Saturday, April 11, 2009

EA Advocate Holds Meeting

Wes Bledsoe is founder of A Perfect Cause, an Oklahoma organization dedicated to ending elder abuse in long-term care facilities. Local complaints about Castle Manor Nursing Home brought him to Hot Springs, where he conducted a town hall-style meeting involving more than 200 people on March 5.

Since then, Bledsoe said he has received more calls from current and former workers about additional alleged abuse, as well as allegations of neglect and billing issues.

Bledsoe was asked if he had attempted to contact the nursing home administration to arrange a meeting, to which he replied, "I don't make a practice to meet with administrators. By the time I am called, the time for talking is past, and it is time to take action."

There is an ongoing investigation by local and state authorities into allegations of sexual abuse involving a former male nursing assistant last fall. Bledsoe said he had met with Fall River County State's Attorney Jim Sword to discuss the case and additional allegations. Sword by telephone confirmed the meeting but did not discuss details.

Full Article and Source:
Elder care advocate holds another meeting in Hot Springs

National Healthcare Decisions Day

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is Thursday, April 16.

This nationwide initiative is designed to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for health care decisions and to encourage the use of advance directives to communicate important health care decisions. NHDD is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions. It is estimated that only about 25 percent of people in the United States have executed an advance directive. Moreover, it is estimated that less than 50 percent of severely or terminally ill patients have an advance directive. We hope you will help to raise public awareness about the need for advance planning. To learn more about NHDD and how you can become involved, please visit:

This Could Happen to Someone You Love

See also:
No Outside Agency to Help Victims

Friday, April 10, 2009

Plunged Into Debt

The historic building, Bedford-Stuyvesant's Slave Theater, once a hub for black activism, is for sale - and will likely go to a retail developer, unless a community group makes an offer in the next few weeks.

Relatives of Judge John Phillips, who owned the theater until his death in 2008, were forced to put the Fulton St. building on the market a month ago to pay off more than $1.5 million in taxes and other debts owed by the estate.

Phillips was plunged into debt after he was declared mentally incompetent in 2001, and a series of court-appointed guardians allegedly squandered his assets and failed to pay taxes.

One guardian, Emani Taylor, was ordered by a court last summer to repay the estate $403,000 she took from the judge's accounts, but she is appealing the decision. Boykin said the family has seen "not a dime."

Full Article and Source:
Brooklyn retailers eye Bed-Stuy theater: 'Slave' being sold to pay $1.5M in debt

See also:
Attorney Ordered to Repay

The Kung-Fu Judge

Guardian Bill Advances in Senate

By James Shiffer

This afternoon, in the circular chamber known as Room 15 in the state Capitol, I watched the first round of what’s likely to be a spirited tussle over proposed restrictions on the power of guardians and conservators in Minnesota. Granted sweeping powers over the finances and lives of others, these court-appointed caretakers face little regulation in Minnesota. Motivated by tales of abuses of the vulnerable, advocates for seniors, the mentally ill and disabled want to change that.

They were buoyed by my Feb. 15 story about Peggy Greer, whose guardian and conservator spent $672,000 before she regained her rights. Those urging caution include professional guardians and conservators and attorneys who represent them in probate court.

Presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, Sen. Mee Moua’s bill would set up a statewide registry of guardians and require professional guardians and conservators at for-profit ventures to be certified. It would also codify a bill of rights for wards and protected persons, and provision 10 of that list of rights consumed much of the discussion Tuesday. It involves the right to “unimpeded communication and visitation with persons of the ward or protected person’s choice.”

That’s an open invitation to meth dealers, swindlers and abusers who want to prey on vulnerable people unable or unwilling to keep them out of their lives, said Robert McLeod, an attorney representing the Minnesota State Bar’s probate section.

“This bill of rights would give bad people the unrestricted right to the ward or protected person,” McLeod said. His conclusion was echoed by Eric Jonsgard, senior director at Lutheran Social Service, whose employees are frequently appointed as guardians and conservators.

Full Article and Source:
Guardian bill advances in the Senate and gives a flavor of the battle ahead

More information:
Vulnerable Adult Justice Project 2009 Minnesota Legislative

See also:
Tighter Rules For Guardians

Money Used Up

Guardianship Program Looking for Volunteers

The definition of a “guardian” is a person who guards, protects, or preserves; a protector; a defender.”

The name accurately describes volunteers who serve the Kansas Guardianship Program.

These volunteers accept legal and moral responsibility of the well-being of people who are unable to manage for themselves.

“Our clients are referred from Adult Protective Services or from state psychiatric hospital social workers,” said Del Jacobson, volunteer recruiter.

When a pilot project began 30 years ago, the state-funded program primarily assisted people mostly with developmental disabilities. Today, in addition to adults with developmental disabilities, volunteers also serve those who are mentally ill, elderly, and those with medical conditions or have injuries, which impair their ability to make decisions.

The volunteers sometimes are responsible for making the necessary arrangements for a client when they die. State funds are available to assist those who may not have the financial means to pay for a proper funeral and burial.

A $30 per month stipend is provided to each volunteer for out-of-pocket expenses.

Full Article and Source:
Volunteers needed: A chance to help those who cannot help themselves

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Elder Abuse Bill ReIntroduced

Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., have reintroduced a bill — for the fourth Congress in a row — designed to help protect the elderly from abuse.

Hatch: "More than 500,000 Americans over 60 are the victims of domestic abuse. I am committed to doing all I can to pass legislation to protect them from those who would prey upon them physically, financially and psychologically."

The bill would order the federal government to collect data on elder abuse; penalize failure to report abuse and other crimes in long-term care facilities; provide Adult Protective Services grants with $100 million annually for four years; and create a council to coordinate federal, state and local response to elder abuse.

Hatch noted that the government spends $6.7 billion a year on child abuse and $520 million a year on domestic abuse, but just $153 million on elder abuse. He said that is a tiny amount considering that 76 million baby boomers will reach retirement age over the next three decades.

Full Article and Source:
Hatch reintroduces elder-abuse bill

See also:

Like Falling Off A Cliff

Even in boom times, young people who become too old for the foster-care system often struggle to make it on their own, lacking families, job skills or adequate educations. Now, the recession has made the challenges of life after foster care even more formidable, especially for those seeking federal housing vouchers, which are contingent on having an income.

Since the beginning of this year, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services has been providing letters to those about to leave the foster care system, certifying that they are likely to be eligible for public assistance and thus easing the application process when they are ready. Yet, many child-welfare advocates worry that a growing number will still end up homeless.

James J. Golden, the executive director of the Edwin Gould Academy: “They get a lot of resources until they’re 21, and then essentially none. It’s like falling off a cliff for some of them.”

Full Article and Source:
Too Old for Foster Care, and Facing the Recession

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Outside Agency to Help Victims

Imagine having your whole life put into the hands of a stranger who can take away your freedom to choose from where you live to how you spend your money, and if you disagree on how they're handling things, you have no outside agency to complain to.
Seven's investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.

95-year-old Lucille Gittens was forced to leave the home she had lived in with her son and his family for thirty years.

Sybil Gittens: "I felt helpless, I couldn't help her, I couldn't do anything."

Tecia Gittens: "It was very disturbing. My grandmother was like my best friend."

The court stepped in and appointed a guardian after a family disagreement over the mother's finances.

Keith Gittens: "Ninety percent of families have family squabbles, I'm sure you're aware of that, but that doesn't mean it has to reach this level of making a drastic decision like this for no reason."

He says first the guardian took over his mother's estate and eventually took her out of her home and put her in a group facility.

Keith Gittens: "The legal system is so complex that you can spend all your time and all your money and get nowhere."

Keith says he could find no one to independently to investigate his concerns about what was happening with his mother.

Keith Gittens: "There's too much power given in this guardianship program, there's no checks and balances really."

Avril Schuckman says her mother had a picture-perfect life, but her last hours were a nightmare.

Avril Schuckman: "My mother suffered desperately. I think it was the most heinous crime."

Avril says her mother had a do not resuscitate order which her guardian ignored. In fact, the South Florida guardian did not call Avril in Tampa and tell her her mother was dying until four days after she was put on life support.

Avril Schuckman: "She lasted another twenty hours gasping for air. It was the most awful death I've ever seen, it was just tragic."

Avril thought the guardian should have been investigated, but she could find no independent agency to hear her concerns.

Keith Gittens: "I think that the legislature should look at the entire guardianship program and revamp it."

Avril and Keith are not alone. Nationwide, so many families are upset about the treatment of loved ones they've organized.

Full Article and Source:
Carmel on the Case - Guardian

Watch the video

Reported by:
Carmel Cafiero
Cheryl Simmons

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Overseers Are Wrong

After eight months, the state of Wisconsin has finally released its report on Dane County's actions in a child protection case that ended in six-year-old Deshaunsay Sykes-Crowder being brutally murdered. Not surprisingly, the state found something to criticize in Dane County's handling of the case.

But not as much as it should have. While the state faulted Dane County for a few infractions, it ultimately concluded (in a line that was not part of earlier drafts): "It is impossible to predict what, if anything, could have resulted in a less tragic outcome."

The truth is there were plenty of big, red warning flags. Actions could and should have been taken to avoid the clear possibility that Deshaunsay Sykes would be harmed.

Full Article and Source:
A tear for Deshaunsay

See also:
Unfit Guardian?

Second Guessing

No-One's Policing the Police

"I do not trust an organisation that can hide everything inside its walls and under this legislation to say that substitute-decision making which seems to be the bellwether word in that organisation and in the Guardianship Board is the best thing, no it's not, it's not if no-one's policing the police, so to speak."

Error cost elderly man $19k, inquiry told

Adoption Support Checks

All Jennifer Lawson wants to do is take good care of two kids she assumed legal responsibility for two years ago. One of the ways she intended to do so seemed simple enough.

The kids' adoptive father had been charged with taking indecent liberties with a different child and she'd been named their legal guardian. So Lawson figured it'd be easy to transfer to her the adoption-support payments that the stepfather had been receiving through a program for people who adopt foster children.

She had the law on her side. Her stepfather, Vance Oxendine, was a convicted sex offender, and she had a strongly worded order awarding her sole custody of the kids, a girl who's now 11 and a boy who's now 7. She also had a judgment in hand that ordered Oxendine to pay $543 a month in child support. In her mind, it really shouldn't have been difficult to channel the adoption-support money to the kids.

If the courts can garnish someone's wages from a private employer, Lawson reasoned that one government agency surely could get another to transfer the payment of public money intended to support two kids who'd had a rough start in life. She figured wrong.

Not only did Oxendine ignore the child-support order -- he only made two payments before he went to prison in October 2007 for violating his probation -- but also the state continued to mail those adoption support checks. Somebody -- it's not clear who-- continued to cash them. And Lawson's children never saw a dime.

Because Oxendine refused to give up his parental rights, and a petition to terminate those rights had never been filed, he was still eligible for adoption-support payments.

Full Article and Source:
Money should be going to woman taking care of kids

Madonna Failed Adoption Bid

The controversy surrounding the attempt by Madonna to adopt a second child from an orphanage in Malawi brings to light the confusing situation in international adoption. On Friday, a judge in that nation rejected the singer's adoption request on the grounds that waiving an 18-month residency requirement would set a dangerous precedent. Madonna was granted such an exemption when she adopted a Malawian boy in 2006.

This is just another example of how the intricacies of each country's legal system, cultural mores and poverty level intersect with the guidelines of The Hague treaty on intercountry adoptions.

The result has been a decline in the number of orphans from developing countries being adopted by Americans. While adoptions become harder, the number of orphans grows, especially in Africa because of the tragedy of the AIDS crisis. Malawi has an estimated 1 million orphans, and untold numbers of orphans languish in other African countries as well as in Romania, Russia, China and Latin America.

Full Article and Source:
Madonna, Malawi and adoption madness

More information:
Madonna, who was seeking an interim adoption, appealed against a High Court decision refusing her bid to adopt a four-year-old girl named Mercy James. Malawian rights groups, who accused the government of skirting residency laws when Madonna adopted David Banda in 2006, also opposed the latest adoption attempt.They say celebrities should not be allowed to fly in and adopt children at will.
Madonna leaves Malawi after failed adoption bid

The adoption was denied by Judge Esme Chombo because Madonna had not met residency rules requiring adoptive parents to live in Malawi for 18 to 24 months. Madonna's lawyer, Alan Chinula, described the judgment as "incomprehensible", saying the court had approved her adoption of David Banda in 2006. He said they were appealing in Malawi's Supreme Court.
Madonna's hopes of adopting Mercy James are in limbo

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lawyer Appeals Judge's Demand

An attorney for John F. Pawloski, the lawyer accused by state regulators of misconduct in his role as guardian of disabled adults and administrator of deceased people's estates, has appealed a judge's demand he provide accounting for his use of money in three cases.

Van-Lear Eckert, Pawloski's attorney, cites his client's Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself in the cases.

On March 10, St. Clair County Associate Judge Stephen Rice gave Pawloski a month to file an accounting or be jailed. Rice said Pawloski has a duty, independent of his own rights, to provide the accounting.

Pawloski appealed Rice's decision to the Fifth District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon, and so the jail issue is now out of Rice's hands.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer accused of misconduct in guardian case appeals judge's demand

See also:
Lawyer Given More Time

John Pawloski Case

Budget Cuts on Judicial Investigations

Georgia’s system for protecting its residents from rogue judges is in peril.

To balance this year’s budget, the General Assembly significantly cut public money for programs that administer judicial discipline and judicial training for the state’s 1,700 judges.

The cuts are impeding investigations of judges accused of corruption and limiting training for those who sit on the bench, including the hundreds of Georgia judges who are not attorneys.

Only after receiving a strongly worded letter last week from state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears did the General Assembly decide against a Senate plan to wipe out virtually all state money for training judges.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates complaints and punishes errant judges, is already one of the most slimly staffed in the nation. Commission members say they are now so short of money that they have halted some investigations.

Robert Ingram, a commission member "Right now, we have got judges who have serious charges against them that we can’t investigate."

Full Article and Source:
Policing of judges gets less funding

Grandparent-Rights Bill

Jacque Evanson had raised her grandchildren for seven years when her daughter came back into the picture. Though Evanson had guardianship, her daughter simply had to petition the court to regain custody of the three kids.

The judge "strongly recommended" the children get visitation with their grandmother. Then their mom moved them to her home in Washington state. Since then, Evanson has had minimal contact with them.

Though she ultimately wants the kids to be with their mother, Evanson feels like she also should have some rights after raising them for so many years. That's why she's visited the Capitol several times over the past few months to testify on behalf of the grandparent-rights bills presented at the 2009 Montana Legislature.

House Bill 397 establishes a close-relative registry so close relatives, such as grandparents, can sign up to be notified if the state removes a child from his or her home.

House Bill 403 asks the court to consider a child's need for continuity of care along with the other criteria when determining whether the child should be placed with someone other than a parent. The bill asks the court to look at whether the child will remain in the same area, continue at the same school and other such issues when making the judgment.

Full Article and Source:
Legislature considering a half-dozen grandparent bills

More information:
Thousands of Montana grandparents are raising their kids' kids, and it isn't easy

Judge Blocks Release

Former Burnett County resident Adam Hess, 23, was scheduled to be released from the Mendota Mental Health Institute this week.

However, on Wednesday, April 1, Judge James Babbitt blocked this release and ordered Burnett County's corporate counsel to petition for Chapter 55, protective placement and guardianship for Hess.

Hess was placed in Mendota Mental Health Institute after Judge Gableman accepted Hess’s plea of not guilty for reasons of insanity after he allegedly exposed himself to a girl in the public bathroom at Crooked Lake Park in 2002.

Judge blocks release of Hess

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Public Corruption

In recent years, the number of public corruption cases investigated by the FBI has exploded, with 2,430 pending probes of public officials. That's nearly double the 1,300 cases in 2003.

And the FBI, which is already probing possible fraud at mortgage and other financial firms, believes corruption cases could rise further as billions of dollars in stimulus money is handed down from Washington to states and cities.

"While the FBI is surging to mortgage fraud investigations, our expectation is that economic crimes will continue to skyrocket," FBI Director Robert Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

"The unprecedented level of financial resources committed by the federal government to combat the economic downturn will lead to an inevitable increase in economic crime and public corruption cases," he said.

Courts have convicted more than 1,800 federal, state and local government officials on corruption charges in the last two years alone. Included in that number: 170 federal officials, 158 on the state level, 360 local officials and more than 365 police officers.

Like one police officer in Arkansas, caught on tape stealing money during a traffic stop of a suspected dealer.

Or Louisiana judge Alan Green, convicted of taking bribes. He was caught on camera in his office, accepting cash from a man saying he was "delivering on my promise" and recommending that he "put that away somewhere."

Green's response, as heard on the tape: "I appreciate it."

Government prosecutors pushed for a tough sentence for the former judge, writing in their sentencing memorandum that in exchange for the bribe money Green received, he "harmed innocent victims by releasing dangerous criminals" at the request of a corrupt bail bonds company.

A judge sentenced Green to four years and three months in prison.

Full Article and Source:
Caught on Tape: Bribes, Public Corruption

The Lost Children

As Spain heads towards the 70th anniversary of the end of the 1936-1939 civil war – questions are being asked over the fate of the children snatched from Republican families.

They were seized during the early years of General Francisco Franco's right-wing dictatorship that followed the conflict, which continues to divide Spanish society.

A 1940 decree allowed the state to take children into custody if their "moral education" was at risk.

Firm numbers are hard to come by due to the poor state of Spanish archives and a reluctance by the government, until recently, to probe the civil war era – which some historians estimate claimed as many as half a million lives on both sides – and its immediate aftermath.

But Casanova said up to 30,000 children were registered as being in state custody at some point during the 1940s and 1950s, raised mostly by religious orders.

Casanova: "All of these children under state guardianship were not stolen. But in certain cases they were kidnapped and illegally adopted, their identity was stolen and they were given to other families."

Full Article and Source:
Where are the ‘lost children’ of the Franco regime?

Elderly Set on Fire

TX - A 78-year-old Grand Prairie woman was set on fire after being sexually assaulted in her home Monday, police said.

The woman, who police did not identify, is at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where she is recovering from second-degree burns to her stomach and her chin, said Det. John Brimmer, a Grand Prairie police spokesman.

Investigators say they believe the man, described as in his mid-20s and weighing between 160 and 190 pounds, set the woman on fire after he poured rubbing alcohol on her chest.

Police said the man gained entry to the woman's home on Sunnyvale Road after he introduced himself as "Daniel," a 22-year-old from Chicago who was living in an area motel. He told her that he was doing a communication exercise that would help him get into college. He told her that the more people he talked to the more points her earned.

At some point during the conversation the man attacked her. After talking to several witnesses in the area, police say they believe he may have been selling magazines.

Police describe the man as black, between 6-feet and 6-feet-4-inches tall and wearing his hair in corn row-style braids. During the assault, he was wearing a white shirt and pants that were black, yellow and red.

Police are asking anyone with information about the case or who may have been contacted by a man fitting this description, to call Detective Tracy Hinson at 972-237-8777 or Crime Stoppers at 972-988-8477.

Elderly Grand Prairie woman raped, set on fire

Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act

The U.S. Senate has introduced a new bill to prevent people with criminal histories from working within long-term care settings by creating a comprehensive nationwide system of background checks.

Dubbed the “Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act,” the proposed legislation expands on a successful three-year pilot program authorized under the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act.

The pilot program prevented more than 7,000 applicants with a history of substantiated abuse or a violent criminal record from working in long-term care settings. It operated in Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

The bill calls for states to establish coordinated systems that include checks against abuse and neglect registries and a state police background check. It also adds a federal component to the background check process by screening applicants against the FBI’s national database of criminal history records.

The Senate legislation was introduced by Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and Senator Susan Collins.

Full Article and Source:
Predators Target of New Senior Protection Law