a condition that is found just in Trumbull County, Ohio. It has happened with three murders of children in Hamilton County this past year.

The State of Florida, after the sickening murder of a young boy and girl by their adoptive father, revamped its entire child protective service organization to allow not-for- profits and faith based groups a chance to be held more accountable than government agencies grown indifferent with time and attitudes of “it wasn’t me.”

Yes there should be no shame in each time a child is murdered, abused, or abandoned for the wealthy tax payer funded agency to say to itself, “what did we do wrong.” Not to take this attitude will only lead to more unspeakable horrors.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal


It’s Never Too Late To Make a New Friend

December 28, 2011

By Attorney David Engler

Wanda and Stella
Wanda and Stella

Wanda is my Mom. Parkinson’s disease has slowly but assuredly taken her strength and her voice. The stroke on the Royal Wedding Day this spring did not help matters either. But as the New Year approaches she is in the Maine Veterans Home. She does not want to see her 86th year. She has prayed to her husband and my father, Bill who passed 21 years ago, that she wanted nothing more to do with her worn body. They met 59 years ago. She was a nurse at the VA hospital in Cleveland and he was a disabled vet getting a degree at Kent State.

Stella is 93 and cancer is fighting her will and she knows the battle is nearly over. The last great battle she saw was working as an Army nurse in England helping to heal GI’s as they returned from Normandy. Not coincidentally she married a soldier whom she met a few years later and he took her to Maine. Over time she would have two children and help turn a family owned bar and grill into a large seafood wholesaler specializing in selling Lobsters, of course. The great irony Stella explained was that she could never taste what her family sold because she was allergic to shell fish which should not be confused with seafood.

About 15 months ago we moved Mom from her home in Ohio to live on the first floor of my sister’s home in Maine. She was falling and insisted that she could care for herself; the reality was she could not make the one step from the living room to the kitchen.

So off to Maine she went. The state motto is “Life As It Ought To Be”. My sister is busy with an 8 year old adopted Chinese whirlwind named Molly and a professorship at the U of Maine. Three 911 calls in 6 months and it was clear that Mom needed nursing home care. So in May of this last year she gets put in a room with Stella. Stella’s hair is wispy from the many chemo treatments she received to slow down cancer’s assault. Long before the cancer her hearing went. She seems to fill in the words if you can talk loud enough. Mom had one good eye before the stroke and Parkinson’s and now that one went bad. Reading and watching the news was a daily companion, now she can just listen to Ann Curry.

The room looks like any other nursing home. Cards crowd the bulletin boards and the closet door is a backdrop of art work created by grandchildren. What makes the room a home is each other. The nurses and aides see the two holding hands trying to make sense of a death that is unscheduled but waiting. It was Stella who told the staff that she and Wanda have a pact that they would like to hold hands and race into heaven together. The spunky nurse from Portugal attracted to Maine by her country’s fishing heritage, said “It was more like a turtle race to Heaven”, since neither seemed closer to the end despite their bodies having months ago failed.

So it was on Christmas Day this year that I traveled to surprise my Mom. At first she did not recognize me. I have heard how hard that is to hear. But after a few minutes she asked about each of the kids that she raised when they were small and that I feed her a favorite dark chocolate mint from Philadelphia Chocolates. It was my favorite Christmas memory. And what I took home was this picture I snapped with my iPhone that neither old nurse could have imagined. A new friend was made in what will surely be their last year on this Earth. It is the power of a touch of a hand and someone that cares when you least expect it.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal


VINDY: Atty. Engler probing deaths at Trumbull Children Services

December 18, 2011

Published: Sun, December 18, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.

ATTORNEY LOOKS INTO DEATHS OF 2 IN 2003
By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

An attorney who has applied pressure to Trumbull County Children Services for months says he’s uncovered evidence that the agency’s problems date back to 2003 — when two children died.

Atty. David Engler encouraged the criminal investigation of employees that is now taking place regarding the alleged videotaped molestation of a 9-month-old child in the agency’s custody in April.

He also sought to have Children Services employees placed on leave during the investigation, and he filed civil suits against the agency for allegedly failing to prevent the death of a child in its custody in 2009 and for allegedly not following the Open Meetings Act.

Now he’s researching the deaths of two children in 2003 that he says indicate the agency has failed for years in its mission to protect children.

Engler points to the deaths of Logan Guiton, 4, at the hands of Michael Ledger of Dickey Avenue in Warren, and Auntavia Atkins, 3, who died at the hands of Ethel Wilbert-Bethea on North Bank Street in Cortland.

Those deaths, combined with the death of Tiffany Banks Cross, 20 months, on April 2, 2009, total three for which Engler believes the agency is in some way responsible.

Engler says that’s a high number of deaths associated with a county children-services agency, which indicates a “dysfunctionality of Trumbull County Children Services.”

The agency denies accusations that an employee in one of the cases ignored warning signs.

The agency’s executive director, Nick Kerosky, was not working in Trumbull County when any of the deaths occurred, but he agrees that three “does seem like a lot.”

“No child should die. One is too many,” Kerosky said. “When a child dies, you have to look and see what could have been done differently.”

He added, “There’s a lot of danger out there for kids, and that’s why we have the agency we do.”

Logan Guiton
Michael Ledger of Dickey Avenue Northwest, now 49, called 911 at 4:20 a.m. Jan. 19, 2003, saying Logan Guiton, his son’s brother, was not breathing. Prosecutors said Ledger injured the boy’s head by hitting it on the drywall of a bedroom wall. The boy died two days later in a Cleveland hospital.

Ledger pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Ledger was Logan’s legal guardian. The boy’s mother placed him and his 6-year-old brother in foster care, Warren police said. Ledger was the biological father of the 6-year-old, but he was not Logan’s biological father, according to Vindicator files.

Robert Kubiak, executive director of Children Services in 2003, said the agency had no reports of Logan’s having been abused at Ledger’s home.

“My review is that the agencies working on this case handled it appropriately,” Kubiak said.

Auntavia Atkins
Auntavia Atkins, 3, died Sept. 3, 2003, of a head injury after being taken to the hospital Aug. 29, 2003, from a home on North Bank Street in Cortland where she was living with Ethel Wilbert-Bethea, her husband and other children, according to Vindicator files.

Wilbert-Bethea, now 47, was sentenced to 21 years in prison after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault and four counts of child endangerment.

Auntavia was not in Children Services custody, nor was she part of the agency’s foster-care program, officials said. Auntavia’s mother, Angel Diggs, gave Auntavia to Wilbert-Bethea to watch for her while Diggs worked on getting a full-time job and a place to live, according to Vindicator files.

Cortland police were called to Wilbert-Bethea’s home, where emergency responders found Auntavia in serious condition and took her to a hospital.

The girl also had retinal hemorrhaging, chronic rectal bleeding, malnutrition, missing hair and burn marks on her body, police said.

Diggs told The Vindicator in 2003 that she repeatedly asked a Children Services caseworker to visit Auntavia, but nothing was done. Diggs said she told the agency that she’d been told Wilbert-Bethea was abusing Auntavia.

“I asked my caseworker to visit, but she didn’t. If she would have, she would have saw what was going on,” Diggs said.

Kubiak, the director at the time, said he could not respond to Diggs’ allegations.

Markita Parks of Warren, who along with her mother, Fannie Parks, served as foster parents for 11 years, said Diggs and a Children Services caseworker told her that Wilbert-Bethea had contacted the agency three times to tell it that Wilbert-Bethea wasn’t able to handle Auntavia.

Markia and Fannie Parks told The Vindicator last week that the caseworker asked Fannie Parks to take the child, and Fannie Parks agreed. Parks and her mother already had custody of Auntavia’s brother. Parks eventually adopted the boy, Markita said.

The request for Parks to take Auntavia came about three to four weeks before Auntavia died, Markita Parks said.

“The minute a foster parent says they can’t handle it, an emergency worker needs to get involved,” Markita Parks said.

Parks said the agency’s handling of the Auntavia case made her and her mother “furious” and caused them to get out of foster parenting in 2005.

Kerosky said last week he looked into the allegations made by Fannie and Markita Parks and checked with the caseworker.

“There’s no support that it ever happened. I don’t believe it ever happened,” Kerosky said.

When asked whether Children Services had any knowledge of Auntavia prior to her death, Kerosky said he would not comment.

Tiffany Banks Cross
Tiffany Banks Cross was 20 months old on April 2, 2009, when she died at the hands of her foster mother, Bonnie Pattinson.

Pattinson and her family were living in a duplex on Center Street West in Champion Township when emergency responders were called to the home because the girl was not breathing.

Pattinson, now 33, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to nine years in prison. The coroner ruled that Tiffany died of asphyxiation, and a county prosecutor said there were marks on the child’s neck consistent with the rings Pattinson was wearing.

Thomas Cross, Tiffany’s biological father, filed a lawsuit against Trumbull County Children Services, accusing the agency of failing to protect Tiffany despite what he says were warnings that the girl was being abused. Engler is the attorney for Cross.

In the suit, Cross said he warned the agency that the girl might be in danger, saying he noticed bruising on her and dog hair in her formula.

The Vindicator filed public-information requests with Children Services asking whether any disciplinary action was taken against any agency employee regarding the deaths of Guiton, Atkins or Banks Cross.

Kerosky, who became executive director Oct. 1, 2010, said no disciplinary action was taken in any of the cases.

“Those cases were all investigated and looked at by the state” Department of Job and Family Services, Kerosky said. He “had not read the reports” emanating from those investigations, Kerosky said, but Ohio JFS had found that Children Services had done nothing wrong, Kerosky said.

After asking the state agency for information on its investigations into the three deaths, the agency replied: “Regrettably, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services cannot comply with your request due to state law that makes such records confidential/nonpublic.”
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Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal


Philadelphia Abuser shows need for more investigation and recordkeeping

December 13, 2011

By Attorney David Engler

Weston

The Philadelphia Enquirer reported December 9, 2011 on one of the nation’s most horrific example of abusing a ward or in Linda Weston’s case a “payee”. Weston is accused of imprisoning intellectually challenged adults in a Tacony cellar and stealing their federal benefits. Weston was the official recipient of Social Security benefits for 10 men and women from 1995 to 2011, according to a source familiar with the ongoing investigation.

“She had applied to be the “representative payee” for an 11th beneficiary, her biological daughter, the source said.

In an ongoing investigation, the Social Security Administration has found that Weston was getting the checks for four relatives, including children; five individuals who were not related; and one person who had the same last name but whose relationship to Weston has not been firmly established.

As of October, Weston was terminated as the payee for seven of the beneficiaries, the source said.

Of those beneficiaries, three were with Weston at the time of her arrest; two are dead; one no longer needed a representative payee; and one was switched to a more suitable payee.

Payments for the three others were suspended, pending the results of an investigation by the administration’s Office of Inspector General, the source said.

Police continue to probe the 2005 death of Donna Spadea, 59, while in Weston’s care in Philadelphia.

Another person who died under Weston’s care was Maxine Lee, 39, of Philadelphia. In November 2008, she was found dead in a house that Weston was renting in Norfolk, Va. Norfolk police said Lee died of natural causes. A medical examiner attributed Lee’s death to meningitis, with severe malnutrition as a contributing factor.

Weston had served less than four years in prison for a 1984 conviction for starving to death a man, 25, she kept trapped in her Philadelphia apartment. She was arrested in October with her daughter and husband after the landlord of a Tacony apartment house found four intellectually handicapped people locked in the building’s cellar.

A sweep of the apartment where Weston was staying turned up identification records for as many as 50 people, including power-of-attorney paperwork, forms of identification, and Social Security numbers. Police said it suggested a vast fraud operation.

People who are convicted of crimes are banned by law from accepting government checks on behalf of others, but it is a self-reporting system.

The social security administration is very lax on who is appointed as a representative payee and should be encouraging more professional organizations or registered guardians to act as payees. Each year billions are stolen in benefits from the poor by those who are claiming to help.

The answer is not only better background checks but accurate record keeping that can be reviewed by other family members, a court or agency at any time. Our company, eGuardianship.com www.eGuardianship.com has pioneered the nation’s first online real-time reporting system for wards. Such systems ensure proper recordkeeping and help to minimize if not eliminate fraud.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) is proposing a bill that would give the Social Security Administration access to FBI databases in order for caseworkers to conduct criminal background checks. It’s a start.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal


Brains Shrink, Heads Grow!

November 1, 2011

By Attorney David Engler

Heads get bigger as we get older!

The terrible irony of getting older is that the physical size of our head gets bigger as the size of our brain decreases. I have seen pictures taken 20 years ago and I can hardly recognize myself. The hair has fallen out, grayed and my eyelids droop. I have not invested in plastic surgery but will do so as soon as it is offered inside a Wal-Mart store, like it’s eyeglass center or banking services.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that human brains are unique in that they can shrink up to 15% in a lifetime. Before this study it was assumed that all primate brains had shrinkage. Turns out it is only us.

By 2030 about 1 in every 5 people in the United States will be over the age of 65. This is twice the number of elderly than just a decade ago according to the U.S. Administration on Aging.

The brain shrinking conditions that affect the elderly can be depression and Alzheimer’s disease. These diseases of course can be a by-product of the shrinking brain. In a terrible commentary on most of us over 50; poor memory may stem from a fractional shrinkage in the hippocampus. This is when you forget a friend’s name or forget an appointment. My brother believes he has CRS. When I asked him what that diagnosis was he said, “Can’t Remember Shit.”. My mother firmly believes that it might have had something to do with pot smoking during the seventies. I knew nothing about these claims and the statutes have long passed.

So we live twice as long as chimps and this might explain why our brains start to shrivel. They only live into their 40’s. A shrinking brain is the neural equivalent of sore knees and stiff fingers. Perhaps we need to forward this blog post to our children so they can be patient with us. (if you can remember)

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal


80 Year Old Gets Probation Over Punching Obsessive Putter

October 25, 2011

By Attorney David Engler

Golf on your mind?

In Florida if you punch a guy over 65 in the nose it is a felony. No matter what.

A Sheet and Tube Mill retired mid-level executive and his retired school teacher wife moved to a Condo golf course townhouse near Naples. A boy who had grown-up in Brier Hill during the forties, went to Korea, worked at a mill in purchasing, was now taking it easy. He would visit the grandchildren every winter holiday back in Youngstown, Ohio, play golf and sometimes drive over to see the dogs race. Brier Hill was a melting pot of immigrants and their children. Everybody had a church…Poles, Italians and the Irish like him. Mac learned to play golf at the nine-hole-public course, up Fifth Avenue, closer to where the wealthier people lived. You could not spend more than $20 for a season. The beer gardens were nearby for after a round, where everyone knew who was a golfer or a sandbagger.

Down South, where he and Lorraine now lived, just outside his very modest townhouse; the sliding glass patio door was just 10 feet away from the practice putting green. Every day another retiree from New Jersey who had worked in retail clothing and lived at an even more modest condo further away from the Ocean, practiced his putting and very little chipping. The 30 by 30 green was close to one of those many man-made drainage ponds that courses gussy-up and call a lake. Herb, the guy from Jersey, apparently suffered from a BiPolar Disorder and retired early and moved to Florida. He was 69. His wife was happy anytime Herb was out of the house. So Herb joined the closest golf course at River Wind and obsessed over putting. He was on the practice green for more than three hours a day, 10 feet from Mac. Mac was getting older by the day and had always been an unreasonable man. And it is suggested by research, that early onset dementia can start to turn a cranky person, even crankier.

Day after day Mac either sat in his condo looking out the screen door, past the small concrete slab of a porch, at Herb, the skinny guy from New Jersey putting hour after hour. Or if it wasn’t too hot, Mac would sit on his porch and look at him. Mac believed that a man ought to be able to sit on his back porch drink Buds, eat grapes and spit seeds and not have to look at Herb. So after Year 3, Month 4 of the incessant putting, Mac starts with the comments. Mac had no idea of Herb’s ethnic background, place in life or mental history. He decided to call him everything and anything for days under his breath, but loud enough for a 69-year-old guy to hear. The day In August was hotter and stickier than most Florida days; and the war began. Herb mouthed something back and Mac arose from his canvas-back camp chair, strode 7 f feet and landed a blow to Herb’s nose. Down goes Herb. One of the dozens of other old people simply looking out their screen doors for amusement and a chance to spot the book club girls making the turn at 10, called the Police.

Herb was okay. But since he was a senior (someone over 65 in Florida) it was more than a misdemeanor assault; it was a felony. Herb could care less than he got decked by a guy 11 years older than him with two replacement knees. No, Mac had to be stopped. A couple of the condo ladies agreed and let the Judge know it. Mac was too proud to hire an attorney. The Judge would have to be a fool to see that a man should not have to look at the same lame golfer taking thousands of putts all within the reach of a grape seed spit. Maybe one of the condo commandos had some clout because the Man in the robe came down heavy on Mac. He was given a death sentence. Five Years reporting probation and HE WAS NOT ALLOWED TO GOLF! The $500 dollar fine and court cost was nothing All those years paying a silly HOA fee and paying off the mortgage so he would never had to see another house payment in his life; and “this is what he gets?”

If he wants to go back North, he needs the permission of his probation officer. He stills sits on the porch and reruns the injustice in his mind. None of his kids bring it up at family celebrations, because they know Dad won’t stop talking about it. Herb no longer plays golf at River Wind anymore. In fact someone thought he had died. Two more years of probation and maybe he’ll play again. Or maybe he won’t since that would be a good way to show the traitors that turned him in that he could hold a grudge.

There is no real moral other than 1) get an attorney, 2) older people can get cranky and could use the help of a therapists 3) the law shouldn’t apply if you are an older person hitting a younger person and 4) do not in any manner, piss off a guy from Brier Hill!

As with all of our stories, the people and stories are real, but the names have been changed. In every case we have received the permission of our client to tell the story.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal


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