Saturday, January 27, 2007

Youth Forum on Aging Out of Foster Care

Yesterday, I attended a youth forum in Stark County. Approximately 60 foster care youth were in attendence. Topics covered included: housing, college vs. working full-time, mentors and advocates, and independent living.

The video above is of a young man named Jeremy, performing a gospel rap song that he has created about his experiences in foster care. All this young man wants is a mentor -- and he hasn't found one yet.

Here are some of Jeremy's insightful comments during the forum:

-"One of our suggestions (about independent living classes) was 'timeliness of service, because it's way too late to ask us these questions after we've been in foster care for so long."

-"We're gonna go from foster care to just being flat broke."

-"Adults need to come and see us when we're doing something good, like sports or this forum, not just if we are bad or need counseling. Because everybody doesn't need counseling."

-"If I ever get a mentor, he shouldn't be lazy. I mean, I don't want to sit in an office and just talk, I want to do active things, like sports, and get to know someone that way."

Many of the older male teenagers at the forum seemed disillusioned. One young said that he had been in foster care since he was a baby and that his foster parents had flat-out told him that the odds were against his ever being adopted "because I was black, a boy and came from a bad family." They basically crushed his hopes early.

Another young man named Richard said, "We're just here to make it better for the next generation. I've been in foster care since I was three years old, and I'm 16 now. It ain't gonna happen for me."

I spent time after that session talking with Richard. He is sixteen years old, and thinks that his life is already over. I told him that I myself as a foster care alumna had lived several lifetimes since I was 16 years old. His life is not over. His cards are not all played out. Maybe he hasn't really had a chance to be a kid, but Richard is still very young and has many chances ahead of him.

Interestingly enough, there was an iPod raffle at the end of the forum, and Richard won the iPod! As he came up to collect his prize, I said to him, "The man without hope wins an iPod. There is plenty of hope for you, Richard."

Lottery of caseworkers: Two sisters with two different caseworkers attended the forum. The first caseworker was willing to take the older sister to visit five different colleges. The younger sister's caseworker refused to take her at all.

Suggestions made by the youth during the forum:

1.) Hands-on learning of independent living skills:
-Youth want the opportunity to live in an apartment for one week by themselves
-Would like to shadow a college student for a day, and see how they juggle school/work

2.) Early planning:
-Youth want to start visiting colleges during their sophomore year
-Upward Bound/Gear Up programs should serve more foster youth, not limit to high achievers
-Project Rebuild: Alternates one week of construction work, one week of education

3.) Don’t expect us to know your hidden rules:
-"In each placement, there are different rules/expectations, and we’re expected to know them"
-"In preparing for independent living, we should be making some of our own rules"

4.) Allow us more freedom:
-Foster youth go from total restriction to complete freedom, with no support
-Need opportunities to work, volunteer, participate in extra-curricular activities and spend the night at a friend’s house without having to go through so many channels

5.) Consider our need for transportation: The state should provide car insurance and allow foster care youth to get a driver’s license.

6.) If you want to connect with us, invest time:
-Would-be mentors should take teens out just to talk, or do a sports activity
-If the teen doesn’t open up right away, just be patient and consistent: invest the time

7.) One-stop shopping for our resources vs. misinformation/lack of information

8.) Let us evaluate foster parents/group home staff/caseworkers: They evaluate us.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Caseworker with conflict of interest

Meet the players in this scenario:
-Rochelle Kidd was an abusive parent. As a result, in March 2004, she and her husband, Victor Anderson, lost temporary custody of their four children. Since that time, Rochelle has complied with her case plan by acquiring and keeping a full-time job, moving out of public housing and renting a four bedroom house, completed an anger management class and continues to attend parenting classes.

-Na'Sheema Hillmon was the social worker assigned to her case. Na'Sheema began appearing in court about this case in April 2004. She continued to handle subsequent court cases, right up until Rochelle lost permanent custody. She repeatedly advised Rochelle to give the children to her husband, telling her that she really didn't have a choice.

-What about the father?
-Victor Anderson divorced Rochelle Kidd on June 3, 2005.
-He was granted sole custody (thanks to Na'Sheema) of his four children on June 6, 2005.
-He married Na'Sheema Hillmon, the social worker, on July 25, 2006.
-His new wife Na'Sheema went to court on August 2005 and filed an affadavit that the children should stay with Anderson, and that no further services were needed for this family.

The children currently reside with Anderson. He and his new wife reportedly do not live together, because that would prevent him from collecting Social Security disability payments.

Who knew that social work was a job that came with such benefits?
Na'Sheema was a single mother with three children of her own. She resigned from the Cauyahoga County Department of Children's Services when the department found out about her marriage. She has responded to reporters by saying, "I'm just going to be honest with you... I found happiness, and I'm sorry it was at somebody else's expense."

I'm just hoping that it wasn't at the children's expense. How did Na'Sheema's personal relationship with the father compromise her custodial recommendations? I'm not certain that those children belong with their mother -- but I'm not too sure about their father, either.

Both parents have criminal convictions: the father for selling drugs and domestic violence, and the mother for two assaults. Na'Sheema herself is currently under investigation by a county agency which doles out welfare money for fraud.

What's the outcome?
1.) Judge Allison Floyd has denied requests for the custodial case be independently renewed. Perhaps she, too, has something to hide? Judge Floyd did not sign off on her magistrate's June 2005 decision to grant Anderson custody until last month -- which indicates the many months that she procrastinated in taking time to personally review it.

2.) Children and Family Services Director Jim McCafferty says his department reviewed the case and found Anderson to be a fit father. However, this "review" did not include sending an unbiased social worker to check on the four children, now ages 6-12 years old, to make sure that they were safe.

3.) Meanwhile, because Na'Sheema Hillman resigned her position before she could be fired, she remains free to work as a social worker anywhere in Ohio. This is unconscionable, considering her flagrant abuse of power.

Dissel, Rachel and Diane Suchetka. Custody fight descends into atrocious case: Woman says social worker took her kids and husband. Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jan. 7, 2007, pg. A1.
A little social work on the side. Cleveland Plain Dealer, Editorial, Jan. 17. 2006.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Update on the H.A.Y. Center

Victor Gonzales, now a photographer, trying to capture the moment.

Previous blog entry on the H.A.Y. Center:
Sunshine Girl On A Rainy Day: One-stop-shopping for emancipated foster youth

Recent update:
Victor, one of the wonderful former foster children that I met at the 2006 It's My Life Conference, has been reunited with his sister and brother!!

Please see this article:

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Message to foster children: Don't wet the bed - or you die

One week before her death, six-year-old Katherine Frances was taken to a hospital by her foster mother, where police and doctors found "severe bruising to her forehead, both cheeks, neck, shoulders, arms, back and chest. There were severe bruises and abrasions to her pelvis, below her waist and on her buttocks."

What did they do? The state sent her right back to the foster home. How stupid is that?

Eight days later, Katherine was dead. The home where she had been staying was orginally licensed by Mesa Family Services, and that license was taken over by Therapeutic Family Life.

According to the state child protection services, the private foster care agency knew that the foster parents frequently left Katherine and her three siblings alone with their biological teenage son while they worked multiple jobs - and that this 14-year-old boy had been previously accused of harming foster children.

The teenager has been formally charged with murder. He will be tried as an adult. Katherine's older sister reported that he was angry at Katherine for wetting the bed, so he picked her up and body slammed her head-first repeatedly onto the floor.

Both the state and private agency should be held accountable for their lack of oversight. The private agency didn't screen the foster family suffiently, nor did they follow-up on child care issues. The state sent a six-year-old foster child back into an abusive placement that led to her death. The bruises that Katherine had suffered should have been a 'red light' to them.

So should the fact that Katherine's foster parents had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy since June 2005. The state doesn't require its child-placing contractors to check court records and obtain tax returns of prospective foster parents. New minimum standards that take effect this month require foster parents' incomes to be verified.

Police believe that foster mother Joyce Luvern Burks could have taken Katherine to the hospital hours before she actually did. That delay in medical care might have cost Katherine her life.

Meanwhile, Katherine's biological mother has filed a $15 million lawsuit. Did I mention that Katherine and her siblings entered foster care due to reports that they were frequently locked in the house alone, without food or electricity?

Where are Katherine's siblings? Staying with their grandfather. The state had considered sending them to their grandfather earlier, but ruled it out because there were people living in the home with criminal records or a history with CPS. So, what has changed? Are Katherine's siblings safe with their grandfather?

Action being taken by the state:
1.) On Dec. 7, 2006, CPS caseworkers began making face-to face visits with all children in foster homes formerly licensed by Mesa Family Services. These visits are to check the safety of the children and condition of the home.

2.) They will make a list of all standards violations and child safety experts will conduct a secondary review of the findings.

3.) Children will be immediately removed from any home where unacceptable risks are identified.

4.) Until this investigation is over, no children will be placed in foster homes overseen by Therapeutic Family Life (TFL), including homes that TFL took over after Mesa relinquished its contract and license.

5.) National criminal background checks will be conducted on all persons 14 years and older who live in former Mesa foster homes. Those checks will be ongoing, not just one-time.

6.) Interviews with adults who have regular contact with foster children, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, child care providers, will be conducted to ensure they are receiving proper care and to identify potential problems.

DeSoto teen charged of beating foster child to death, mother charged as well. Pegasus Newswire, Jan. 13, 2007.
Fink, Jack. Girl dies in foster home, teenage boy accused. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Dec. 6, 2006.
Fink, Jack. Girl visited hospital week before death: Group says DFPS bruising should have been red flag. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Dec. 8, 2006.
Fink, Jack. Mother files lawsuit in foster care death case. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Dec. 12, 2006.
Fink, Jack. State blames private agency for foster child death. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Jan. 12, 2007.
Garrett, Robert T. State faults foster-care contractor in girl's death: Officials cite 'gross failure;' firm's lawyer denies allegations. Texas Cable News, Jan. 11, 2007.
Gillet, Bud. Bedwetting may have prompted fatal attack. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Dec. 8, 2006.
Yan, Holly, Robert T. Garrett and Michael Grabel. Foster brother held in death: Girl 3rd to die in home selected by agency under state scrutiny. Dallas Morning News, Dec. 6, 2006.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Man on a mission: Sheriff Burgess cares for "meth orphans"

In 2004, the results of methamphetamine production and abuse were evident throughout Cumberland County, Tennessee. The local jail was grossly overcrowed. Even the jail gymasium and library were being used to provide bed space for inmates. The county was spent $300,000 a year on medical costs at the jail, largely because of meth abuse.

Worst of all were the effects on the children of methamphetamine abusers and "cooks." Side-effects of meth use include violence and hallucinations, and parents experiencing those side effects often neglect and/or abuse their children.

Contamination is also a concern. Children are often exposed to poisonous vapors from their parents cooking the illegal drug, due to the use of hazardous chemicals such as brake cleaner. As a result, these children commonly suffer respiratory problems, tremors, difficulty with coordination, an intolerance to human touch and a susceptibility to learning disabilities.

Throughout Tennessee, hundreds of children have been taken from squalid homes and meth-addicted parents, and placed in foster care. But in 2004, the county lacked social services facilities and could only house the children in jail until foster parents could be found.

Sheriff Butch Burgess has responded by making rescuing "meth orphans" his personal crusade. He and his wife have cared for 33 foster children, most of whom have come from homes of methamphetamine users.

"We're going to defend the kids. I don't want to let any child fall through the cracks. We're putting all our eggs in their basket," Burgess stated emphatically.

Under his leadership, Cumberland County established a task force to protect "drug endangered children."

In 2005, Burgess raised $19,000 for the downpayment on a 2,000-square-foot stucco house. He and other concerned community members worked together to renovate it and transform it into a House of Hope, an intake facility for children who have been removed from their parents.

The House of Hope has free meals, toys, beds and volunteers on call. Local doctors provide free medical services. The goal is one-stop-shopping and comprehensive care. Children are placed in foster homes as quickly as possible.

Burgess believes that if children of meth-addicts can be placed in normal loving environments, many will recover from their traumatic experiences and will be less likely to become addicts, themselves.

Simply arresting adults, he added, does little to end the addiction cycle. "It's just like trying to shovel quicksand out of a hole. The more you shovel out, the faster it's coming in."

For more information, please visit:

Glanton, Dahleen. On a mission, sheriff opens home to children of meth. Chicago Tribune, Jan. 10, 2007, News pg. 7.
Potter, Mark. Meth labs: A toxic threat to rural America. NBC News, March 10, 2004.
Potter, Mark. Town comes together to open House of Hope: Community pitches in to help children orphaned by meth problem. NBC News, Aug. 10, 2005.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Not sure who annoys me more: Mercury Liggins or her lawyer

Photograph of Mercury Liggins

Texas foster mother Mercury Liggins excelled in home studies, and was allowed to adopt not one, but seven children.

And she continued to collect $3,584 a month for their care during the ten months after she had abandoned them in Nigeria.

The children were found living in a Nigerian orphanage, by a Texas missionary. He first suspected they were from America when he saw them playing 'Go Fish.' His suspicions were confirmed after hearing them sing 'The Star Spangled Banner.

By the time the children were discovered, they were suffering from malnutrition, malaria and typhoid. Three children were too sick to walk.

Defense attorney Michael Delaney, tried to paint Mercury out to be the victim, and blamed the situation on her brother-in-law, who lived in Nigeria. "She trusted the wrong person. She feels badly for her kids."

Did Mercury feel badly when she physically abused the children in her care? Prior to her abandoning the children, child welfare officials investigated five complaints of abuse, between 1997 and 2003.

At the time, the children kept silent because Mercury had threatened them. After being returned from the Nigerian orphanage, the children reported that Mercury struck them with a black belt and an extension cord nicknamed the 'persuader.' Mercury also had repeatedly threatened to send them to Africa.

When Mercury was ordered by State District Judge Sherry Van Pelt to repay the money she had received for the children's care, her lawyer complained that, "It's a lot of money for someone who is disabled and jobless at this point."

Too bad Mercury didn't put some of that money in a mutual fund. $512 per month for each child might have added up to create a nice nest egg for her.

Before adopting the seven children left in an orphanage in Nigeria, Mercury also adopted two other children from a man she was married to from 1979 to 1990. She also has two children of her own, who reside with her ex-husband. A relative reported that Mercury treated her biological children well, but was miserly toward her adopted children.

Richard Laballo, a laywer at Advocacy Inc., has suggested that the inspector general take a closer look at 'collector families' who adopt large numbers of hard-to-place children and receive financial subsidies.

For a recent update on this story, please visit this link:


Adoptive mother says another relative deserted her kids. Louisiana Weekly. August 23, 2004.

American children abandoned in Africa, forced to beg for food. Louisiana Weekly, August 23, 2004.

Hughes, Polly and Melanie Markley. Latest crack in faulty system: Nigeria case furthers scrutiny of child services. Houston Chronicle, 2004.

Langford, Terri. 'Y'all are going to Nigeria.' Houston Chronicle, January 7, 2007.

Report: Abandoned children suffered abuse. Nigeria Daily News, August 22, 2004.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

$11.3 million dollars awarded in lawsuit against Georgia foster care system

The rate of abuse or neglect of foster children in Georgia is nearly twice the federal standard. A civil rights lawsuit was filed against Georgia's Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

The purpose of this lawsuit, Kenny A. v. Perdue, was to stop ongoing violations of children's rights and to ensure that DFCS provides proper protection and care for the 3,000 foster children in those two Georgia counties.

In Fulton and DelKalb counties, during fiscal year 2000:

1.) Multiple placements: Approximately 450 children were moved to at least four different placements while in state custody.

2.) Poorly screened foster homes: Over 22% of children were abused by their foster parents or had to be moved from their foster homes due to harmful conditions or treatment.

3.) Prolonged stays:
-Over 50% of foster children had been in foster care for three or more years; almost 25 % had been in foster care for over six years; and over 10 % had been in foster care for over 10 years.

-The majority of foster children in Fulton and DeKalb counties had spent more than half of their entire lives in foster care.

-Moreover, African-American foster children in Georgia were frequently denied placement in adoptive homes on the basis of their race or color, despite the availability of willing and suitable adoptive parents, because their prospective parents were not also African-American. As a result, African-American foster children remained in state custody for unnecessarily long periods of time.

4.) Caseloads and caseworker turnover:
-Foster children regularly went six months or longer with a visit from their caseworker
- Between September 1, 2002 and June 30, 2003, over 68% of foster children had three or more different caseworkers.
-Caseloads ranged between 35-50 children per caseworker.
-Annual caseworker turnover rate was 71% in Fulton County and 33% in DeKalb County.

5.) Denied visitation with siblings: More than 25% of the foster children who had siblings in foster care in different homes were denied even a single visit with their siblings over an 18-month measurement period.

6.) Denied basic health care services. 43% of the youngest foster children, age two and under, did not receive a mandated health check up at any time during the most recent 12-month period of their stay in state custody.

6.) Unsafe emergency shelters: According to the Governor's appointed child welfare monitor, the Fulton shelter is unfit and the DelKalb center is grossly inadequate.

-As many as 28% of Fulton County shelter children and 20% of DeKalb County shelter were missing on any given day during 2001.

-The Fulton shelter was built to house 85 children, but exceeded its licensed capacity by taking in as many was 118. The DelKalb shelter, licensed for 35 children, housed up to 55.

- Shelters did not provide children with needed treatment or services, and exposed them to sexual assault, prostitution, gang activity and illicit drug activity

By stalling this case, the state cost themselves more money
Georgia fought this lawsuit for almost three years, before finally agreeing to:

-Numerical goals for reducing caseworker and supervisor caseloads
-Timelines for responding to reports of abuse and neglect for children in state care
-Increased contact and continuity of relationships between children and their caseworkers
-Specific goals for the quality of foster care environments
-Increased sibling visits and relative placements
-Timelines for delivery of healthcare services for children in state care
-Specific goals related to permanency plans for foster children

U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob awarded fees based on rates as high as $495 an hour for some of the attorneys in the case. He asserted that the state of Georgia is partly to blame because they fought the case so long.

"To a great extent," Shoob said in his decision, "the size of the award reflects state defendant's strategy of resistance against efforts to reform a foster care system that even they ultimately admitted was badly in need of reform."

Who gets the money?
In 2006, $11.3 million was awarded to the plaintiffs in this case. The money was split between New York-based nonprofit Children's Rights Inc., and the Atlanta firm of Bondurant, Mixon and Elmore.

Which leave me wondering how this lawsuit has ultimately affected the welfare and well-being of Georgia foster children.

The lawsuit was originally filed 'on behalf of' nine foster children who had received physical and/or psychological harm. How much of that money was given to them?

None, that I can see. I read the Consent Decree on and it looks like all they're planning to do for those children is monitor their future placements.

Children's Rights Inc. plans to use their share of the money to fight battles for children's rights elsewhere. This is a worthy goal, but still leaves less money to help Georgia foster children.

The idea behind this lawsuit was to hold the state of Georgia accountable.

As Marcia Robinson Lowry, the executive director of Children's Rights has stated, "Given the state's long-standing knowledge of the harm being inflicted on children in its care, there is simply no excuse for continuing to operate a child welfare system so damaging to vulnerable children. It is time for the court to act, since state officials have failed to protect these children."

Her organization has been successful in bringing this issue to public attention. Doing so took hard work and a lot of time. Plaintiffs in the Kenny A. v Perdue lawsuit obtained over 75,000 documents from DFCS and the Department of Human Resources in the case and have taken over 30 depositions of DFCS managers and administrators. I'm not saying that they shouldn't be compensated for their efforts.

However, with less money available and more demands placed on the state, I wonder what the state success rate will be in complying with the lawsuit's demands, which include 31 outcome measures?

Ultimately, it seems that children will pay the price:
"Eleven million dollars could pay the salaries of every caseworker in Fulton County for a year, or it could pay for more than 1,800 children in foster care for a year," said B.J. Walker, the commissioner of the state Department of Human Resources. "Children are the losers."

Foster Care Update: Kenny A. v Perdue. Action News WSBTV, Sept. 15, 2006.
Hess provides research revealing that foster children are unsafe and underserved in Atlanta, Georgia. News Release: Institute for Families in Society. Nov. 18, 2003.
Judge awards $11.3 million in foster care lawsuit. Associated Press, October 2006.
State agrees on settlement in Kenny A. lawsuit. Press release from the Georgia Department of Human Resources, July 5, 2005.
Wooten, Jim. Best interest of child carries little weight. Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jan. 6, 2007.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Donnell Long provides the holiday celebrations that he never had

Photo from

Donnell Long
Every Christmas and Thanksgiving, owner Donnell Long invites disadvantaged and foster children to his restaurant, the Stone Fish Grill. He serves dinner to 100 children who are either homeless or residing in foster care and unable to share this holiday with their biological families.

Long, 35, was deserted in a car in New York at age 3. He remembers the pain of childhood holidays "without love and family." As a child, Long pledged that if he were ever in a position to help children like him, he would.

Living in foster care made him distant. Long said he was an angry child. He said he and his brother Melvin were physically abused. He said he was teased and bullied at school. By sixth grade, he started fighting back and frequently ran away.

"The worst part was knowing that everyone knows you are a foster child," Long said. "Other kids' parents are coming around, and yours don't. And kids can be very cruel."

Fortunately, most of the time he and his brother were placed in the same homes, so they have remained close. They share a home in Silver Spring. "Melvin and I have always parented each other," he said.

Eight years ago, Donnell Long began providing gifts as well. He solicits donations from local businesses and provides thousands of dollars from his own pocket. He studies the children's wish lists very carefully.

Long said the children "don't ask for a lot because they don't expect anything. I remember that. That's why I do this -- because nobody did it for me."

Thomas-Lester, Avis. Christmas for every child: Maryland man tries to give kids merrier holidays than he had. Washington Post, Dec. 25, 2006, pg. A1.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Have you ever heard of Treva Thornberry?

31-year-old Treva Thornberry successfully masqueraded as a teenage foster child for several years.

Please visit this link to read this interesting essay about her life, and what might have motivated her actions:
Bernstein, Nell. Without a nest: Is it surprising that foster kids, in the face of forced independence at the age of 18, might go to extraordinary lengths to postpone adulthood?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Letter to editor regarding 'caged kids'

My letter to Toledo Blade re:
Behavioral problems of caged kids debated
Sielicki, Jim. Toledo Blade, Dec. 13, 2006, pg. B1.

I am concerned by the Gravelle’s defense attorney’s attempts to pathologize the children in order to shift blame away from the Gravelles. Whether or not children were harmed by prenatal experiences does not excuse placing those children in an unsafe environment.

The Gravelles were unequipped to keep the eleven children in their care from danger than caging them. They should never have been entrusted with that many children – particularly special needs children.

Social worker Elaine Thompson used poor judgment. When she contacted by the Gravelles in 2000, she did not recognize their cry for help.

As a former foster child and current child advocate, I state here and now that foster children are like any other children. We want to be in an environment that is safe and nurturing. To have caregivers who are attentive to our individual needs.

If you had a child with Down syndrome, would you push her head into a toilet or put a sock into her mouth? If you adopted a child who had trouble emotionally bonding to you, would you lock him into a cage?

How can a child learn trust from violence, or learn to bond through solitary confinement?

Moreover, foster children are not cattle, to be herded into any placement that is available. There is a disturbing trend to place children into any bed available, regardless of developmental needs or safety. Not only were the children unsafe with the Gravelles, by all accounts they were unsafe with one another.

2006 Year in Revew: Foster Care in Ohio

Summary of the top two news stories regarding foster care in Ohio, 2006:

1.) Marcus Fiesel:
A three-year-old autistic boy who died in foster care.

-In April 2006, Marcus was found wandering the streets of Middletown. Upon investigation of his mother, Donna Trevino's home, his bedroom walls and carpet were covered with feces and there was little food in the house. As the police took Marcus away, his mother said, "He's your problem now."

-During the weekend of Aug. 4-5, 2006, Marcus died when his foster parents, David and Liz Carroll, bound him by taping his arms behind him and left him in a closet over the weekend while they attended a reunion in KY.

-David Carroll tried repeatedly to burn the remains of Marcus' body. Liz Carroll staged an elaborate hoax, pretending Marcus had wandered off in a local park and was now missing. She involved the public in a bogus search of the park for Marcus.

-The Carroll's duplicity was uncovered when their live-in girlfriend, Amy Baker, turned them in to the authorities. What happened to Marcus inspired public outrage and led to an investigation of the Lifeway, the agency that placed the child. A task force was created to examine the role of Butler County's independent foster care board.

2.) Gravelles caging children: Michael and Sharen Gravelle reportedly took the following actions against the eleven special needs children in their care, for which they received $56,000 per year:

-Forcing some of the children to sleep in cages
-Dunking the head of a young girl with Down Syndrome into the toilet
-Forcing a boy to sleep in the bathroom for days as punishment for bed-wetting
-Hosing down children outside the house in 20-degree weather

The Gravelles lost custody of the children in March 2006, and were charged with 16 counts of felony child endangering and eight misdemeanor child endangering counts.

Not representative of most foster parents in Ohio
It is unfortunate that top two most publicized stories in the state of Ohio in 2006 were about abusive foster parents.

There are many caring foster parents in Ohio. I have met them through the Ohio Family Care Association and when I gave the keynote presentation at the statewide foster parent conference at Deer Creek, Ohio on June 24, 2006.

What needs to happen:
-Ohio database to share foster parent information. This is supposedly still in the works...

- When abuse is reported, staff must take it seriously. An 11-month-old boy named Nicholas Goodrich died on Dec. 12th after three prior abuse reports to Delaware and Franklin County. Franklin County did not investigate the abuse report because the child now resided in Delaware County... um, WTF?