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September 6, 2006 permalink
Foster child Marcus Fiesel broke into the news in Ohio on August 15 when foster mother Liz Carroll had a blackout from a heart condition while taking her children to a park. Two-year-old Marcus disappeared during the blackout. Six days later the foster mother appeared on television to plead for help in finding the boy. She wore the same clothes as on the day of the disappearance to help viewers remember her.
While the foster mom was looking for the boy, the police were working out what really happened. The fosters had tied up Marcus and locked him in a closet on August 4, then left for a family reunion. They returned two days later to find him dead. They took him to Brown County Kentucky, burned the body and dumped the remains in the Ohio river. On August 10 they dodged a caseworker visit with the excuse that Marcus was sick. When the facts became known, foster parents Liz and David Carroll were arrested and held on ten million dollars bail each. Ohio child protectors responded with the usual party line, we cannot comment because of confidentiality, but we are changing procedures to prevent a recurrence.
Two Ohio Republican politicians have published opinion pieces giving their suggestions for improving the child protection system. Most of the suggestions show that Ohio Republicans are clueless — only the suggestion to open the records of dead children will help. A third opinion by Richard Wexler gives the real solution, letting parents care for their own children.
Ontario politicians are spared the requirement to give their opinions, because most foster deaths are suppressed before they get to the press. From what little is available, many Ontario politicians are just as clueless as Ohio's Republicans. Howard Hampton and Andrea Horwath are exceptions.
Jones on children's safety
Lawmakers must keep kids safe
BY SHANNON JONES | REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE, OHIO HOUSE DISTRICT 67
Last week we were reminded how vulnerable children are when they are failed by a system built to protect them. Police say Marcus Fiesel died at the hands of his foster parents. Outrage doesn't even begin to describe the feelings of this mother and candidate.
As a legislator, the strongest power I'll have is the power of the purse and when government agencies come to me with budget requests, I'll fight to divert dollars from the back office bureaucracy to the front lines of all child protection agencies.
But lawmakers must do more.
In fact, it was my disgust at a system that allowed for the rape and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford that prompted me to run for the Ohio House. I supported enacting Jessica's Law in Ohio - a law mandating a minimum 25-year sentence (without parole) for child sex predators - and spent the spring campaigning for its passage. While I'm pleased that it finally passed, I'll fight to ensure that these stricter sentencing guidelines are enforced by judges.
Our leaders must do all they can to prevent rather than just respond to child tragedies. If we're serious about protecting children, we must also crack down on child pornography, Internet obscenities, and sexually oriented businesses - before we read about another attack or murder of a child. We must insist on tougher penalties for those who pander obscenity and sexually oriented material involving a child - on the first offense before more children are victimized. Prosecutors tell us that by the time they convict a pedophile, that criminal has already committed dozens of similar crimes that went undetected.
This November, when choosing a candidate for state legislature, vote like your child's safety is depending on it - because it just might.
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Sunday, September 3, 2006
Ohio's system needs a lot of work
BY KEN BLACKWELL | GUEST COLUMNIST
The tortured death of Marcus Fiesel tragically reminds us that Ohio's child protection system can be as dysfunctional, broken and fractured as the families it serves. It also highlights several reforms necessary to avoid this tragedy in the future:
Open all records: Could the child protection system have done more to protect Marcus? We may never know because Ohio law allows an agency to keep the records secret, and so far the Butler County Children Services Board has said they intend to do just that - keep the records sealed. That's wrong.
When a child dies, how can the release of the records relating to the child's case hurt him? Who is really being protected by keeping the files secret - the child or the system?
The law that allows these records to be hidden behind a wall of secrecy should be changed to require the release of all files for a child who dies while in the custody and care of the child protection agency.
The only exception should be if the prosecutor determines that the release of part or all of the records would adversely affect the prosecution of the criminal case. But after the criminal case is over all records relating to the case should be made public.
Increase state supervision: Marcus' death also underscores the need to have more oversight over state and local child protection agencies. Yes, child protection agencies do a lot of good work. Hundreds if not thousands of Ohio's children are alive today because the dedicated workers of our child protection system were there to rescue them from harm. But those who work inside the system are also human, and human beings make mistakes.
The law should require that child protection agencies be subject to ongoing independent performance and case reviews. The independent review system used by Ohio's Department of Aging is a good model for such oversight.
Give all foster children equal protection. Current state law requires that each foster child receive an in-home visit once every 30 days. Unfortunately, some counties have contracted out these in-home visits to the same entity that placed that child in that home. That conflict of interest should be removed, using an independent third party to visit all network placement children. All children must have independent supervision.
Improve information sharing: If a foster parent runs afoul of the law, this warning light should be immediately communicated to child support agencies. This will take technological upgrades and improvements, but I know how to do this well. As secretary of state, I have improved that office's technology and support services, shortening the time for baseline business transactions from 16 to three days. Upgrading children's services information and technology systems can prevent future tragedies from taking place.
It is a horror that Marcus Fiesel died the way he did. As your governor, I will fight to enact these strong, aggressive reforms to make sure that never happens again.
Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is the Republican candidate for Ohio governor.
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Another Child 'Protected to Death'; Response to Ohio Foster-Care Tragedy Ignores 'Elephant In the Room,' National Child Advocacy Group Says
9/5/2006 11:50:00 AM
To: National Desk
Contact: Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, 703-212-2006
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sept. 5 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The outrage that has swept through Ohio in the wake of the death of a 3-year-old foster child will accomplish nothing if everyone ignores the most important fact about the case: Like thousands of other foster children, this child, Marcus Fiesel, probably never needed to be taken from his birth mother in the first place, according to a national child advocacy organization.
Marcus' foster parents are accused of tying him up and locking him in a closet overnight. When they returned to find Marcus dead, the foster father allegedly burned the body.
"Once again, a child has been protected to death in foster care," said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. "There is no question that Marcus' birth mother was overwhelmed and couldn't care for him by herself. But she almost certainly could have cared for him had she gotten the right kind of help. Instead, the response of authorities boiled down to 'take-the-child-and-run,'" Wexler said.
Marcus' death comes only months after adoptive parents in Ohio were convicted of confining 11 special-needs foster children in what prosecutors called cages.
"Of course the majority of foster parents don't abuse the children in their care. Many are true heroes," Wexler said. "But the rate of abuse in foster care is far higher than in the general population and far higher than generally realized. In one recent study, one-third of foster children reported being abused in care. The rate of abuse in group homes and institutions -- latter day orphanages -- is even worse.
"You can't fix the problem by tightening licensing standards and background checks, or demanding that caseworkers knock on the door one more time," Wexler said. "That's ignoring the elephant in the room: Ohio takes away children at a rate 30 percent above the national average and double or triple the rate of model systems with exemplary records for keeping children safe.
"States that take away too many children will always be begging for foster homes -- and beggars can't be choosers," Wexler said.
"The only way to fix foster care is to have less of it."
Source: U.S. Newswire
Addendum: On February 22, 2007 Liz Carroll was sentenced to a long term in prison. She will be able to apply for parole in 54 years. There was no punishment for the social workers legally responsible for the boy.