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Foster Company Loses Business
April 11, 2007 permalink
In case there was any doubt that foster care is run for profit, a foster care company, Lifeway For Youth Inc., is suing the state of Ohio for loss of business. It seems the state is unfairly punishing them for placing a boy with a family that murdered him, burned his body and threw his remains in the Ohio River.
Last Updated: 7:44 pm | Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Lifeway sues state agency
BY SHEILA MCLAUGHLIN | SMCLAUGHLIN@ENQUIRER.COM
The company that placed 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel in a deadly foster home sued the state for $1 million Tuesday, saying the state spread lies that cost it business.
Lifeway For Youth, Inc., of New Carlisle, filed suit against the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in the Ohio Court of Claims in Columbus, saying the agency’s motives were “purely political.”
The 13-year-old private foster care company accuses the state of libeling the company in the press, interfering with business relationships with foster families and referring agencies and abusing the state licensing process.
It claims the state launched its campaign to revoke Lifeway’s license even before it finished an investigation into Marcus’ death.
“(The state) has been more concerned about shifting blame than about the welfare of Ohio’s foster kids,” said Mike Berner, Lifeway’s founder and executive director.
Berner nurtured Lifeway from a ministry to a $15 million business that operates in six states, including Kentucky and Indiana.
The court filing comes a day after lawyers for the company and the state met to set nearly two weeks of hearings in June so Lifeway can challenge the state’s effort to take away its operating license in Ohio.
Lifeway still plans to go forward with those hearings. Those proceedings won’t affect Lifeway’s licenses elsewhere.
Berner claims he’s lost about one-third of his business in Ohio.
“The department, by being so thorough and relentless in its public statement about the inferior quality of Lifeway, effectively ruined their business,” said Melissa Mitchell, a Columbus attorney representing Lifeway.
“It affected their business in a very serious way, so much so that they might not be in business by the time of the hearings.”
State officials did not have an immediate comment, but are expecting to issue a statement later this evening.
The lawsuit alleges that the state:
- Issued a press release saying it had advised all counties to check on children in Lifeway homes even before starting its investigation into Marcus’ death.
- Repeatedly and publicly stated that it would revoke Lifeway’s certification three months before it notified Lifeway of its intentions.
- Altered reports from state field investigators who were involved in licensing Lifeway.
- Made false and misleading statements to the media, including that it had found 147 violations when 55 of them were actually related to the revocation proceedings.
Lifeway also has asked a judge to place a gag order on state officials to keep them from making any further false statements to the media or saying anything negative about Lifeway to its referring agencies and foster families.
Lifeway officials said they’ve watched its Ohio business fizzle since August in the wake of Marcus’ death.
The developmentally delayed Middletown boy was bound and left in a closet for two days while his Clermont County foster parents went to a family reunion. Liz and David Carroll Jr. are serving life terms after being convicted in February of Marcus’ murder.
Since then, foster placements have fallen off from 600 to about 360 children because county children services agencies quit placing foster kids with Lifeway, Mitchell said.
Foster families have jumped to other agencies or quit and about one-third of Lifeway’s staff has resigned since the state began revocation proceedings in January, Berner said earlier.
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer