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Foster Abuse in Quinte
November 9, 2012 permalink
Three former foster parents have been accused of sexual abuse of their wards. The accused are Richard Fildey, Sherilee Slatter and Ronald Slatter. Contrary to what the article says, these are not all new cases. Earlier this year Ronald Slatter was accused and exonerated on a similar charge. Previous Slatter articles:   .
Sex charges linked to foster homes --UPDATED
Three former Children's Aid foster parents in Prince Edward County have been charged with sex crimes against foster children.
The historical cases involve three female complainants and allegations of sexual assault and child pornography dating back nine years.
Prince Edward OPP Const. Kim Guthrie said those charged are no longer foster parents but the charges stem from their time serving the Children's Aid Society of Prince Edward.
All charges were laid within the last week and are unrelated to past criminal cases involving the society's foster parents, Guthrie said.
“They were arrested, charged and released,” she said. “They would, of course, have conditions on them.”
Though their conditions weren't available Friday, Guthrie said the limitations “would be to protect anybody involved with the case.” It is common, for example, for those suspected of a crime to be prohibited from contacting complainants.
In the earliest of the new cases, Guthrie said, a woman told police in November 2011 someone assaulted her sexually in 2003-2004 while she lived in a Bloomfield foster home.
Richard Fildey, 44, of Cameron, Ont. is charged with sexual interference, sexual assault and sexual exploitation. He's to appear in Picton court Nov. 21.
The second case resulted from a June 2012 complaint of abuse in 2007 at a Bloomfield foster home, police reported.
Sherilee Slatter, 34, of Sudbury is charged with sexual assault, conspiring to commit an indictable offence, distributing child pornography and two counts of sexual exploitation. She's scheduled for a Dec. 5 appearance in Picton court.
Also in June, a teenage girl told police she'd been assaulted in 2010 – again a foster home in Bloomfield.
Ronald Slatter, 65, of Bloomfield is charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation. He's scheduled to appear Nov. 28 in Picton court.
The charges are the latest in a rash of sex assault and sexual exploitation charges brought by former wards of the Prince Edward society, all involving current or former county residents.
The OPP issued a press release about the new charges two hours after a joint release in which the embattled society and Highland Shores Children's Aid announced they would amalgamate.
Officials with each society were not immediately available for comment.
Source: Belleville Intelligencer
Prince Edward CAS will disappear through merger, probably with its larger neighbor the Highland Shores CAS. The Wellington Times tells the story of the failures in Prince Edward county.
Troubled CAS relents to pressure after a bad year
Update: The board of the Children’s Aid Society of Prince Edward confirmed on Friday it will merge operations with Highland Shores Children’s Aid–the agency it spurned just under a year ago.
The local Children’s Aid Society says it will no longer go it alone. The board of the Children’s Aid Society of Prince Edward released a statement last week saying it had decided to seek a partnership with another agency.
The release suggests that a declining population of children in the County, along with changes in the way the agency is funded, contributed to the decision.
Few details were offered either in the release or by Board Chair Elaine Philips.
The board has not identified the agency with whom it is considering a partnership but it was nearly a year ago the County CAS rejected a merger plan that would have combined the local children’s aid services with those of Hastings and Northumberland. The Ministry of Children’s and Youth Services had been nudging the three agencies together as a means to improve efficiency but the County CAS resisted, worried services would be reduced in the County and the Picton office possibly closed.
The troubles that were about to swamp the agency were just beginning to percolate to the surface.
A month before it rejected the amalgamation deal, the local CAS had become the focus of scrutiny and questions after Bloomfield foster parents Joe and Janet Holm were given prison sentences for sexual abuse of foster children in their care. Justice Geoff Griffin said in his sentencing of the Holms that the community should demand an inquiry into what had happened at the foster home. That inquiry never happened.
A year earlier, charges had been laid against a 71-year-old Bloomfield man for a list of sexual abuse offences over a period of years against children, as young as nine and 10 years of age, placed in his care by the County’s CAS. The man was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to nine years in prison. He is currently appealing his conviction and is free on bail.
County CAS has never explained how and why children in its care were repeatedly put at risk.
Sweet said his agency shared the “community’s outrage” about the crimes committed against children subjected to sexual abuse while in his agency’s care. He assure his agency was improving its processes but never answered how those processes had failed the children in its care in the first place.
Now the agency seems set to be swallowed by the agencies it rebuffed a year ago. Once it is gone, families and County residents may never know what happened. Why weren’t these children more closely monitored? Why weren’t foster families better scrutinized and supervised?
Neither Sweet nor Philip agreed to be interviewed for this story but asked that the Times submit its questions in writing. The Times submitted 16 questions. None was addressed directly.
Philip wrote to say her agency is “committed to operating in a culture of openness and transparency” but was “not in a position to provide much detail.” She offered no explanation about why this detail was being withheld.
She wrote that “we thought it was very important, and indeed were obliged, to inform our staff, the community, and all of our stakeholders, that we are exploring partnerships with other agencies in the region.”
Residents can only speculate about the future of this troubled local agency and how long it will remain local.
Source: Wellington Times
The Wellington Times gives more details of the accusations, and the relationships of the accused. Because of the observation of Curtis Kingston there is reason to be skeptical of the Slatter charges.
Three more foster parents charged with sexual crimes against children in their care
Ron Slatter professed innocence. He said he had been the target of vindictive Children’s Aid Society officials who were getting back at him for complaining about a lack of funding for foster families.
Earlier this year Slatter was charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation against a child placed in his care by the CAS. Those charges were later withdrawn.
In July, The Times told the story of how Slatter was trying to restore his reputation after his name was reported in several news reports and newscasts across the region.
At the time Slatter said his crime was in “telling a dirty joke” and allowing his grown daughter to visit their Bloomfield home while they were caring for foster children.
But last week the Slatters’ troubles became much more serious.
On Friday Ron Slatter, 63, and his daughter Sherilee Slatter, 34, were each charged with an array of sexual crimes involving children placed in Slatter’s Bloomfield home.
Ron Slatter faces charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation arising from complaints by a teenage girl that she was sexually assaulted in 2010 while living in foster care in the Slatter home. He is set to appear in court on November 28.
Sherilee Slatter is facing charges of sexual assault, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, distributing child pornography and two counts of sexual exploitation. These charges arise from a complaint from a female that she had been sexually assaulted in the Slatter home in 2007 while living in foster care. Slatter was arrested in Sudbury. She will appear in a Picton court on December 5.
Meanwhile Sherilee Slatter’s former husband was also arrested and charged last week with sexual offences against a teenaged girl living in foster care in a separate Bloomfield home. Richard Fildey, 44, has been charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation. These charges stem from accusations that Fildey sexually assaulted a teenage girl while she was living in a foster home in Bloomfield in 2003 and 2004. He was arrested in Cameron, Ontario. He is set to appear in Picton Court on November 21.
The latest charges raise more questions about the Children’s Aid Society of Prince Edward, specifically its ability to screen foster families and monitor the children in their care. Last year Judge Geoff Griffin said the community should demand an inquiry into the operations of the local CAS as he sentenced Joe and Janet Holm to prison sentences for sexual crimes against foster children placed in their care by the local agency.
Then, earlier this year, a 71-year-old man was convicted of sexually abusing two young girls, over the course of years. The children had been placed in the man’s home despite earlier accusations and a subsequent police investigation into claims that the man was abusing children in his care.
The local CAS has announced it will merge with Highland Shores Children’s Aid. The questions, however, will likely continue to linger over this agency until it explains what went wrong.
Source: Wellington Times
A full article on the merger of Prince Edward County CAS into Highland Shores.
Putting the pieces back together again
Mark Kartusch has a tough job. And it just got a whole lot tougher. Kartusch was handpicked to bring together the operations of the newly amalgamated Children’s Aid Societies of Hastings and Northumberland. With the merged agency, Highland Shores, not yet a year old, and the kinks still being worked out, Kartusch is faced with a new and more daunting challenge: bringing the operations of the Children’s Aid Society of Prince Edward County into the fold—and with it, lingering questions about how the County agency failed in its fundamental duty to protect children in its care from sexual abuse at the hands of their foster parents.
The County CAS had been part of the original amalgamation discussions last year with Hastings and Northumberland, but walked away from the Ministry of Child Services-guided process last December—despite warnings of reduced funding and support.
In the end it likely wasn’t money that brought down the local CAS, thrusting it into the arms of Highland Shores. Rather, it is more plausible that a series of scandals involving children in its care who had been sexually abused by foster parents, in homes selected and overseen by the local agency, brought about the end of its independence.
It all began to unravel last November when a Bloomfield couple, Joe and Janet Holm, were sentenced to prison terms for charges ranging from sexual assault to sexual exploitation. According to a report in the Intelligencer, the couple had fostered 25 teenagers over a period of nine years—providing a home with little to no restrictions and with rampant sexual behaviour.
Then last spring another Bloomfield man was convicted of sexually assaulting two children in his care over a period of years. He was sentenced to nine years in prison but is currently appealing his conviction.
Three more foster parents were charged this month for sexual abuse against children in their care.
The sheer volume of charges, and the protracted nature of the abuse carried out under the watch of the local CAS over the course of years, have raised serious— and yet unanswered— questions about the nature of the failure of this agency to protect children in its care.
Mounting pressure on the organization likely forced the board of directors to reconsider its decision to reject amalgamating with Hastings and Northumberland. Earlier this month the local agency conceded that its future lay within Highland Shores. All but two of its members resigned. Last week the long-time director of the local CAS, Bill Sweet, departed.
Now the path is clear for Highland Shores to complete the takeover of the local agency. That gives Kartusch the challenging job of integrating the methods, habits and practices of three long-established government agencies into one cohesive organization. He must also break down the regional and operational biases that can hobble efficiency.
By far his biggest task is rebuilding the trust in this community in an agency whose credibility lies in tatters.
To do this Kartusch will need to understand what happened in this community, demonstrate that remedial action has been taken and that every effort is being made to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
He’s not there yet. He is reluctant to speak about the past—partly because of the confidential nature of cases they manage—and he is only now learning the details about how they were managed. He is cautious too, simply because transparency takes second place to the privacy of the families and children that they are tasked with assisting.
“Our work is very complicated and there are few simple answers,” explained Kartusch to the Times. “I have no question that staff in child welfare want to do their best. But bad things happen.”
Balancing transparency with expectations of confidentiality is something every child welfare agency struggles with.
“I know some think we use this as a shield,” said Kartusch. “But something bigger is at stake. The problems that happen in families are not supposed to be broadcast for public consumption. There is also due process that has to occur. There are very good reasons that child welfare cases tends to be more confidential. We need to make people feel okay to come to the society. To get help before it becomes a problem. If I there is a risk these concerns will become a public matter then children suffer.”
But Kartusch knows too that these aren’t ordinary circumstances in Prince Edward County. He knows the community demands answers about what went wrong in the protection of children in this community. As much as he would like to focus on the future, Kartusch understands he can’t ignore the troubled past of the local CAS.
“It will take time,” acknowledged Kartusch. “I need to spend some time in the community. Learn about what has transpired. Learn about the community more. Learn from community service providers. I will be working to remind people about the good processes that serve the community well.”
He knows too that repairing damaged credibility is his first job.
“Loss of confidence is very serious. We rely on people having confidence in the child welfare agency because it is about protecting our kids.”
Kartusch knows this will be his toughest challenge yet.
Source: Wellington Times
Addendum: A reporter attended the first board meeting of the newly-merged CAS. Former Prince Edward CAS executive director Bill Sweet is out of a job along with most of his directors. We can be sure that Highland Shores CAS follows all laws and regulations, because every three months executive director Mark Kartusch signs off on a factual certificate that says all the procedures have been followed.
New board, few answers
Highland Shores takes first steps in the County
The first board meeting of the freshly assembled directors of the Prince Edward Children’s Aid Society offered few outward signs of the turmoil that must surely swirl inside the walls of the organization these days.
Last month the troubled local agency, under fire for a series of sex abuse charges, prosecutions and convictions against six different foster parents in connection to children in their care—placed there by the local CAS—has made several big changes in the organization. It has parted ways with longtime Executive Director Bill Sweet and all but two of its board members, and begun a process to amalgamate with Highland Shores Children’s Aid—itself a product of the amalgamation of Hastings and Northumberland’s CAS agencies. It says more changes are coming—including installing Brad Bain, the current director of child and youth services at Durham Chidren’s Aid, as the interim director of services in Picton. But on a Wednesday evening in Belleville last week, it seemed business as usual. Mostly.
There were discussions about board processes (coordinating two boards simultaneously does indeed pose some practical challenges). Discussions about finances (the larger agency is lagging its budgeted operating performance—but less so than the provincial average. That seemed acceptable to most). The agency also purchased a new phone system but curiously declined to say how much it had spent.
There were discussions too about the board’s advisory committees, which examine aspects of the agency ranging from service and quality to finance, as well as gather feedback from community segments through its youth and aboriginal advisory committees.
There was good news about fundraising; the Belleville Rotary Club presented a cheque in the amount of $9,000, the proceeds of a golf tournament the service club holds each year on behalf of Quinte Children’s Foundation, the fundraising arm of Highland Shores Children’s Aid.
There were many good and important issues discussed and presented around the table on Wednesday, but one had to strain to hear the issues of families and children discussed directly in the two-hour meeting. Nor was their curiosity apparent about the issues that had suddenly thrust the Prince Edward County agency into its fold.
Chairperson Darcey French says there are at least three important reasons why this was so. He says the board is still just gathering information about the circumstances in Picton; that the board conducts its business in a decidedly process-oriented approach; and that there are issues of privacy that must be respected.
“Our first priority was to create a stable service for the families and children in Prince Edward County,” explained French, a board member for four years and the Hastings CAS lead during the amalgamation process with Northumberland. “As far as what went on in this community—it will take time to figure out what it looked like. We are not there yet.”
French says the board’s chief role is to ensure the Executive Director Mark Kartusch is held accountable to the goals and standards that he and his staff are expected to achieve.
“The issues we go through each month are that extensive because our expectations of the executive director and his staff are very high,” said French. “Once a quarter in our agency— though not typical everywhere in the province—Mark signs off on a factual certificate that says all the procedures have been followed; that we’ve had no incidences, or if we’ve had an incidence here is what it was; here is how it was addressed; and here is how we will prevent this from happening again.”
The executive director defends the emphasis on rigorous processes and procedures as a means to empower good decisions throughout the organization.
“The reason we have these is to ensure consistency and predictability,” said Kartusch. “I want to rebuild the confidence in the community, but most important to me is to ensure we have strong and effective processes. These are essential to protecting children in out community and keeping them safe. That is my number one priority.”
Will this community ever know what happened at the local agency? What was the nature of the failure that occurred? Because some failure facilitated vulnerable children in becoming prey to a sexual predator. And without answers to these questions, how can anyone— even the new directors of the agency—know with confidence that it won’t happen again?
Kartusch can’t answer these questions yet. “First, I want to find out,” explained Kartusch. “I don’t have all the facts yet. I need to get those first and then I will be in a better position to know what can be disclosed to the community.”
He knows there is a crisis of confidence in this agency in this community currently, but he says much has been done in the past weeks and months to fix the problems in Picton.
“Change has been under way for months,” said Kartusch, “not just two weeks ago when Highland Shores and PEC CAS decided to merge. For example, the processes involved in approving foster homes have been improved. In fact across the province there is a new assessment process around approving foster homes. A different level of intensity to it.”
He is sensitive too about the effect these issues are having on the many good and decent foster families who have served this community and continue to do so.
“Foster families will tell you they live in a fish bowl,” said Kartusch. “The vast, vast majority of cases foster parents are wonderful and amazing people that find it in their hearts and skills to open their homes to children.
“Our job is to keep children safe—particularly when we take them into care. We must continually find ways to improve on that.”
But is the executive director or are any of the board of directors close enough to the families and children whom they serve? None appear to endure the socioeconomic hardships that would seem to put families and children most at risk.
Darcey French says that ensuring the board maintained a “finger on the pulse’ of the families and children they serve was among the board’s guiding principles when it was formed and developed in the amalgamation process. This, he said, takes different forms.
“Any person can contact a board member, for example,” said French. “You don’t have to go through the agency. I have had people call me; ‘this is what happened what are we going to do about it’.”
He pointed to other ways the board works to maintain contact with families and children—specifically its youth advisory committee.
“These are the kids who have grown up in the system— some of them have been in care for as much as 10 years. They are pretty honest about what is needed.”
French also spent a weekend at a camp run by Highland Shores this past summer
“The kids let me know what they were worried about,” said French. “They were clear about what works and what doesn’t. But it also gave me some insight how staff nurture and care for these children.
“You can lead in technical ways or you can lead in moral or ethical ways—we choose to be morally invested.”
Perhaps it is too soon to expect full answers about what went wrong at the Prince Edward County CAS— how it failed children in its care. For now those questions remain unanswered. It would be a mistake for Highland Shores or provincial officials to assume this community will be satisfied with this.
Source: Wellington Times
Addendum: Mark Kartusch is trying to build public confidence in children's aid in Prince Edward county while recruiting new foster parents to replaced those in court. By his figures Prince Edward CAS had 25 foster parents at any one time, with six convicted or charged. So about a quarter of foster kids were exposed to an abusive caretaker, below our earlier estimate of half. Two articles are enclosed.
A lot of work ahead for CAS
Overhauled record keeping, frequent file audits and additional training for staff are just some of the preliminary measures being taken to steer the embattled Prince Edward County Children's Aid Society toward an April 1, 2013 legal merger with the Highland Shores Children's Aid.
Before that can happen, the existing agency under Highland Shores' guidance will have to renew waning community confidence, says Mark Kartusch, executive director.
Kartusch and his team welcomed the media to the county agency Friday, part of an open door policy he said is at the core of attempts to be more transparent.
Community consultation will be part of reconnecting in the new year as well, he said.
“Today is about acknowledging to the community where we're at,” he said. “This is the beginning of our conversation with the community.”
Three foster parents have already been convicted for sex crimes against children since November 2011, with another three former foster parents charged last month.
Kartusch admitted the breach of trust inflicted on the violated young people has shaken the agency. He said the agency shoulders the blame for not ensuring their safety.
“I want to apologize to the children who experienced harm at the hands of their foster parents, but also to the community who trusted in us to keep them safe and protected,” he said.
He conceded the agency failed in its attempt to provide a co-ordinated response to allegations stemming from at least one of the child abuse cases.
“We need to follow up on allegations,” Kartusch said. “In at least one of those cases we didn't do that well.”
There were gaps in how the information was being filtered between varied departments, which “clouded,” the agency's ability to respond appropriately, he said.
Aside from those falters he said, “the vast majority of things we do here are the way they're suppose to be done.”
The ongoing saga has devastated staff at the county agency, he added.
By December 2013, the county agency will be structurally morphed into Highland Shores, creating an entity with about 320 total employees and an estimated $46 million operating budget. The Dundas Street West Belleville office will serve as headquarters.
An interim director of service and an additional supervisor have been appointed to the county as a conduit to the merger.
The County CAS has been been operating under increased ministry scrutiny since a probe was launched into its operation earlier this year, says Darcy French, co-chair, board of directors, present for the press conference at the Picton office.
That has proven helpful to repairing flailing aspects of the agency.
“This board has inherited some difficult challenges,” French said, adding, acknowledging the missteps is crucial to finding a steady course for the future.
Source: Belleville Intelligencer
County foster parents not under extra scrutiny: CAS
Prospective Bloomfield foster families will not undergo any added scrutiny because of the recent wave of child abuse cases in that community, says the new head of the County child welfare agency.
Concerns about how the recent spate of child abuse cases could taint public interest toward foster care in Prince Edward County is front and centre for Mark Kartusch, executive director Highland Shores Children's Aid Society, now assuming control of the county agency after a merger.
With only 25 registered foster parents currently servicing Prince Edward County, Kartusch admits the welfare agency has taken a battering after charges levied against former recruits.
Since November 2011, three former foster parents have been convicted of sexually abusing several children entrusted in their care by the agency, with another three hit with sex crime charges this fall.
Those cases are currently before the courts with appearances scheduled for the new year. The wave of sex crimes linked to the agency sparked a ministry probe last winter which spawned a report recommending an overhaul of operations at the embattled entity.
While there is no immediate indication the county child abuse convictions and current charges are thwarting family recruitment efforts, the director is cognizant that it could pose a threat to the overall renewal of a tarnished reputation.
“Right now, I'm not seeing anything that says there have been fewer enquiries of people interested in fostering,” he said. “It's definitely something we're going to keep our eyes on very closely.”
Kartusch attended what he viewed as a positive family recruitment meeting at the county agency last week. The meeting was attended by about 14 people with varied interest in fostering and providing adoptive care.
“That's a normal number for that step in the process,” he said.
Some current and prospective foster parents have pressed Kartusch for answers on what's been done to clean up the current mess and minimize risk of further offenders.
Referrals is also another area Kartusch is closely monitoring. Repairing community confidence and ensuring there is no reluctance to sign on with the agency, is another aspect of the renewal efforts, he said.
“Potentially children are left at risk if people aren't calling to provide care,” he said.
He said interested foster parents from the Bloomfield area will not be subjected to any additional scrutiny of the their application because almost all the cases stemmed from homes in that community.
“That's not going to be an issue,” he said. “People automatically try to ascribe a pattern that may not be there.”
Now a few weeks into efforts to merge the Prince Edward County CAS under the newly-amalgamated Highland Shores agency, it's still premature to say how much operation revamping needs to be done, he said.
Kartusch has already assigned an interim director of service and a resource staff supervisor from Highland Shores to assist with repairing the damage.
“It's going to take a while to rebuild confidence in the community,” he said. “Change needs to happen.”
Source: Belleville Intelligencer
Addendum: Sherilee Slatter has been found guilty.
Former foster parent guilty
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY - A former Bloomfield foster parent has been found guilty of numerous sex-related charges.
Justice Wolf Tausendfreund found Sherilee Slatter, 35, guilty of one count of sexual exploitation and one count of sexual assault stemming from allegations that first arose in 2005 when she was the foster mother of a 15-year-old boy. Her married name at the time was Sherilee Fildey.
Slatter was also found guilty of one count of invitation to sexual touching linked to her abuse of a 15-year-old girl, who was a foster child in the home of Slatter’s father, back in 2008.
Both teen victims were wards of the now-defunct Prince Edward County Children’s Aid Society. The Highland Shores CAS now covers the areas once managed by societies in Prince Edward, Hastings and Northumberland Counties. The merger was triggered by a government investigation which found appalling instances of neglect, lapses in oversight and an overall dysfunctional Prince Edward County entity.
Friday’s verdict happened in Picton’s Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Slatter, now residing in Sudbury, will be sentenced January 23.
The first set of allegations were that Slatter had sexual intercourse with a foster boy on five occasions during the spring and summer of 2005 in her home in Bloomfield. In 2005 she gave a statement to the OPP saying she was sexually assaulted by the boy on three occasions, the court heard during trial.
The judge ruled that if that was true she would have done something to protect herself after the first time. Evidence heard during the trial indicated she did nothing and did not report it until the boy told his girlfriend what was going on and the girlfriend confronted Slatter.
The judge also found that in 2008, while Slatter was living in her father’s home in Bloomfield, she invited a 15-year-old foster girl into her room, gave her liquor and then convinced her to use a sex toy while streaming it on a web cam to a man in California with whom Slatter was in a relationship.
Assistant Crown attorney Jodi Whyte confirmed Friday there is a “possibility of one more trial of a former foster parent from Bloomfield.”
In addition, Slatter’s former husband, Richard Fildey, was also convicted in August of this year of sexually abusing a foster girl in 2004.
Whyte also confirmed that “the appeal of the case involving a former foster (73-year-old) father who was convicted in 2012 is to be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal on Jan. 7.”
Sherilee Slatter is the fifth foster parent to be convicted of sexually abusing foster children in Prince Edward County.
Source: Belleville Intelligencer