Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kansas "Program has foster teens, sex offenders in same spot"

Posted on Sun, Jul. 31, 2011


The Wichita Eagle

A state-funded residential program designed to teach young adults how to live safe, productive lives mixes 16-year old-girls in foster care with sex offenders in their 20s.
The program groups juvenile offenders — including registered sex offenders — with foster teens. Each person in the program lives alone in one of 15 apartments in a building on West University, near Kellogg and Seneca.
Dorothy Loyd, vice president for transitional living services at Ozanam Pathways, the nonprofit provider that operates the program, said Ozanam isn't the only provider that commingles offenders and foster teens. It occurs at programs across the state, Loyd said. Ozanam is following state policies, she said.
"If the program is guilty of anything," Loyd said, "it's for taking kids that nobody wants to work with."
The state says it is beginning to move to a system that separates juvenile offenders and foster teens at facilities.
Wichita police Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said he is concerned about the practice of grouping young people who have committed serious crimes with "extremely impressionable" young people in the state's care.
Stolz said that considering some of the youths face a "myriad of social problems" from being victims of child abuse and neglect, putting them into an environment with convicted "gang members, sex offenders and drug dealers" doesn't make sense.
"I just don't think that's good policy," he said.
The Ozanam program came under scrutiny earlier this month after a former employee raised allegations that sex offenders living at the apartments have too much contact with foster teens at the property, that clients sometimes lack food and that some incidents aren't properly reported.
The allegations led to investigations by Wichita police and the state's Juvenile Justice Authority and Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
No crimes or serious violations were found.
Loyd, the Ozanam vice president, said that "everybody and their brother has been down investigating... and we come back as clean as a whistle."
There have been reports of trouble at the property.
Police records show that from January 2008 to July 21 of this year, Wichita police recorded 142 incidents at the West University apartments — including reports of battery, assault, runaways, drug crimes and three alleged incidents of rape.
Between December 2009 and October 2010, police investigated three reports of rape there.
In the most recent rape case, in October 2010, the alleged victim was a 17-year-old girl, and the suspect was a 17-year-old boy. In a July 2010 case, the alleged victim was a 17-year-old foster girl, and the suspect was an 18-year-old male offender. And in a December 2009 case, the alleged victim was a 16-year-old foster girl, and the suspect was a 19-year-old man.
Charges weren't filed in the three cases, partly because the alleged victims weren't cooperative, police said.
Change will separate groups
The Juvenile Justice Authority, which has custody of offenders placed at the apartments, is moving toward a system where offenders and nonoffenders won't be grouped together.
In a July 1 e-mail, a JJA official told other officials that the new direction is "based on sound, evidence-based practices and research that supports the separation of juvenile offenders from the non-offending population."
In a statement to The Eagle on Thursday, JJA Commissioner Curtis Whitten said: "There has been an ongoing concern about the mingling of these populations, but the impetus of the new administration is enabling the Juvenile Justice Authority to move at a quicker pace toward resolving the situation."
SRS, which has custody of foster teens, says it supports the change.
For now, the change does not encompass the Wichita program on West University.
SRS says Ozanam Pathways, which is based in Kansas City, Mo., has served 98 youths in SRS custody at three Wichita locations since 2008.
Ozanam takes clients 16 to 23 years old.
JJA and SRS pay the nonprofit program $100 per day, per client to cover expenses including staffing, rent, food, clothing, furniture and linens, said Loyd, the Ozanam vice president.
Based on the former employee's complaints, a joint investigation by Wichita police and SRS began July 22. Police found no crimes that could be prosecuted and no lack of food at the University apartments, said Stolz, the deputy police chief.
Another investigation, conducted earlier this month by JJA, found that although registered sex offenders were living at the apartments, "there was no evidence... that these offenders were harming other youth placed there," a JJA report says.
The former employee asked The Eagle not to use his name, saying he fears being blacklisted within the social-service industry. He was recently laid off from his job as a life-skills coach and said it was because he raised concerns.
His allegations were echoed by a second former Ozanam employee who spoke to The Eagle. The second employee also asked that her name not be used, saying she feared being blacklisted.
Loyd, the Ozanam vice president, said she investigated the former employee's complaints and found them to be unfounded and found that policies were being followed.
She reiterated that Ozanam works with young people who have a variety of problems and who are difficult to place.
"For many of the foster care kids, our program is really their last option. There is really no other placement opportunity for them."
Some of the foster teens have been in more than 50 placements before they arrive at the Ozanam apartments, she said.
"It's hard for them to attach."
Loyd said it's up to the state agencies — JJA and SRS — to decide who gets referred to a transitional living program, which teaches youths how to live independently.
Juvenile sex offenders who receive proper treatment have a lower chance of committing a new sex crime than adult offenders, she said.
In December 2009, while still working for Ozanam, the former employee sent an e-mail to a supervisor expressing concern that vulnerable teens were being housed around sex offenders.
"Here we have multiple S.O.' s (sex offenders) living in close proximity to underage girls, some of whom are not even in the system but are here because they come from a troubled background."
The supervisor responded with this e-mail: "Right now, the only plan is that they are not to be in each other's apartments or signing out together. Beyond that, I'm not sure what we can do. I too am definitely concerned and just try to be extra attentive to what is going on over there."
At the time, Ozanam was operating two transitional housing programs — the one on West University and one near First and Ridge Road. It was about to launch a third program at apartments on South Mission.
Since then, Ozanam has closed two of the three programs, leaving the University property as the only remaining transitional living facility it operates in Wichita.
The other two were closed because government finances led to fewer referrals, Loyd said.
According to the state offender registry, three sex offenders — all in their early 20s — are listed as living at the University apartments. The three were in their teens when they committed their crimes.
Ozanam doesn't tell foster teens living at the apartments that some of the people living in the other units are sex offenders, the former employee said.
Although each client lives alone in an apartment, they share a common lounge and hang out together outside, he said.
The clients have curfews as early as 6 p.m. Staff are supposed to monitor them around the clock with the help of video cameras. Rules forbid physical contact between clients.
"They're not supposed to be in each other's apartments, but it's a daily occurrence," the former employee said.
He said that "in theory, we can watch them, but in reality... they get past us all the time."
SRS said that it has "no evidence to support the allegations (of) widespread sex between youth."
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or

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FY2011 Second Year In A Row Kansas Has Taken A Toddler, Child Between The Age of 1 and 3, From Their Family For Truancy


FY2011 Kansas and Sedgwick County ~ Children Served in OOHP,
Length of Stay, Percent Reunified 

FY2011, Sedgwick County remained a leader for removing children from their families
Sedgwick County 479 children
Shawnee County 390 children
Johnson County 386 children
Wyandotte County 243 children

FY2011 Average Length of Stay and Number of Children Reunified
Kansas reunified 1,874 children, and the average length of stay in care for all children is 19.6 months
Sedgwick County, Region 5/Wichita reunified 247 children and the average length of stay in care for all children is 27.4 months

FY2011 Percent Reunified
Kansas served 8,264 children, reunified 1,874 children, 22% were reunified
Sedgwick County served 1,453 children, reunified 247, 16% were reunified

FY2010 Kansas Toddler Removed For Truancy


Sunday, July 10, 2011

SRS/CPS Lacks Integrity, Shut Them All Down

About 150 attend meeting on SRS closure

July 9, 2011
If Gov. Sam Brownback's plan to shut down the Lawrence office of the
Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services goes into effect, it will harm many vulnerable Kansans, social workers and law enforcement officials said Saturday.
For example, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said police must have a social worker accompany them if they go into a school to interview an alleged victim of sexual abuse.
The decision by SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. to shut down the Lawrence office will make it more difficult to get a social worker in these instances, Branson said.
"I'm just very fearful that we are going to miss a lot of people who are in need of care," Branson said. "We have children going through horrific instances in their lives, and we have small windows to go in and make a difference, and the governor and secretary have closed that window on us," he said.
He said without the timely availability of an SRS social worker, the child could face having to return to his or her abuser at the end of the school day before police could intervene.
Branson's comments were made during a meeting at the Lawrence Public Library that was attended by a packed crowd of about 150 people, many of whom had to stand or sit in adjacent rooms.
Those in attendance expressed anger and shock at the Brownback administration's decision announced July 1 to close nine SRS offices, with Lawrence being the largest one by far. The closures would take effect within three months. Siedlecki has said the 87 employees will be able to get jobs at other SRS offices.
Brownback and Siedlecki have said the closures are needed to save money during tight budget times, and that those receiving SRS services in Lawrence can continue to get assistance by accessing them online or traveling to offices in Topeka, Overland Park or Ottawa. Brownback has noted that Lawrence is served by several four-lane roads.
Many at the meeting said that was unrealistic.
Gayle Sigurdson of Lawrence said she thought the closure of SRS offices was intended to cut state spending by making it more difficult for people to get help.
She also said the way Siedlecki announced the closures without any public meetings to gain input was a "suspension of the Democratic process."
"These closures were made without public comment, or participation of our local legislators and without any formal appeals process," she said.
She said she feared Brownback's statement on Friday when he said he may consider options to the closures was "lip service."
The meeting was held by the Douglas County Democratic Party. Former SRS Secretary Robert Harder had been scheduled to speak several weeks ago prior to the announced closures.
Harder, who has held the position of SRS secretary the longest in state history, said the prevailing political climate at the Statehouse represented a departure from decades of bi-partisan support for social services.
Of the past legislative session, which produced massive cuts to social services, he said, "I would have to say, without question, it was absolutely the meanest, toughest session that I have observed in my 50 years," of being around Kansas politics.
He said the assertion that people could receive SRS services online was not plausible. Applications for medical assistance are not available online, and the application for cash assistance is 16 pages long, he said.
Harder added that social service advocates are not opposed to change but they want change in a careful, thought out way.
Steve Ruttinger of Lawrence said he was dismayed by the Brownback administration's layoffs of experienced staff at SRS and replacing them with those lacking experienced. "They profess this connection to God but there is nothing Christian about it," he said.
The Democratic members of the Douglas County legislative delegation urged the crowd to continue to contact Brownback's office to voice their disapproval and attend Monday's meeting at 7 p.m. at Plymouth Congregational Church to discuss ways to try to reverse the closure decision.
"People in government make mistakes from time to time and they need to be called on it, and this is a classic example," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Kansas Foster Child, Girl was staying at shelter before she died

Girl was staying at shelter before she died

Mother reports that her daughter, of Garden City, ran away from girls home.

Saturday, July 9, 2011
Although Akings declined to release the girl's name, citing an ongoing investigation into the suspicious death, The Garden City Telegram identified the girl as Jessica Cheyanne Shearer of Garden City.

Shearer's mother, Alida Potter of Garden City, told The Telegram her daughter had been staying at the girls home for a couple of months before running away.
Joseph J. Rykiel, 30, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of second-degree murder and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Akings said investigators are focusing on the suspected aggravated indecent liberties, and formal charges against Rykiel were being prepared late Thursday.
Jackie McHolland, 39, and his fiancee, Mary Coker, 27, told The News on Wednesday they have been renting a room in their basement at 2509 Walnut to Rykiel since Feb. 23. They came home from out of town on the Fourth of July to find police at their house and learn the girl had been found dead in their basement.
Police were called to the home at 5:10 p.m. Monday on the report of a female with respiratory problems, but when officers arrived, they found the 15-year-old girl had died from "unknown medical causes," according to Akings.
McHolland said his prescription medication was found on Rykiel, and the locked box he kept his prescription medications in, including morphine, had been "pried open."
"She ran away, and somehow she met up with this guy," Alida Potter, Shearer's mother, told The Telegram.
When contacted by phone Thursday, an employee at Barton County Youth Care Inc. in Great Bend declined to comment. The shelter offers level IV care to girls for the state of Kansas, according to a 2009 annual report filed by the nonprofit organization. Barton County Youth Care is licensed for in-home foster care, said Gary Brooks, a former board member.
Kansas Department of Corrections records show Rykiel, 30, previously served time in prison for multiple convictions, including aggravated robbery in 2002 in Labette County. He was previously paroled to Reno County in 2007, violated parole and then was paroled out of state to Tennessee in 2009 before his sentence expired Feb. 13.
Rykiel had been working for a Great Bend concrete company.

Wichita, Kansas Judge rules for social worker in child's death

Posted on Fri, Jul. 08, 2011

The Associated Press
WICHITA, Kan. - A federal judge in Wichita has ruled in favor of a Kansas social worker accused of failing to protect a toddler who was beaten to death by her father's girlfriend.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot ruled Thursday that the civil lawsuit filed by the child's grandparents, Larry and Mary Crosetto, failed to show that social worker Linda Gillen was negligent in not protecting the child despite complaints about abuse.
The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services argued that Gillen had "no duty to intervene" after she investigated a report claiming abuse and neglect of the 23-month-old Coffeyville girl, who died in 2008. The civil lawsuit did not name SRS as a defendant.
The child's father's girlfriend, Melissa Wells, has been sentenced to life in prison in the child's death.
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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by grandparents accusing a social worker of failing to protect a toddler who was beaten to death by her father's girlfriend.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot ruled Friday that maternal grandparents Larry and Mary Crosetto had enough facts to overcome the state's claim of qualified immunity for social worker Linda Gillen.
The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services argued that Gillen had "no duty to intervene" after she investigated a report claiming abuse and neglect of the 23-month-old Coffeyville girl, who died in 2008 as a result of head injuries.
The Crosettos sued Gillen in January, accusing her of gross negligence for not protecting their granddaughter despite repeated complaints alleging abuse. The suit does not name the agency as a defendant.
Sunday, May 16, 2010

SRS: Social worker had no duty to protect child who later died

Posted on Sun, May. 16, 2010

The Wichita Eagle

An attorney for SRS also contends that because the girl was not in the agency's custody, the state owed no duty to protect her.
The arguments revolve around the case of 23-month-old Brooklyn Coons. Her father's meth-addicted girlfriend was convicted of murder after the girl died from brain injuries caused by her being violently shaken. Melissa Wells Coons is serving a life sentence.
Brooklyn's grandparents, Larry and Mary Crosetto, say they met with Linda Gillen, a veteran SRS social worker based in Coffeyville, and told her they thought Brooklyn was being abused and could be killed if she wasn't removed from the home of her father and his girlfriend. The Crosettos say they offered Gillen evidence but that she refused to act because of a grudge against them.
The legal argument that the social worker had no duty to protect Brooklyn doesn't sit well with her grandfather.
"I thought this was her job," said Larry Crosetto, who is suing Gillen in federal court.
The SRS arguments are in response to the lawsuit the grandparents filed in January. The lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
"What we hope to do is get SRS to act in these situations ... and prevent it from happening to another family," Crosetto said.
Brooklyn's death is one of several across the state where families have accused the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) of failing to protect children who were killed.
Child abuse or neglect has taken a heavy toll in Wichita, where police investigated eight child homicides in 2008. Seven of the eight deaths occurred from abuse or neglect by caregivers, police said.
In the past six months, several more suspicious child deaths have occurred in the Wichita area, raising more questions about the SRS role in protecting children.
SRS answers suit
In federal court documents defending Gillen, the social worker, SRS staff attorney Danny Baumgartner cites a U.S. Supreme Court case finding no constitutional duty of government to protect a child from violence committed by an individual.
Baumgartner also argues that Brooklyn was not in SRS custody, so SRS owed no duty to protect her.
The SRS defense is based partly on the idea that while government has a duty to the public at large, it can't be held liable for protecting one person from another individual unless special circumstances exist.
The situation limits government's exposure to liability.
But Larry Crosetto said the argument that government has no duty to the individual doesn't seem right to him.
"If it is the responsibility of government to protect the public, who protects the individual?"
The Crosettos' attorney, Randy Rathbun, argues in court documents that Gillen held a years-old grudge against the Crosettos that caused her to ignore reports of abuse from them and not follow her duty to protect the girl from her father's meth-addicted girlfriend, Melissa Wells Coons.
Brooklyn's mother, Angela Coons, died at age 24 in 2007 after a sudden illness. Brooklyn's death was the Crosettos' second loss.
The grandparents' lawsuit says that Gillen refused to accept photographs showing bruises on the girl a month before her death, which Gillen denies in court documents.
Court documents say, without elaboration, that the Crosettos believe Gillen held a grudge over their adoption of their daughter Angela years earlier.
SRS says Gillen has been employed with the agency since 1974.
The SRS response says Gillen denies having a grudge.
The SRS defense
In a court filing responding to the lawsuit, SRS attorney Baumgartner said (referring to the child, Brooklyn, as "B.I.C."):
* "Even assuming the imminence of danger, and even assuming Ms. Gillen knew about this danger (which Defendant denies), Ms. Gillen was under no duty to protect B.I.C. from a danger Ms. Gillen did not create."
* "Even assuming the 'animus' (which Defendant denies) Plaintiffs claim Ms. Gillen had against them, Ms. Gillen was under no duty to protect B.I.C. from third parties."
The SRS response says that the Crosettos seem to contend that once they met with Gillen about their concerns over Brooklyn, "their hands (and the Police's hands) were tied. This is far from the situation."
The document adds: "Ms. Gillen feels for Plaintiffs' loss, but with all due respect to Plaintiffs there is no Constitutional remedy for them here."
As a state employee, Gillen is entitled to "qualified immunity," SRS says.
Grandparents' case
In the court papers representing the Crosettos, their attorney Rathbun says, "This is not just another case of ... an overworked SRS employee and a report that fell through the cracks. Linda Gillen knew and hated Mr. Crosetto."
Rathbun also said that Gillen "carried a powerful animus that resulted in her refusal to follow her duty and protect" the girl from her father's girlfriend.
The Crosettos' filings provide this timeline:
* On Jan. 17, 2008, Coffeyville police responding to a 911 call found Brooklyn unresponsive and in the care of the girlfriend. Police saw head injuries and bruises on the girl.
* The next day, police placed three other children from the home of Melissa Wells Coons and Randy Coons, Brooklyn's father, into protective custody because of "deplorable" living conditions and the injuries to Brooklyn.
* Three days after the 911 call, Brooklyn died in a hospital.
Before the 911 call, Coffeyville police did not take steps to protect Brooklyn because they "reasonably believed that the defendant (Gillen) was undertaking her statutory obligations to safeguard" Brooklyn and her brother, a court document says.
The Crosettos contend that Gillen took it upon herself to monitor Brooklyn's situation — causing other agencies that could have protected the girl to defer to SRS.
Recently, Brooklyn's father pleaded no contest to aggravated endangerment of a child. He faces sentencing July 1.
Gillen remains a social worker with SRS, the agency says.
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or
Read more:


More on this story to be found on the following links:
Coffeyville couple sues SRS worker after granddaughter's beating death
January 24, 2010
The Wichita Eagle
Read more:

SRS seeks dismissal of lawsuit filed by grandparents
March 11, 2010
The Wichita Eagle
Read more:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Finding YOUR Family

This page is for people looking for their
birth parents or family. Whether your relationship has been lost through
fostering, adoption or if you have just lost touch with a loving parent and you
want to be reunited. Add their name in the discussion box, and leave a message
with your details so they can contact you. Lets get parents and children

PBS The Watch List: The Medication Of Foster Children

The Watch List: The medication of foster children
By Shoshana Guy
January 7, 2011

Nearly one in every 10 American children is diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Often the treatment prescribed is medication, and often the medication is heavy-duty — so-called antipsychotic drugs.

In this report, you’ll see that foster care children are prescribed drugs at a rate much greater than that of other kids. Concern over their well-being — not to mention the amount it costs to treat them — has prompted the Government Accountability Office to investigate potentially abusive prescribing practices in America’s state foster care systems. The GAO findings are expected to come out later this year.

Need to Know correspondent Shoshana Guy went to Texas to investigate overuse of psychotropic drugs in foster children, as well as that state’s efforts at reform