Articles on placements decisions

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Postby Marina » Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:44 pm ... 311641.txt

Woman gets prison for 1987 robbery

Wednesday, December 3, 2008 12:27 AM EST
By Tracey Read
[email protected]

Carolyn Arthur is now a loving foster mother and wife who adopted two special needs children.

But on Tuesday, the 60-year-old Mentor woman was sentenced to three to 15 years in prison for a crime she committed decades ago.


“Once in a career you come across something to this extent,” said Sherwood. “This is a very unusual case. For her to actually get a Social Security number, change her name and change her birth date ...”

Arthur’s attorney, James Loiacano, described his client as a good person who made a bad mistake.

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Postby Marina » Sat Dec 13, 2008 6:55 pm ... c&psp=news

Family Says DCF Mistake Keeping Siblings Apart

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -- Eyewitness News discovered a mistake could force a brother and sister to grow up in different homes even though there's a family who wants to take them both in. The family says the Department of Children and Families flat out dropped the ball.

The family says DCF needs to fix the problem and place the child with them, but the adoption agency who works for DCF isn't sure what happened. Siblings are supposed to stay together, but workers didn't know the little boy had a sister so he was placed in foster care.

Ashley Hernandez, 4, and 15-month-old Terrance Miller are brother and sister. They live in two separate homes and, just recently, Ashley's adopted mother, Darelys Hernandez found out DCF placed the brother in a foster home and never told her.

"They made a mistake. They screwed up," Hernandez told Eyewitness News.

Family Services of Metro Orlando subcontracts for DCF and, according to state law and DCF policy, the agency tries to keep siblings together. The CEO said, if the agency had known Ashley existed, they most likely would have placed Terrance with his sister.

"We don't know why or what happened going back over a year. We don't know the answer," CEO Greg Kurth said.

Once DCF found out about Ashley they tried to coordinate visitation, but that's when Terrance's court-appointed guardian stepped in and stopped the meeting.

"The guardian ad litem (a party appointed by a court to act in a lawsuit on behalf of another party) did make an emergency hearing to stop visitation," Kurth said. "It was unprecedented to have a court order block sibling visitation."

In the meantime, Ashley's and Terrance's biological mother is pregnant with a third child. Hernandez is worried the three children will live separate lives. She wants to take them all, but the wheels are already in motion for Terrance to be adopted by the current foster parents.

"They need to be together. It's not fair," Hernandez said.

Eyewitness News asked guardian ad litem why the two children are being kept apart but they had no comment.

DCF said now both families have an equal chance to adopt the little boy. A judge will rule on it January 13.

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Postby Marina » Sat Dec 13, 2008 7:41 pm ... a9c09.html

Investigators: Grandparents passed over in favor of foster care

03:08 PM PST on Thursday, December 11, 2008


ENUMCLAW, Wash. - From day one Doug and AnneMarie Stuth of Enumclaw adored the new baby in their home.

"It was a very exciting time. She was the center of our world," AnneMarie Stuth said.

But the Stuths aren't the baby girl’s parents; they're her grandparents. Their troubled teenage daughter had her at 16. Then she relied on her parents to help raise the baby.

"I was the first one to hold my granddaughter and I was the first one to kiss her,” Doug Stuth said. “So yeah, we have a tight bond."

When the baby was 9 months old, things unraveled. The teen mom moved out of her parents' home along with the baby. While living away from the Stuths, the baby lost weight. A doctor's appointment led to a call to Child Protective Services. The doctor reported the teenage mother let her child get dangerously thin.

“It’s like your whole world comes crashing down,” AnneMarie Stuth said.

Enumclaw police put the child in protective custody with the Stuths right away.

The grandparents raised the child for months and received glowing reports. One officer of the court wrote: "She's fortunate to have her grandparents as a safety net."

"Our granddaughter always came first,” Doug Stuth said. “She’s a little baby. She needs someone to protect her and take care of her and that’s what we did.”

Reuniting the baby with her mother was the goal. Caseworkers placed the two in transitional housing for young moms. That didn't work. The teenager got kicked out of the programs and lost her daughter again.

Later this month a judge is expected to rule on the fate of Doug and AnneMarie Stuth's grandchild, pictured here. She is now 3 years old.
This time instead of going back to grandma and grandpa, social workers put the baby in foster care. There was a court order saying the Stuths weren't a placement option. State workers and the child's court advocate had submitted negative reports about them to a judge, saying living with the grandparents wouldn't be good for the baby.

The Stuths were devastated. The child’s daycare providers gave them heartbreaking reports.

“(They tell me) that she cries for me," Doug Stuth said. “You have no idea (how hard it is)."

Why didn't the baby go back to the grandparents? Most people would think there must be something very wrong with them, such as reports of abuse or neglect. Perhaps they have criminal records, drug problems, or a history of unemployment? None of those things are true.

So we dug a little deeper. The King 5 Investigators looked at hundreds of documents written by people making decisions on the case.

A court-appointed advocate for the baby wrote the Stuths were selfish, hyper-critical, and were derailing their daughter's parenting efforts. One example cited over and over in legal papers: They gave the child a pacifier, or binky, which was against the young mom's wishes.

"You would not believe how many times that darn binky was brought up in court and in paperwork over the stupid binky!" AnneMarie Stuth said.

A social worker also wrote the grandparents refused to financially support their daughter. But we have copies of dozens of cancelled checks which show the Stuths were giving their daughter money.

They were also accused of being unwilling to drive the child for visits with the mom. But mileage reimbursement records show the state was paying the grandparents for driving hundreds of miles a month so the child could see her mother.

"I've never seen people so hell bent on destroying one family,” AnneMarie said.

Washington law is clear: If a child can't be with parents, relatives must be considered before foster care.

Doug and AnneMarie Stuth were devastated when state workers put their grandchild in foster care. They wanted to care for their granddaughter themselves.
"The department (DSHS) is making greater efforts, absolutely," State Family and Children Ombudsman Mary Meinig said.

Meinig’s office investigates dozens of child custody complaints from relatives every year. She says DSHS is doing better at placing kids with relatives, but that state workers are not always following the law.

"When you have children who are not at risk and they are bonded to their relative, you want them there,” Meinig said. “You don't want them re-traumatized by removing from relatives."

The Stuths think they were flagged as trouble-makers because they complained, a lot, about what was happening. They even called their senator, Pam Roach, who rattled cages in Olympia over the case.

"I'm trying to right something that I think is wrong," Sen. Roach said. “I think it’s important that the state realize that it’s doing something very damaging to this little girl.”

Roach lobbied to get the Stuths visits with their granddaughter. They’d been told by the child’s court advocate there was a court order forbidding them to see her. But we’ve found there was no such court order. They should have been allowed to see her all along.

"It's heartbreaking why any state would want to step between a family tie like that and try to sever that bond," AnneMarie said.

A judge ordered there should be visits and last month KING 5 was there for one of them. The child, now 3 years old, lit up upon seeing her grandparents in the parking lot where the supervised visit was to take place.

"To see the excitement in her eyes and know how we feel inside,” AnneMarie said, “there's no way to put that into words."

DSHS officials couldn’t answer specific questions about the Stuths' situation because it’s part of an ongoing case. But speaking in general terms, Cheryl Stephani, who heads up all child welfare programs at DSHS, told us: “The first requirement is that any placement be in the best interest of the child.”

Stephani also says custody cases are never as simple as they appear.

"It's easy to sit back and say, oh, I know exactly how that should have gone,” Stephani said. “But when you're in the midst of it, there really are a lot of folks who have the best interests of the child at heart but there are a lot of different viewpoints."

One high ranking DSHS official thinks the case hasn’t been handled correctly. We've obtained an internal state e-mail where the administrator writes: “If we don't (place the child) with a relative there will be a lot of explaining to do."

Later this month a judge is expected to rule on the fate of the little girl. The young mother is fighting to get her back, and the grandparents support that goal. State social workers have pushed to have her adopted by the foster mother, saying the little girl is very bonded to her now.

During this turbulent year and a half, the Stuths have left their granddaughter's room untouched in their Enumclaw home. Her clothes, toys and blankets sit empty in a pretty pink room. It’s hard to go in, so they usually have the door closed.

"You look at different things and you remember, where you got it, where you were, how much she loved it," said AnneMarie. "It's a piece of your heart and life gone."


To read why we did this story, read Susannah Frame's blog.

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Postby Marina » Tue Dec 30, 2008 8:12 pm ... _headlines

Mother files legal appeal to have her child adopted

By Rachel McGrath
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The mother of a baby girl at the center of a custody battle between Ventura County and the couple who planned to adopt her has taken the fight to a court of appeal.

Misty Lopez of Oxnard, through her county-appointed attorney, on Thursday petitioned the Court of Appeal in Ventura to dismiss the dependency case filed by the county's Children and Family Services, which took the baby into protective custody shortly after she was born in late September.

The legal document also asks that all decisions stemming from the dependency case be erased, including a ruling last month that found in favor of the county's actions.

On Nov. 19, a judge at the county juvenile court backed the actions of Children and Family Services in overruling the wishes of the birth mother and refusing to recognize the legality of a petition filed by Luke and Jozette Jacobellis of Newbury Park to independently adopt Lopez's baby.

"We have laws in our state that allow independent adoption," said Janie Beach, the attorney representing Lopez, 28, in the independent adoption process. "The family was a good placement for this child."

In a separate move, Michelle Erich, the adoption attorney for the Jacobellises, on Thursday filed a request with the county juvenile court to give the couple "de facto parent" status since Lopez had named them to care for her newborn infant.

Lopez, the Jacobellises and their attorneys say the county violated Lopez's parental rights in refusing to recognize her decision to implement an independent adoption plan for her child.

"Something needs to be done because they're not following the law," said Jozette Jacobellis, the mother of an adopted 3-year-old boy. "Everything legally was done, but it's like we don't exist, and I don't think that's right."

In the de facto parent request, Erich cites a 1993 case — known as "In Re Vanessa P" — in which a judge in Orange County ruled that if a birth mother appointed someone else as the custodian of her child while her parental rights were intact, that person is the de facto parent.

"The birth mother had signed a ‘consent to adoption' before the social services took the child from the hospital," said Erich. "Holding a dependency hearing against the mother is a non-event when the mother has already transferred custodial rights."

The county has successfully argued to date that it took the baby and filed a dependency case because the child would be in danger if returned to Lopez, who had failed a toxicology screening. Social workers placed the girl, who is now 3 months old, with county-approved foster parents.

"The release of the baby was to us, not to her (Lopez), so she should never have been investigated. She shouldn't even have been questioned," said Jacobellis.

The county of Ventura has 15 days to respond to the writ filed with the Court of Appeal. No hearing date has been set by the juvenile court regarding the de facto parent request.

RayNelle Williams, senior manager at Children and Family Services, had no comment regarding the filing with the Court of Appeal. "We don't comment on pending court cases," Williams said.

On Dec. 10, the Jacobellises and Erich met with county Supervisor Linda Parks to discuss the issues raised by the actions of the Human Services Agency, of which Children and Family Services is a part.

In an e-mail to The Star on Monday, Parks said that, as a result of an internal review of operating procedures, several guidelines had been agreed on with the head of the Human Services Agency and Children and Family Services.

Parks said that she expects the agencies to establish clear and enforceable protocols that will result in better public service, to emphasize to the staff the need to be more considerate in sensitive situations and to communicate more effectively and clearly with those who come under their jurisdiction.

Williams declined to comment on the internal review of procedures.

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Postby Marina » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:33 pm

Fate of shaken 5-month-old divides Ohio family

By WSBT News1

Story Created: Mar 2, 2009 at 8:02 AM EDT

Story Updated: Mar 2, 2009 at 8:02 AM EDT

CINCINNATI (AP) — The case of a shaken infant on life support in Ohio has left relatives divided and led to the arrest of his father and the resignation of a social worker.

Relatives of 5-month-old Savon Edwards say he can't recover and is kept alive only by buzzing machines at a Cincinnati hospital.

"If anything, we have to pray for him to stop breathing," said Jerry Gries, his maternal grandmother. Other relatives share her view, but it's not their call to make.

But it's not their call. Savon's fate is only in his mother's hands, and she refuses to take him off the machines.

"He's all right," Tammy Gries said last week. "He's doing better and I don't want to talk about it."

The infant has been at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center since December, when police say Ricky Edwards shook his son so violently that the baby stopped breathing and his skull filled with blood. Edwards, 30, is in jail on $100,000 bond for charges of felonious assault and endangering a child, and he could face more severe charges if the infant dies.

Family members say 35-year-old Tammy Gries suffers from emotional problems and is denying reality by keeping her son on life support.

Her first four children were taken away when she couldn't care for them, and three now live with Jerry Gries. The fourth was put in foster care and then adopted, a path relatives had urged social workers to follow for Savon.

Relatives also wonder why social workers placed the infant with a great-aunt, in the same home as his father, who had a long criminal record and a domestic violence conviction.

"I think there was such a concern with the mom that the dad was a secondary consideration," said Brian Gregg, a Job and Family Services spokesman.

Officials from Hamilton County Job and Family Services say the infant should have been monitored more closely. The social worker on the case has resigned. A child welfare investigator was fired, and two managers also may be punished.

A disciplinary hearing concluded they failed to properly oversee the infant's safety, Gregg said.

Sgt. Bob Liston, a Cincinnati homicide detective who arrested Ricky Edwards last month, says there were no obvious signs that the baby had been neglected.

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Postby Marina » Sat Apr 25, 2009 12:45 pm ... 7.html?npc

Mom of girl killed in Mexico rallies for new DHS laws

06:41 PM PDT on Monday, April 20, 2009


DHS protest SALEM, Ore. -- Tausha Cram walks alone in front of the Oregon State Capitol, carrying a picture of her little girl, “Adrianna.”

Five years ago, the child was beaten to death after being placed in Mexican foster care.

“That was my baby, “ Said Cram, who spearheaded a rally in Salem. “The lack of accountability makes me sick.”

Her anger is with the Oregon Department of Human Services, who placed her daughter “Adrianna” in the care of her father’s relatives in Mexico.

She signed off on it because she was a Methamphetamine user and couldn’t care for her child. But she claims she warned authorities that her husband’s family was abusive.

Months later, her child was dead.

“I just knew it, “ Said Cram. “I just didn’t feel her (Adrianna’s) presence. I didn’t feel my baby.”

No one denies the horrific nature of Cram’s loss.

“It’s a tragedy that has sent shockwaves through this agency, “ Said Gene Evans, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Human Services. “The DHS did not receive any notification that anything was wrong until the child’s death.”

Cram feels that no Oregon foster child should be placed in Mexico or any other country where state authorities can’t monitor the situation.

“The abuse was reported to authorities many times and nobody responded. Yet, we still want to count on Mexican authorities which is disgusting. If they didn’t save my child, are they are going to save anyone else’s?”

Two bills are going through the legislature, Senate Bill 10 and House Bill 3471. One of the bills would give the US State department authority to help monitor foster care in Mexico and other countries.

“It would allow Oregon to have more authority through the U. S. State Department to keep kids safe.”, Said Evans.

Cram opposes both bills.

Every day, she has to live with the fact that she couldn’t protect her child. Finally, last year she had a chance to say goodbye. Adrianna’s body was brought back to Oregon, where she was laid to rest.

“I got to lie down next to her and say goodbye.”

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Postby Marina » Sun May 10, 2009 2:26 pm

Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2009
Issac Bailey |

Foster care decision in kids' interest?

Kathie Good has been fighting for five months to regain temporary custody of her grandkids.

Her voluntary revelation about a 24-year-old incident has become the latest hurdle in her quest and may be one too big to overcome. That she refused to believe her daughter hurt her grandson was one of the first hurdles.

The kids were turned over to the S.C. Department of Social Services in November after doctors were concerned about what they noticed during repeated doctor visits. According to court documents, doctors found bruises on the back and elsewhere of Good's infant grandson, broken blood vessels in his eyes and swelling on his penis.

A specialist at the Medical University of South Carolina concurred with the concerns of the doctors.

Good's son-in-law was charged with abuse.

DSS suspects Good's daughter of neglect.

Good, who had temporary custody, believed the court rulings allowed supervised contact between her daughter and grandkids, which is why she let her daughter visit. DSS and the guardian ad litem said it wasn't allowed.

This isn't about suspected child abuse. That case will play itself out in the courts. The parents will be found guilty or not guilty in due time. This is about a grandmother and her grandkids, foster care and family placement, and the hurdles involved.

Good told officials that almost a quarter century ago she caught her ex-husband - who is no longer involved in her life - performing inappropriate acts in front of her then-5-year-old daughter.

She confronted him and called an abuse hot line.

"Within weeks we were packed up and headed back to Michigan," Good said. "I was not going to let [our kids] see him unless other people were around. Maybe I should have turned him in. But for them to use that against me now, it hurts."

Officials said they are doing what they are required to do, thinking about the best interest of the children.

"The Horry County staff hoped that placement with these grandparents would work out," said Virginia Williamson, DSS spokeswoman.

The guardian ad litem also has big reservations about the placement, meaning it likely won't happen despite what they all know: Kids do better with relatives than in foster care. It's been confirmed by research and is a DSS preference.

"DSS remains committed to the policy of finding relatives so children can be diverted from foster care," Williamson said. "Relatives must be evaluated carefully for whether placement would be in the children's best interests. Sometimes, considering all

circumstances, a relative's home does not turn out to be suitable."

Good said her grandkids no longer ask to go home with her after their hour-long supervised visits. They used to beg, now they seem withdrawn, she said.

I don't know how much influence the recent punishment of several DSS workers in other parts of the state in the deaths of five children has had on this case.

Such high-profile cases always worry Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

"Every frontline caseworker got the message: I can take away hundreds of children needlessly, traumatize them forever, and quite likely expose at least a quarter of them to abuse in foster care, and while the children will suffer terribly, my job is safe. Let something go wrong if I leave a child in his own home and my career is over," he said in a letter discussing "foster care panic," or a "huge sudden surge in removals of children from their homes."

I don't know what other legitimate reservations DSS and the guardian ad litem's offices have. There could be other reasons. They can't say much because of privacy constraints.

Their jobs are complicated. A wrong decision could harm a child, which is why they aren't made lightly.

State child welfare officials must consider a child's physical well-being. But their mental health shouldn't be ignored.

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Postby Marina » Tue May 12, 2009 3:47 pm ... 1008/rss01

Judge takes teen from state's care

Foster parents granted custody

By Deborah Yetter • [email protected] • May 11, 2009

In an unusual rebuke to state child welfare workers, a Jefferson County family court judge has removed a teenage girl from their care and granted temporary custody to her foster parents.

Circuit Judge Stephen George last month took that step, over the objections of state workers, after the workers reneged on an agreement to let the 17-year-old remain in the Bullitt County foster home where she had been thriving, said the girl's lawyer, Christopher Harrell.

"I think it's atrocious," said Harrell, who said the state previously had agreed not to move the girl from the foster home. "

The girl is not being identified because she is a minor and has experienced abuse.

George's actions remove the state's authority over the teen.

Jim Grace, head of Kentucky's child protection services, said in an interview that he can't comment on the specifics of the case because of confidentiality laws. But he said that, in general, state social service officials try to return children to their family homes when it's in their best interest.

Yet while family court proceedings involving abused and neglected children by law are confidential, Grace acknowledged the judge's decision to transfer custody from the state to the foster parents "may be unusual." And he said state officials will investigate the matter and see if further action is warranted.

Growing outrage
The girl, Harrell and others involved in her case agreed to talk to a reporter about the case because, they said, they are outraged by how state workers handled it, starting with the decision earlier this year to try to send the teen back to the troubled home they removed her from last year.

The girl said she told her social worker she was afraid to return home and wanted to stay in her foster home, where she was happy, treated well and improving in school.

"She said that wasn't an option," the girl said in a recent interview at her lawyer's office. "It was kind of like her way or no way."

The girl contacted a reporter after reading a Courier-Journal story in January about a youth in Oldham County who said he was being forced out of foster care just a few months before his high school graduation.

(2 of 4)

She told the newspaper she was experiencing similar treatment and noted that the move would have disrupted her education. Once failing in school, she said she's now makes As and Bs, has made up a year's worth of missed school credits, has joined the ROTC, is on track to graduate on time and is considering college or the military.

And none of the problems at her family home, including fighting and physical violence, have been resolved, she said.

She said her goal was to stay in foster care through age 18, then seek independent living from the state, which would provide continued support and help pay for college. Her first social worker encouraged her to work toward that goal by making good grades and following the rules in her foster home.

But she said a different social worker assigned to her case last fall told her the state's goal was for her to return to her family home, from which she was removed in April 2008.

"I don't think that makes sense," the girl said in the interview.

Foster parents step in
Harrell, appointed as a guardian ad litem to represent the girl's interests, said the foster parents also are unhappy with the state's proposed actions. They consider the girl part of their family and have agreed to take temporary custody even though they lose foster care payments from the state.

That family has declined to comment, saying foster care officials have warned them not to speak publicly about the case because of confidentiality rules.

The girl said she believes her case is similar to that of Julian Tweedy, 18, of Oldham County, whose situation was profiled Jan. 23 in The Courier-Journal. In that case, too, the foster parents agreed to keep him at their own expense while the matter was pending.

After the newspaper report, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services reversed its decision and allowed Tweedy to remain in foster care.

Case spurs criticism
Children's advocates harshly criticized the state for its actions in that case, and advocates for the girl say some of the state's actions in her case defy explanation.

(3 of 4)

"They're supposed to be there to help and protect kids," said Lisa Butler, a child advocate with the Jefferson County juvenile public defender's office who is assisting in the girl's case. "The whole thing is so broken."

The girl said she was frustrated by her state social worker, who she said refused to listen to her and threatened her and her foster parents with contempt of court if they didn't follow her directions. (Only judges can hold people in contempt of court, Grace said.)

The girl said when she objected to returning home, the worker said, "Life's not fair," the same thing Tweedy said his worker told him. Records provided by their lawyers, show both teens had the same social worker, Jacki Schultz, and the same social service supervisor, Billy Jenkins, managing their cases.

Neither Jenkins nor Schultz could be reached for comment and Grace, their supervisor, said they would not be available for an interview because of state confidentiality rules.

Tweedy and the girl, in separate interviews, each said they tried to tell Schultz they encountered fighting and violence on their occasional visits to their family homes.

Tweedy said Schultz told him that because he had turned 18, he was an adult and should handle it. The girl said Schultz told her she needed to try harder to get along with her family.

The most recent meeting over the girl's fate devolved into a shouting match between Harrell and Jenkins, said Harrell, who attended the April 8 session along with his client, Schultz, Jenkins, Butler, the foster parents and the girl's parents.

At one point case, Jenkins became so upset the girl offered him her "squeeze bunny," a spongy toy a therapist gave her to squeeze when she found herself getting tense, she said, a detail confirmed by Harrell and Butler.

"I said, here, I think you need this," she said.

Told of that allegation, Grace said that while he couldn't speak about this case, "we would never want that to happen."

Girl's future
Despite the rancor, the parties eventually agreed the girl could remain in the Bullitt County foster home and finish school, Harrell said.

(4 of 4)

But when the parties got to court April 15, he said, Jenkins and Schultz announced they had changed their minds and the girl was to be transferred to a new foster home in Jefferson County, which would have forced her to change schools near the end of her junior year.

It was then that the judge ordered the girl removed from the state's custody, finding the state hadn't made reasonable efforts to ensure an appropriate outcome.

Harrell said it's a good temporary solution but doesn't resolve all the issues. For example, if the girl isn't in foster care through her 18th birthday, she can't get free tuition at a state university and she can't qualify for independent living assistance beyond age 18.

Although the judge ordered the girls' parents to pay child support to the foster parents, it's only about half the financial support the state pays for foster care. And the state immediately cut off the girl's Medicaid coverage, leaving the foster parents scrambling to find health insurance for her.

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