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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Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business

When fostering excites venture capitalists, the number of children taken into care rises

 The children's department of Norfolk council received the most damning report possible from Ofsted Photo: ALAMY


The children's department of Norfolk council received the most damning report possible from Ofsted Photo: ALAMY

A Norfolk reader sends me photographs of an advertisement placed on the back of local buses by Norfolk and Suffolk county councils. “New challenge,” it reads. “Have you thought of fostering? If so you can earn £590 a week.”

Two things are interesting about this, one general, one specific. For a start, it shows what mind-boggling sums are now available to councils whose social workers take children into care. I have quoted before advertisements offering foster carers £400 a week for each child. But £590 a week means that a foster home looking after three children taken from their parents, which is not uncommon, can now earn almost £100,000 a year. In addition are the lavish fees charged by fostering agencies to make the arrangements, almost invariably run by ex-social workers.

Most people have no idea what a big business fostering has become. When one such firm, National Fostering Agency, representing 175 local authorities after being launched by two ex-social workers in 1995, was placed on the market by Rothschilds in 2012, it was sold by its “venture capital” owners Sovereign to a “private equity” firm, Graphite Capital, for a staggering £130 million.

The more specific point, however, is that, of all the councils that feature in my files as seizing children from their parents for what seem like questionable reasons, Norfolk and Suffolk are high on the list. In one of the most controversial cases I have reported, it was Norfolk’s social workers who were eventually forced to hand back a baby to its parents, after they had twice travelled to France to take the child into foster care in England. Having been thwarted in their plans, when a judge ruled that they had no legal right to do so, they seized several more children from different members of the same family who, to justify their removal, now face many charges of criminal abuse.

Yet last year the children’s department of this same council, Norfolk, received the most damning report possible from Ofsted, failing it as “inadequate” (the lowest rating) on every one of the five counts on which social workers are judged, from “quality of provision” to “leadership and management”.

Rad More at: Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business

 

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Foster mother arrested after 19-month-old boy found with third-degree burns on legs: prosecutors

Shirley Verneus, 35, was charged with assault for allegedly scalding the toddler insider her Queens home.

Laurent Hamels/Getty Images

Laurent Hamels/Getty Images

Shirley Verneus, 35, was charged with assault after the toddler was discovered with the serious injuries during a visit with his biological parents.

A Queens foster mother was arrested for scalding a 19-month-old boy with boiling water until his skin peeled off, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Shirley Verneus, 35, was charged with assault for the disturbing incident in a tub at her St. Albans home.

“The child will be permanently scarred — both physically and emotionally — by the experience,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

The alleged abuse came to light when Verneus brought little Jaurelious Green for a meeting with his biological parents at the St. Christopher Ottile Foster Agency on Jan. 17. A case worker saw bandages on the boy’s legs and asked what happened.

The foster mom replied that she had left the toddler unattended in the bathtub with a 3-year-old two days earlier, court papers said.

She heard screams, then saw him in the tub with the water running and “observed the complainant’s skin peeling off,” according to the criminal complaint.

While Verneus claimed that she took the child to a clinic, she couldn’t show any record proving that, nor did she report the injuries to the foster agency, according to prosecutors.

And a doctor told investigators the second- and third-degree burns “from the top of his thighs down to the soles of his feet on both legs” and on his buttocks were more than a week old, the complaint said.

Jaurelious had to undergo surgeries and the delayed medical care exposed him to the risk of infections and other complications.

 

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Report: Mass. not attentive to core issues behind child welfare cases

Little Jeremiah

Little Jeremiah

STATE HOUSE -- While the Department of Children and Families mishandled the case of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, a new independent review of the child welfare agency absolved the department of direct responsibility for the boy's death in a report outlining systemic staffing, policy and technology shortcomings.

The Patrick administration planned on Wednesday to release the final report from the Child Welfare League of America, which the state hired to examine the embattled child welfare agency. Gov. Deval Patrick, who is traveling in Israel on a business development trade mission, asked the organization to conduct a review of the department following well-documented lapses in case management that led, in the case of the 5-year-old Oliver, to the department losing track of the boy whose body was found on the side of a highway in Sterling last month.

"While there is significant evidence that some DCF staff did not do their jobs in the Oliver case, there is not evidence that DCF's actions and failures caused Jeremiah's death. DCF and many of the adults in Jeremiah's life failed to protect him," the report's authors wrote.

The findings of the report, a summary of which was provided to the News Service, build on preliminary recommendations offered in March by CWLA including a redistricting of DCF offices to balance social worker caseloads and the need to deploy more technology for use by social workers.

Many of those suggestions are in the process of being implemented, including hiring, though caseloads remain at an all-time high for the past 20 years fueled by increased substance abuse, mental health and domestic violence concerns and increased reporting from the community and "heightened vigilance" at DCF.

The report said Jeremiah's siblings have received "excellent supports and services" since being taken into DCF custody and are being given "everything they need to overcome the trauma of their experiences and the loss of their brother."

Patrick and the Legislature have been pouring new resources into DCF this year to facilitate hiring to lower caseloads, but CWLA suggests that recommended hiring of additional managerial staff, caseworkers, and specialists in substance abuse, mental health and domestic violence counseling will require "additional funding, beyond what has been recommended in the FY15 budget proposals."

The report also recommends increased funding for substance abuse treatment.

"To prevent the deaths of children, like Jeremiah, who come to the attention of DCF because of allegations of abuse and neglect, we must look beyond DCF itself; we must address the core issues that lead children and families to need DCF's intervention and services," the report said. "For many years, Massachusetts has not been attentive enough to these issues."

The Child Welfare League recommends that DCF continue to screen in for full investigation any report alleging abuse or neglect of a child 5-years-old or younger with young parents or parents with a history of drug abuse, domestic violence or mental health issues. The practice was put into place following the disappearance of Oliver.

 

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TX: SUNSET COMMISSION REPORT RELEASES INCLUDE FAMILY, PROTECTIVE SERVICES

SunsetAdvisoryCommission-DFPS630-630x286[1]Last week the Texas Sunset Commission released the first of its staff reports on the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) along with four other agencies currently under review. These are the result of the agency’s self-evaluation last September and public written input last December. The Sunset Commission is requesting public input to these staff reports through the Public Input Form for Agencies Under Review page on or before June 6, 2014.

Per its website, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is a 12-member legislative commission tasked with identifying and eliminating waste, duplication, and inefficiency for more than 130 Texas state agencies. Through Sunset, the Legislature looks closely at the need for and performance of state agencies. Over its history, Sunset has abolished 37 agencies and returned $25 for each dollar spent reviewing agencies.

With its last review cycle in 1996-1997, the current review of Dfps is the first time it has been reviewed as the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. The current Dfps review has been been postponed three times (supposedly) to synchronize its review with the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) review.

TX: SUNSET COMMISSION REPORT RELEASES INCLUDE FAMILY, PROTECTIVE SERVICES

 

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