State caseworker accused of offering woman benefits in exchange for sexual favors

State caseworker accused of offering woman benefits in exchange for sexual favorsA state caseworker accused of offering a woman benefits in exchange for sexual favors might have victimized more women, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office said Tuesday.

John Geary, 41, of North Versailles waived his right to a preliminary hearing on charges of bribery, promoting prostitution, patronizing prostitutes, solicitation and official oppression. He could not be reached for comment.

A woman told detectives that when she met with Geary, her caseworker at the state Department of Public Welfare's McKeesport office, he told her he has “helped” other girls in her situation and said, “I help girls out who help me out,” according to a criminal complaint. Geary was suspended from his job when he was arrested earlier this month, a department spokeswoman said.

“Because of these statements, the District Attorney's Office believes that there may be other potential victims of this defendant's pattern of behavior,” spokesman Mike Manko said in an email. “We are asking any woman who believes that they may be a victim to come forward.”

Geary told the victim in the case that he could give her extra benefits through the DPW if she wanted to bring drugs and “party” with him, the complaint said.

He told her he invites women to his home because his wife works nights and his children sleep on the second floor, the complaint said.

The DA's office asks any potential victims to call 412-388-5300.

triblive.com

A version of this column originally appeared in www.lukesarmy.com.

Lax Supervision, Failure to Act at ‘Boys Home Of The South’ Led to Attack, Sexual Assault of 11 Year Old, Charges Lawsuit

South Carolina Department of Social Services Knew of Prior Incidents at the Institution

abused-child-with-teddy-bear[1](Abbeville, SC) — Unacceptably lax policies, combined with officials turning a blind eye to child-on-child assaults at an institution licensed and supervised by the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), paved the way for an 11-year-old Abbeville County boy to be attacked and sexually assaulted at the facility in March of 2011, charged an amended complaint filed in the Abbeville County Court yesterday.

The filing names South Carolina Governor Nikki Hailey as a defendant, along with SCDSS Director Lillian Koller, as well as other SCDSS officials and staff at the Boys Home of the South (BHOTS), where the incident occurred. The lawsuit has been brought by two South Carolina law firms and national advocacy organization Children’s Rights.

According to the amended complaint, SCDSS and BHOTS not only knew that the plaintiff, John Doe, was at risk, they failed to care for him after the assault. Doe didn’t receive desperately needed mental health treatment for months, even though he attempted to slit his wrist a week after the incident.

“From top to bottom, the circumstances surrounding this case are downright shocking,” said Thomas E. Hite, Jr. of Hite & Stone, Attorneys at Law. “But perhaps the greatest tragedy is that Doe entered foster care simply because his grandparents became too elderly to care for him. An innocent child is now left to grapple with depression and a host of other serious issues.”

South Carolina’s poor track record of recruiting a sufficient number of foster homes could have played into Doe’s fate. According to federal data, in 2010 and 2011 South Carolina was ranked 50th among all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for the percentage of children in foster care age 12 and under housed in group homes and institutions. SCDSS failed to find a relative to care for Doe and, because of a lack of family foster homes, placed him in an emergency shelter and then at BHOTS.

“It is unconscionable that this young boy landed in such a facility in the first place,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights. “While SCDSS acknowledged that most children fare better in home-like settings, the agency apparently has not prioritized the reduction of congregate care, putting kids in settings that are inappropriate for many and can leave youth vulnerable. Foster care is supposed to improve children’s lives, not destroy them.”

A 2010 SCDSS publication noted that the system “overly relies on congregate care facilities for our children, when research shows that children have better outcomes when placed in families.” As recently as September 2012, the agency reported that, “While the number of children in foster care has been steadily dropping since 2007, the market share of foster care providers has remained the same at 24% for congregate care (group homes).”

According to the complaint, Doe was attacked on March 28, 2011 by “AR,” an older boy also housed in a cottage that was part of BHOTS’ “Low Management Group Care Housing.” At the time of the attack and sexual assault on Doe, SCDSS and BHOTS employees had notice of numerous prior incidents of child-on-child maltreatment at BHOTS, including a history of incidents involving AR. Yet only days before the attack, Doe’s SCDSS caseworker visited Doe and wrote “there are no safety issues or concerns noted in the cottage where [Doe] is currently residing.”

Doe was “to be provided with 24 hour supervision,” only “16 hours of which [was] awake.” SCDSS’s initial investigation into the attack and sexual assault on Doe, completed in May 2011, found no negligent supervision because BHOTS was not required to have awake staff at the time of the incident. A second investigation, completed that July, reversed course and found negligent supervision on the part of the BHOTS “house parent” on duty, but made no findings against BHOTS.

This was not the first time inappropriate sexual activity at BHOTS was brushed aside. Between January 1, 2009 and the night of Doe’s attack, the BHOTS Defendants and SCDSS Licensing and Out of Home Abuse and Neglect (OHAN) staff received at least eight reports of inappropriate sexual activity between BHOTS residents. Two months before Doe’s attack occurred, an OHAN investigation into inappropriate sexual activity at BHOTS was returned “unfounded”–not because the investigator or OHAN supervisor questioned whether inappropriate behavior occurred, but because the “[f]acility policy allows for house parents to sleep at night and [the] incident occurred during bed hours and staff was asleep.”

The BHOTS website currently posts a letter from its new chief executive officer that states, “In 2012, residential care facilities suffered devastating declines in referrals due to a philosophical shift in care by government agencies. Several facilities in South Carolina closed permanently. At the Boys Home our census fell dramatically to a current enrollment of a few boys.”

“It is good news that the Boys Home of the South has few children in its care, giving their new director time to institute policies and practices that will protect children,” said Robert Butcher of The Camden Law Firm. “Unfortunately, it does not mean that our children are safe in South Carolina foster care. Until we see evidence that the state is actively reducing the use of congregate care, thoroughly investigating and addressing all allegations of abuse, and housing boys in a manner that is conducive to keeping them safe, we will remain vigilant.”

The initial complaint in this case was filed on April 1, 2013, in state court in Abbeville County, SC. The newly filed amended complaint adds significant detail and alleges federal civil rights violations on the part of Governor Hailey, DSS officials and staff at BHOTS.

A version of this column originally appeared in www.childrensrights.org.

Foster carer jailed for raping ‘vulnerable’ teen boy in his care

Foster carer jailed for raping 'vulnerable' teen boy in his careA foster carer who raped a “vulnerable” 15-year-old boy entrusted to his care after plying him with drink has been sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison.

Darren Bradley, 41, from Cardiff, was told by a judge he possessed a “predatory desire” which made him “suspicious” of his motives for becoming a foster carer in the first place.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Bradley had built up trust with the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, over a number of months after he was placed with him in June 2011.

On November 28 of the same year, church worker Bradley sexually assaulted and raped the child who then ran away. After the youngster was reported missing, he was tracked down by police and told them he had been raped by his foster carer.

Two days after the attack, police arrested Bradley who denied the allegation but told them he had massaged the boy to relieve him from stress.

After the results of forensic medical tests were presented to him which showed traces of his semen, he claimed he had been asleep on the sofa and awoke to find the complainant straddling him.

Matthew Roberts, for the Crown, said: “The defendant was the foster carer of the complainant from June to December 2011.

“He occupied a position of trust and was responsible for the well being and care of the defendant.

“The complainant ran away from his address on November 29, 2011. The complainant was reported missing and when found by police, told police he had been raped by his foster carer.”

The court heard the teenager had been in care since 2006 because of his mother’s inability to care for and protect him.

After different carers, he ended up with Bradley, who had a previous clean record and character references read in court from his time doing voluntary work in the community and with his church.

When confronted with the allegation of rape, Bradley was reported to have told police: “I have been trying to wrack my brains what could have triggered him to say these things.

“I know he suffers from stress. I have been massaging him to relieve him from stress.

“There was one occasion I went too far watching television I think.”

The teenager was too distressed to give evidence at trial but Bradley pleaded guilty to second category rape [rape which is accompanied by an abuse of trust] at a hearing earlier this month. However at his sentencing yesterday, he then made an application to change his plea.

But Judge Neil Bidder rejected his application, saying he had failed to acknowledge responsibility, adding he did not know who he was trying to convince.

Stephen Thomas, in mitigation, said there was no coercion or additional violence other then the offending itself.

Meanwhile the court was told Bradley, who stood in the dock with crutches, was in ill health and suffering from anxiety disorders.

Sentencing Bradley, Judge Bidder said: “This vulnerable boy, as he was vulnerable, was placed in your care as a foster carer.

“It was a very serious breach of trust and was, I have absolutely no doubt, quite a calculated breach of trust.

“You still failed to acknowledge responsibility despite the fact it was obvious to everyone the extremely strong evidence including scientific and medical evidence against you.

“The account to police and probation is transparently nonsensical. I’m not sure who you are trying to convince.

“Your failure, in the teeth of the evidence to take responsibility and your predatory desire does not bode well for any treatment regime in custody.

“I am extremely suspicious you went through the process of becoming a foster carer to be in the position you were to abuse a young boy.”

He also disqualified Bradley from working with children and placed him on the sex offender register indefinitely.

By Simon Gaskell

A version of this column originally appeared in www.lukesarmy.com.