Thursday, December 06, 2012 2:02 pm
APNewsBreak: Ohio rebukes agency's intern use
By DAN SEWELLAssociated Press
State files obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests show that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services investigated the private agency in the aftermath of the February arrests of the 40-year-old Troy man. The state findings listed 12 problems; in most cases they involved incomplete records and lack of documentation. They also found that college interns improperly conducted some home assessments and post-placement visits alone.
Dayton-based ACTION Inc. submitted a detailed corrective action plan in response that included ending its college internship program. The Ohio department accepted the plan and has continued its state license.
The private agency's executive director, Patricia Hill, said no wrongdoing was found in its handling of the Troy adoptions. She referred questions to the agency's attorney, who didn't immediately return a telephone message Thursday. Her agency's website says she is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work, and is the mother of 22 children through adoption and one through long-term foster care. Hill earned her master's in social work from University of Cincinnati in 1997.
The Troy man last month pleaded guilty to six counts of child rape in Miami County in a plea agreement. The Associated Press isn't identifying the adoptive father to protect the children's identities.
A Dec. 20 hearing is scheduled in Montgomery County on plea negotiations on seven rape-related counts he faces there. Two other men are charged in separate cases with raping one of the boys the man had adopted.
The state investigation was a review of all agency operations, not just the Troy case, department spokesman Benjamin Johnson said. The state found that college interns conducted some home study assessments by themselves, as well as some post-placement visits. The assessment visits are used to study the home environment and check for any signs of potential risks, from emotional to physical health, as part of far-ranging background checks and safety audits in placing children. Post-placement visits usually done monthly check, in face-to-face conversations, how the children and their caretakers are adjusting and that children's needs are being met.
The state review doesn't say whether the intern visits cited were at the Troy man's home.
However, the man told The Associated Press during an interview at the Miami County Jail this week that a college student had come to his home once for a regular visit with an ACTION caseworker, then returned alone for other visits. He said she appeared to follow the same visit procedures as regular caseworkers did, such as separating the children from him for interviews about how they were doing in their new home.
Ohio regulations stipulate that "an agency shall not use volunteers or college interns as a replacement for paid staff."
In responses to the state, Hill included a June letter to the University of Cincinnati School of Social Work stating that ACTION would no longer provide student internships.
University of Cincinnati spokesman Richard Puff told the AP that top officials at the school didn't receive the letter, which was addressed "To Whom It May Concern." Puff also said the school had ended its relationship with ACTION long before the letter because of concerns about how student evaluations were done. He said three UC graduate students in spring of 2011 were the last to intern with ACTION. He didn't know whether any had been involved with the Troy man's case.
The state file doesn't indicate whether any other schools placed interns with ACTION.
Johnson said Ohio currently has 64 certified private adoption agencies. Over the last 10 years, nine Ohio certifications have been revoked or denied.
State files show three earlier complaints against ACTION; all were followed with corrective actions taken by the private agency. The last one was in 2003.
The man had been a foster parent dating to 2006. About two years ago, three children from Texas were placed with him through ACTION, part of an interstate compact to help match children with adoptive parents. They included a biological brother and sister. All were under age 13.
The man had adopted all three and was in the process of adopting a fourth child, a 9-year-old boy, who came from Texas last year, when he was arrested.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said the department decided after reviewing the cases to continue contracting with ACTION on adoption placements. It had placed 28 children through ACTION since 2004 and has placed one through ACTION since the Troy arrest.
He said the last boy placed in Troy has been returned to Texas and is in foster care, with efforts being made to find "a suitable adoptive family."
The three other children were in the care of Miami County children's services, and Ohio judges will rule on their permanent custody.
A judge ruled recently that one of the boys can testify via closed circuit TV in the upcoming trial of a man his adoptive father allegedly arranged with to rape him in their Troy home.
Contact Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell