Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rethinking Guardianship

A free program on 'Rethinking Guardianship' for people with developmental disabilities will be from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 22 in Sebring and the same hours Jan. 23 in Highland City.

Dohn Hoyle, executive director for The Arc Michigan, will teach the program.

The program, sponsored by the Area 14 Family Care Council, is open to teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, guardians of students with developmental disabilities and others who are interested.

It will include discussion of current methodologies that may eliminate the need for guardianships.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianship Program to Be Held

Telephone Call Scams

FL - The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents of a scam in which a local elderly couple was bilked out of $3,500.

Sheriff’s officials say a 91-year-old man and his 86-year-old wife recently took a call from a person posing as their grandson claiming to be in jail.

The man then gave the phone to someone he claimed to be a jail officer, who gave the couple instructions on how to wire bail money to get their grandson out of jail. The couple wired $3,500, which they never saw again.

Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow: “The person on the other line was hysterical posing as the grandson. These people are really playing on innocent people’s fears.”

To make matters worse, the men called back a second time, telling the elderly victims the initial wire they sent did not make it through. By then, the couple had called authorities and a deputy answered the phone.

Bristow: “We were actually there and took the phone. We didn’t tell them who we were, but they hung up when we started asking questions.”

Investigators traced the call to Canada, and it is being investigating, but no arrests have been made. Detectives believe there have been other local victims of the scam.

“In a case like this, where a call originated in another country, it is rare to make an arrest. So our best chance is to get the word out for people to watch out for this. It really is a heck of a scam.

Sheriff’s detectives are asking any victims or anyone with information on the scam to call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011, ext. 2510, or Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.

Also, court officials in Manatee have issued a warning to continue watching out for what is known as the “Jury Duty Scam.”

Authorities say people across the nation have reported getting calls from people posing as court officials saying a jury summons has gone unanswered. The thieves even threaten the victim with jail time for not responding to the summons.

The caller then asks for a person’s personal information such as a Social Security number or credit card number to clear up the problem.

Of course, court officials never ask for a person’s personal information by phone and a person cannot be arrested for missing jury duty, according to a statement released by Manatee Clerk of the Circuit Court R.B. “Chips” Shore.

Shore urged anyone who receives such a call regarding jury duty to call his office to report it at (941) 749-1800.

Full Article and Source:
Phone call scams couple

Mother Charged with Abduction

Police say 10-year-old Pepper M. McCadden and 12-year-old India S. Lovelace were taken from the bus stop.

Their grandmother and legal guardian says she saw the two girls being forced into a white van by their mother, 43-year-old Jennifer Masters Westscott.

Westscott does not have custody.

Police found the children at Sterling Trace Apartments on Beaver's Mill Road.

They had to get a search warrant to enter the home because Westscott would not answer.

Police say they had to knock the door down to get inside.

The kids are alright, and headed back to grandma's house.

Westscott's been charged with abduction.

UPDATED: Amber Alert canceled for missing girls in Danville

Fighting for Custody

Neighbors in Liberty are fighting for custody of an elderly man. They say Dearl Love has dementia and was living without water, food or heat.

Now he is safe in a nursing home, but those community members say they can take better care of Dearl than his family.

They took their custody battle to the streets of Liberty.

They say they've been looking out for Dearl Love ever since they saw him walking the streets to find food three times a day. Neighbors say Dearl's sister-in-law and niece finally put him in a nursing home.

The neighbors say those women are now trying to sell his stuff without his permission. When a trucker arrived to take Dearl's things, neighbors gave him a lesson on what they call Medicaid fraud. After several minutes, he drove off empty handed.

The protestors say they will take the case to court. They say they do not want money, they just want Dearl to be happy. If they get custody, they say they will carry-out his final wishes. That includes burying him next to his mother.

We spoke with a woman claiming to be Dearl's legal guardian on the phone. Tracey Roberts said she had no comment.

Protesters: Don't Cremate Dearl

See also:
Family Accused of Neglect

Four Years For Theft

Karyn McConnell Hancock, who was once a respected attorney and Toledo City Councilman, was sentenced in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to four years in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her former clients.

Convicted in November of aggravated theft, McConnell Hancock admitted to stealing more than $624,000 from 22 clients over a period of six years. The charge carries a maximum of eight years in prison.

Full Article and Source:
Former attorney sentenced to prison

More information:
McConnell Hancock gets 4 years

See also:
Indictment: $500K to $1M Stolen

Missing Money From Estates

Missing Money Over 300K

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Devil in His Life

Mesa High junior basketball player Blondy Baruti said that he feels his cousin/guardian is using him to help himself. Baruti added that he hopes to remain a student at Mesa and living with Terry and Laurie Blitz, with whom he's bonded and found stability since arriving here from the Congo in September.

Christian Kalanga, 25, who received guardianship in the United States of his cousin after Baruti received a visa to go to school and play basketball, tried to withdraw Baruti from Mesa on Jan.5 and 6. The second time, a crisis person intervened.

Baruti said that because his cousin has the guardianship document, he is using it to dictate his future. He said Kalanga told him before trying to pull him out of school that another school had promised money and an apartment for them to live in, if Baruti came with him. Baruti said he refused.

Baruti: "I'm not going to be your dog on leash. I can do what I want, nobody can stop me. Christian, you destroyed my life, because my family had confidence in you to be my guardian and now you are a devil in my life."

Full Article and Source:
Mesa's Baruti: Cousin using him for own agenda

Probate Reform After 20 Years

The Massachusetts Bar Association President commended Gov. Deval Patrick for signing into law comprehensive probate reforms that were nearly two decades in the making.

MBA General Counsel and Acting Executive Director Martin W. Healy: “The legislation has been a decades long collaborative effort between the bench and bar reaching out to all areas of the state. We made a tremendous push in the last days of the legislative session, The practice of probate law is complicated even to probate experts. This legislation demystifies and cleans up existing ambiguities dating back hundreds of years.”

Senate Bill Number 2622, An Act Relative to the Uniform Probate Code, would simplify and improve Massachusetts probate and trust law. The new probate code will also reduce needless expense in probate and trust administration, benefiting citizens throughout the commonwealth.

Among the changes are:

• Mandating courts to monitor guardianships and requiring guardians to issue annual reports.

• Shorten to seven days after the date of death (from as long as five months) the length of time it takes to appoint an estate administrator

• In the case of no will, the spouse gets the entire estate if the children are all of the marriage.

• Trustees will be required to notify beneficiaries of accountings and acceptance of appointment.

Full Article and Source:
20 years later, probate reform becomes law

Remember Ray

Mind Freedom.Org

See also: Registered Guardian Forcing ECT

Mismanaged Trust Funds

A member of the Coe Memorial Park Advisory Committee said she will approach the City Council in an attempt to move the trust that funds the park’s upkeep away from Bank of America, alleging that the bank has not managed the funds from the trust properly.

Susan Coe Holbrook said she does not believe Bank of America is guilty of anything illegal, though she does think the trust has been “mismanaged.” Holbrook is a member of the Coe Memorial Park Advisory Committee and one of 61 descendants of Adelaide Coe Godfrey, who initially set up the trust to benefit the park.

Holbrook brought the matter to Litchfield Probate Court last year, telling the court in a letter that “Bank of America has failed in its fiduciary responsibility in several ways,” primarily that the trust has seen essentially no growth since the bank took over management of the funds in 2004.

Holbrook: “Over the years, it’s been badly misused.”

Full Article and Source:
Coe Park funds ‘misused’

Weakness in Courthouse Management

The 2007 Lawrence County financial audit contained no surprises or findings for recovery, but a separate management letter also issued by the Ohio Auditor’s Office took aim at some weaknesses in courthouse management and discussed the money paid to former board of elections director Mary Wipert.

The letter, prepared by the Balestra, Harr and Scherer, certified public accounting firm of Piketon, lists issues with which the accountants had concerns.

Some issues include:

* the payments of salary and benefits to former board of election director Mary Wipert, who was fired in a 3-1 vote by the elections board in February 2007

* the handling of county money

* interest earned on The Office of Housing and Community Partnership (OHCP) grants

* transferring monies from one account to another at the end of the year to cover projected deficits

* county commission creating accounts not approved by the state auditor before hand

* checks that were older than six months and still outstanding

It also includes suggestions for resolving these issues.

Full Article and Source:
Auditors criticize county management

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Residents Seek Removal of DSS Commissioner

Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann said Monday that he has yet to receive word from the state in regard to the investigation into the Department of Social Services’ handling of the Erin Maxwell case.

In September, a request was made to have the New York State Office of Children and Family Services review all records relating to prior investigations of abuse or neglect involving Erin Maxwell, the 11-year-old Palermo child who died Aug. 29 in what New York State Police are calling a homicide.

Legislators continue to hear from outraged constituents in regard to the handling of the previous complaints by the Oswego County DSS and Commissioner Frances Lanigan.

Ms. Lanigan released her own report to the legislature in September that concluded her department did its job. Her report detailed three separate investigations of Erin Maxwell’s living situation conducted by Child Protective Service workers.

The first complaint found "deplorable" conditions in the house. After three unannounced visits, it was determined the parents had cleaned up the home and were cooperating with caseworkers.

The second complaint was unfounded. That investigation also concluded that the home failed to meet minimum standards and indicated inadequate guardianship on the part of all three adults in the home. It further concluded that no services were to be provided at the time because the child was not being impacted negatively.

Some residents have viewed the report differently and feel that DSS did not do enough to help Erin. They petitioned the legislature for the removal of Commissioner Lanigan.

Full Article and Source:
County officials still waiting for report in Maxwell case

Lawyer Wants Lawsuits Dismissed

Attorneys for former Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter, John Podleski and Steven Bazzano contended that the court should dismiss damage suits against their clients by a former county ward and her daughter.

Circuit Judge Craig Carter said he will rule as quickly as possible on the motions, and on a conflict concerning the location for pretrial depositions of France and Forste.


France and her 68-year-old daughter are suing Hunter, the former public administrator, claiming that she and Podleski, attorney for the office, violated the law and France’s rights when she was made a ward of the county in 2007 without notification to members of her family, and based on a medical certificate that Bazzano signed but did not fill out.

France says that after she was made a ward of the county, she was hospitalized against her will. When her daughter came to visit her and then took her to visit relatives, France said she did not want to return to Jasper County, so Forste and her husband took France home with them to California. Kidnapping charges were filed, based on reports from the public administrator’s office, and Forste was arrested and jailed for nearly three weeks.

Last August, Probate Judge David Mouton voided orders making France a county ward, agreeing with Myers that family members are required to be notified, and that France’s request to be at the 2007 hearing should have been honored. Then, kidnapping charges against Forste and her husband, Steve, were deferred, then dismissed.

Matthew Miller, on Hunter’s behalf, argued that the public administrator acted at the request of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services after France had become a victim to some lottery scams. He said the court found that France was unable to care for herself, and he argued that Hunter was acting under that order.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyers for ex-public administrator, others seek dismissal of lawsuits

See also:
Hunter Removed Client Files

Attorney Fees Challenged

Family Accused of Neglect

Town residents concerned about an elderly man they claim has been neglected for months confronted the man's family.

Dearl Love, a 76-year-old man who suffers from dementia, has been the focus of concern by town residents ever since they found him wandering the streets, starving and without his medication. Residents said they've been taking care of him, paying for his water, food and medicine, and they accused his family of ignoring him.

When Love's sister in law, Jewel Love, and her family came to start removing farming equipment from Love's former home, they got an earful from residents.

"The whole time he was here by himself, walking the road, trying to find something to eat, waking these people up at 5 in the morning because he was starving."

Residents like Leigh Anne Lee said they picked up the tab, paying his bills. Even the town diner fed him meals while neighbors tried to contact his family.

Jewel Love said her brother-in-law was never left neglected. "Dearl was never left hungry. Never. I was down here every day, whether they say I wasn't or not, I was."

Jewel Love said that many days, Dearl would be missing when she came to visit. The sheriff's department has no records of him ever being reported missing.

She said residents protested the removal of the farming equipment because they want it. The residents said the only thing they want is guardianship and to make sure Dearl Love is taken care of. They plan to go to court to obtain guardianship.

Residents Confront Family Over Elderly Man's Alleged Neglect

Primary Bill: Improving Adult Guardianship Laws

With Maryland lawmakers facing the bleakest state ledger in years, 10th District legislators have their work cut out for them in the 90-day Maryland General Assembly session, according to Sen. Delores G. Kelley.

Kelley urged members of the 10th District Democratic Club at a meeting last week to be vigilant for both good and bad legislation put forward in Annapolis.

Her primary bills this year aim to sharpen existing legislation on penalties for mail theft, extend unemployment insurance to jobless people who worked part time, and improve adult guardianship laws. She also wants to crack down on deceptive housing loan cosigner practices.

Full Article and Source:
General Assembly convenes today under threatening clouds

Agenda: Removing The Guardianship Fee

Democrats in the Oklahoma House have unveiled an agenda for the 2009 Legislature that emphasizes growing the economy, developing new energy industries and protecting Oklahoma families.

House Democratic leaders say they will introduce legislation to protect Oklahoma families who are most vulnerable in an economic downturn, including seniors and children.

Proposed Democratic legislation includes guaranteeing a minimum level of health care for children, removing the guardianship fee for grandparents raising grandchildren and preventing denial of health insurance due to pre-existing conditions.

Full Article and Source:
House Democrats unveil legislative agenda

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Investigations: State of Neglect

Texas has long been hard on the weak and vulnerable. It fares badly in national surveys of child poverty, food assistance and care for the mentally ill and disabled. But it isn't only the poor and afflicted who need help; everyone relies on state government for some protection. Not everyone receives it. Business interests and lobbyists exert strong influence on the writing of laws and the workings of state government. Who benefits from that? Frequently, not ordinary Texans.

Part 1 Privatizing state programs for the poor, disabled and elderly was supposed to be more efficient and cost-effective. But as the number of complaints grow, private companies, lobbyists and former state officials profit.

Critics: Evercare more like 'nevercare'

Social worker often hit a brick wall

Problems abound under Evercare

Physician-lawmaker knows doctors' struggles

Red tape snares Greenville woman

Even 'success stories' don't always end well

Outsourcing enriches firms, ex-legislators

Ex-lawmakers profit from Capitol floor time

Ethics Commission strained to police lobbyists

Database: Track lobbyists' activity since 2001

Web of Influence: This interactive graphic connects the dots of power and influence in Austin, illustrating some of the relationships among current and former government officials, lobbyists and the corporate interests they represent.

Part 2 Influential health-care corporations wanted to limit public access to information about abuses and deficiencies in hospitals. Lobbyists and some Texas legislators were happy to oblige.

Texas law lets hospitals hide problems

Agencies' inspection reports differ widely

Part 3 (Coming Jan. 18-19) When heavy industry goes up against public interest before the state's environmental agency, political influence gives one side an edge.

Part 4 (Coming Jan. 25) Five years after sweeping reforms were supposed to help, Texans still pay some of the highest insurance premiums in the country for reduced coverage.

Investigations: State of Neglect

Reporters: Gregg Jones, Doug J. Swanson, Randy Lee Loftis, Jennifer LaFleur, Ryan McNeill, Ed Timms
Photos, video: Melanie Burford
Data analysis: Ryan McNeill, Jennifer LaFleur
Research: Molly Motley Blythe
Graphics: Troy Oxford, Layne Smith
Copy editors: Ayan Mittra, Jamie Knodel
Photo editors: Brad Loper, Chris Wilkins
Project editors: Maud Beelman, Doug J. Swanson, Ed Timms

Grabel Says...

Stew Grabel with the Pima Council on Aging says scam artists prey on seniors because of their trusting nature, and, in some cases, diminished mental capacity.

Grabel: "After a financial abuse or exploitation, an individual's lifespan is significantly reduced, 2 or 3 years, so it's not just money. It's how it affects someone's life."

The government says at least 5 million Americans become victim to financial scams every year, and 4 out of 5 perpetrators are their own family members.

Grabel: "Families have always tried to collect the estates before the individual passes away."

That's why Grabel says no one has heirs while they're alive. That's also why a trusted family member or professional should be around to help protect vulnerable seniors from scam artists, and keep an eye on where their money is going. Grabel says be careful of who you hire to care for a senior and help with their finances.

Full Article and Source:
Scammers targeting the elderly

CPS Seeks Permanent Conservatorship

Texas child welfare authorities are seeking permanent conservatorship of a 14-year-old girl allegedly married to Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs.

The girl's mother wants a jury to ultimately decide who gets custody of all of her children. Barbara Jessop's attorney, Valerie J. Malara, filed a demand notice in an Eldorado, Texas, court, seeking a jury trial to decide custody over her three children.

The demand was filed in advance of a permanency hearing scheduled Thursday in San Angelo, Texas, where child welfare authorities were to update a judge on the girl's status in foster care.

The girl, believed to have been married at age 12 to Jeffs, was ordered back into foster care in August after a judge ruled Jessop failed to protect her from abuse. In a Child Protective Services status report filed in the case and obtained by the Deseret News on Monday, child welfare workers sought "permanent managing conservatorship" over the girl. In the immediate future, CPS is asking to keep the girl in foster care.

Full Article and Source:
FLDS mother wants jury to decide custody

See also:
CPS: Court Abused Discretion

Appellate Court: Right or Wrong?

No Right to Seize

Judge Bars CPS

Guardianship Ward Faces Deportation

The Georgia General Assembly convened and a new president will be sworn in later this month. For one local family, immigration is an important topic they hope will be addressed as the new state and national governments get down to business. It’s a hot-button issue that hits very close to the heart.

Danny Wilson’s adopted son Noe woke up Monday morning in a jail cell, facing deportation. Noe, a Rome High School and Shorter College alum, was cited for several offenses – including an expired tag, no insurance, driving without a license and DUI after drinking the previous night with friends – and was arrested when his illegal status was discovered. Now his father is asking for help and support as they fight his impending deportation.

Wilson doesn’t deny his son’s illegal status; in fact, he has fought for more than 10 years with the help of an immigration lawyer to obtain citizenship for Noe, who is now 24 years old. He said his son has worked hard since coming to America from Guatemala to achieve the American Dream, only to see that work flushed away because current immigration laws prevent his son from becoming a citizen.

“We’ve tried every conceivable way to do the right thing,” said Wilson, explaining that he was granted legal guardianship, but never allowed to officially adopt Noe as a boy.

Full Article and Source:
Family seeking support, prayers as adopted son faces deportation

Halted Efforts

The American Civil Liberties Union has halted its efforts - at least for the time being - to delay implementation of a law that bans unmarried cohabiting couples from fostering or adopting children after state's attorneys pointed out that the new law hasn't been applied to anyone.

Proposed Initiative Act 1 went into effect Jan. 1, and the ACLU, which is spearheading a lawsuit to have the law declared unconstitutional, had sought a temporary restraining order to block its implementation until the case can be heard in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

The restraining order was necessary to protect the interests of one of the 29 plaintiffs, Sheila Cole of Oklahoma, the ACLU said.

The attorney general's office opposed the restraining order, saying that proceedings involving Cole's granddaughter have not reached the point where Act 1 would apply. The new law wouldn't apply unless the state attempts to terminate parental rights to the child, which hasn't happened and might not happen.

ACLU lawyers agreed to withdraw their request for a restraining order on the condition that the attorney general's office notify them if Act 1 is going to be applied against Cole or anyone in a similar situation to permanently affect their eligibility to become foster or adoptive parents. The order requires the attorney general's office to notify the ACLU two weeks before it takes any action under the new law.

Full Article and Source:
ACLU halts effort to toss adoption ban

See also:
Act One Under Fire

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ex-Attorney to Serve Two Years

Henrico County Circuit Judge George F. Tidey found that the most convincing evidence in the case was the amount of missing money, about $513,000.

Tidey sentenced disbarred lawyer Michael D. Hancock to two years in prison, suspending 13 of the 15 years he initially imposed for three embezzlement charges.

Hancock pleaded guilty to pilfering the money from three trust accounts that he controlled; a year ago, he began assisting investigators in unraveling a scheme that apparently had no objective other than keeping Hancock's practice going, according to evidence in the case. He agreed to surrender his law license Oct. 24 last year.

Full Article and Source:
Hanover man sentenced for stealing more than $500,000 from trusts he controlled

Concealed Weapon Charge

A man is out on bond after he was arrested for bringing a gun into the Ward County Courthouse.

52 year old Casey Tompkins entered the courthouse security checkpoint just before 11:00 a.m.

Authorities say the handgun was found in his backpack.

Tompkins was at the courthouse for a guardianship hearing.

He posted bond and was released from the Ward County Jail pending a court appearance.

Man Caught with Handgun at Courthouse

Nursing Assistant Suspected in Elder Abuse

AL - Jefferson County sheriff's deputies are searching for a certified nursing assistant charged with stealing the identity of a 98-year-old patient.

Authorities say Jacqueline Anne Lumpkin took personal information from a nursing home patient and rang up more than $5,000 in goods and services.

Lumpkin, of east Birmingham, was employed by a temporary work agency that had placed her in the nursing home. Investigators didn't release the name of the nursing home.

Lumpkin is charged with elder abuse/neglect, identity theft, and fraudulent use of a credit card. Her bond is set at $45,000.

Authorities are trying to determine if there are additional victims.

Anyone who knows of Lumpkin's whereabouts is asked to call the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 325-1450 or Crimestoppers at 254-7777.

Jefferson County authorities seek woman suspected in abuse of elderly patient

AARP Seeks Funding

AARP Arkansas released a wish list for the Legislature that includes an additional $5million in state funding for home health care and a stipend for grandparents granted legal guardianship of their grandchildren.

The group unveiled its legislative agenda during state Capitol news conference attended by several legislators who pledged support for the initiatives.

Mary Dillard, president of the state chapter, said at a Capitol news conference the group’s top priority for the session would be an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rates for home health care workers.

Dillard: "The goal is to increase consumers’ choices in long-term care."

Full Article and Source:
AARP releases legislative wish list

More information:
AARP Seeks More Funding for Senior Issues

Higher Fees to Renovate Courts

A broad range of new fees, assessments and penalties will be charged for services in Solano County Superior Court in accordance with state law, beginning Jan. 1.

According to the court's Executive Office, the fee changes are the result of the passage of Senate Bill 1407, which authorizes up to $5 billion in lease-revenue bonds top finance construction, renovation and replacement of California court facilities.

Unlimited civil filing fees (in cases over $25,000), as well as probate and family law filings, will go from $320 to $350, with the $30 increase going to the immediate and critical needs account of the State Court Facility Construction Fund.

Limited civil filings ($10,000 to $25,000) fees will go from $300 to $325, while civil filings in cases up to $10,000 will go from $180 to $200.

Miscellaneous probate and family law fees will go from $180 to $200.

Full Article and Source:
Increased fees will go toward fixing up courts

See also:
Probate Fees Increasing

Monday, January 12, 2009

Social Worker Arrested

A supervisor in the program that distributes food stamps and other funds to needy families is accused of stealing $24,000 in state funds.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Susan Curry Wolfe was arrested at her office at the Department of Children and Families. She was charged with grand theft, criminal use of personal information, and scheme to defraud and booked into the Duval County jail.

Wolfe, in her capacity as supervisor, reopened two closed benefit cases and created six fictitious cases enabling cash to be withdrawn from automatic teller machines and enabling food stamps to be used.

Investigators found that between Oct. 2 and Dec. 29, Wolfe accessed $18,459 in assistance and $6,225 in food stamps.

Full Article and Source:
DCF Supervisor Accused Of Stealing $24K In State Funds

Demand Rises as Funding Falls

The safety net of free and low-cost legal aid is being strained as demand rises and funding shrinks, Inland legal-aid providers said.

People who need their help now may have to wait longer to get it or even be turned away.

Legal-aid agencies typically offer advice and representation on housing, family and other issues to clients who meet income guidelines. Their funding comes largely from federal, state and local government grants, and from programs in each state that pool interest from lawyer-managed trust accounts.

Roberta Shouse, executive director of Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino: "Over the past several years there has also been a steady demand for help with family law, such as divorce, custody and especially guardianship cases." The agency handled more than 1,000 guardianships in 2008.

Before this latest financial crisis, according to some estimates, the state's legal aid programs were only able to serve one of every two clients seeking help.

But now "there's a possibility of layoffs."

Full Article and Source:
Demand for legal-aid services rises as funding falls

Proposed Closing of Facilities

Families and guardians of the 136 people still at the Monson Developmental Center, as well as three other state institutions, are preparing for a new battle. They are happy with conditions at the state-run facilities, but Gov. Deval L. Patrick has proposed closing Monson and three other facilities, including the Fernald Development Center in Waltham (in 2010), the Glavin Regional Center in Shrewsbury and the Templeton Developmental Center in Baldwinville.

In announcing the plan, the governor and the state Department of Health and Human Services touted "more community-living options for people with developmental disabilities." Residents of the institutions that are closing will transition to community settings or to one of two remaining facilities.

Dustie Gauthier, vice president of the Monson parents' and friends' group, and, with her husband, has served as a guardian to more than 150 residents: "The people here, it's like they are hand-picked. They are so dedicated. They take their jobs home with them."

Leaders of the Parents and Friends of Residents of the Monson center object to the idea, saying that the state has invested millions of dollars in the facility, which they now say is top notch.

The Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates for the Retarded also denounced the closure, with its president, David J. Hart, saying, "Moving a loved one into the community system might be a death sentence."

While the Patrick administration says the closures will improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, family members say that life in privately run homes requires constant monitoring and oversight to ensure proper care.

Full Article and Source:
Kin of disabled start new fight

More information:
Spitz: A sister weighs the cost of change

Friends defend Glavin Center - DMR plan is scrutinized

Monson Developmental Center plans for future

What's Best for Payge?

Two-year-old Payge Pherigo has lived in six homes since her birth mother left the girl at a Newton hospital as a "safe haven" baby.

For the past 11 months, the little girl has been with her birth father. But he is in the county jail again, and the state is now faced with deciding whether it's best to keep Payge with a father who adores her but struggles with substance abuse problems, or to allow someone else to care for her.

The case is one that has left Department of Human Services staff members and a judge in a thankless position of balancing the girl's interests, the father's parental rights and the emotions of relatives, who believe they also could give the toddler the love she needs.

A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6 so that Jasper County Judge Thomas Mott can review how Dustin Pherigo has been parenting since he was awarded permanent care of his daughter in September 2008. To sever parental rights, the law requires compelling circumstances, such as abuse, neglect or federal imprisonment.

Meanwhile, two aunts are willing to care for Payge: a maternal aunt who raised her as a baby for 13 months, and a paternal aunt who has baby-sat for the toddler over the last 11 months.

"Payge's crucial time is now," Mott wrote in a September 2007 court document in which he expressed doubt that Dustin Pherigo could provide her a satisfactory home. "A child's character and personality are formed during a very few short years at the beginning of life."

Both sides of Payge's family worry about how all the turmoil in the 2-year-old's life is affecting her.

Full Article and Source:
Family, state ponder: What's best for Payge?

A Simple Way to Avoid Guardianship

Children become legal adults at 18. The law says they can make their own decisions and have all the rights and benefits of adult citizens of the United States as you and I (with the exception of drinking, which is reserved until the age of 21.)

If your young adult child has an accident or is in the hospital and is unable to make medical decisions, you legally would be unable to make any medical decisions for your child without his or her prior permission.

If your child is an adult, privacy rules require that medical care providers keep the child's medical information confidential. The only way the medical information can be released to you -- the parent -- is if the adult child has given his or her permission to release that information to you.

And if your child remains incapacitated, unable to make medical decisions for him or herself and has not given you prior permission to make those medical decisions, your only option would be to apply to the probate court for guardianship for your child. Only after you have been appointed guardian would you have access to your child's medical information and be able to make medical treatment decisions for him or her.

A far simpler way to avoid the guardianship and be able to access your incapacitated adult child's medical records and make treatment decisions for him or her: sign a properly drafted durable power of attorney for health care, also called a designation of patient advocate.

In this document, your child would designate you as the health care agent or patient advocate who has access to all medical information and make medical treatment decisions when he or she is unable.

Full Article and Source:
Families confront legal issues when kids turn 18

Nursing Home Social Workers

Inconsistent state laws and low federal standards have resulted in varying qualification and certification standards for nursing home social workers, according to a recently released report.

Approximately 50% of nursing home social workers do not have any degree in social work, and a mere 20% carry a four-year diploma, according to the University of Iowa study. Only 38% of nursing home social workers are actually licensed in social work.

While federal law requires that any nursing home with more than 120 beds employ a full time social worker, current standards make anyone with a bachelor's degree in any human services field and one year's supervision qualified for the post, the report finds. Many of those interviewed for the survey said they could realistically attend to less than 60 residents, even though they regularly have to work with 120.

More information:
Nursing Home Resource

Full Article and Source:
Report: Uniform standards lacking for nursing home social workers

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Probe of Probate Judge’s Conduct

The Town Council has asked its solicitor and the town manager to conduct an investigation into cases handled by Probate Judge Robert E. Rainville based on complaints that he has been awarding excessive fees to lawyers he’s appointed as guardians.

Rainville says he has done nothing wrong –– and that the complaints against him are “100 percent politically motivated.” He claims that Council Vice President Angelo A. Padula Jr. is trying to oust him because he is a lifelong friend of Stephen Alves, the former state senator from West Warwick who lost a reelection bid in November.

Nonsense, says Padula. While he makes no bones about the fact that he has a strong dislike for Alves, the former powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Padula says he didn’t know until he met Rainville for the first time last week –– the day after the council met and called for an investigation into his performance –– that Rainville and Alves are friends.

Council President David Gosselin Jr. said the investigation –– which started as a “residency” inquiry based on Rainville’s 2004 move to East Greenwich –– has now become a “performance-based” probe based on complaints filed by a raft of “Rainville haters.” At least three council members –– Padula, Gosselin and Filomena Gustafson –– say they have received complaints about Rainville’s handling of probate matters, about a dozen in all. Only two of them were discussed at the council meeting. Both centered on the amount of money Rainville has awarded to attorneys acting as guardians for elderly people.

Full Article and Source:
West Warwick Council to probe probate judge’s conduct after complaints


"This case ... got over-lawyered and over-case-managed"

2001 - At first his professional guardian seemed like "a savior" to David Kleck.

His family was struggling with the upheaval of relocating to Denver at the same time he was entering a nursing home.

But when the crisis passed and the Klecks decided David no longer needed an outsider's help, the guardian, Stephanie Conrardy of Conrardy Case Management, disagreed.

Only after a costly legal battle did she resign.

Then she went back to court to try to force the Klecks to pay the legal bills she had run up in her fight against them.

Full Article and Source:
Guardian vs. family

See also:
Denver Probate Lawyer - The Probate Pit

Adoption Battle

Opening your home to adopted children is an emotional undertaking. However, a family in Cleburne County says emotions are running higher than they should be.

Britton and Heather want to adopt 2 year-old Corey and 3 year-old Brandon. The boys have been living with them since May, but the adoption isn't finalized.

All Britton and Heather have is a copy of their "match agreement" from ABBA Adoption Agency.

They say the owner of that agency is legal guardian to Brandon and Corey.

Britton says: "We thought everything was fine and then out of the blue, pounding on the front door in the middle of the night and she's here with the police. Are you kidding me?”

Heather and Britton say the owner of ABBA Adoption Agency came to their house with a Cleburne County Sheriff's Deputy. "She said I have guardianship and I'm taking my children back.”

The sheriff decided not to remove Corey and Brandon that night without a court order, so even though the boys are under their roof, Britton and Heather say they're waiting for the worse.

Full Article and Source:
Adoption Battle

Dispute Over Guitars

The family of deceased rock guitarist Ron Asheton changed the locks and hired private security to monitor his Ann Arbor home following a dispute with his personal assistant over the removal of guitars from the house, according to city police.

Asheton's sister and his personal assistant both called police after the dispute broke out in his home.

The personal assistant, who also identified herself as Asheton's girlfriend, told police that Asheton's sister assaulted her during the dispute.

No one was arrested, and the assault allegation remains under investigation.

Officers told both parties to leave the guitars in the home, and their ownership will be determined by either a will or probate court.

Police did not have a dollar figure, but said the guitars are likely quite valuable because of Asheton's notable career. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 29th on its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time'' list.

Full Article and Source:
Assault allegation probed in dispute over guitars

Hunter Removed Client Files

A county official said that he is confident an audit of the public administrator’s office will be authorized.

The action apparently is being taken as a result of outgoing Administrator Rita Hunter having emptied the office of records and client files.

Presiding Commissioner John Bartosh said he talked to Prosecutor Dean Dankelson and Treasurer Richard Webster, but that they did not have all the information they needed to proceed with arranging the audit. They will meet again on the audit issue.

“I’m sure we’re going to have one,” he said. County officials were still missing information on some bank accounts of the administrator’s office that would be needed for an audit.

The new public administrator who took office Jan. 1, Angie Casavecchia, called for the audit. Hunter has returned the files, but Casavecchia has called for the audit to make sure that they are intact.

Hunter was defeated in last year’s elections. Complaints had arisen about her handling of cases, including the arrest of a California woman who had taken her elderly Carthage mother home with her after the mother had been made a ward of the public administrator without the family’s knowledge.

A Springfield attorney has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the administrator’s wards alleging that exorbitant fees have been charged to some of them and that others are missing money or property.

When the newly elected public administrator took office last week, she found that both the paper files and computer records of the wards had been taken from the office. There are about 300 people under guardianship.

The new administrator said that without the files, she had no information on the finances, living arrangements or medical status of those under her care.

About 30 boxes of paper files were later surrendered to county officials by Hunter.

Full Article and Source:
Commissioner confident in audit authorization

See also:
Attorney Fees Challenged

Estate Dispute

Lawyers for a man who fought against the appointment of a guardian to look after his affairs say his estate has been drained by hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and other fees, some needless.

The Nebraska Supreme Court heard arguments involving Everett Larson, who died in 2007, three years after his daughter persuaded a court to appoint a conservator/guardian to look after his affairs.

Larson, whose daughter said he had dementia and early stage Alzheimer's, disputed whether he needed someone to handle his business dealings and resisted the move.

In 2004, a Douglas County judge appointed Wilfred Looby to temporarily handle Larson's decisions. The appointment as a temporary conservator gave Looby powers that under state law are typically limited to handling urgent business. The powers were then extended by the court in successive 90-day stints for more than a year without a hearing on Larson's competency.

But attorneys hired by Larson to fight the appointment and vouch for Larson's competency also question the court's approval to pay out more than $500,000 from Larson's estate. Some of the payments were awarded to Looby, though the bulk went to attorneys, including a more than $313,000 award to the Fitzgerald Schorr law firm. That firm represented both Larson's daughter and Looby, according to court briefs.

Among the approved expenses were Christmas presents bought after Christmas -- although court briefs don't say for who -- "security" for Larson's birthday party and 27 hours of legal research taken on by Looby, who is not a lawyer and had attorneys representing him.

Meanwhile, Larson's lawyers had their request for payment from the estate denied by the same judge.

They're asking the high court to rescind payments that were approved earlier to everyone involved.

Full Article and Source:
Neb. high court hears estate dispute arguments