Arkansas system

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Arkansas system

Postby Marina » Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:44 pm

. ... news09.txt

Friday, September 21, 2007 10:03 AM CDT

Lottery, Foster Child Ballot Issues Filed

Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to create a state lottery and a ballot initiative to restrict who can adopt and foster children in the state filed the measures with the state attorney general’s office Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter submitted his proposed constitutional amendment to create a state-run lottery that he said will generate about $100 million a year for college scholarships.

The Family Council resubmitted a proposed ballot initiative that would bar unmarried couples from adopting or becoming foster parents in the state. The measure originally filed was rejected by the attorney general this month because of wording.

If the attorney general approved the popular name and ballot title of each measure, supporters would then have until July 7, 2008, to collect enough signatures to get the measures on the November 2008 general election ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment would need signatures of 77,468 registered voters. The initiated act would need 61,974 signatures.

Jerry Cox, director of the Family Council, said Thursday that all concerns raised by the attorney general have been addressed.

“I believe we’ve done everything the attorney general asked to do,” he said.

One problem McDaniel raised in rejecting the original proposal was in the “findings” section of the proposal where it said cohabitation outside marriage created a home environment associated with “increased risks of domestic violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, instability and poverty.”

Cox said the entire “findings” section was removed from the latest proposal and replaced with a one-sentence policy statement.

The policy statement reads: “The policy of the state is to favor marriage as defined by the constitution and laws of this state over unmarried cohabitation with regard to adoption and foster care.”

“We put in a policy statement to serve as a guide for the people who are making the rules and regulations with regard to foster care or adoption,” Cox said, adding that the statement would not prohibit single parents from being foster parents or adopting.

“But, when people are making rules, I believe this policy statement at least gives them direction,” he said.


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Postby Marina » Sat Mar 29, 2008 11:27 am

. ... brief5.txt

Reader shares thoughts on foster care

Over half a million children living in the United States are in foster care. More than 100,000 of these children are waiting to be adopted. 236,775 of these children were housed in non-relative foster homes, 124,153 children were housed at relative home placements and 94,650 children were cared for in institutions or group homes.

In Arkansas, a proposed bill recently surfaced, Senate Bill 959, which restricted foster parenting and adopting to only married heterosexual couples. This unfairly targets gay and lesbians as well as heterosexual cohabitating couples, many of whom are interested in becoming foster parents and adopting. In Arkansas alone, 3,253 children are in foster care. In 2004, there were only 1,076 licensed foster homes in the state of Arkansas, and 999 of these children were awaiting adoption. This means that the biological parents' rights had been permanently terminated. However, only 316 of these children were legally adopted. These statistics show that there is a need for families and individuals that are willing to become foster or adoptive parents.

The Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services currently has a policy prohibiting the placement of children in homes with individuals cohabitating with a sexual partner, whether same sex or opposite sex. Senate Bill 959 would make placement of children in cohabitating households illegal, not only for DCFS but also for private adoption agencies as well.

It is estimated that two million gay, lesbian, bisexual and cohabitating parents have considered adopting. If these homes were open for legal placement for foster children, it would greatly reduce the strain on the current foster care system. Several states, including California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Vermont, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, have not only rejected a ban excluding cohabitating couples from becoming foster and adoptive parents, but have passed policy explicitly or implicitly stating that sexual orientation cannot be a basis for determining placement of children.

A state wide ban, prohibiting cohabitating couples as well as gay, lesbian and bisexual couples from becoming foster and adoptive parents could cost anywhere from $100,000 to $27 million. Senate Bill 959 is not currently on any agenda awaiting voting, but this is a common discussion and debate topic among policy makers. The community needs to be aware of the possible repercussions of passing this bill or one similar to it. Children in foster care need homes where people are willing to take on the responsibility of not only physically caring for them but also giving them the much needed love and support that they are so often deprived.

Statistics have consistently shown that children who are raised by cohabitating couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, are just as well adjusted and healthy as those raised in families consisting of married heterosexual parents.

When considering foster and adoptive placement for children, the wellbeing of the child must first be considered. The sexual preference of the parents should not be a deciding factor. Cohabitating couples as well as gay and lesbian individuals and couples are as capable for caring for children as married parents. Banning these individuals from becoming legal foster and adoptive parents would not only cost the people of the state of Arkansas money, but would prevent this wealth of potential caring families from ever being able to provide these children with a stable, loving home that they desperately need.


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Postby Marina » Thu Oct 09, 2008 5:54 pm ... ster_ban_3

Ark. plans to drop unmarried foster parent ban

By ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writer
Thu Oct 9, 5:59 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas plans to reverse course and allow unmarried or same-sex couples to take on foster children on a case-by-case basis, even as voters prepare to decide the issue in November, the state Department of Human Services said Thursday.


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Postby Marina » Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:24 pm ... 87b&rss=59

Sexual-Abuse Complaints Interrupt Foster-Child Abuse Hearing in Arkansas

Reported by: AP Newswire
Email: [email protected]
Last Update: 9/17 8:03 pm

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) -- A legislative hearing on foster-child abuse was interrupted briefly today after a committee gave out an investigative file that detailed sexual-abuse complaints against a foster parent and the state assessment clearing him to take in children.

The documents pertained to Brian John Bergthold, who pleaded guilty yesterday to a sexual assault charge. He also pleaded guilty last year to producing and distributing child pornography.

An attorney for the Department of Human Services complained that the documents should not be released because they reveal confidential information.

Leaders of the Senate Committee on Children and Youth and the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs stopped the meeting to retrieve the material, which had also been distributed to visitors and reporters.

Reporters from The Associated Press, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media refused to return the packets. State agency lawyers later asked them to not disclose information about the accusers. Associated Press policy is to not identify victims of sexual crimes.

The committee later distributed the packet with information, like Social Security numbers, blacked out. The assessment on whether Bergthold should be a foster parent was nearly entirely blacked out.

The unredacted report said, QUOTE: "Brian wants to be a foster parent because he feels led by God to do so. He feels has the abilities, both personal and financial, and the space."

It went on to say: "He says that he has been blessed and wants to share those blessings with others. He is open to either gender but feels that based on his experience, boys would be better."

Bergthold passed several criminal background checks to become a foster parent in Arkansas. According to police, he was a foster parent in Arkansas for two years, keeping about 30 boys between the ages of 9 and 17 over the period.

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Postby Marina » Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:47 pm

Arkansas documents detail abuse claims on foster father

by The Associated Press

Published: Sep 17, 2008 at 5:20 PM CDT

Story Updated: Sep 17, 2008 at 5:20 PM CDT
By Gene Hartley

CONWAY, Ark. -- An assessment shows a foster parent from Bella Vista who recently admitted having sexual contact with boys placed in his care and filming the incidents told a state review team that he was "led by God" to open his home to children.
The state Department of Human Services placed about 30 boys in Brian Bergthold's home over two years. Bergthold pleaded guilty on Tuesday for sexual assault. He also pleaded guilty last year for crimes involving child pornography, and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

Legislators are reviewing allegations of abuse within the state's foster care system. After Bergthold's assessment was released at a hearing on Wednesday, DHS demanded the copies be returned to them, saying some information was confidential.

A redacted version released later included no details about how Bergthold was approved as a foster parent. The unredacted version, kept by news reporters who refused to return the originals, did not name Bergthold but said he wanted to be a foster parent because he felt led by God to do so.

The unredacted version says Bergthold said he had the abilities, both personal and financial, and the space to care for the children, and that he preferred to care for boys.

Reporters from The Associated Press, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media refused to return the original packets. State agency lawyers later asked them to not disclose information about the children. The Associated Press’ policy is to not identify victims of sexual crimes.

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Postby Marina » Sat Oct 25, 2008 7:12 pm ... foster.txt

Family Council: DHS Policy Change Suspicious
Last updated Friday, October 10, 2008 8:59 PM CDT in News
By John Lyon

LITTLE ROCK -- State lawmakers should investigate what led to the Department of Human Services' decision to drop a policy banning unmarried couples living together from serving as foster parents, the conservative Family Council said Friday.

Department officials announced the decision to discontinue the policy on Thursday, one week after holding a hearing to take public comments on the policy. Officials said previously they would accept public comments through Oct. 18.

"I would like for the Arkansas Legislature to look into this because, for one thing, the Department of Human Services appears to have ignored, I'll call it due process, by saying, 'We've heard enough, we don't care if the public-comment period runs for another nine days, we've heard all we need to hear,'" Family Council Executive Director Jerry Cox said at a news conference.

The Family Council is campaigning for an initiated act that would put into law a ban on adoption and foster parenting by unwed couples. Family Council Vice President John Thomas said opponents of that measure appeared to play a large role in the department's decision to discontinue a similar policy less than a month before the election.

"This (Oct. 2) public hearing wasn't even posted on the DHS Web site where they post information on scheduled hearings," Thomas said. "We only happened to find out about it less than 24 hours before last Thursday's public hearing was to take place, yet the room was full of those who were against this DHS policy. They obviously had plenty of notice."

Eighteen people spoke at the hearing in opposition to the policy, while only Thomas and one other person, Dr. Roger Hiatt Jr., spoke in support of it. Cox called the hearing "a sham."

A few days after the hearing, Pat Page, director of the department's Division of Children and Family Services, announced she was retiring early.

Page "was replaced by the spouse of the director of one of the leading groups calling for the discontinuation of the ban," Thomas said, referring to the division's new interim director, Janie Huddleston, wife of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families Executive Director Rich Huddleston.

Arkansas Advocates is the group that requested the Oct. 2 hearing.

"None of this passes the smell test," Thomas said.

Department spokeswoman Julie Munsell said the agency had already been accepting comments for more than the required minimum of 30 days before the Oct. 2 hearing was held. She said the agency will propose a new policy stating that "placement decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis in the best interest of the child" and will accept comments on that policy for at least 30 days.

Munsell said Janie Huddleston was only one of several people who worked on the language of the new proposed policy, along with Page, Department Director John Selig and the staff of Gov. Mike Beebe.

"What needs to and what absolutely has driven the decision-making here has nothing to do with the relationships of any individuals but everything to do with what's in the best interest of children in foster care," she said.

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said in a statement Friday, "We're disappointed to hear that leaders of the Family Council are trying to confuse voters about our mission and about what their ballot measure would do to the state's children. We know that citizens will vote no on Act 1 after hearing what Gov. Beebe and DHS leaders said yesterday: Every foster child deserves to find a family that best meets their needs."

Cox said the actions of the department demonstrate the need for voters to approve Initiated Act 1, which he said seeks to blunt a "gay agenda" at work in the state.

"The people of Arkansas need to take this out of the hands of the gay special-interest groups and out of the hands of the bureaucrats who are playing along with them," he said.

Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said serving the best interests of children in state custody has driven the administration's decision-making in the matter.

"The only agenda that the governor and DHS have when it comes to foster children is finding enough good, qualified homes where they can live," DeCample said. "The timing on this was solely a matter of wanting to get things moving as soon as possible."

The department has been under heightened scrutiny following the deaths this summer of four foster children and the convictions of a department-approved foster parent on state and federal charges of abusing children in his care.

The agency has made a number of administrative changes as part of a top-to-bottom review of the state foster care system.

"A big component of that has to be finding more homes" for foster children, DeCample said. "A blanket policy barring some people from even getting into the process is not going to help that problem."

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Postby Marina » Sat Nov 08, 2008 7:51 pm ... ryid=75059

DHS Closing 13 Foster Homes

Posted By: Mike Duncan

Under a new campaign for accountability, the state Department of Human Services found more than a dozen foster homes that now will no longer be allowed to care for children.

"I'd probably be somewhere in jail or on the streets somewhere, "Andre McGowan has been in the foster care system since he was 14. He says he has been lucky.

He's had 6 different foster homes. But each was a good family. And the latest to care for him, he still considers his family.

McGowan says, "I still go home now on Christmas, Thanksgiving and all that stuff. Even if I just want to get away I can go home and just hang out with them.

But the state is learning not all its foster homes are as welcoming.

DHS spokesperson Julie Munsell says, "They're a range from what we'd call neglect, which is just not taking the best care of children, to serious abuse. So they pretty much run the gamut.

"They're all over the state they're not necessarily located in one particular area or one particular county," Munsell is talking about the 13 foster homes the state shut down.

Of the thirteen, married couples ran eight, single women, the other five. In some cases, not only were the foster children removed from the home, but also the biological children.

Munsell says, "What makes the system better is having people who want to successfully contribute to the development of children in need, who have their heart and their soul in it, who want to do the right thing.

"And our job as skilled trained professionals is to identify those families. And the other, either weed them out in the screening process or make sure that we catch them through the monitoring process," Munsell adds.

And foster families can learn a lot from the kids under their care.

Andre McGowan says, "If you see the kid as a human being and involve them on who becomes their parent or their foster parent, then you have a great match.

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Postby Marina » Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:06 pm

Ark. passes ban on unmarried adoptions

Posted on Nov 5, 2008 | by Erin Roach
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)--Voters in Arkansas approved a measure preventing adoptive or foster care children from being placed in homes with couples who live together out of wedlock, whether those adults are heterosexual or homosexual. Nearly 57 percent of voters supported the ban.


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Postby kelz03103 » Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:57 pm

I agree with it , in an odd way I have nothing against cohabitants or gays , I do think in an odd way that maybe if we cut down the number of homes eligible to adopt , maybe they will take LESS kids , but probably not. These people have gone about this in the wrong way we do not need more or less homes for children , we need more and more children left alone , put back with their families , or left within their own families. I am working on a petition in my state and my goal is to have the entire child protection act amended , re - written or scrapped all together , it's a piece of crap, and this is where the agencies get their power to steal peoples children.I t violates almost every constitutional right , including but not limited to , illegal search and seizure (secretly holding and questioning children) without councel, violations of privacy and security , and life and liberty, and my favorite , I believe that stealing someones child is a form of cruel and UNUSUAL punishment , and without (in many cases) being charged with a CRIME.

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Postby Marina » Fri Nov 28, 2008 9:01 pm ... 49136.html

Court won't rehear appeal by mother accused of practicing Wicca
Thursday, Nov 20, 2008

Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK - The state Court of Appeals on Wednesday declined to reconsider its decision in a child custody case in which the child's father claimed the child's mother practiced Wicca.

Two judges dissented, accusing the majority of embarking on "a grand inquisition."

In a per curiam order, the appeals court denied without explanation a petition for rehearing filed by the child's mother, who claimed a Chicot County circuit judge's decision granting custody of her child to the child's father was based in large part on the judge's finding that the mother was involved in a "cult."

Wicca, also known as witchcraft, is a religion that "draws its strength from the diversity of nature itself," according to the Web site of the Church and School of Wicca. It should not be confused with Satanism, according to the organization.

The Court of Appeals upheld the circuit judge's decision in a 4-2 ruling last month. Judges Sarah Heffley and Josephine Linker Hart, who voted in the minority, said Wednesday they would have granted the petition for rehearing.

In a dissenting opinion Wednesday, Hart said Circuit Judge Robert Vittitow interrogated the mother about the practice of Wicca and made an explicit finding that she was practicing Wicca in his written order.

Even if the mother did practice Wicca, "there is absolutely no evidence that practicing Wicca was in an way harmful to the child," Hart wrote.

Hart also accused the child's father of making "vile and slanderous" statements in his response to the petition for rehearing, including comments that "Mormons practice incest and child marriages," and that "this court is committing a grievous error if it allows cult activities to be protected."

"I lament that this court has accepted the appellee's invitation to embark on a grand inquisition," Hart wrote.

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Postby Marina » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:03 pm

State Child Welfare Agency to Make Surprise Visits

posted 12/18/08 3:40 pm

Little Rock - Arkansas' child welfare agency will begin unannounced visits to more than 1,100 foster homes next year and push lawmakers to allow more disclosure of abuse and neglect cases.

Officials with the state Division of Children and Family Services announced the changes as the agency faces more criticism over its handling of abuse and neglect cases. The division already was under fire over the deaths of four children in foster care this year.

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families released a report Thursday that added more criticism of the agency, saying that children at risk of abuse or neglect are waiting longer for help from state officials.

Division Interim Director Janie Huddleston says the agency is taking steps to address the concerns. She says that, starting July 1st, caseworkers will begin making unannounced visits to foster homes around the state to make sure the homes meet child-welfare standards. The visits will be more extensive than the scheduled meetings that caseworkers have with some homes.

In addition, the agency will ask lawmakers to consider changes to state law to allow more information to be released about child abuse and neglect investigations.

Under the proposed changes, the division could release information such as the age and gender of the victim, the date of the abuse, details of the allegation and the placement of the child at the time of the incident. In death investigations, the division would also be allowed to release the name of the child.

Regarding the four deaths this year, state officials have said that two involved suspected maltreatment, while the agency didn't suspect abuse or neglect in the other two deaths. At least one of the four deaths led to a criminal case.

Eleisha Sykes of Eudora was charged with battery in the May 28th death of her 22-month-old foster daughter, Keyundra Smith. The child suffered head trauma, brain damage, cuts, bruises and welts.

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Postby Marina » Fri Dec 19, 2008 8:46 pm ... cid=167711

Grandparents Seek Visitation with Grandkids

Reported by: Pete Thompson, KARK 4 News
Friday, Dec 19, 2008 @05:39pm CST

A group of Arkansas grandparents met at the Capitol today to discuss a difficult issue with state lawmakers.

Many of the grandparents can no longer see their grandchildren because their own children have been denied parental rights in various cases.

State employees were on hand to let them know there are courses of action they can take to get visitation.

We talk to one grandmother who says she even had temporary custody of her grandchild for six months, but lost all contact through DHS when her daughter was denied parental rights.

"All I want is to be able to see her on occasion,” said Jacklyn Adcock, “with Christmas coming up I can't even buy her a Christmas present... I don't know where she is and that's pretty tough."

Many of the grandparents who attended were told specifically how to file a petition for visitation.

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