Register Investigation: Youths Isolated and ‘forgotten’ at the Iowa Juvenile Home

bildeTOLEDO, IA. — The state-run Iowa Juvenile Home has confined teenage girls to small isolation cells for months at a time — in one case, reportedly, for almost a full year.

Emails obtained by The Des Moines Register show that earlier this year, the home acknowledged it “relies too heavily on the use of seclusion” and that the practice “creates significant risks for youth and staff, including serious injury or death.”

An internal Iowa Department of Human Services report indicated that hundreds of youths had been held in the isolation cells in 2011 and 2012, although the department is now questioning that report produced by its own staff.

The home, where up to 57 youths with serious behavioral issues receive treatment, schooling and housing, has also tried to control the behavior of children by denying them classroom instruction, in apparent violation of federal law.

“These children are forgotten,” said Nathan Kirstein, an attorney with Disability Rights Iowa, a federally funded organization that helps defend and promote the human rights of Iowans with disabilities and mental illnesses. “They’re not only in the foster-care system but they’re in a place that has no real oversight.”

The juvenile home is run by Iowa’s Department of Human Services — the same state agency that is charged with protecting the state’s youths from negligence and abuse. But the juvenile home does not have to meet the same licensing and inspection requirements that are imposed on similar, privately run facilities.

It was last November that investigators from Disability Rights Iowa discovered three teenage girls living in the row of small, concrete-block isolation cells located in the basement of the juvenile home’s main building.

Three months later, the superintendent of the home, Deb Hanus, announced her retirement after eight years in that position, and the clinical director of the home resigned. Hanus says her retirement was unrelated to the investigation, and she declined to comment on the manner in which children were treated at the home.

One girl in her mid-teens was placed in an isolation cell at the home — a small, concrete room with a steel door — for almost one year, from January 2012 to December 2012, Kirstein said. The girl typically ate all of her meals in the cell and was allowed out for one hour per day for hygiene and exercise, he said.

In December, according to the advocacy group, the girl was released from the control room and the home imposed a policy of withholding her education as part of an effort to control her behavior: If she did not comply with the home’s rules, she would not be provided classroom instruction.

Disability Rights Iowa says the children placed in isolation for extended periods at the home are at risk for “serious psychological and physical damage.”

Jane Hudson, the organization’s executive director, says DHS has violated its own rules and policies with regard to the treatment of children with behavioral issues.

“We were shocked when we went in and saw this,” Hudson said. “They were in solitary confinement. And these girls are not criminals. These are foster kids. These are kids who have been harmed themselves and they are trying to recover.”

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A version of this column originally appeared in

Dozens of children in state care being sent back to place of abuse

632833-unidentified-mother[1]HUNDREDS of children in state care are being harmed each year and one in five are kept at the place of their abuse despite Department of Child Safety staff determining the risk was "unacceptable".

Last financial year, 316 children were harmed emotionally, physically or sexually following 320 substantiated matters of concern.

But the department refuses to release information. In a lengthy Right to Information search by The Courier-Mail, the department blacked out details of the abuse and the reasons why the children were left in harmful conditions.

The worst of the substantiated matters involved dozens of children sexually abused or at risk of sexual abuse, many of who remained in the place that abuse occurred.

The Courier-Mail's investigation coincides with the Carmody Commission of Inquiry into the state's child protection system.

The acting Queensland Children's Commissioner told The Courier-Mail the State Government must explain why children were left in risky situations.

In one placement, the risk involving the child who suffered "emotional harm caused by sexual abuse" was deemed "unacceptable" but they were not removed and the other children in the residence, who faced unacceptable risk of emotional harm due to neglect, also remained.

Standards breached by the carer during the period of the RTI application in the two years from January 2011 included a failure to respect the child's dignity and rights, provide them with emotional care and give positive guidance to help him or her change inappropriate behaviour.

The Courier-Mail last year revealed several disturbing cases involving the Child Safety department, including its decision to sue a Queensland mum for negligence whose eight-year-old son was sexually assaulted by a foster child taken into the family home.

This is despite acknowledgement by Child Safety that they failed to warn her of the boy's troubled sexual past.

In another case, three sisters who were repeatedly sexually abused by a foster child have been told by Child Safety that they share the blame for failing to lock their bedroom doors.

Acting Queensland Children's Commissioner Barry Salmon said the Government needed to explain why children were left in situations where there had been an "unacceptable risk", particularly if there had been evidence of sexual abuse.

"Those matters really are serious and rely upon the department to make a good, informed decision there and getting it right," Mr Salmon said yesterday.

"From my point of view, what we should be doing is minimising the risks for those kids so if there are issues like that, then you'd have to seriously question why you would sustain those arrangements. You'd have to question why there wasn't more action taken."

Mr Salmon said no children should be harmed while in State care, especially as many of them were removed from their homes in the first place because of unacceptable risks of harm.

He said the Government also needed to ensure foster carers received more support and training and were quicker to investigate matters of concerns.

There are more than 7000 children in care in Queensland but only 4625 carers.

Child Safety Minister Tracy Davis blamed the former Labor Government for the current issues in her department.

Leahy cartoon


"There is a community expectation that children who are placed in the department's care are safe," she said.

"The former government left the state's child protection system overburdened and unsustainable.

"That is why the Newman Government announced the Commission of Inquiry in to the Queensland Child Protection System.

"The Commissioner (Tim Carmody) is due to report back to the Premier with his recommendations by 30 June."

A Department of Child Safety spokesman said in a statement that while it "was unacceptable for any child to be harmed, only a small percentage experience harm".

"The assessment about the future provision of care to a child is made taking into account the nature of the breach," he said.

"In some cases, Child Safety receives reports that a child in out-of-home care has been harmed. In many cases, the carer's actions or inactions will not have contributed to the child experiencing harm."

Foster Care Queensland executive director Bryan Smith said the vast majority performed an admirable service.

"However, we also live in a real world. Like we have police officers, nurses, teachers or anybody else in the community where sometimes you have a bad egg, and sometimes in this process we have that as well and that is not OK," Mr Smith said.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said the lack of transparency and accountability had to be addressed.

"It's a case of trust me at the moment and we're supposed to all just trust that everything's right and when there's a pattern of harm that it's being addressed," she said.

"When there's no accountability, that's when the rot begins."


A version of this column originally appeared in

Mandated Reporting, or Basic Responsibility (it’s absence is killing Wisconsin & Pennsylvania children)

ChrysanthemumLeilani and Dale Neumann allowed their daughter to die a painful and lengthy death from  fully treatable disease on Easter Sunday of 2008.  Relatives were aware of the wacky faith healing beliefs that were soon to kill 11 year old Kara Neumann.

Medical experts testified at the trial that Kara would have lived if her parents had brought her to a doctor at any time before she stopped breathing.

Wisconsin (and 12 other states) don’t charge parents who murder their children in this fashion of child abuse.

Last May, Herbert and Catherine Schaible murdered their second child in Philadelphia by faith healing treatable pneumonia, just 3 years after killing their 2 year old son by faith healing his pneumonia until he died.

The most frightening element of these stories is that children that suffer from horrific negligence and terrible abuse only make the paper when they die.  6 million children are reported to child protection agencies in this nation annually.  Only a few get the help they need.

In both these cases, many people were well aware of the damage these people were doing, or in the case of the Philadelphia couple, had done, to their children.  Someone should have said something.

A version of this column originally appeared in

Child Protective Services is an insult and a slap in the face of every decent parent.

cps-law_out_window[1]The article below has appeared in several newspapers across the country and has become a bit of reading that is all too common in the US. The people that should be held accountable are the Judges who are relied upon as the only oversight for CPS and should be looking out for the kids are favoring money instead. No matter how many times I read about travesties like this, I cannot believe a man could let his judgment be swayed from the protection of a child to that of a position of money. Money is not something you can take with you.

It isn’t how much you make during your lifetime that decides your fate, it is the quality of your person in which you choose to share with the world, now that you can take with you.

Falsification of Records 

Grand jury investigation into CPS fund that out of 50 cases of removal of parental rights investigated by CPS,  (licensed or unlicensed didn’t make any difference)  found that every case had falsified facts. I will say it again, every case had falsified and exaggerated facts leading the the termination of parental rights.  The evidence was exaggerated to take the children out of the home and keep these children involved in services even at the expense of the parental rights.  July stated that from what she found was a world of traumatized children and parents with the opinion that the last thing on the CPS agenda is the child’s best interest  I find this completely criminal and must come from the top down.  The commonality in which every report was written is almost identical and shows CPS only cares about CPS. Further reports into ACS, CPS, or CFS
If criminal charges involving negligence or endangering the welfare of a child are rare, indictments for falsification of records are more common.  Six employees from CPS were indicted by the District Attorney on charges that they had falsified case records.  The case ultimately led to termination of foster care contracts with ACS and transition to new leadership at the agency.   In 2009, a former Child Protective Specialist with ACS was arrested on felony charges of falsifying records of cases to which she had been assigned.

“In Washington, they say that the cover-up is worse than the original act,” says Douglas Besharov, a Professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and first Director of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. “Remember, that’s how they convicted Martha Stewart — for lying to an FBI agent.”  Besharov notes that the tendency to want to cover up any failings in your performance is an unfortunate part of human nature and in no way limited to child protective work.

Child welfare agencies must be on constant guard to ensure a strong commitment to ethical and fully accurate reporting on casework activities. The truth is nothing gets done because of the federal funding to the county by the fabrication of evidence. If it doesn’t get caught by the appellate court the worker gets a raise, this is awful but true.

“We want to be very serious about matters of integrity,  “If you knowingly falsify records you got a career with CPS.  It is that simple.  Our documentation must accurately and honestly describe the event according to federal guide lines to get funding from the government but no one questions it or checks.  each unique event isn’t observed.” most of the time it is hearsay after the fact explained over the hot line and the worker goes out to the home told to make the report true. This is an unsaid rule.

“Falsification of records is grounds for termination, or should be” says, Executive Director. “It is one thing if you didn’t do something; but if you didn’t do it and you tell me you did, you are not going to be here if the people find out about it..  We probably would end up firing a couple of people for this every year.” but only if criminally caught. The truth is children are walking dollar signs and the government pays us to think that way.

In response to the Marchella Pierce case, State Senator Martin Golden has introduced legislation which would require CPS workers to take date-stamped photos of children during home visits. “People are sick over reading recent news reports about a caseworker who falsified home visits,” Senator Golden said. “This appalling behavior leaves children open to even more violence and abuse. While the vast majority of caseworkers tackle their difficult jobs with pride and dignity each day, the bad apples are allowing our children to die.”

Under Golden’s proposal, the photo of the child must be taken and entered into the case record along with the caseworker’s notes and findings for that visit. Florida implemented a similar system recently after more than seventy Florida child welfare workers reportedly were caught lying about their home visits and nothing ever happens to these workers. The truth is we get no sanctions, lectures, nothing unless it makes major news then it is only for public support, in other words smoke and mirrors.

This is not the first effort to utilize technology as a way to help document home visits and other critical casework activities. It is a way to get the workers to actually do their job instead of sitting home all day.  The State’s Connections system, which has its own date-stamping function for entry of progress notes, plays an important role in ensuring that initial reporting on visits and other casework activities are not doctored after the fact.

Several years ago, a number of voluntary foster care agencies participated in a pilot project with a private software company on a system which would verify home visits.  Caseworkers would call to a central station using the foster parent or natural parent’s telephone.  In addition to recording the time and location of the call, the system was designed to allow workers to dictate case notes which would subsequently be transcribed and sent back to them for entry into Connections.   The system was a variation of one frequently used by home health providers to verify the attendance of home aides.
While the pilot project offered agencies an opportunity to test the system at little or no cost, the final product would have represented a significant investment, says Jerry McCaffrey, who oversaw the pilot while serving as Executive Director at Seamen’s Society and later explored implementing the system at MercyFirst.  “It was too expensive,” he explains.  Nancy Vomero, McCaffrey’s successor as Executive Director at Seamen’s Society agrees.  “We terminated it after the pilot was complete. It was a good idea but it was too expensive,” says Vomero, noting that there were also concerns about the work involved with dictating and subsequently re-entering case notes. No one is held accountable in CPS unless the people find out about it. That is the very reason for the secrecy of child courts it isn’t to protect the children it is to protect the workers from cashing in on kids.

Now, a number of agencies are reportedly exploring the use of GPS based systems involving cellphones or other devices as a way of verifying field activities by staff.

While technology can help, it is no magic bullet.  “None of these technological solutions are perfect and none of them replace good supervision,” says Mary Jane Disables, Senior Program and Policy Analyst at COFCCA.

ACS and it’s CPS counterpart should NOT be looked upon as a first line of defense for our children, an agency with workers dedicated to protection of CPS. Instead of kids  workers are seen as harbingers of lies and mistrust, and if you’ve ever had one in your house, you know why. And I end with this. CPS workers should arrive at a home with a video cam, kind of like the dash board cam on police cruisers. I guarantee there would be a change in this so called process of “removal” and “who closed the gate after the dog got out”!

I am in agreement with the actions of the DA, in charging the CPS case workers, because for far to long ACS workers have been known to get away with allowing foster care providers who are known for neglecting and endangering children in their care. They are also known for taking innocent children out of good homes and placing them into bad foster care environments not only do the Law Guardians look the other way but the Commissioner, is also guilty of the same types of neglect I know this from my own family experience with my grandchildren being placed into a foster care environment that has proven to be very dangerous for the last five years of their lives. They were taken from a safe family home only to be place in eleven foster home that neglected and abused them and all individuals whom I have made these issues known to have turn an ear to black & white factual evidence.  The part that seems to just go under the carpet because people don’r want to speak up against judges, these judges MUST and SHALL be held accountable for this travesty going on in every city in the US.

As parents, our only line of defense is Law and Order and I can tell you with 100% responsibility for my words that Judge Monteroso allowed and relied on so much false evidence to be presented we never had one day of anything that resembled justice, fairness, decency, law or order. This judge destroyed a very close family and   and turned it into a show by allowing adoption applicants to sit in and watch the removal of my parental rights. Now it has become my life’s mission to expose this man and his court.  FACT: CPS WOULD NOT BE THE WAY THEY ARE TODAY IF IT WASN’T FOR THE CRIMINAL SYSTEM OF JUSTICE THESE JUDGES ALLOW.  It shames me to no end that we Americans allow these people to take our money to decide our fate and all that matters is what extra money we put in their pocket.  He disrespects the office in which he serves and the bench on which he sits.

Now my son has to pay the ultimate price of being one of the human beings sold by judge Monteroso the responsibility is in his lap because he is ultimately in charge of CPS and he has failed. I am going to work on his impeachment until I am to old to remember what has happened here. To continue to believe in this man who answers only to the dollar is a slap in the face of every decent parent. This is the very thing wrong with this country, people like this judge.

Falsified evidence and committing perjury IS NOT in a child’s best interest and that means that all the judges in S102 where my case was do not know the first thing about what is “in a child’s best interests”. A dedicated parent will put aside honor and ego to admit to things they didn’t do just to be able to see and hold their child again. That shows a caring and loving parent.  My children believed in me so I always did everything and anything possible to keep them safe. During my first case, I completed all the services while my wife was railroaded. I never failed a drug test. Then during the second case Kristine Vernier showed up with a piece of paper claiming to be a positive hair follicle test. It had no one’s name on it, nothing to identify whose test it was.  The Judge allowed her to go to her car and come back with a paper with a name on it. This is all on record. Who does that? Only CPS and the collaborative court cohorts. Its bullshit, that is why I challenged the test.  None of the Judges allowed statements from my children, sisters, other family members or friends that would have been in my favor. The judge wouldn’t consider most of my sister’s testimony due to her being “bias”! Are you freaking kidding me? Because she is a supportive person and had something positive to say about me, that makes her bias? What about all the BIAS going on for CPS and COUNTY COUNSEL?   Where is your honor Judge?  I should have said where is your DOLLAR. These children want to believe in someone of authority that is why you shouldn’t sit on that bench.

A version of this column originally appeared in

Where Are Warnings for DCS Caretakers When There’s a Threat of Violence?

The Tennessean continues its look at how DCS runs and the story in Sunday's paper is among the most upsetting of the series.

bildeSusan Randolph was shot and her husband killed after the father of a girl DCS had temporarily placed with them came to their house to murder the girl (which he did). Randolph sued the state for negligence in the shootings and won, and then the state attempted to keep the judgment a secret. When you hear all the ways DCS screwed up, you can't blame the state for not wanting anyone to know:

The judgment documents a series of missteps by DCS, which had asked the Randolphs to take in a neighbor’s daughter for the weekend until the agency could investigate accusations of child abuse against her father.The judgment found DCS never warned the Randolphs that Chris Milburn was accused of severe sexual and physical abuse or that he could be violent. It found that a DCS caseworker didn’t follow agency policies and that she backdated her signature of necessary paperwork after the murders. And it found that DCS never gave the couple any instructions on what to do if Milburn insisted on seeing his daughter.

When the Randolphs called the caseworker for advice after Milburn began to act strangely, they were unable to reach her and their calls went straight to voice mail. By the time the caseworker heard those messages, Mr. Randolph and the girl were dead.

This situation is appalling at three levels. First, it's appalling that the Randolphs were put in this situation without the relevant information they needed and then left on their own with a violent killer. Second, it's appalling that the state would then try to keep this information from becoming public, so Mrs. Randolph can't tell anyone or try to do anything to prevent it from happening to others. Finally, it's appalling that, as The Tennessean reports:

[The] trial also exposed the vagueness of existing DCS policies that are supposed to guide caseworkers in how they place children in temporary arrangements. The policies — unchanged since the shooting — don’t specifically require the agency to give caregivers any information about a child’s welfare or guidance on what to do or whom to call if a problem arises, [said Brandon Bass, Mrs. Randolph's attorney.].

DCS still has no requirement that caregivers are given any information about the child or about what to do if there's a problem? This is horrifying. Caregivers, like the Randolphs, are stepping into a child's life when the child is in crisis, and often in danger. And then we just ... what? Wish the caregivers well and drive away?

People were murdered. A child was murdered by her abusive father while on DCS's watch. And that didn't result in policies being changed?

This blows my mind. I know working in DCS has to be really, really hard. And I know employees have to regularly hear stories that would make you sick. So yeah, I get that you probably have to detach from things in order to deal with them. But you have to care deeply about people to even get into that line of work.

A girl in DCS's care was murdered. The family DCS gave her to was shot and one of them murdered. And this was at the hands of a man DCS knew posed a threat to at least the girl.

How does that happen and nothing change?