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Guardianship

By Attorney David Engler

This week I stood in the parking lot of Trumbull County Children Services with two brave young women. We were very close to the spot where they were sexually molested as 12 and 13 year olds. It took so much courage for them to get in the car with me and drive to a group of awaiting cameras including their old caseworker who stood outside during his work day filming the young women. The two recounted how they were preyed upon by a Youth Leader woman that was hired to protect them while at children services. This Dorm Mother actually would take overtime so she could sleep with one of the three girls during the night.

There were three girls age 12, 12 and 13 when the sexual abuse first started. They each were left into the care of the Government because their own homes were broken, parents were addicts or a father was a molester.  Each of their lives had not been easy but they have overcome extreme cruelty to become good mothers, daughters, friends and employees.  Each of the three have given me more inspiration then what I could possibly gain from representing them.

The cruelest comment, after we announced a lawsuit against CSB for employing a pedophile, came from the Director Tim Schaffner.  His response to finding out that three preteens  were sexually abused by an employee was shocking. He said he was appalled that Attorney Engler would expose these girls. I have encountered many tone-deaf Government types in my 26 years of practice but this is the worse. Instead of expressing outrage that the abuse happened, or expressing concern for the girls, or being troubled… he was appalled that the girls would dare show their sweet faces This guy is running an agency that is supposed to protect children. These girls are heroes for giving a face to childhood sexual abuse. If you’re a victim you do not have to hide in a closet. The shame is not the victims but the pedophile and the agency that employed her and did nothing to stop her and protect young girls who could not have been more vulnerable.

Since I have first stepped up to take on the agency that permitted a known pedophile to rape a baby at its own office, I have been swamped with the calls of victims or parents or grandparents who are suffering at the indifferent hands of Trumbull CSB and others throughout the State. Others have joined the fight with the notable exception of no elected officials or judges who place kids into CSB. I cannot figure out how many murdered or abused children it takes before someone in power cares to act.  I suppose this is the same sort of thing that happened at Penn State. 

As an attorney we are taught to stay dispassionate from our clients in the course of litigation. I am shaking with anger. My clients are each beautiful, intelligent, caring young African-American women. They needed good foster parents to have taken them out the CSB hell they were placed into. But the reality is people want babies not young teens. I told each of these girls that I would have been proud to have been their father. I am not sure I could be a foster parent now but wish I had known these girls when they were 12.  There are other children out there.  They are victims of all sorts of terrible things. It is so sad that they had to be insulted and victimized one more time by a Director who believes victims of abuse should hide their faces. Shame on you Director Schaffner.

Attorney David Engler

Phone: 330-729-9777

http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website

Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

By Attorney David Engler

Private placement agencies if not monitored well by Children Service Boards can end in tragedy. In Trumbull County, Ohio there have been at least 5 murders of children who were either directly through foster placement or indirectly through custody orders placed with the abuser.

In Fairfield County, Ohio a 5 year old boy was made to stand out in the rain and cold as a punishment. The boy was taken by ambulance to ER after going into cardiac arrest. He has permanent neurological damage.  A private agency working under the County made the placement.  The agency did not inquire as to why the foster parents had been denied a license in Hamilton County, Ohio.

The failure of Children Protective Service agencies is an epidemic.

The New York Times reported earlier this year reported about the wide spread abuse in the City. I am quoting it in its near entirety.

The New York Times –

“Lawyers for 10 disabled children who were fraudulently adopted by a Queens woman more than 15 years ago and subjected to years of abuse have proposed a $68 million settlement in a civil rights lawsuit filed on their clients’ behalf, according to a confidential court filing.”

Matthew Ratajczak/Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers,

“The proposal comes as a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn appears to be trying to mediate a settlement to the suit, filed in 2009, which seeks damages from New York City and three contract adoption agencies that placed the children with the woman, Judith Leekin.

Serial Abuser for Foster Money

The case has been seen as one of the most disturbing child welfare fraud cases in the city in recent years. Ms. Leekin used four aliases to adopt the children, who had physical or developmental disabilities, including autism and retardation, and later moved them to Florida. The children were caged, restrained with plastic ties and handcuffs, beaten with sticks and hangers, and kept out of school, according to court papers. An 11th child disappeared while in Ms. Leekin’s care and is presumed dead.

The suit asks that the 10 plaintiffs, now mostly in their 20s, be compensated for their years of suffering as well as for the services and treatment they will need for the rest of their lives.

The letter was filed publicly in October, but was quickly sealed after the lawyer wrote that it “referred to confidential discussions between the parties.” The New York Times obtained the letter while it was publicly available.

Ms. Leekin, 66, was imprisoned after she was convicted of fraud in federal court in Manhattan and of abuse in a state court in Florida. Federal prosecutors have said that as part of her scheme, she collected $1.68 million in subsidies from the city that went to support a lavish lifestyle.

When the 10 children were removed from her care in 2007, none had completed elementary school; only three could read and only at a third-grade level; and about half were declared either “totally incapacitated” or “vulnerable adults,” according to a report by a former Columbia University social work professor retained by the plaintiffs to examine the cases.

The 10 have since lived in Florida in state programs or on their own, and at least one is homeless, according to court filings.

New York City and the three private agencies have denied liability in the case, claiming that Ms. Leekin was a sophisticated serial criminal whose scheme fooled various professionals and, given the capabilities and practices of the time, would not have been foreseen or detected.

The agencies are HeartShare Human Services of New York, SCO Family of Services and the now-closed St. Joseph Services for Children and Families.

The agencies’ lawyer, Robert S. Delmond, did not respond to messages seeking a comment on Thursday. Lawyers for the city and the plaintiffs declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

In the now-sealed letter to Judge Go, Mr. Delmond described the $68 million demand as “a significant sum, which requires much consideration, thought, planning and involvement of corporate officers before they can reach a decision.” The agencies’ insurance carrier was reviewing the matter, he noted, and was “not prepared to make a settlement offer at this time.”

He requested more time to allow for further consultations with the insurer and meetings to discuss “possible settlement offers.”

It is unclear how the city and the private agencies might apportion any payout if a settlement is reached.

Jonathan S. Abady, a lawyer whose firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, has handled suits against the city and private agencies in cases involving abused and neglected children, said “there does appear to be a uniform indemnification provision” in the contracts the city has with such agencies.

“But the city has the ultimate legal responsibility for the child,” said Mr. Abady, whose firm is not involved in the Leekin suit.

In August, Theodore Babbitt, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, asked Judge Go to move the case forward because of the “fragile, unstable and precarious” condition of the plaintiffs. “They are desperate for care that cannot be provided through the Florida state system,” he wrote.

He cited three of the male plaintiffs, who ranged in age from 19 to 24: one had been on a round-the-clock suicide watch after multiple attempts to take his own life. Another had fathered children out of wedlock and was homeless. A third had been arrested for domestic violence against his older brother. “He is angry and depressed and bottles it up inside until he violently explodes,” Mr. Babbitt wrote.”

ifference towards the sexual abuse of children by men in leadership positions does not seem to be isolated only in Happy Valley.

Attorney David Engler

Phone: 330-729-9777 http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com/

Also published on Attorney David Engler’s Law Blog http://davidengler.wordpress.com

By Attorney David Engler

For the last 12 years I have been a school board member of a county board and a career and technical center. On the county board or Educational Service Center we provide the services to help local districts improve. We also run special schools including one for emotionally disturbed children with varying behavioral issues; a school run in conjunction with a great program started by the local Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick.  At the MCCTC almost a third of our students have an IEP. An IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. It is required by law and so many parents do not understand how important to ensure your child’s IEP is carefully constructed to specifically help your child no matter the cost or inconvenience to a district.

 

The worst thing I ever heard was from the lips of a fired teacher who told me how hard it was to chase after “tongue draggers” every day. My emotions were caught in between punching him and simply shaking my head. I am glad we fired him. Instead I will never forget those words and how insensitive some in education can be towards a child with a disability.  And if that disability is one of a severe emotional problem or a slight shade of Autism or Asperger’s, then most of our teachers are ill-trained to help the child with the different wiring. There are many teachers who just get it.  They are naturals at knowing how to reach the student with a disability that can be unnerving and tiring. They also understand the investment a parent has made in this child.  The teacher may have the child 6 hours a week or maybe more if an elementary student.

And often indifference is the answer from an administration concerned about increased costs.  So whether they admit it or not, every administrator knows that a diagnosis of a disability might bring years of extra costs for the district. In a famous case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (2009) the court ruled that the district should have reimbursed the parents for the costs of private schooling since the District should have been aware of the disability and provide assistance to the family.  The District claimed they had no idea there was a problem. Justice Stevens of the Supreme Court stated: “We conclude that IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) authorizes reimbursement for the cost of special education services when a school district fails to provide a FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education) and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school.” The cost to the district was $65000 to reimburse the parents and potentially $500000 in legal fees. 

Every school district is legally required to identify, locate, and evaluate children with disabilities (20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(3)). After the evaluation, the district may provide the child with specific programs and services to address special needs.

IDEA defines “children with disabilities” as individuals between the ages of three and 22 with one or more of the following conditions:

  • Mental retardation
  • Hearing impairment (including deafness)
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Visual impairment (including blindness)
  • Serious emotional impairment
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Autism
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Specific learning disability, or
  • Other health impairment                  (20 U.S.C. §1401(3); 34 C.F.R. §300.8).

For your child to qualify for special education under IDEA, it is not enough to have one of these disabilities. There must also be evidence that the disability adversely affects your child’s educational performance.

Now each school district should be well aware of its responsibilities.  But sadly not every administrator can see life from the eyes of a parent struggling to find help for their child.  The schools seem relieved if they can cause the child to graduate and be done with the financial exposure. The former Director of Special Ed for Maryland, Dr. Linda Bluth gave me the best advice ever.  “Our children do not fail…it is we who fail our children.” It is very difficult to cause a school culture to adopt this core belief.  It makes us accountable.  It denies us the ability to blame little to no achievement on a kid with a mental problem, a broken home, a history with children services, parents who think they know better(they almost always do) or some other societal bogeyman.  No we have to own it.  This means we will have failures.  And they will sting. 

But for the guardians and parents there is help for you. I have included some of the language in the federal IDEA statute above to help you know what to do.  The regulations can be found at www.gov/about/offices/list/users.  The country has 81 million students that fit this category.  Ohio has about 3 million.  We need more teachers and aides with special education training. We need to pay them more to encourage their numbers and recognize that their job makes teaching even tougher than it already is.  You can also look at www.mdlclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/pub-special-ed-handbook. This handbook gives you sample letters to ask for independent evaluations  and how the legal process works.  Or hire a lawyer.

Most importantly we need parents to step forward and be armed with the law as you demand the very best possible Free and Appropriate Public Education for your child. The key word to me is appropriate.  These children are all so very different.   Make sure the IEP has real goals that can be measured without someone guessing that your son or daughter has advanced with soft logic.  Don’t give up and never be afraid to ask to talk directly to the Board of Education.  Often the Board members are shielded from the other side of the story. Do not assume that they will side with the administrators standing in your way.  

You have been given a child with special needs because you can handle it.  I do not need to tell you your journey is tough. Not everyone is going to be understanding.  But I can tell you that the law is on your side and many more people than you could possibly imagine.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com/ and on David Engler’s Law Bloghttp://davidengler.wordpress.com/

By Attorney David Engler

Custody disputes take place in Juvenile Court, if the families are not married or Domestic Court, if the family is in the process of a divorce or have divorced previously.

Custody disputes take place in Juvenile Court, if the families are not married or Domestic Court, if the family is in the process of a divorce or have divorced previously.

Clearly having an agreement about how a couple will jointly parent the child or children is the best result.  But if there is no agreement, often accusations will fly.

And I warn all clients to be aware that the court might order a drug screen at any given time.  The courts will almost always take the child or children from the parent on illegal drugs and give custody to the parent who is not hooked.  Sometimes it is hard to find anyone not taking pain pills without a prescription. In one case both parents and a grandparent were dirty. In Ohio for the first time overdoses of drugs has overtaken auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental death.

In one case the mother was asked by the Magistrate to give a urine screen and she said she couldn’t because she had a yeast infection.  Everyone found that to be disgusting and a weak excuse.  Recently a nice looking young mother was asked to take a screen and at first she agreed.  Then after 15 minutes she comes back and said she had just pee’d before court.  The Court told her to drink some water. 30 minutes later still no urine.  I really didn’t need to see a drug test. She had all the signs.  Empty pill bottles without prescriptions.  Selling things from her house.  Unable to keep a schedule.  A doctor at an ER saying no narcotics for you after she came with a complaint of a tooth ache.  (I was thinking good for the doctor who checked the database from his Akron offices and saw she had filled 21 prescriptions for pain meds in the last two years.)

So she only sees her child if supervised.  That is the overwhelming power of the pain pill epidemic. This scourge does not see race, sex or income.  It is even more powerful than a mother’s natural instinct to care for her child. 

People can recover and get their children back.  But the road is very difficult and those who are nearest to the addict must not be fooled.  We the parents, or friend or guardian must dispense very tough love. Get help; call 211. You will find a counselor, clinic or N.A. Group.  It is a persistent enemy.  For some it is stronger than motherhood.

 

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com/ and on Attorney David Engler’s Blog  http://davidengler.wordpress.com//

By Attorney David Engler

All of our parents and clients and ourselves should have durable health care power of attorneys. It is called an Advanced Directive because it takes your client’s wishes and makes them known in advance of them being incompetent of making such decisions. For many professional conservators or guardians the Health Care POA either existed or there would never be one now.

Each Health Care POA has a part where the client designates who will make such life and death decisions in the future. I thought it might be helpful to give some examples of who not to appoint.
DO NOT APPOINT ANY OF THE FOLLOWING :

1. The wife who keeps your emergency inhaler stored in a covered crock pot on the storage shelf in the basement.
2. The son who has labeled some of your favorite possessions with the word “Mine”.
3. Your husband who removed the “9” and “1” keys from the phone.
4. Your daughter who believes Tylenol is VooDoo medicine.
5. Your younger sister whose first comment after you last came out of recovery was “Your still here huh?”
6. Your neighbor who while driving you to ER with chest pains says “Wait just a sec, I’ve got to pick up just a few things from the store for the weekend.”
7. Or the grandson who tells you why can’t you old people get a buzzer reservation system like they use at Applebee’s to give us a 3 hour notice of your death.
8. The Mother who said you had to stay home on family vacations in case there was a car wreck, at least someone from the family would survive. You were only three at the time.
9. The caretaker sent over from the agency who tells you it’s her hobby to know the name of a person’s first pet; street they grew up on and mother’s maiden name.
10. Your girlfriend who knows a great astrologist in Seattle she consults for all of life’s tough questions. Madame Xanthar is always booked two months in advance so it can’t be a question that needs an answer like RIGHT NOW.

Please contact us at info@eguardianship.com if you want a Durable Health Care POA for your state, or follow our blogs at FamilyFaultLines.com or eGuardianship.com .

I appreciate the work of a caregiver and wanted to give you a moment of laugh.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

By Attorney David Engler

Adult Protective Services (APS) is responsible for investigating reports of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of Ohioans aged 60 and older. Similar agencies exist in every state. APS is part of each Ohio County Department of Job & Family Services (CDJFS). The Ohio Revised Code defines “abuse” as infliction upon an adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish. “Neglect” is defined as the failure of an adult to provide for self the goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness or the failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services. “Exploitation” means the unlawful or improper act of a caretaker using an adult or an adult’s resources for their monetary or personal benefit, profit or gain.

Lady

APS can petition Probate Court for a temporary restraining order to prevent interference or obstruction of its investigation by any person, including the abused adult. The court must find (a) that there is reasonable cause to believe the adult is being or has been abused, neglected, or exploited, and (b) that access to the adult’s residence has been obstructed. APS can also petition the court to approve a service plan providing involuntary services. The adult must receive a notice describing his or her rights and the consequences of a court order at least five working days before a hearing on the petition. An indigent adult has the right to a court-appointed attorney. Notice of the hearing must also be sent to the adult’s guardian, attorney, caretaker and spouse.
The court must find by clear and convincing evidence that (a) the adult has been abused, neglected, or exploited; (b) the adult is in need of protective services; (c) the adult is incapacitated; and (d) no other person authorized by law is available to give consent. If the court so finds, it must issue an order requiring protective services for up to six months, but can be re-authorized for up to a year.

But like with any governmental organization, APS can be too intrusive. Before they act there needs to be clear authority that an adult can be removed.

Recently, I met a distressed couple who had their Mother literally yanked from their home in the final months of her life. An anonymous tip was given by the Mother’s long time “friend” that she wanted to go back to the care-takers residence. The mother was in full scale dementia and would answer a few questions correctly and if asked would parrot the name of the “friend.” In horror the family of the elderly woman watched as APS took the mother from their home and moved her back to the friend’s house. After the Mother was there the friend arranged for her entire estate to pass to him. An attorney helped in the sham transfer.

In a matter of months the family desperate for help asks the Probate Judge to order an evaluation of the Mother. She had dementia for at least a year and was unable to make any decisions on her own. Be careful when a governmental agency says that it knows best. Hold on to your liberty because they are about to snatch it from you.

Probate Court acted quickly but it was too late. The Mother died a few days after the mental health assessment. Her possessions real and personal would have passed to the children, but for the friend getting everything transferred.

More than the money the family loss the beauty of being with their parent as she lived her final months. All they are left with is bitterness towards a government going too far and a scrapbook of memories.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website

Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal Law

Also published on Attorney David Engler’s Legal Blog on April 3, 2012 http://davidengler.wordpress.com// and Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com//

By Attorney David Engler

Walking Woman

In my earlier blog I wrote about my Mother finding a new friend in the weeks of her final dawn. “Wanda and Stella” was about the two WWII era nurses that made a pact to go to heaven together.

Mom died on February 3, 2012 and Stella died March 3, 2012. The following piece is from Louis Begley who writes with beauty about friends lost as we age. This was published in the March 18, 2012 New York Times.

“My mother died in 2004, two days short of her 94th birthday, and 40 years and two months to the day after the death of my father. He died at 65; for the preceding four or five years he had been in poor health.

My mother and I lived through the German occupation in Poland; my physician father, having been evacuated with the staff of the local hospital by the retreating Soviet army, spent the remaining war years in Samarkand. Left to fend for ourselves, my mother and I became unimaginably close; our survival depended on that symbiotic relationship. All three of us — I had no brothers or sisters — arrived in the United States in March 1947, and once here I began to keep her at arm’s length. Especially during her long widowhood, I feared that unimpeded she would invade my life, the life she had saved. I remained a dutiful son, watching over her needs, but was at first unwilling and later unable to be tender.

My abhorrence of the ravages and suffering inflicted on the body by age and illness, which predates my mother’s decline in her last years, is no doubt linked to there being no examples of a happy old age in my family. The grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins who might have furnished them all met violent deaths in World War II.

Unsurprisingly, dread of the games time plays with us has been a drumbeat in my novels. Thus, arms akimbo, majestic and naked, standing before a glass, Charlie Swan, the gay demiurge of “As Max Saw It,” illustrates for the younger narrator on his body the physiology of aging: misrule of hair, puckered brown bags under the eyes, warts like weeds on his chest, belly, back and legs, dry skin that peels leaving a fine white snow of dandruff. Listening to him, the younger man is reminded of his own father in a hospital, permanently catheterized, other tubes conducting liquids to his body hooked up to machines that surround his bed like unknown relatives. He prefers his mother’s “triumphant” exit. A headlong fall down the cellar stairs kills her instantly.

I have followed the progress into old age of Albert Schmidt, like me a retired lawyer, in three novels. Schmidt is 60 when we meet him in 1991; when we part on New Year’s Day 2009, he is 78, therefore a couple of years older than I was then. Life has not been kind to him, but so far, Schmidt enjoys excellent health, marching up and down the Atlantic beach in Bridgehampton and New York City’s avenues, and doing laps in his pool. Although he worries about performance, his libido is intact. Nevertheless, the reflection of his face in the window of a shop is frightening: he sees a red nose and bloodshot eyes, lips pursed up tight over stained and uneven teeth, an expression so lugubrious and so pained it resists his efforts to smile. My appreciation of my own charms is not very different. Like Schmidt, I see that nothing good awaits me at the end of the road, and that passing years will turn my life into a Via Crucis.

And yet my body, like Schmidt’s, continues to be a good sport. Provided my marvelous doctor pumps steroids into my hip or spine when needed, it runs along on the leash like a nondescript mutt and wags its tail. My heart still stirs when I see a pretty girl in the street or in a subway car, but not much else happens. Except that, since by preference I stand leaning against the closed doors, she may offer me her seat. When last heard from, Schmidtie figured he had another 10 years to live. I have a similar estimate of my longevity. Such actions as buying a new suit have become dilemmas. The clothes I have may be fatigued and frayed, but won’t they see me through the remaining seasons? Can the expense of money and waste of time required to make the purchase be justified?

My mother did not remarry after my father died. She lived very comfortably, but alone, in an apartment 15 blocks away from my wife’s and mine. If we were in the city, we went to see her often and then daily as her condition deteriorated in the last two years of her life. Our children and grandchildren tried to see her often, too — and those visits brought her great joy — but they live far away and the happiness was fleeting. During her last decade she was very lonely. Most of the friends she had had in Poland had been killed. Those who had escaped and settled in New York one by one became homebound or bedridden, lost their minds or died. Or she found they bored her. Hearing poorly, tormented by arthritis in hip and knee joints, too proud to accept a wheelchair, she stopped going to museums, concerts and even the movies. She had loved sitting on a Central Park bench and putting her face in the sun. That humble pleasure was also abandoned; she couldn’t get the hang of using a walker.

Having rehearsed the bitter gifts reserved for age, T. S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding” that “the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time.” The closer that place — the human condition — is to home, the harder it is to take in. I could speak movingly of Schmidt’s loneliness after the loss of his daughter, calling his existence an arid plane of granite on which she alone had flowered. But it has taken me until now, at age 78, to feel in full measure the bitterness and anguish of my mother’s solitude — and that of other old people who end their lives without a companion.”

Louis Begley is the author of several novels, including “Schmidt Steps Back.”
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 18, 2012, on page SR7 of the New York edition with the headline: Age and Its Awful Discontents.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines on March 20, 2012 http://familyfaultlines.com/

By Attorney David Engler There have been powerful world convulsing events over the last year where the heroes used Twitter, Facebook and the power of a digital image.
The Arab Spring began when Buoazizi set himself and fruit cart afire in protest over Tunisian dictatorship. In Egypt the end came when Asmaa Fahouf posted her video on YouTube calling for protesters against Mubarak to meet in Cairo's Liberation Square. In my case against a Children Service Board it was the triumph of a wounded grandmother coming forth with video atrocities of her grandchildren that began with what will one day be how this dysfunctional agency is undone and replaced with something more accountable and caring. The public becomes personal and the personal becomes public when pictures, moving or still, text and audio become digitized and loose on the Internet. And so it was with my own grief over losing my Mom at the end of her fight with Parkinson's disease. She was with my sister Amy, a hero, in Maine. She cared for her and eventually spent a part of each day at the Maine's Veteran's Home. With the lost came the relief that prayers were answered for God to take her from her body that had long ago grown tired. But she was stubborn and her will to live never did quite give out. In your grief you question whether you could have been a better son or daughter and reflect upon the relationship to your parent and all the complexities that absolutely existed. So the obituary is posted on Facebook and hundreds of friends and family reach out in small meaningful ways. Each call or text from my friends brought me solace. I am not sure I ever knew what that word meant before, but now I know what it feels like. And for every acknowledgement on Facebook....I thank you. It means more than you could imagine or maybe not since we almost have all felt lost before. So again I thank you and I also thank Facebook and Twitter and Wordpress for showing me in a very personal way how the loss of your parent can be eased with the power of social media. I can see how it worked when it was something so dear to me and I suppose that was a very small fraction of the collective power used by revolutionaries and heroes I mentioned above when their personal pain became public and collective. Attorney David Engler Phone: 330-729-9777 http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler's website Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

By Attorney David Engler

Wanda and Stella
Wanda and Stella

Wanda is my Mom. Parkinson’s disease has slowly but assuredly taken her strength and her voice. The stroke on the Royal Wedding Day this spring did not help matters either. But as the New Year approaches she is in the Maine Veterans Home. She does not want to see her 86th year. She has prayed to her husband and my father, Bill who passed 21 years ago, that she wanted nothing more to do with her worn body. They met 59 years ago. She was a nurse at the VA hospital in Cleveland and he was a disabled vet getting a degree at Kent State.

Stella is 93 and cancer is fighting her will and she knows the battle is nearly over. The last great battle she saw was working as an Army nurse in England helping to heal GI’s as they returned from Normandy. Not coincidentally she married a soldier whom she met a few years later and he took her to Maine. Over time she would have two children and help turn a family owned bar and grill into a large seafood wholesaler specializing in selling Lobsters, of course. The great irony Stella explained was that she could never taste what her family sold because she was allergic to shell fish which should not be confused with seafood.

About 15 months ago we moved Mom from her home in Ohio to live on the first floor of my sister’s home in Maine. She was falling and insisted that she could care for herself; the reality was she could not make the one step from the living room to the kitchen.

So off to Maine she went. The state motto is “Life As It Ought To Be”. My sister is busy with an 8 year old adopted Chinese whirlwind named Molly and a professorship at the U of Maine. Three 911 calls in 6 months and it was clear that Mom needed nursing home care. So in May of this last year she gets put in a room with Stella. Stella’s hair is wispy from the many chemo treatments she received to slow down cancer’s assault. Long before the cancer her hearing went. She seems to fill in the words if you can talk loud enough. Mom had one good eye before the stroke and Parkinson’s and now that one went bad. Reading and watching the news was a daily companion, now she can just listen to Ann Curry.

The room looks like any other nursing home. Cards crowd the bulletin boards and the closet door is a backdrop of art work created by grandchildren. What makes the room a home is each other. The nurses and aides see the two holding hands trying to make sense of a death that is unscheduled but waiting. It was Stella who told the staff that she and Wanda have a pact that they would like to hold hands and race into heaven together. The spunky nurse from Portugal attracted to Maine by her country’s fishing heritage, said “It was more like a turtle race to Heaven”, since neither seemed closer to the end despite their bodies having months ago failed.

So it was on Christmas Day this year that I traveled to surprise my Mom. At first she did not recognize me. I have heard how hard that is to hear. But after a few minutes she asked about each of the kids that she raised when they were small and that I feed her a favorite dark chocolate mint from Philadelphia Chocolates. It was my favorite Christmas memory. And what I took home was this picture I snapped with my iPhone that neither old nurse could have imagined. A new friend was made in what will surely be their last year on this Earth. It is the power of a touch of a hand and someone that cares when you least expect it.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Published: Sun, December 18, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.

ATTORNEY LOOKS INTO DEATHS OF 2 IN 2003
By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

An attorney who has applied pressure to Trumbull County Children Services for months says he’s uncovered evidence that the agency’s problems date back to 2003 — when two children died.

Atty. David Engler encouraged the criminal investigation of employees that is now taking place regarding the alleged videotaped molestation of a 9-month-old child in the agency’s custody in April.

He also sought to have Children Services employees placed on leave during the investigation, and he filed civil suits against the agency for allegedly failing to prevent the death of a child in its custody in 2009 and for allegedly not following the Open Meetings Act.

Now he’s researching the deaths of two children in 2003 that he says indicate the agency has failed for years in its mission to protect children.

Engler points to the deaths of Logan Guiton, 4, at the hands of Michael Ledger of Dickey Avenue in Warren, and Auntavia Atkins, 3, who died at the hands of Ethel Wilbert-Bethea on North Bank Street in Cortland.

Those deaths, combined with the death of Tiffany Banks Cross, 20 months, on April 2, 2009, total three for which Engler believes the agency is in some way responsible.

Engler says that’s a high number of deaths associated with a county children-services agency, which indicates a “dysfunctionality of Trumbull County Children Services.”

The agency denies accusations that an employee in one of the cases ignored warning signs.

The agency’s executive director, Nick Kerosky, was not working in Trumbull County when any of the deaths occurred, but he agrees that three “does seem like a lot.”

“No child should die. One is too many,” Kerosky said. “When a child dies, you have to look and see what could have been done differently.”

He added, “There’s a lot of danger out there for kids, and that’s why we have the agency we do.”

Logan Guiton
Michael Ledger of Dickey Avenue Northwest, now 49, called 911 at 4:20 a.m. Jan. 19, 2003, saying Logan Guiton, his son’s brother, was not breathing. Prosecutors said Ledger injured the boy’s head by hitting it on the drywall of a bedroom wall. The boy died two days later in a Cleveland hospital.

Ledger pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Ledger was Logan’s legal guardian. The boy’s mother placed him and his 6-year-old brother in foster care, Warren police said. Ledger was the biological father of the 6-year-old, but he was not Logan’s biological father, according to Vindicator files.

Robert Kubiak, executive director of Children Services in 2003, said the agency had no reports of Logan’s having been abused at Ledger’s home.

“My review is that the agencies working on this case handled it appropriately,” Kubiak said.

Auntavia Atkins
Auntavia Atkins, 3, died Sept. 3, 2003, of a head injury after being taken to the hospital Aug. 29, 2003, from a home on North Bank Street in Cortland where she was living with Ethel Wilbert-Bethea, her husband and other children, according to Vindicator files.

Wilbert-Bethea, now 47, was sentenced to 21 years in prison after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault and four counts of child endangerment.

Auntavia was not in Children Services custody, nor was she part of the agency’s foster-care program, officials said. Auntavia’s mother, Angel Diggs, gave Auntavia to Wilbert-Bethea to watch for her while Diggs worked on getting a full-time job and a place to live, according to Vindicator files.

Cortland police were called to Wilbert-Bethea’s home, where emergency responders found Auntavia in serious condition and took her to a hospital.

The girl also had retinal hemorrhaging, chronic rectal bleeding, malnutrition, missing hair and burn marks on her body, police said.

Diggs told The Vindicator in 2003 that she repeatedly asked a Children Services caseworker to visit Auntavia, but nothing was done. Diggs said she told the agency that she’d been told Wilbert-Bethea was abusing Auntavia.

“I asked my caseworker to visit, but she didn’t. If she would have, she would have saw what was going on,” Diggs said.

Kubiak, the director at the time, said he could not respond to Diggs’ allegations.

Markita Parks of Warren, who along with her mother, Fannie Parks, served as foster parents for 11 years, said Diggs and a Children Services caseworker told her that Wilbert-Bethea had contacted the agency three times to tell it that Wilbert-Bethea wasn’t able to handle Auntavia.

Markia and Fannie Parks told The Vindicator last week that the caseworker asked Fannie Parks to take the child, and Fannie Parks agreed. Parks and her mother already had custody of Auntavia’s brother. Parks eventually adopted the boy, Markita said.

The request for Parks to take Auntavia came about three to four weeks before Auntavia died, Markita Parks said.

“The minute a foster parent says they can’t handle it, an emergency worker needs to get involved,” Markita Parks said.

Parks said the agency’s handling of the Auntavia case made her and her mother “furious” and caused them to get out of foster parenting in 2005.

Kerosky said last week he looked into the allegations made by Fannie and Markita Parks and checked with the caseworker.

“There’s no support that it ever happened. I don’t believe it ever happened,” Kerosky said.

When asked whether Children Services had any knowledge of Auntavia prior to her death, Kerosky said he would not comment.

Tiffany Banks Cross
Tiffany Banks Cross was 20 months old on April 2, 2009, when she died at the hands of her foster mother, Bonnie Pattinson.

Pattinson and her family were living in a duplex on Center Street West in Champion Township when emergency responders were called to the home because the girl was not breathing.

Pattinson, now 33, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to nine years in prison. The coroner ruled that Tiffany died of asphyxiation, and a county prosecutor said there were marks on the child’s neck consistent with the rings Pattinson was wearing.

Thomas Cross, Tiffany’s biological father, filed a lawsuit against Trumbull County Children Services, accusing the agency of failing to protect Tiffany despite what he says were warnings that the girl was being abused. Engler is the attorney for Cross.

In the suit, Cross said he warned the agency that the girl might be in danger, saying he noticed bruising on her and dog hair in her formula.

The Vindicator filed public-information requests with Children Services asking whether any disciplinary action was taken against any agency employee regarding the deaths of Guiton, Atkins or Banks Cross.

Kerosky, who became executive director Oct. 1, 2010, said no disciplinary action was taken in any of the cases.

“Those cases were all investigated and looked at by the state” Department of Job and Family Services, Kerosky said. He “had not read the reports” emanating from those investigations, Kerosky said, but Ohio JFS had found that Children Services had done nothing wrong, Kerosky said.

After asking the state agency for information on its investigations into the three deaths, the agency replied: “Regrettably, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services cannot comply with your request due to state law that makes such records confidential/nonpublic.”
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Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

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