INdiana Systemic Thinking

January 30, 2008

Abused Children: Indiana’s Hmurovich

Yesterday a report was released by Prevent Child Abuse America.  It calls for more federal money to be made available for “Federal” foster care support and prevention services.  Sounds good.  Unfortunately, the CEO of the organization is none other than James Hmurovich.  Those who have been around the “welfare” system long enough remember he was in charge of a former incarnation of Family and Children’s Services, where he attempted to do the same thing.   What happened when he was in Indiana is prevention services went up, BUT they were used INSTEAD of foster care services.  The reason?  It is much more cost effective to keep children in their homes than in foster care.  This led to many dangerous situations and the calls for welfare reforms implemented by Governor Daniels.  Looks like Mr. Hmurovich wants to screw up the whole country.  Under his current proposal, he wants to “reward” states for decreasing the number of children in foster care.  Doesn’t look like he learned his lesson from screwing up Indiana.  Here is a summary of what the Indianapolis Star had to say:

January 24, 2008

Charity Bailey Appealling Release of Records

As most will recall, Charity Bailey, along with Lawrence Green, is accused of beating her daughter, Tajanay Bailey to death back in November.  The case shook the Department of Family Services to it’s core, mostly because Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores ordered the release of records pertaining, not just to TaJanay, but older records of Charity Bailey.  Now, according to the Indianapolis Star, Charity Bailey is appealing that, as well as other decisions, made by Moore.

An attorney representing the mother of TaJanay Bailey has notified the court she will appeal two court decisions releasing juvenile records in the case.

On Jan. 3, juvenile court Judge Marilyn Moores granted The Indianapolis Star’s request to release records in the earlier of two child-welfare cases involving TaJanay. The judge also released the juvenile records of the girl’s mother, Charity Bailey.

TaJanay, 3, died Nov. 27 of apparent abuse. Bailey and her boyfriend, Lawrence Green, both 20, face murder and neglect charges.

Attorney Frances L. Ashton filed a notice last week that Bailey would ask the Indiana Court of Appeals to review Moores’ decision. She also notified the court that she would appeal a Jan. 11 decision by Moores granting The Star’s request for a transcript of the last court hearing before TaJanay’s death.

January 21, 2008

10% Laid Off At Dunn MHC

Calling it a “temporary reduction in force”, Dunn Mental Health Center is saying goodbye to 29 employees, according to the Indianapolis Star.  This accounts for almost 10% of their workforce.  Not wanting to sound partisean, here is the whole story from the Star.  Remember, she said it, I didnt.

Twenty-nine employees of Dunn Center Mental Health in Richmond have been laid off, said CEO Kay Whittington on Sunday.Whittington called the “temporary reduction in force” a result of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ proposed cuts in Medicaid and a bill that could limit how much Medicaid communal health centers may offer.
Dunn Center is comprised of a staff of more than 300.”We have had a temporary reduction in staff across (the) seven counties that we provide services to,” Whittington said.The Dunn Center is a Medicaid provider, and the state government has “dramatically reduced what (the center) can do for Medicaid rehabilitation options,” Whittington said.Gov. Mitch Daniels said in early January a new budget forecast that shows state revenue falling below predictions could lead to some cuts “in some of the entitlement programs like Medicaid.””It all relates to that,” Whittington said.Five of the 29 positions laid off are part-time and the rest are full-time, and Whittington said many of the employees were offered a transfer into other positions.

Whittington said she knows of other communal health centers in the state that have laid off workers.

“We’re all faced with the same thing,” she said. “You can’t wait for the ship to sink.”

Whittington will be available for further details about the situation today, she said.

“We wanted to make sure our staff had the weekend to think about (transferring).”

January 20, 2008

New Info on Phoenix Apartments

The Indianapolis Star has an excellent report on the owner(s) of troubled Phoenix Apartments this morning.  It details the rise of the company that owns the apartment complex and it’s founder.  The article is really long and worth reading, but it is difficult to summarize it here.  So read the story for yourself and come on back.

However, in the Blogmeister’s opinion, the people more to blame for the living conditions at Phoenix are the Housing and Urban Development Inspectors who continued to improve the complex’s ratings over the last three out of four years.  From the story:

The complex got new roofs and new windows and scored steadily higher in annual health and safety inspections by contractors working for HUD. The apartments, graded on a scale of 1 to 100, averaged 44 in 2004 when Belfonti took over, then 68 in 2005 and 91 in 2006.
In 2007 it went down to 77 according to the story.  The Blogmeister continues to wonder how a facility can score this high, even at 77, when local officials who toured the facility are quoted as saying it was “unlivable”.

Drug Test Welfare Recipients?

The Evansville Courrier Press has a good story about a Kentucky lawmaker who wants to start drug testing people who rely on various welfare programs.  The argument for this seems to be that many people in the private sector have to undergo drug tests for their money, so why shouldn’t welfare recipients.  The argument against it is what do you do with the children of parents who test positive?  In addition, there is this bit of history:

Michigan briefly required drug tests for welfare recipients in 1999, but was ordered by a federal judge to stop just weeks into the program when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit. After a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled the law unconstitutional in 2003, Michigan officials reached an out-of-court settlement with the ACLU, agreeing to stop the drug-testing program.

So, this legislation probably won’t go anywhere in Kentucky, but if it does, it may come our way soon.

January 15, 2008

Inside SB 0091: Sibling Visitation

The Associated Press, via the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette carried this story yesterday about SB 0091.

From the Story:

The bill would allow children in foster care to request visits if it is in their best interests. It also would allow a special advocate to be appointed to represent the child. If the Department of Child Services denies a visit request, the child or advocate could petition a juvenile court to intervene.

The Indiana Department of Child Services encourages sibling visits when possible and is always looking for foster homes and adoptive parents willing to take in several children from the same family, spokeswoman Susan Tielking said.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel). 

Here is the official summary of the bill:

Foster care sibling visitation. Requires the department of child services (DCS) to promote sibling visitation for every child who receives foster care. Allows a sibling to request sibling visitation if one of the siblings is receiving foster care. Requires DCS to allow sibling visitation if it is in the best interests of the child receiving foster care. Provides that if DCS denies a request for sibling visitation, an individual may petition a juvenile court for sibling visitation. Requires a court to grant sibling visitation if the court determines sibling visitation is in the best interests of the child who receives foster care. Permits a court to appoint a guardian ad litem or a court appointed special advocate if a child requesting sibling visitation is receiving foster care. Provides that a guardian ad litem or court appointed special advocate appointed in a sibling visitation case is immune from civil liability, except for gross misconduct. (The introduced version of this bill was prepared by the interim study committee on missing children.)

CASA Rocks!

Yesterday’s South Bend Tribune carried this story about CASAs/GALs.  For those unaware, CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates and GAL means Guardian Ad Litem.  These are legal terms for volunteers (generally) appointed to represent the interests of children in abuse, neglect, and domestic relations cases.  Most recently a GAL was in the news when she attempted to have TaJanay Bailey removed from her mother’s home against the wishes of the Department of Child Services.  TaJanay was allegedly killed by her mother the day of the hearing.

The Blogmeister has had the pleasure of serving on the board of Northeastern Indiana CASA for the last few years.  It’s a good not for profit organization totally devoted to the needs and representation of children in the court system.  Aside from a few paid staff to run the organization, it is completely staffed by volunteers and funded by private and United Way donations, as well as some funding from county courts.  As such, they are always looking for volunteers and other forms of support.

Check out the story, and if so moved, contact your local CASA/GAL office and inquire how you can help!

January 12, 2008

Tajanay Bailey Court Hearing Recording Released

According to today’s Indianapolis Star, Marion County Juvenile Court officials released the recording of the last hearing in the Tajanay Bailey case.  A complete overview of the recording is provided by the Star.  However, of most importance is this part;

[Magistrate Scott] Stowers’ questions focused mostly on the process of the case. At the end, he approved the DCS plan to initiate unsupervised visits with approval from the counselor and the advocate.

Read that closely… “he approved the DCS plan to initiate unsupervised visits with the approval from the counselor and the advocate.”  In the Blogmeister’s experience, it is not unusual for a Judge, or Magistrate in this case, to approve certain things, pending approval of counselors and advocates.  The reason for this is these people often know the case the best, have a great deal of contact with the family, and, in the counselor’s case, have more training and expertise on family issues than anyone else involved.  So, no problem there (except, again in my experience, DCS hates this because they feel their paying for the case, so they should get to say).  However, his order was to initiate unsupervised visits pending approval, not initiate reunification. 

At the core of this case, and yet to be determined, if ever, is who made the decision to go beyond the Court’s mandate and reunify this family.  The Blogmeister’s guess…someone at DCS.  Why you ask?  They had the most to gain by reunifying the family.  They would save foster-care and treatment money and it would fit with their internal provisions to reunify the family within eighteen months.  It is also interesting the advocate and the counselor, remember the two people who the Judge pended his order for their approval, were seeking court intervention to get her back into foster care.  That hearing was scheduled for the day she died.

Now maybe DCS didn’t take it upon themselves to reunify this family.  Maybe it was a “team” decision, maybe aliens came and did it.  The fact is we don’t know.  Until we know who made this decision, can we expect any real changes at DCS?  Further, doesn’t the court now have standing to, on it’s own motion, conduct a hearing to find out how this family was reunified despite it’s own order to the contrary.  I’m no lawyer, but that sounds a lot like contempt of court to me.

January 11, 2008

Charity Bailey’s Records Released: Police @ Phoenix

Last week Charity Bailey’s records were released from the Marion County Juvenile court.  According to the Indianapolis Star:

The 20-year-old Indianapolis woman now sits in a jail cell, accused along with her live-in boyfriend of killing her 3-year-old daughter, TaJanay, in November.
Bailey’s alleged role in TaJanay’s death is the latest twist in a troubled life detailed in an unusual release of juvenile delinquency records Friday.
Those records reveal a childhood fraught with drugs, sexual abuse and family discord — and a long list of interventions that failed to turn around her life.

The article is really long and almost…almost…makes one feel sorry for her.  It’s a good example of what we in the therapy world call transgenerational issues.  Simply put, the term means issues that travel from on generation to the next.  It’s not an excuse for behavior, because every adult can change their circumstances, but an explanation for how these things happen.

On a related note, the Indy Star has another story about the police and prosecutor opening offices in the Phoenix apartment complex where Tajanay died.

December 11, 2007

Indy DCS Communication Plan to Start

 In a follow-up to my post Sunday, the Indianapolis Star and WTHR (a Indy TV news station) are reporting key players from law enforcement and Department of Child Services have agreed to share information at the behest of Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores.  DCS will begin gathering information on approximately 650 cases where children were recently reunited with their families.  The name of the DCS caseworker and instructions to notify them will be displayed when an officer is dispatched to the relevant address.

This communication plan is in reaction to the death of Tajanay Bailey who was reunited with her mother, Charity Bailey, and her boyfriend, Lawrence Green.  Approximately three weeks after the reunification she was allegedly killed by them.  Reportedly, Indianapolis police were called to the apartment two weeks prior to her death for a domestic dispute, but did not know Tajanay was involved with DCS.  No one is saying police contact with DCS would have made any difference in the case.

As I pointed out in the prior post, confidentiality questions remain regarding this new procedure.  In addition, it appears to the Blogmeister the real issues surrounding who is responsible for the tragedy continue to be overshadowed by these side issues.   All that aside, this is probably a good idea, if the confidentiality issue can be worked out, so maybe, just maybe, DCS supervisors will listen to caseworkers, therapists, and others involved in the case and not place children in dangerous situations.

Full text versions of the stories may be found here and here.

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