Friday, May 4, 2007

Predictably Failing

Governor Fletcher is a habitual offender. He simply will not protect Kentucky’s children. State child services graded a ‘D.’ Social workers employed despite misconduct. These are merely the latest examples. Governor Fletcher’s record continues trending apocryphal.

Fletcher cannot control every state aspect. However, he can showcase interest. State employees lying, committing crimes, altering documents, coercing witnesses, threatening and striking clients? Upon hearing these allegations, Governor Fletcher should act. He should retrieve resignations and garner the facts. However, Ernie has sat silently.

Protect our children, Governor. Protect them or resign.


Child advocacy group gives state a 'D' for legal services

A recently released report on legal representation of foster children gave Kentucky a "D" for the services it provides to abused and neglected children. First Star, a national child advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., issued the report, giving grades to states based on such components as mandates for representation, training requirements, children's involvement in proceedings and attorney immunity from malpractice.

Kentucky was one of six states to receive a "D" grade based on a 100-point index; 15 other states received failing grades. The commonwealth received a score of 60 out of 100. Neighboring states received a range of grades with Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri receiving failing grades, Ohio receiving a C, Tennessee a B, and West Virginia an A.

The group made recommendations to the Kentucky legislature that included developing training for attorneys, requiring that children keep the same attorney if possible, and giving children the right to legal representation during the appeals process The First Star report also recommended that children's attorneys have caseload and compensation levels that allow for "effective assistance of counsel."

"While Kentucky guarantees attorneys for children in its child welfare system, the issue of quality representation is simply not adequately addressed," said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. "At a broad level, we can do more to support the quality issue through proactive legislation in 2008 and a focused commitment from the legal profession. On a pragmatic basis, issues like increasing fees for court-appointed attorneys are imperative if we really want to tackle the quality issue."

The Louisville-based Kentucky Youth Advocates is one of two groups that issued a report on concerns with adoption practices, particularly in Hardin County, in January 2006.

Social workers remain on job despite allegations

At least 13 state social workers remain on the job nearly four months after a Kentucky inspector general's investigation alleged that they had committed crimes and violated policies while removing children from their families. Also still working is a supervisor under investigation since April 2006 for allegedly trying to alter documents and intimidate witnesses in the investigation by the inspector general for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, spokeswoman Vikki Franklin has confirmed.

Franklin said the supervisor, Pam Tungate, an assistant administrator for the cabinet's Lincoln Trail region based in Elizabethtown, is working in another county until the cabinet completes an internal personnel review launched as a result of the inspector general's report. Former Inspector General Robert J. Benvenuti spent a year investigating inappropriate state adoptions, terminations of parental rights and foster care before releasing a report in January.

Benvenuti found that employees gave false testimony in court and falsified public records and adoption records. The investigation showed that one social worker threatened, struck and cursed clients. Another social worker did not visit families, but lied and said she did. All of those workers are still on the job. Cabinet officials are reviewing the cases to determine appropriate personnel actions while they continue working, Franklin said. Benvenuti turned his findings over to Hardin Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Shaw, who could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Terry Brooks, executive director of the Louisville-based Kentucky Youth Advocates, said his organization is concerned that the workers might still be dealing with families. Brooks said his organization is not suggesting that the social workers be pegged as guilty before the investigations are complete. "But if the cabinet is serious about changing its climate and practices," Brooks said, "you have to wonder if you can do that with the same players."

1 comment:

Bob Jones said...

kentucky children in need of protection seem to face challenges in receiving the assistance they need as they do in my home state of west virginia. some of this deplorable situation is described in my blog, "make a difference" at http://bob-jones.blogspot.com/

here's some advice from a citizen advocate in a state, west virginia, that received a grade of "a" on the first star grading of state's with legal representation for foster kids . . .

it isn't enough to have counsel appointed for these kids. in west virginia, most attorney's don't take this responsibility very seriously and don't visit the kids and represent them aggressively. foster kids in west virginia face dilemmas much like those in state's without this "representation." the attorneys have benefitted, though, by gaining another source of income.

i think that foster kids get a better "bang for their buck" through aggressive citizens advocacy programs such as the court appointed special advocates program (casa). casa volunteers have no vested interest except the best interest of the children and are often very aggressive in seeking this. see casanet.org for more info on casa.

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