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Sue Luzerne County Children and Youth

June 3, 2010 permalink

Pennsylvania lawyer James Hayward plans to sue his local child protectors for profiting at the expense of abducted children. This kind of suit has failed many times before. But Wilkes-Barre is different. It is the home of judges Mark A Ciavarella Jr and Michael T Conahan, who jailed hundreds of juveniles in a kickback scheme earning them millions of dollars [1] [2] [3]. The courts in Pennsylvania may notice the similarity. Both the corrupt judges and CPS institutionalize children to make a claim on appropriated funds. The only real difference is that the pretext for the juvenile courts was punitive while for CPS it is beneficent.



Attorney: Agency deprives rights

W-B attorney says he will file lawsuit on behalf of 25 parents against Luzerne County Children and Youth.

WILKES-BARRE – A local attorney said he plans to file a federal lawsuit today on behalf of approximately 25 parents who allege Luzerne County Children and Youth violated their constitutional rights in placing their children in foster care.

Theresa Orgowski and Brandy Fullerton
Theresa Orgowski, right, and her daughter Brandy Fullerton, both of Wilkes-Barre, gather with other parents outside the Children and Youth Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre to voice complaints against the agency on Wednesday.

James Hayward of Wilkes-Barre said the lawsuit will be a wide-ranging indictment of Children and Youth that will rival the egregiousness of the allegations contained in the “kids-for-cash” lawsuits involving former county Judge Mark Ciavarella’s placement of juveniles in detention centers.

“It’s just like the ‘kids-for-cash’ case again,” Hayward said. “Everyone knew what Ciavarella was doing and didn’t do anything about it. Well, they all know what Children and Youth is doing and they’re not doing anything about it.”

What Children and Youth is doing, Hayward said, is routinely Children and Youth violated their constitutional rights regarding court hearings that determine whether their children will remain in foster care or be returned home.

The suit revolves around dependency court, which involves children who have been removed from their homes based on allegations of abuse or neglect. It is separate from delinquency court, which involves the placement of juveniles accused of crimes.

Under state law, Children and Youth can take immediate custody of a child only if it can be shown there is an imminent threat to the child’s safety or health. A shelter care hearing must then be held to review that determination.

Hayward said he has interviewed numerous parents who say they were never given a hearing, or were given such short notice that they could not present a meaningful rebuttal to the agency’s allegations.

“I have four clients whose shelter care hearing was either scheduled while they were in the hospital, or they never had a shelter care hearing and they took the kids off them,” he said.

Hayward said that in one case, his client had just given birth via caesarian section. Children and Youth sought to place the child. A shelter care hearing was scheduled just after she gave birth, which precluded her from attending.

Hayward said he went to the hearing on her behalf and obtained a continuance. But that did not stop the agency from taking the child anyway.

“They went that night or the night after and took the baby out of the hospital and put it in foster care,” Hayward said.

Another issue, Hayward said, is the agency’s practice of taking a newborn from the biological parents based solely on the fact the parents have other children who are currently in foster care.

Hayward said the law says agencies can do that only if a parent has previously had his or her parental rights to other children terminated. Luzerne County is doing so even when that is not the case, he said.

“If you have a child in the system, as far as they are concerned, every child is in the system. That’s not the law,” he said. “They can do whatever they want and get away with it, and no one is challenging them.”

Joe DeVizia, director of human services for the county, said he was advised Wednesday that Hayward planned on filing a lawsuit. DeVizia said he did not know what the specific allegations are, but insisted Children and Youth is working for the best interest of children.

“There are a lot of issues surrounding why kids are in placement,” DeVizia said. “Our number one concern is always the safety and welfare of children.”

More than two dozen parents, some of whom are plaintiffs in the pending suit, gathered at the Luzerne County Courthouse on Wednesday for an impromptu rally.

DeVizia said he and Children and Youth Director Frank Castano spent nearly five hours meeting with 15 to 20 parents. He said he would ensure their concerns were addressed.

Hayward said the suit will name Children and Youth as a defendant, as well as individual agency employees, the county and its human services department. The suit will not name judges who presided over dependency court, he said.

Source: Times Leader

Addendum: The same group organizing the lawsuit organized a rally opposing Luzerne Children and Youth. It is not only in Ontario that people are organizing against the child snatchers.



Families rally against Children and Youth

Kristen McAndrew
Kristen McAndrew holds a poster and a picture of her daughter Jocelyn at a protest against Children and Youth Services in Wilkes-Barre on June 2.
Fran Schrader
Fran Schrader, right, holds a poster and a picture of a child during a protest against Children and Youth Services in Wilkes-Barre on June 2. Attorney Jim Hayward, left, is representing the parents.
Children and Youth Services, Wilkes-Barre
A group of people hold a protest against Children and Youth Services in Wilkes-Barre Wednesday against a backdrop of the Children and Youth Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Jim Hayward
Attorney Jim Hayward, center, leads a group of protesters out of the Jewelcor parking lot after they were ordered to leave the property during their protest against Children and Youth Services on Wednesday. About 40 people attended the rally.

Photos: Mark Moran / The Citizens

About 40 angry parents gathered in a downtown Wilkes-Barre parking lot Wednesday morning to denounce Luzerne County Children and Youth Services, the county agency charged with assuring the safety of children and preserving families.

Some of the protesters said Children and Youth had stripped them of their parental rights without giving them a fair chance to retain custody of their children.

Many of the scorned parents also charged their children were being abused by foster parents; some said the judges who presided over their cases did not give them a fair trial; and other parents said their children were taken away shortly after birth without a court order.

The group was organized by attorney Jim Hayward of Wilkes-Barre. At the rally, Hayward said he is representing most of the parents in their struggles with Children and Youth. He claimed the county agency is abusing its power and keeping children longer than it is supposed to, or without valid reason, in order to continue receiving funding.

In response to the protest, Luzerne County Commissioner Chairwoman Maryanne Petrilla said she supports the agency and the "tremendous work" it does to protect the children of Luzerne County.

"Our job is to protect our children, and there is a process in place that gives us the checks and balances that I believe we need to justify why some children in Luzerne County are in protective services," Petrilla said. "We will fight any lawsuit filed in federal court I believe we will win."

Children and Youth Director Frank Castano could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

At the hour-long protest, held near the Jewelcor Building on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, parents shared their stories.

Lisa Scoffone, of Hanover Township, said she has been battling Children and Youth since 2008 when the agency took away one of her two children and threatened she would never see him again. She now has visitation rights to see her 7-month-old son for an hour-and-a-half per week and her 9-year-old son every other weekend.

"I'm fighting for the rights for me and my children to be together," Scoffone said. "I'm not doing anything wrong. They just make excuses for me not to see my babies."

Scoffone said this is just the beginning of her ongoing battle with Children and Youth. She has a court date July 9 at the Luzerne County Orphan's Court, where she will ask for custody of both of her children.

"As long as I'm breathing I will not stop until my children are home with me." Scoffone said. "My babies are going to come home without knowing me."

Hayward claimed that Children and Youth is doing everything it can to enter children into the foster care system and keep them there so the agency can continue receiving grant money.

"They are taking them unjustifiably," Hayward said. "If they do have a reason to keep them, they keep the kids for too long."

Brenda Battle, of Wilkes-Barre, said four of her children were sent to foster care 10 years ago by Children and Youth. She said she was in an abusive relationship and she went to the agency for guidance, but instead of helping her, agency officials took the children away because they believed she was an unfit mother.

"Instead of helping me with my kids, they snatched them away," Battle said.

Many of the parents said the rooms in which they visit their children at Children and Youth are "deplorable."

Scoffone's nephew, David Rasmus, 15, of Warrior Run, said he was placed in seven different foster homes by Children and Youth within six-and-a-half years. Rasmus said he's slept on the floor at one home and he couldn't see his father for almost two years after his first placement. He now lives with his father and grandmother, but he said he has anxiety and has been hospitalized six times since he left foster care.

"They ruined my life," Rasmus said. "It really hurt me being away from my family."

Source: Citizens Voice, Wilkes-Barre