Size of Kansas foster care population up 18 percent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The size of Kansas’ foster care population has swelled 18 percent over the past six years, and child welfare advocates blame high turnover among caseworkers, parental drug addiction and cuts to programs that help poor families.

“I really think something needs to be done,” said Diana Frederick, executive director of Douglas County CASA, the agency that provides volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates to work with abused and neglected children in state custody. “Things are enough of a concern that we need to acknowledge that there is a problem and we need to work together to find a solution.”

Children are usually removed from their homes because of neglect, and leave the foster care system when they rejoin their families, are adopted or reach age 18. State data shows that the 2009 fiscal year is the last time more children were exiting the system each month, 312 on average, than were entering, 260 on average. Since then, the numbers have gradually flipped, with 317 children entering the system on average each month in FY 2015, which ended June 30, and 286 leaving the system.

Over the six-year span, the foster care monthly average jumped to 6,257 children in fiscal year 2015 from 5,317 in 2009, state figures show.

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Fired Miami social worker gets 1 1/2 years in prison for extorting families of refugee children

As a newly hired employee for a Miami social services agency, Leslie Rubero Padilla’s job was to reunite unaccompanied refugee children with their parents or legal guardians in the United States.

She was supposed to charge the families only for transportation, such as airfare. But authorities say Rubero shook down more than a dozen of them by insisting they had to send her additional money or the reunification with their children would be delayed — or, worse, they would be deported back to their native country in Central America.

“This case is just so shocking because this defendant preyed on the most vulnerable people,” federal prosecutor Daniel Bernstein said at Rubero’s sentencing hearing on Friday. “Why is it so offensive? She calculated that these are people I can rip off because they are not going to report it.”

The prosecutor asked U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles to send Rubero, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in September, to prison for four years. Bernstein pointed out that she not only exploited the poor parents and guardians for a total of $11,100, but also noted: “She had legal custody of their children.”

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Arizona foster-care numbers rose over decade, as national numbers fell

Advocates hold photos of foster children during an April 2013 rally af the Arizona State Courts bulding in Phoenix. WASHINGTON – Arizona saw the number of kids in its foster care system rise significantly from 2002-2012, a time when most other states were posting sharp drops in their foster care rolls, according to new federal data.

The report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families said Arizona was one of 11 states with an increase in foster children and one of only two – along with Texas – with significant increases.

Arizona had the second-largest increase in the nation over the decade, adding 7,296 children to Texas’ 8,294. There were 15,751 foster kids in Arizona at the end of March, according to the latest numbers from the state.

Advocates said the numbers are more evidence of a state foster care system in crisis, one that has been “overworked and overwhelmed” as budgets have been cut.

“There was a perfect storm of things – the recession hit, the budget cuts had to be made and so more kids were coming in to care,” said Russ Funk, director of marketing and family recruitment at Aid to Adoption of Special Kids.

State officials said there is no one reason for the increase, but expressed confidence that recent improvements will have an effect.

After reports in late 2013 that more than 6,000 foster-care cases had not been investigated, Gov. Jan Brewer created a Child Advocate Response Examination (CARE) Team of lawmakers, advocates and state officials to oversee those cases and monitor Child Protective Services.

And the Legislature this spring voted to give oversight of the state’s foster care system to a new Department of Child Safety.

Jennifer Bowser, a spokeswoman for the new department, said she has seen improvements made “all over the place” to the state’s child care system since the agency’s creation.

Bowser said the state is revamping its training process for caseworkers, has reviewed legislation for additional staffing and is making significant progress on backlogged cases.

The 15,751 children in out-of-home care this March represented an increase of 714 children from the previous year, according to the state.

While the state is attempting to improve the child protective services system and provide more preventive services, families are still faced with challenges that put them in difficult situations – situations that can lead to their children being placed in foster care.

“There are a variety of different reasons that children become neglected or put at risk of being neglected when their parents are struggling,” Funk said.

Beth Rosenberg, director of child welfare and juvenile justice at Children’s Action Alliance, said the increases are occurring because of a system that has been “overworked and overwhelmed.”

“We were bringing more kids in to the system than the kids were leaving the system,” she said.

Funk said a prime factor for the surge of children in the Arizona foster care system was budget cuts during the recession that led to reductions in preventive services, such as parenting skill workshops and addiction rehab support.

And while the system was gaining kids, Funk said, there are “fewer caseworkers handling more cases with less services in place to help return those children” to their families.

Bowser agreed that socioeconomic challenges and substance-abuse issues could make it more likely that a child is removed from his or her home.

“If we can provide more prevention services – early intervention services – the hope is to not have the children need to be removed,” she said.

Corruption trials shed light on blood money flowing through Massachusetts DCF, Courts

blood-money1[1]BOSTON, This month, dozens of high level Massachusetts politicians enjoyed immunity in exchange for their testimony in the corruption, bribery, and racketeering trials of various legislators and family court probation officers charged with running an organized crime right through their State offices. Several co-conspirators have been convicted and jailed, leaving Massachusetts leaders with important questions to answer about the human toll organized crime may have taken on the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable families? Are the Probation Department’s ineffective “offender rehabilitation” programs paid for with the blood of Massachusetts taxpayers?

Regardless, Massachusetts leaders are now faced with the question of how to go about empowering good judges, social workers, and probation officers who are committed to rescuing themselves and the State’s most vulnerable families [from the system itself?]  In order to answer this question, we need to have a real conversation about why these same corrupt courtroom cronies repeatedly failed to save Jennifer Martel’s life? Where was the Department of Children and families?

Most men voluntarily engage in safe, loving relationships with their families. But Martel’s boyfriend and murderer Jared Remy was not most men, he was the son of a celebrated Red Sox sportscaster and a violent criminal. By September 2011, Remy’s privately bankrolled defense attorney Peter Bella had convinced Massachusetts judges to close a staggering 18 cases charging Remy with dozens of traffic, violence and/or drug related related offenses.

Instead of providing services to Remy’s victims to help them recover and stay safe, Remy was rewarded by the State with leniency, therapy, allies, advocate, and other State benefits which his victims did not enjoy.  The State also targeted victims who reported Remy’s violent crimes by providing the offender with a fraudulently obtained restraining order, even awarding the Remy family sole and joint custody of the victim’s child. The court sealed the case after allowing the Remy family to terrorize the young teen mother through caustic, intrusive and expensive litigation spanning several years.

The sole beneficiaries of these State programs appears to be limited to the vendors who provided the services, as ultimately, the State’s sponsorship of Remy’s violent crime spree allowed it to continue undetected for almost 20-years.

At the time of Martel’s murder, Remy’s record was virtually clean. Only twice did the courts find Remy guilty, and on ten occasions, the courts outright dismissed the charges against him. The courts also granted Remy continuances without findings (CWOF’s) that resulted in dismissals on six other occasions.

Yesterday marked perhaps the first time in history that the Massachusetts court system created a meaningful plan to protect the public from one of the system’s best customers when it sentenced Jared Remy to life in prison without the possibility of parole for stabbing Martel to death in front of their 4-year-old daughter and several onlookers in August 2013. Remy’s arrest brought an abrupt end to the violent career predator’s court endorsed crime spree, kicking off the only peaceful time some of his victims may have ever known.

But according to Attorney Bella, there was no “pay to play” scandal involved with Remy’s case because Remy never received any special treatment from the courts.

In other words, the Remy case was just some deadly business as usual in the Massachusetts courts.

“If there’s a sign of hope that arises from Martel’s vicious murder,” says former prosecutor Wendy Murphy, “let it be that the public takes a closer look at the gushing flow of money from DC that literally rewards violent male offenders with cash, therapy and training programs AFTER they get in trouble with the courts for assaulting the crime victims who live with them.”

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