Friday, December 22, 2006

More imbalance in KY: Half of state's adoptions occur in 9 counties

Auditor: State could do more
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, Dec. 15, 2006, pg. C1.

FRANKFORT -- More than a year ago, before investigations began into whether Kentucky was inappropriately expediting the adoptions of state foster children, State Auditor Crit Luallen started studying another side of the question:

What could Kentucky do to alleviate barriers to adoption?

Yesterday, Luallen told a panel studying the adoption process that Kentucky could do more to promote state adoptions.

And she said that her audit showed foster children are staying in state custody an average of more than three years.

Luallen stressed to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services adoption panel that her audit began long before the Herald-Leader began publishing a series of articles examining "quick trigger" adoptions and removals of children from their biological parents.

"Our staff doesn't have the expertise to second-guess the removals," she told the panel. "We haven't been able to determine if these decisions have been made inappropriately."

Cabinet Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell and child advocate David Richart said yesterday that Luallen's audit supported the concern that removals and adoptions are handled inconsistently throughout the state.

"There are inconsistencies in the number of children in state custody as well as the number of children with a goal of adoption based on the county's population of children," said the audit. "For example, even though Christian County had a higher child population and child poverty rate, Clark County had more children in state custody."

The audit found that half of all the state's adoptions occur in just nine counties.

The audit calls for a wide-ranging public awareness campaign to inform the public that children need homes.

The audit also recommends that Kentucky consider the formation of a birth father registry. Twenty-three states have registries, requiring fathers to show evidence of their desire to parent a child prior to having legal standing to prevent later petitions for adoption.

In addition, Kentucky should expand the family court system throughout the state, Luallen said.

Secrecy and lack of accountability at the root of KY's problems with foster care

EDITORIAL: Child welfare needs creative effort, light
Louisville Courier-Journal, Dec. 18, 2006, pg. A8.

One size does not fit all when it comes to protecting at-risk kids. It's complicated trying to come up just solutions for the situations that have landed about 7,400 children in the state's custody. Protecting children necessitates honesty as well as a never-ending search for more effective ways to serve the best interests of children and their families.

Reuniting families is, of course, the ideal, and Courier-Journal staff writer Deborah Yetter gave several examples in a story last week about a very promising pilot program here in Jefferson County. It uses part-time volunteers to help parents get their lives together, navigate the child-welfare system and retain their children.

Almost a year old, the pilot program was launched with a $50,00 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Now, it's getting rave reviews from participants and Tom Emberton, Kentucky's commissioner of social services, who plans to take the program statewide.The apparent key to the program's success is that its volunteer advocates all have walked a mile in the shoes of the people they're trying to help. They, too, lost custody but won it back.

That example, said a participant who got sober and eventually won his children back, is what really inspired him.

But not everybody or everything is functioning as well.

A report by Kentucky State Auditor Crit Luallen last week to the Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption illuminated many remaining challenges.

She found, for example, that the average wait for adoptions in Kentucky exceeds the federal guidelines. In fact, there's so much inconsistency county-to-county that as many as six years may lapse between the time a child comes into system and is permanently placed.

State child-welfare officials insist they're aware of the problem and already are working on those issues. Ms. Luallen not only recommended speedier adoptions for the approximately 2,000 eligible children, but urged Kentucky to join 23 other states that have established "birth" father registries.

Jefferson County Family Court judges Patricia Walker FitzGerald and Stephen George addressed the same Blue Ribbon panel. She said, for example, that lawyers who represent poor parents in child custody cases are poorly paid and that family law classes should be mandated for judges assigned handle abuse and neglect cases.

Judge George made a point that this newspaper has previously endorsed, namely, that one of the biggest problems of Kentucky's child-welfare system is that family court proceedings are shrouded in secrecy and, thus, lack accountability.

If those proceedings were more transparent, it would be a different ballgame, Judge George said. Of course, it would.

System failures would show up more quickly, patterns would be recognized and those responsible would be both compelled and able to make changes faster than they tend to do now.

Shelton McElroy, foster care alumni making changes

Parent-advocate program in Jefferson draws praise -
Goal is to keep families together, cut number of children in state custody
Lexington Herald-Leader, Dec. 20, 2006, pg. B3.

LOUISVILLE -- Shelton McElroy has seen both sides of Kentucky's child-welfare system.As a child, he was placed in foster care. As an adult, he went through the system to resolve a custody dispute with the mother of his 20-month-old daughter.

Now McElroy, 29, is helping other parents negotiate the sometimes-complex child-welfare system. He is one of 18 parent advocates in a year-old pilot project in Jefferson County run by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

"I'm willing to work with them," he said of other parents. "But they have to be willing."The advocate program uses mainly part-time volunteers to guide parents trying to navigate the requirements of the system.

The project began in January in Louisville with a $50,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
It is drawing praise from state officials, lawmakers and families helped by the advocates.

"This is a wonderful program," said Tom Emberton Jr., the state commissioner of social services.

Emberton said he's working on a plan to expand the number of parent advocates across the state, with the goal of helping keep families together and reducing the growing number of children in state custody.

Recruiting parent advocates is simple: They must have been through the child-welfare system themselves and successfully resolved their cases. Those in drug or alcohol recovery must have been sober for at least a year.

The purpose of the project is to provide parents extra help to regain custody of children removed because of abuse or neglect, "to bridge the gap between parents and social workers," said LaRonda Davis, the coordinator.

Emberton said he plans to use about $350,000 in state funds to create parent advocates in 23 centers statewide where adults attend parenting classes. Most have been directed to attend by a judge or social worker because of neglect or abuse. He said he also intends to find state money to continue the program in Jefferson County when the grant expires next year.

Davis said statistics aren't complete for the 11-month-old project, but preliminary information shows that more children are being reunited with families.

Howard Danzy, a single father who lost custody of his three sons because of alcoholism-related problems, said the parent-advocate program helped save his family.

Danzy said his parent advocate went to court with him, attended meetings of social workers and others involved in his case, and helped him succeed in a recovery program to stop drinking, even going with him to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Knowing his advocate had been through the same thing inspired him, he said. Danzy has regained custody of his sons and is thinking about becoming a parent advocate.

"They brought my life back together," he said.

How old are the children who wait over 6 years for a home?

Kentucky looks to speed up adoptions
Children have been removed by state
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, Dec. 15, 2006, pg. A1.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect are waiting for adoption longer than federal guidelines allow, a new state audit has found.

The average wait in Kentucky is three years, but it varies widely among counties, with some children waiting up to six years for a permanent home. Federal guidelines call for the state to move toward adoption if the child has been in foster care 15 months.

"The one thing we have to come back to is the number of young people whose lives are at stake," state Auditor Crit Luallen said yesterday while presenting her findings in Frankfort. "They are not just numbers."

Regarding another controversial issue, Luallen said the year-long review makes no conclusions about whether state officials are too hasty to remove children from homes and place them for adoption, as some families and advocates have alleged.

Rather, it examines the complicated legal process toward adoption once a child is removed from a home, Luallen told the Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption, which is studying ways to improve the state's child welfare system.

The panel has been meeting for several months with the goal of recommending changes in the state's adoption and foster-care system in next year's legislative session.

Advocates and parents critical of the system said yesterday that Luallen's findings underscore their complaints that the system is arbitrary and inconsistent.

"It depends on where you live and what judge you draw and what social worker you draw," said David Richart, a longtime family advocate.

Mark D. Birdwhistell, chairman of the panel and secretary of the Health and Family Services Cabinet, agreed the social service system needs to develop consistent standards.

"We have pockets of problems," he said. "We need to address consistency across the state."

He also said that the panel has agreed to hear from more parents who believe they were treated unfairly by the child welfare system. He plans to schedule a public hearing next month.

That pleased Mary Henderson and Benita Hollie, both single mothers from Lexington, who attended yesterday and say their children were unfairly removed by the system.

"I feel much better after today," said Henderson, who has regained custody of her four children. Henderson said she was worried the panel would overlook parents' concerns.

Changes proposed
Luallen said yesterday the state needs to do more to promote adoption in cases where parental rights have been permanently terminated.

She recommended a central office and hot line where people interested in adopting could get information and encouragement.

She also suggested a broad public awareness campaign to let more people know about the growing number of children in state care available for adoption. About 7,400 children are in state custody and about 2,000 are available for adoption because parents' rights have been terminated.

Luallen also proposed Kentucky lawmakers create a "birth father registry" as 23 states have done that requires fathers with an interest in the child's welfare to register. That way they can receive legal notice of possible adoption.

Luallen said the audit found that some adoptions are delayed when birth fathers surface at the last minute and object.

That recommendation drew interest from members of the panel, including David Cozart, head of a Lexington family advocacy group. He noted many child welfare cases involve single mothers.

"Too often we refer to the 'parent' as if there's a bunch of Immaculate Conception going on," he said.

Luallen said her audit found counties with family courts — which specialize in abuse, neglect, child removal and divorce and custody cases — tend to move cases faster and operate more efficiently. Kentucky eventually plans to expand family courts statewide; they now are in 44 counties.

More pay, training needed
The panel also heard from Jefferson County Family Court Judges Patricia Walker FitzGerald and Stephen George, who offered several proposals to help the court system.

FitzGerald said the state needs to pay lawyers appointed to represent poor parents and children in family court more than a flat rate of $500 a case. In counties without family courts, such lawyers get only $250 a case in district court.

She suggested the legislature mandate a minimum level of family court training for judges in areas such as child abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights. Judges must get annual training but no family law classes are required.

And she said the state needs to ensure poor families have lawyers. Currently, judges are not required to appoint parents a lawyer at the initial court hearing on whether to temporarily remove children for abuse or neglect.

George said one way to make the family courts more accountable would be to eliminate the confidentiality required by law.

"Our courts are closed," he said. "If there is transparency, it's a different ballgame."

Key recommendations by Auditor Crit Luallen for speeding adoptions of children in state care:
--Launch a broad public awareness campaign to make people aware of the children available for adoption and how the state can help.

--Create a toll-free number for information about adoptions and create a trained staff to handle such calls and encourage people to follow up.

--Identify and correct points of delay in the complicated legal proceedings to terminate a parent's rights and place a child for adoption.

--Create a birth father registry so fathers can register and be notified of legal proceedings to avoid last-minute challenges that delay adoptions.

Why not try to hasten adoption of older kids, rather than 'kidnapping' babies?

Audit: Adoption time too lengthy
Biesk, Joe. Kentucky Post, Dec. 15, 2006, pg. A20.

Kentucky children spend an average of more than three years in state custody during the adoption process, according to a report released Thursday.

State adoption officials should try to streamline the system, and provide prospective parents with better assistance in maneuvering what is often a difficult and cumbersome prospect, state Auditor Crit Luallen said. Her office released a report on Kentucky adoptions and presented its findings to a panel that's been meeting on the issue.

"It's taking too long," Luallen said.

There are more than 7,000 children in state custody "on any given day," and about 2,000 are on track to be adopted, Luallen said.

On average, children adopted out of state care find themselves waiting more than three years before their adoption is complete, the report found.

That included an average wait of nearly a year before parental rights were terminated and another year waiting for the adoption to be completed.

Children adopted out of state custody are spending an average of three years in foster care before their adoptions, it said.

"Children may not be achieving the established goal of a safe, permanent home as soon as possible considering the amount of time spent in temporary placement," according to the report.

"Concurrent planning for adoption needs improvement so that adoptions can be finalized in a shorter amount of time to protect the child."

The national standard, set by the U.S. Department or Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, calls for 32 percent of adoptions to be finalized within two years, according to the report.

In Kentucky, 29.8 percent of adoptions met that standard, the report said.

The report made several recommendations that could shorten the adoption process, including a public awareness campaign to boost the number of adoptions and a toll-free phone service to guide prospective parents through the process.

Luallen also recommended the state join more than 20 others that have created a birth father registry. It would prevent biological fathers from blocking adoptions when they have no role in parenting the child, Luallen said.

New laws proposed to secure the rights of biological parents in Kentucky

Panel wants Kentucky's adoption laws changed -
Focuses on parents' rights
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, Dec. 15, 2006, pg. C1.

FRANKFORT -- A panel studying the way state foster children are adopted will suggest proposed new laws to help secure the rights of biological parents and require training on state adoptions for judges and lawyers, officials said yesterday.

After meeting for several months, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services blue ribbon panel on adoption decided yesterday on several proposals that Rep. Tom Burch and Rep. Susan Westrom say they will draft into bills for the 2007 Kentucky General Assembly.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Commissioner Mark D. Birdwhistell said leaders in both the state House and the Senate told him they support making the most needed improvements to the foster care adoption system in 2007.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Birdwhistell said. "We need to strike while the iron is hot."

The panel chaired by Birdwhistell has been reviewing complaints first levied in January by child advocacy groups Kentucky Youth Advocates and the National Institute on Children, Youth and Families. The January 2006 report said some state social workers were alleging that the Cabinet inappropriately removes children from their homes and, encouraged by federal law, expedites state adoptions.

Though statistics don't support widespread evidence of the "quick-trigger adoptions" that many officials and advocates have alleged, Birdwhistell said the state foster care adoption process definitely has "pockets of problems" in parts of the state. The commissioner said new laws should address "fairness and consistency" in the way children are removed from their homes and parental rights are terminated.

The legislative proposals, which Jefferson County Family Court Judge Patricia Walker Fitzgerald drafted for the panel, suggest making sure that when state social workers remove a child from a home the court notifies both sides of the biological family. Extreme efforts would be taken to find biological fathers and other paternal relatives, something that is not done now.

Under the proposed new laws, indigent parents would be appointed an attorney before they appeared at an initial court hearing. Judges would be required to tell biological parents in clear terms that they could lose their children permanently if they did not follow court orders in a timely fashion.

The proposals call for court-appointed attorneys and guardians ad litem to receive more money than the $250 to $500 that they now receive, an initiative unsuccessfully suggested by 10 other statewide panels in the last 30 years. Court appointed attorneys would also have to sign an affidavit showing how much work they are doing for a biological parent.

Currently, family court judges and attorneys are not required to get training specifically about the entire process of removing a child from its biological parents, placing the child in foster care and terminating parental right. Under the proposed legislation, that training would be mandated.

Tom Emberton Jr., Commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services, said the Cabinet will also make improvements that don't have to be approved by the General Assembly.

Efforts will be made to help at-risk families so that fewer children are removed from their homes, state social workers will receive more training, and the Cabinet will expand a Jefferson County-based Parent Advocate program statewide, Emberton said. The program provides mentors for parents involved in the child welfare system.

Westrom, D-Lexington, said that any initiatives not addressed by the 2007 General Assembly could be worked on throughout the year and introduced again in 2008.

"I can't help but think we are just beginning," said Westrom.

Kentucky State Auditor releases a performance audit on KY foster care

Auditor to report on adoption, foster care practices today -
Quick-trigger removals alleged
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, Dec, 14, 2006, pg. C4.

Kentucky State Auditor Crit Luallen will release an audit today of the state's process of adoption from foster care, state officials said.

Luallen will release what her office is calling a "performance audit" at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services' blue ribbon panel meeting on adoption at 1:30 p.m. today in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services issued a news release saying the audit would offer "general recommendations" for improving the adoption process.

The panel, chaired by Cabinet for Health and Family Services Commissioner Mark D. Birdwhistell, is wrapping up its review of complaints first levied in January by Louisville-based child-advocacy groups Kentucky Youth Advocates and the National Institute on Children, Youth and Families.

The January report said some state social workers alleged that the cabinet inappropriately removes children from their homes and, encouraged by federal law, expedites state adoptions.

Jeff DeRouen, the state auditor's director of communications and deputy general counsel, said yesterday he could not provide details of the auditor's report before today.

The 12-member adoption panel's goal is to review the process and practices that lead to the termination of parental rights and adoption of children in the state's child welfare system and to identify opportunities for improvement.

The group is working toward possible legislation for the 2007 General Assembly.

Kentucky's Office of Inspector General also has been investigating complaints about the process, but it has yet to release its report.

Woman sells soap to fund adoptions from China

She's all business toward adoption
Woods, Penny. Lexington Herald-Leader, Dec. 13, 2006, pg. E1.

Some women have unexpected pregnancies. But Kathy Werking, a Midway artist and business owner, has unexpected adoptions.

Werking, owner of Soap-werks and Werking Studio, became a single mother three years ago when she decided to adopt 3-year-old Leah after reading an article about children with disabilities living at a Beijing orphanage.

To raise money to bring Leah home, Werking sold the soaps, lotions, and candles she has been making since 1997. To help cover the adoption expenses, which can average $19,000, friends and community members also put money in a collection jar Werking had at her kiosk in Victorian Square.

Recently, Werking again felt the tug from China.She is now raising funds to bring home 8-year-old YuLan, a girl she spotted while looking through lists of children waiting to be adopted.

This time, she has assembled a gift basket with specially made products that she will sell to help cover her adoption expenses. Packaged in a colorful Chinese take-out box, the set includes her lotion; a bath fizzie made by her sister Kris Moore; soap made by her mother, Phyllis Werking; and a fortune cookie with the personalized fortune that reads: "This gift helps support the adoption of a special child."Leah, now 6, helps assemble the baskets, which sell for $16 and are available in three scents.

So far, Werking has sold about 150 baskets and hopes to sell a total of 500. Her goal is to raise $5,000.Werking said she was drawn to YuLan's picture, in which the girl was holding up her fingers in a peace sign.

"This is a child who can live in our family," she thought. Leah heartily agreed, so Werking began paperwork in July and expects to be united with YuLan in March.

Because YuLan was born with an unopened ear tube, she has suffered from many ear infections and ulcerations. At the age of 5, her family, possibly no longer able to provide her with the medical care she needed, abandoned her at a bus stop. She was taken to an orphanage, where she has lived for the past three years.

According to medical reports, YuLan's condition has not affected her hearing, and surgeons visiting on medical missions have since opened the ear tube. YuLan is enrolled in English lessons and attends school. The Werkings are taking Chinese lessons to help ease YuLan's transition into their family.

Leah, who plans to travel with her mom to China to get her new sister, has made a special contribution to the fund-raising project. In addition to the baskets, supporters can purchase lip gloss in scents developed by Leah -- Pink Peppermint and Orangey-Orange -- for $3 each.

Leah, a student at Sayre School in Lexington, has undergone surgery and wears a brace for a clubfoot.Werking, who also had a clubfoot as a child, chuckles at her daughter's sales skills. Leah personally shows Soapwerks customers her pots of lip gloss, then says, "I'm selling lip gloss to be able to go get my sister. Would you like to buy some?"

With her irresistible smile and innocent eyes, she raised $142 toward her plane ticket in the first three weeks.

Available in MidwayGift baskets and lip gloss may be purchased at Soapwerks & Werking Studio, 120 E. Main St., Midway, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Visa, MasterCard, checks and cash are accepted. Call (859) 846-9895.

Kathy Werking and her adopted daughter Leah plan to adopt a second girl from China, funding their efforts through products they make, above.

Parent advocates help birth parents put their lives back together

Voices of experience
Parent advocates help state put families back together
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, Dec. 14, 2006, pg. A1.

More than 10 years later, Lynda Dougherty says she will never forget the shock of losing temporary custody of her daughter because of Dougherty's drinking and drug abuse.

"I was sitting there crying," Dougherty recalled. "I walked into court with my daughter, and I walked out without her."

Dougherty, 42, regained custody after completing drug and alcohol treatment. She is back in the courtroom, this time as an advocate for other parents in the same predicament.

Dougherty is one of 18 parent advocates in a nearly year-old pilot project in Jefferson County through the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services aimed at helping families navigate the child- welfare system. All are part-time volunteers except Dougherty, who works full-time on an Americorps grant.

Early results have been so impressive that Tom Emberton Jr., the state commissioner of social services, said he's working on a plan to expand parent advocates statewide.

"This is a wonderful program," said Emberton , who believes it could help keep families together, reducing the growing number of children in state custody.

All parent advocates must have been through the child- welfare system themselves and successfully resolved their cases. Those in drug or alcohol recovery must have been sober for at least a year.

The purpose of the project is to provide parents extra help to regain custody of children removed because of abuse or neglect — " to bridge the gap between parents and social workers," said LaRonda Davis, the coordinator.

The belief is that parents who have been through the system are best equipped to help .

The project began in January in Louisville with a $50,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It is drawing praise from state officials, lawmakers and families helped by the advocates.

"They brought my life back together," said Howard Danzy, a single father who lost custody of his three sons because of problems related to his alcoholism.

Danzy said his parent advocate went to court with him, attended meetings of social workers and others involved in his case, and helped him succeed in a recovery program to stop drinking — even going with him to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Knowing his advocate had been through the same thing inspired him, Danzy said.

"That was a big difference," said Danzy, who has regained custody of his sons and is now thinking of becoming a parent advocate .

Emberton said he plans to use about $350,000 in state funds to create parent advocates in 23 centers statewide where adults attend parenting classes. Most have been directed to attend by a judge or social worker because of neglect or abuse .

He said he also intends to find state money to continue the program in Jefferson County when the grant expires next year.

The state hasn't decided when it will start the expanded program but is working with Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, a non profit organization that focuses on education, advocacy and preventing abuse, Emberton said.

Davis said statistics aren't complete for the 11-month-old project, but preliminary information shows that more children are being reunit ed with families.

Members of a state panel looking into Kentucky's child- welfare system said last month that they like the concept of having people who have been in the system help others.

"It's an example of community resources being used, of communities helping themselves," said David Cozart of LexLinc, a Lexington advocacy organization.

Shelton McElroy, 29, a single father, became an advocate after he resolved a bitter custody dispute in Jefferson Family Court over his daughter, 20-month-old Jasmin Davis . He and Jasmin's mother now have shared custody — and an amicable relationship, he said.

McElroy was removed from his home as a child and grew up in foster care. That's one reason he decided to volunteer as a parent advocate.

"A lot of parents have children taken from them," he said. "I was a child that was taken. I have seen the ups and downs."

McElroy said that as an advocate, he has worked with several young parents — some successfully and others not. The key is the parent's motivation, he said.

"I'm willing to work with them," he said. "But they have to be willing."

An important service a parent advocate can provide is helping parents new to state social services work through an often complex and bewildering system.

Parents can face a list of requirements: to get drug or alcohol treatment, to get a job, to attend parenting classes, to go to counseling and to follow a schedule for visits with their children.

Advocates also can help harried social workers arrange visitation, which often must be supervised .

Dougherty said her job even extended to taking one child home when the state couldn't arrange care on short notice for a boy whose mother she represents.

The other choice was to send the boy to the Home of the Innocents over Thanksgiving until the state could arrange placement with a relative, so Dougherty took him home.

The goal is to get the boy back with his mother, an outcome Dougherty said makes her work worthwhile.

"That's the best feeling of all," she said. "Everybody deserves a second chance." - NOT EVERYONE; I DRAW THE LINE AT SEXUAL ABUSE: "NO TAKE-BACKS."

CASA volunteers sacrifice vacations and risk their safety to be a voice for children

CASA celebrates 20 years of advocating for kids -
Volunteers keep tabs, report to the court system
Dawson, Carlos. Lexington Herald-Leader, Nov. 8, 2006, pg. D3.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates, which represents children removed from their homes as a result of physical and sexual abuse or neglect, will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a gala at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Embassy Suites.

The invitation-only event will feature nationally known speaker, artist and author Minara Warburton, WKYT anchor Renee Charles as the master of ceremonies, and a performance by Ukiah.

The Fayette County CASA group, one of many nationwide, was started by former district judge Don Paris in 1986. The non-profit group -- with a 20-member board of directors -- currently assists more than 70 children with funding from the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Department for Social Services, grants, fund-raising and donations.

Director Debra King, who was a social worker for about 25 years, credits volunteers for the success of the program. The group has about 50 volunteers, all sworn officers of the court, from various educational, social and economic backgrounds and careers, including teachers and pilots. "We provide 'a voice' for the children in court," King said.

She said many of the volunteers sacrifice their vacations as well as their safety. Some volunteers might have to visit risky places, under staff supervision, where parents might be involved in drug abuse, might present of threat of physical violence or might suffer from mental instability. Despite the risks, the volunteers contributed more than 1,000 hours of assistance last year.

Volunteers Jean Addleton and Virginia Atwood are retirees who wanted give back to the community."The kids touch my heart all the time," said Addleton, a former real estate agent.

Atwood, a former UK College of Education professor, worked in education for more than 30 years."I felt like I have an impact on the children's lives," Atwood said.

Volunteers inspect kids' living arrangements -- with family members, in foster care or in residential or treatment centers -- and collect other information about their well-being. The volunteers report to the court system.

King said the anniversary festivities will acknowledge the organization's longevity and the work of volunteers.

CASA holds the "Light of Hope" candlelight vigil each April to highlight child-abuse prevention month. The group also collaborates with the Crowne Plaza to distribute Christmas gifts for the "Angel Tree" project and joins with Fayette County elementary schools for "Coins for CASA KIDS."

For more information about the group, call (859) 253-1581 or go to Volunteers who were not notified about the gala should contact Debra King for invitations.

Why adopt overseas, when there are needy children here?

American kids need families, too
Stars don't need to go overseas to adopt
Dye, Steven. Lexington Herald-Leader, Nov. 6, 2006, pg. A11.

I have been following the media coverage of the recent phenomenon of celebrities adopting children from foreign countries: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Meg Ryan and now Madonna, among others.

Having worked within foster-care and mental-health systems for many years, I have mixed feelings about this.

While it is certainly admirable and even noble of wealthy and globally mobile celebrities to have the means and the desire to give a home to disadvantaged children from Third World countries, many of us in the United States are painfully aware that there are literally thousands of children right here in our back yards who desperately need foster and adoptive families.

I don't know of a single instance of a celebrity trekking to Appalachia, the Deep South, Native American reservations or inner cities in the Northeast looking for a disadvantaged child to give a permanent home.

There seems to be a certain cachet among the elite that adopting a child from exotic parts of the world is cooler than giving a permanent home to a child from Tomahawk, Ky., or Crum, W.Va., or for that matter, New York City.

Don't get me wrong. Having some knowledge of the circumstances that children in Third World countries are living in and the need for homes for those kids in the far corners of the globe, I do applaud Madonna for using her time in this manner rather than shopping for yet another mansion, luxury car or husband.

Children who are lucky enough to be adopted by a wealthy celebrity will have the opportunity to live a lifestyle few of us regular folks can even imagine.

But such news can be very painful for people who work closely with many kids right here in Kentucky who are wonderful and have great potential but who do not have parents or who will never be reunited with birth families.

What these kids need more than anything else is a permanent home. And there are not enough adoptive parents to go around. Or maybe just not enough celebrities. Wonder what Ashley Judd and Johnny Depp are doing these days?

Perhaps the people who idolize celebrities and look at them as role models could imitate them by looking into becoming foster or adoptive parents here in the United States.

There are thousands of children here who need good parents and a stable and loving family. If you are interested, contact the local social services office or one of the many private foster care and adoptive agencies.You could become a star.

-STEVEN L. DYE is director of a therapeutic foster care agency in Lexington

Adoptive parents share their insights

Foreign adoption is personal, worthy choice
Daman, Roger. Lexington Herald-Leader, Nov. 20, 2006, pg. A12.

As the mother of a daughter adopted from a foreign country, I feel compelled to respond to the statement that there "seems to be a certain cachet among the elite that adopting a child from exotic parts of the world is cooler than giving a home to a child in Tomahawk, Ky. or Crum W. Va., or for that matter New York City."

Most internationally adopted children in the United States are not just adopted by celebrities but by people of very modest means. Please rest assured that there is nothing "exotic" about the countries or orphanages where these children live. There is nothing "cool" about traveling halfway around the world, enduring weeks of hard travel, expenses and paperwork to adopt a child.

The author seemed to cast judgment on the decision parents make to adopt internationally versus domestically. These decisions are highly personal, and many parents do not view them as decisions, but as a calling.

As a social worker, I certainly agree with Stephen Dye regarding the number of children in the United States who are in need of permanent homes.

And I applaud his efforts as the director of a foster-care agency to continue to find safe, secure homes for these children. I admire anyone willing to adopt or foster any child, domestic or foreign-born. This is a lifetime commitment, and I doubt anyone does it because it is a "cool" thing to do.


As an adoptive parent of a child from a foreign country, this article was offensive, intrusive and degrading to all who have adopted internationally. The article makes it sound like these celebrities could have traveled around this country, adopted from any area they wanted to, choosing any child they wish.

We chose to adopt after our attempts to conceive led to several miscarriages. Much of our decision to adopt internationally had to do with the fear of losing another child. We couldn't bear the thought of attaching to a child only to have a flawed court system possibly tear that child away from our family.

I admire people who choose to adopt domestically. I have close friends who have chosen this route with awesome results. But I don't think people should demean celebrities, or anyone else for that matter, for choosing to adopt internationally, which is a family decision and not a decision open to public opinion.

With foster children found in cages or lost by the system, with courts viewing biological parents as the only true parents of a child, with long waiting periods with no timetable given to prospective adoptive parents, and with the difficulties of adopting from a different states, I suggest the writer mind his own business or focus on these issues.

-ROGER DAMAN, Lexington, KY

At issue: Nov. 6 commentary by Stephen L. Dye, "Stars don't need to go overseas to adopt"

Susan Smith's report on mothers who give their children up for adoption

Adoption report urges more protections for birth mothers
Crary, David. Lexington Herald-Leader, Nov. 19, 2006, pg. A7.

NEW YORK -- Mothers deciding to place their infants for adoption deserve better counseling, more time to change their minds and more support in trying to keep track of the children they relinquish, a leading adoption institute recommends in a sweeping new report.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute said its report, being issued today, is the most comprehensive ever devoted to birth mothers, whom it described as "the least understood and most stigmatized participants" in the adoption process.

"Birth parents have been a population that has been neglected for so long -- just starting a dialogue that respects them as flesh-and-blood human beings is really important," said the institute's executive director, Adam Pertman.

The report focuses on U.S. mothers who voluntarily place infants for adoption -- an estimated 13,000 to 14,000 such adoptions occur annually. Most of this country's roughly 135,000 adoptions each year are from foster care; the next biggest category is overseas adoptions.

In contrast to a few decades ago, many of the voluntary U.S. adoptions are "open" -- with adoptive parents communicating with the birth mother and often allowing her regular contact with the child.

However, the report says a significant number of birth mothers are manipulated, pressured and deceived -- sometimes finding that they have no recourse when agreements they negotiated to visit or keep track of their children are broken.

The report recommends that all states establish legally enforceable post-adoption contact agreements; it said only 13 now have such policies covering infant adoptions.

It also recommended extending other rights to birth mothers, including pre-adoption access to pressure-free counseling about their options.

"It amazes me how many adoptions are done by attorneys, where the birth mothers have zero counseling," said the report's author, Susan Smith. "There are a lot of sharks out there, manipulating them in every way they know how, and the laws don't prevent that in most states."

The report said birth mothers' chances of achieving peace of mind are greatest if they are able to keep in contact with the adopted children, or get continuing information about them.

The report recommended that birth mothers be given at least a few weeks after childbirth before the adoption becomes irrevocable. At present, irrevocable consent for an adoption can be established within four days after birth in roughly half the states.

No requirement to provide lawyers for parents who live in poverty

Child custody cases criticized
Women say state system is unfair
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, Nov. 17, 2006, pg. A1.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Benita Hollie said she never dreamed she would need a lawyer at her first court hearing where the state was seeking temporary custody of her two children.

So she went to court alone and was shocked when the judge ruled against her.

"That's where it started, " said Hollie, a Lexington woman who said she is still fighting to get her children three years later. She lost them after she was injured in a 2003 car accident.

"That was my downfall."

Hollie was among six women who testified before a state task force yesterday about problems with the child welfare system.

They and others who spoke yesterday said:
--Social workers investigating abuse and neglect are too quick to put children in foster care and overlook relatives who want to care for them.

--Social workers don't always follow procedures and they and the court place unrealistic demands on poor families.

--State workers don't always follow state policies and sometimes fail to properly document decisions and recommendations.

--Legal representation for parents often is poor, and the law doesn't even require a judge to appoint a lawyer for poor parents at the initial hearing on whether to temporarily remove children from the home.

Lawyer John Hamlet, who practices in family court in Louisville, said that's one gap that needs to be plugged. Though Jefferson County's judges have a policy of trying to appoint lawyers in such cases, the law doesn't require it and the practice isn't uniform throughout the state, he said.

Parents with no lawyer face a prosecutor, a social worker and a judge — as well as lawyers who may have been appointed for the children. That adversely affects those least able to defend themselves, he said.

"These cases hit the poor, the poorly educated, the indigent and minorities, " he said.

State officials and others on the Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption listened yesterday and said they will consider all comments in formulating proposed changes in policy and state law.

"This is a good opportunity to look at the system, " said Tom Emberton Jr., commissioner of social services.

Though Emberton said state confidentiality laws prevent him from addressing issues in specific cases raised yesterday by some parents, "We certainly want to hear their recommendations. "

The task force is accepting public comment on the issue.
Send comments to the Legislative Research Commission, Frankfort, Ky., 40601.

The panel was created earlier this year by Mark Birdwhistell, secretary of health and family services, after allegations of abuses in the child welfare system —including claims the state is too quick to ask judges to remove children from homes and place them for adoption.

Mary Henderson, of Lexington, representing a group called Women in Transition — mostly mothers who are seeking improvements in child welfare — said she almost lost her four children to adoption through overzealous social workers and state officials who didn't follow procedures.

Her children are back home now, Henderson said, but it took diligent work by her lawyer and a favorable ruling by the judge in her case. She said the entire system needs more oversight.

"We see a lack of accountability, " she said.

Robin Cornette, Henderson's lawyer, said the state also needs to examine how it pays court-appointed lawyers in such cases. It now pays a flat fee of $500 for a lawyer appointed to represent a parent — even in a complicated case where the state is seeking to terminate a parent's rights, she said.

"I have done termination cases that literally took hundreds of hours for a flat, $500 fee," she said.

Several mothers who testified said the child welfare system sometimes sets impossible goals for parents accused of abuse and neglect — such as working, attending counseling, getting treatment for substance abuse and other requirements.

The demands often overwhelm poor parents who may lack transportation or the ability to juggle all the requirements at once, they said.

"We are asking them to climb Mount Everest," Henderson said.

Hollie said yesterday that she is trying to meet the state's demands to regain custody of her two children. But Hollie, who wept as she spoke, said it's discouraging.

"I'm fighting for them but there's really no hope," she said.

No need to ratify 1997 act just because KY lacks judgement to implement

New laws on adoption in works -
Proposals could slow 'quick trigger' process
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, Nov. 17, 2006, pg. C1.

FRANKFORT -- Proposed new laws and regulations that could slow down Kentucky's so-called "quick-trigger" state adoptions will be drafted within the month, members of a state panel said yesterday.

The panel chaired by Cabinet for Health and Family Services Commissioner Mark D. Birdwhistell is wrapping up its review of complaints first levied in January by child advocacy groups that the Cabinet inappropriately removes children from their homes and, encouraged by federal law, expedites state adoptions.

Yesterday, parents who are losing their children to state foster care adoptions, the attorneys who represent them, and a citizen who reviews such cases all called for more oversight of state social workers' decisions.

"I'm being discriminated against because I'm poor," said Phyllis Richardson, a Lexington parent who testified before the Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption. "The law has failed us. The Department for Community Based Services has failed us."

Under current Kentucky law, judges deciding whether to return state foster children to their families or to allow them to stay with prospective adoptive parents don't have a say in whether foster homes are appropriate.

"Change the law to give judges more power to change foster homes if there are serious problems," Lexington attorney Robin Cornette told the panel.

Also under current law, indigent parents aren't appointed an attorney for the first court hearing held after the state removes their child.

The final recommendations for legislation for the 2007 General Assembly should be finely honed by the panel's next meeting on Dec. 14. State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said he hopes Kentucky will change its laws and influence Congress to change federal laws that speed up adoptions from state foster care.

Recommendations possibly will include paying more money to attorneys who represent parents and providing parents with legal representation in the beginning stages of their case.

There also could be a recommendation to expand a pilot program in Jefferson County that allows parents who have regained custody to become parent advocates for families just entering the system.

The Jefferson County program, which began in 2005, has led to the reunification of at least eight families and prevented the removal of children in several other cases, said program coordinator LaRonda Davis.

Angela Funk, who serves on the Foster Care Review Board in Fayette County, told the panel that volunteers who review thousands of foster care cases each year don't have enough information about foster homes.

Funk said that, besides one Lexington adoption case that she thought moved too fast, she hasn't seen a trend toward "quick-trigger" or inappropriate state adoptions.

"But I do believe it had several red flags," she said. "The Cabinet needs to be willing to hear a difference of opinion."

Addressing racial disparity in foster care system

Family Court hopefuls discuss racial disparity in foster care
Howington, Patrick. Louisville Courier-Journal, Oct. 30, 2006, pg. B2.

African Americans make up about 19 percent of the Jefferson County population, but nearly 57 percent of the county's children who are placed in foster homes are black, according to state figures.

Candidates for Family Court judge were asked what they would do to change that during a forum last night at the Louisville Urban League.

Answers ranged from keeping children in school to attacking poverty to lessening racial disparities in the number of initial reports to child-protection agencies about possible abuse or neglect. The subject highlighted the forum, which was the last in a series of such events sponsored by the Louisville Branch of the NAACP, the Urban League and other organizations leading up to the Nov. 7 election.

Incumbent Family Court judges said they don't discriminate in decisions to place children in foster care, but realize that more black families are brought before them for such decisions.

"I don't consider what race the child is. I consider what the facts are," said Judge Joseph O'Reilly, incumbent in the 7th Division of Family Court. He is being challenged by attorney Bill Tingley.

"Maybe the Cabinet (for Health and Family Services) is bringing me more cases from the African-American community," O'Reilly said.

Cabinet statistics show that 44 percent of the cases in which social workers concluded that Jefferson County children were abused or neglected involved African-American children. Such cases end up before judges in Family Court, a division of Circuit Court.

Delanor Manson, executive director of the cabinet's Office of Quality Management, said the cabinet wants to change the "community lens" that sees black families as more likely to be neglectful or abusive — leading to more initial reports to child-protection officials by neighbors, teachers or others.Manson was one of three panelists who posed questions to candidates.

But she said it's not a county problem, or even a Kentucky problem, but a national one.

Judge Jerry Bowles of the 6th Division, who is opposed by attorney Richard Porter, said people in black neighborhoods might be more willing to call police to report domestic problems, leading to more cases in the system.

"We know there's as much domestic violence in the East End as in the West End. ... But we get more calls from the West End," Bowles said.

Four of Jefferson County's 10 Family Court judges face no opposition. At least one candidate from each of the six contested races appeared at last night's forum. The audience also heard from Jefferson County candidates for two District Court seats.

Churches to provide neutral sites for parents to visit with children

Program aims to curb foster care
Parent advocates to help substance abusers keep kids
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, Oct. 25, 2006, pg. A1.

More than 1,000 Jefferson County children are in state care — most taken from homes where adults abused drugs and alcohol.

Statewide, about 7,000 children have been taken from homes because of abuse or neglect, and about 80 percent of the cases are related to substance abuse by adults.

Yesterday, the state announced it may have a way to keep some of these families together. Kentucky will spend nearly $1 million in nine communities on a program that will team troubled families with full-time parent advocates who have been involved with social services and completed a recovery program.

"The parents are more receptive once they're convinced that you were just like they are," said Robert Clayton, a single father who serves as a parent advocate in Jefferson . He regained custody of his son after a social- services investigation and has been in recovery 13 years.

The state already uses part-time parent advocates in Jefferson to work with some families, said LaRonda Davis, a state social worker who coordinates the program. Parent advocates can be a powerful influence on parents facing allegations of child abuse or neglect, she said.

Parents often are skeptical until the advocates "start telling their stories," Davis said. It makes an impact when an advocate tells a mother, "Listen, honey, my kids were taken — I know what it takes to get them back," she said.

The program, called START, or Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Team, also will rely on local drug courts, which emphasize treatment and recovery. Social workers and the parent advocate will work with families to help them change and keep their children.

About $6 million in additional state funds will be used to pay for treatment — a scarce commodity in many communities where advocates say more drug and alcohol services are needed, said Tom Emberton Jr., Kentucky's commissioner of social services.

The state also will provide funds for child care and transportation since those are obstacles for low-income parents to attending drug or alcohol treatment, Emberton said.

The biggest portion of the funding — $300,000 — will go to Jefferson County, which has the highest number of children in state care because of abuse and neglect. Metro United Way supplied $75,000 of the funds for the county. Other communities to be served are Barren, Boyd, Fayette, Kenton, Magoffin, McCracken and Metcalfe counties and a 10-county region around Lake Cumberland.

Emberton said Kentucky studied a similar program in Cleveland that he said has been highly successful. A spokesperson wasn't available for the Cleveland project yesterday, but Emberton said "Cleveland has seen a dramatic drop in out- of- home child care."

That provides better outcomes for children, since research shows children raised in foster care are more likely to have their own children placed in foster care. It also saves the state money — Kentucky spends about $40 million a year in Jefferson County alone to care for foster children, he said.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who joined Emberton for the program's announcement in Louisville, said the goal is to reduce the rate of children coming into state care and improve their families' lives."We want to find the help they need to help them stay together," Fletcher said.

Also yesterday, officials announced $35,000 in grants to two Louisville churches that provide neutral sites for parents to visit with children who have been taken from them.

State officials wore black lapel ribbons in honor of Boni Frederick, the state social service aide slain last week in Henderson while taking a 9-month-old to a home visit.

Family court judges have said more such sites are needed for court-ordered visits.

Fletcher said Frederick's murder "brought to mind the difficulties and the dangers workers face when addressing this difficult issue." The mother of the 9-month-old and her boyfriend, who allegedly fled to Illinois with the baby, were arrested and charged with Frederick's murder.

Pastor Jerry Stephenson, whose Midway Church of Christ operates one of the visitation centers for parents and children in Louisville, said he's delighted the state is expanding efforts to address substance abuse in child- abuse and neglect cases.

"For most of the families, drug and alcohol abuse is the No. 1 reason, " he said. "I am thankful that this initiative is taking place because it's getting at the root of the problem."

CASA volunteers share their stories

Advocates reach out to support abused children
5 volunteers join CASA
Schultz, Cynthia. Louisville Courier-Journal, Oct. 25, 2006, pg. J1.

They come from all walks of life, yet share a common thread: speaking up for children who are caught in a web of abuse, neglect and domestic problems and whose cases wind up in the court system.

They are CASAs — court appointed special advocates — who hope to make a difference by working for the best interest of each child.

Five new advocates for the Floyd and Washington County CASA program were sworn in recently by Floyd Circuit Court Judge Terrence Cody. The program, which now has 12 volunteers in Floyd County and two in Washington County, operates under the umbrella of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities.

Mardene Schlise, who lives in Floyd and works with Clark County Healthy Families, is a new advocate. As vice president of the Prevent Child Abuse Council for Clark and Floyd Counties, 52-year-old Schlise hopes her background will enhance her role.

"We have to be team players when it comes to children and get the parents to see that," she said. "It takes a village to raise a child."

Another new special advocate, Jeff Wenning, 35, of Clarksville, practices criminal law in Louisville. "I am from a large family that set good examples," he said. "I have the time, and am in good health.

Why not give back" to the community?
Kim Grantz , who has been the program's part-time director for 13 years, is happy to see new volunteers, but she said more are needed.

A state law passed last year requires Juvenile Family Court judges to appoint a special advocate to every case involving alleged abuse or neglect. Such appointments previously were made at the judge' s discretion.

"We want to make sure every child who has a need has a voice," Grantz said. "In order to do that, we need volunteers more than ever."

In 1996, Grantz was appointed by the Supreme Court Advisory Commission on CASA, which gives her a voice in the welfare of children.

In Indiana, more than 17,000 abuse and neglect cases were filed last year, according to the advocate program's Web site, Often children are removed from their homes because one or both parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Once a child enters the legal system, the courts determine , with the help of an advocate , whether the child can be returned to the home or whether other action should be considered — such as guardianship, adoption or foster care.

The program currently serves 21 children in Floyd and Washington counties.Volunteers receive 30 hours of training over a three-week period. They work alongside attorneys and social workers and their duties include independent investigations, writing reports and court appearances.

Annette Berger, a 44-year-old free lance paralegal, has been a special advocate for two years and works with teenage girls.

"I am their voice in court," she said. "It's just being there for them. I am a shoulder to cry on. They tell me what they like and what they don't like."

Mary June Robinson, of Louisville, serves on the program's advisory board.

"We will need CASAs until adults stop abusing children, and as long as there are meth labs in Southern Indiana," she said, referring to several raids by police in recent months. "Any time there is a bust, there usually are children present."

Mother and boyfriend face murder charges

Rescued boy rejoins foster home
Murder warrants issues for captured
Halladay, Jessie. Louisville Courier-Journal, Oct. 21, 2006, pg. B1.

The baby boy who was the focus of a three-day Amber Alert search was returned from Illinois to the home of his foster parents in Kentucky last evening.

Saige Terrell's foster mother, Jennifer Snyder, said that she was grateful for the baby's safe return and that she and her husband, David, hope to adopt him.

"I want to thank everyone involved," Snyder said. "... I just thank everybody from the bottom of my heart."

Earlier yesterday, the two adults involved in taking 9-month-old Saige appeared in federal court in Illinois and waived their right to a hearing that would have determined whether any federal bond would be set.Both Renee Terrell, the boy's mother, and her boyfriend, Christopher Wayne Luttrell, were charged with fleeing Kentucky to avoid prosecution.

They are expected to be returned to Kentucky next week, Henderson police detective Ron Adams said.Terrell kidnapped Saige on Monday during what was supposed to be a two-hour court-ordered visit to her Henderson home, authorities say.

Henderson police, along with the Kentucky State Police and the FBI, began a search for Saige after the social worker who took him for his visit, 67-year-old Boni Frederick, was found dead in Terrell's home Monday afternoon.

Henderson police Sgt. John Nevels said murder warrants were issued yesterday against Terrell and Luttrell in the death of Frederick , whose funeral was yesterday in Dixon, Ky.

On Thursday night, police and the FBI arrested Terrell and Luttrell in Godfrey, Ill., a small town about 30 miles north of St. Louis. The couple were found hiding in a vacant camper.

Social service workers in Illinois picked up Saige on Thursday night, and two workers from Kentucky, as well as his foster parents, traveled to Illinois to bring him home yesterday, said Vikki Franklin, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

"He's in excellent health and will return to live with his foster parents, who are relieved that he's safe and back in their care," Franklin said.

Terrell and Luttrell were being held by the Alton, Ill., police department, said David Beyer, a spokesman for the FBI based in Louisville. Terrell previously was charged with kidnapping Saige and Luttrell was wanted on a parole violation warrant from Jefferson County.

In their search for the baby and the fleeing couple, authorities used tips from the public, investigative interviews and some scientific and technological tools available to the FBI. Beyer would not describe specific investigative techniques.

Authorities confirmed early in the investigation that on Tuesday, Terrell and Luttrell had stopped at a gas station in Smithboro, Ill., and bought gas using Frederick's credit card. That led them to southwestern Illinois.On Thursday, a truck driver who stopped at an exit off Interstate 64 found Frederick's purse and turned it in to police in Mount Vernon, Ill.

By Thursday afternoon, Beyer said, the search centered on Godfrey.About 9:30 p.m., an FBI SWAT team from Springfield, Ill., closed in around a camper on private property off Blossom Road. Luttrell put his hands up as directed and Terrell, who was holding the baby, surrendered him and went with police cooperatively, Beyer said.

He said police believe that Terrell and Luttrell may have arrived at the camper as early as Wednesday night after Frederick's car, which they were driving, got stuck in the mud on an unpaved rural road.

The car was found about a quarter- mile from the camper where the couple were found, Beyer said."We believe they abandoned that and went on foot searching for a place to stay," Beyer said.

The camper was located between two homes, including the home of the camper's owner."They happened on it by chance," Beyer said. "And out of desperation they broke into it and used it for shelter."

By the time they were caught, Beyer said, "they were getting very hungry. They were very cold. ... They were getting pretty desperate."

Confidentiality in this case is to protect the state, not the child

Foster-care case should have remained out of public eye
Bassoni, Ann M. and Kelley Maguire. Lexington Herald-Leader, Oct. 16, 2006, pg. A8.

At issue: Sept. 27 Herald-Leader article by Valarie Honeycutt Spears, "Devoted to Dae'Kuavion; Julia Johnson recently adopted two foster sons, but she can't get a nephew out of foster care"

Laws of confidentiality regarding children in the care of the Department for Community Based Services serve to protect the identity of the child and parent at a most vulnerable time.

Unfortunately, the paternal relatives of Dae'Kuavion Perry appear to have put his well-being aside to have their needs advertised to the general public.

What is most unfortunate is that confidentiality laws and ethics prevent department professionals and the boy's foster parent from refuting any misconceptions and accusations of unethical conduct by state workers leveled by those interviewed for the article.

It is irresponsible and appalling that the placement of Dae'Kuavion's picture on the front page of the paper labels him a foster child and gives the public a one-sided account of his life. - THERE IS NO SHAME FOR DAE'KUAVION. HE IS LOVED BY MANY PEOPLE.

To establish some stability and permanency in the lives of children in state care, permanancy goals are reviewed when children remain in state care for 15 of 22 consecutive months.

As human-service professionals, we believe in the ability of individuals to make positive change in their lives, but this should not come at the expense of a child's chance for stability with an adoptive family.

There is a system in place that strives to follow the letter of the law, balancing the rights of a child and the rights of a parent, in determining placement of a child. Family placements are denied for a variety of reasons, and when this happens, the system turns to those who are willing to offer long- and short-term care to a complete stranger.

To disrupt a long-term placement at this point in Dae'Kuavion's life so that relatives can care for him "temporarily" while his father makes changes does not make sense.

To do so would seem to further the needs of relatives who were unavailable from the start of this child's journey and discounts the commitment of a foster parent who evidently made a place in her family for a child with severe health problems.

It also seems to discount the bond between Dae'Kuavion and his foster mother, the only one he has known. As a society and as individuals we must consider the needs of children, especially at the early stages of life.

This is not meant to negate what appears to be a family that cares about children and their spiritual and educational well being.

Dae'Kuavion's relatives appear to have opened their lives to children who are not their own for perhaps the same reasons the foster mother has. Where were these relatives during those first months of the child's life, and why did they not step forward when he was removed from his ailing mother's care? - UM, BECAUSE THE CABINET REPORTEDLY DID NOT ALLOW THEM TO DO SO?

It seems that these groups of caring individuals could come together outside the public eye to best meet the child's needs.

-Ann M. Bassoni, a licensed clinical social worker, and Kelley Maguire work for a community mental health agency in Lexington

More details about child recovery

SWAT team arrests 2 in Illinois
Police say baby unharmed
White, Charlie and Jessie Halladay. Louisville Courier-Journal, Oct. 20, 2006, pg. A1.

A Kentucky woman and her boyfriend were captured last night in western Illinois after a three-day search that began when a social worker who had taken the woman's 9-month-old son to her for a visit was found dead.

The boy, Saige Terrell, was with them and was rescued in the FBI SWAT team operation in Godfrey, Ill., and EMS workers took him to a hospital to be examined.

"But he appears to be fine," said Henderson, Ky., police detective Ron Adams. "We are all very relieved."

David Beyer, a spokesman for the FBI in Louisville, said that the boy's mother, Renee Terrell, 33, and her boyfriend, Christopher Wayne Luttrell, 23, were taken into custody without incident in a camper on property off Blossom Road in Godfrey about 9:30 p.m., and that Saige was doing well.

"We considered them armed and dangerous. ... We wanted to take every precaution possible," Beyer said.

There were no injuries, he said.It was unclear where the suspects were being held last night. The child will be returned to Kentucky, Beyer said, and Terrell and Luttrell probably will face an extradition hearing.

Sgt. John Nevels, head detective of the Henderson police department, said at a news conference last night in Alton, Ill., that Terrell and Luttrell apparently had no connection to the area where they were found. Authorities said their car became disabled, and they broke into the camper, which had been abandoned.

Authorities did not want to tip off the suspects that they were close for fear that Saige would be harmed, Beyer said. "They did not know they (the SWAT team members) were there until we entered the trailer," Beyer said.

He said the property's owners had no idea that Terrell and Luttrell were hiding there.Earlier in the day, FBI agents from Springfield, Ill., St. Louis and Louisville were dispatched to the area when it was determined that Terrell and Luttrell were there. Officers used "technical capabilities" to track the couple, though Beyer said he could not disclose how they were tracked.

"Local police set up checkpoints around Godfrey and the FBI flooded the area with agents," he said.

Godfrey, a town of about 16,000 people in Madison County, is about 30 miles north of St. Louis. Madison County, considered part of the St. Louis metro area, has about 260,000 residents, according to the Census Bureau.

An Amber Alert was issued Monday evening for Saige and a state kidnapping warrant was issued against Terrell. The FBI issued warrants yesterday for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution against Terrell and Luttrell.Terrell also is a suspect in Frederick's murder, though no charges have been filed, Adams said.

Luttrell is wanted on a parole violation warrant in Jefferson County. He is accused of leaving a halfway house program in June in Louisville. He had been on parole after a 2004 conviction on several counts of burglary and theft.Earlier yesterday, a truck driver on Interstate 64 in eastern Illinois found the purse of slain social worker Boni Frederick, 67, who earlier had brought Saige to visit his mother at her home in Henderson.

Frederick was found dead in Terrell's home after Saige did not return to his foster parents. An autopsy showed Frederick suffered multiple blunt and sharp force trauma in a beating.

Frederick's purse was found yesterday near the Burnt Prairie exit in White County, about 30 miles east of Mount Vernon, Ill., and about 65 miles northwest of Henderson. The truck driver turned in the purse to the nearby Jefferson County, Ill., sheriff's office, Adams said."It's only a guess, but I would say the purse was probably dropped the day of the murder," he said.

The purse was sealed to preserve it as evidence. Adams said he was not sure about the contents other than it was identified as Frederick's.

Nevels said everyone in the Henderson law enforcement community knew Frederick because police and social services work together often. Her death caused "outrage because of the extreme violence," he said.

Saige had been living in foster care since birth, but had been having regular supervised visits with his mother.

Renee Terrell's neighbors said she learned just last week that her son was going to be put up for adoption, which they say triggered her to begin talking about taking the boy to New Mexico.

The funeral for Boni Frederick is scheduled for 1p.m. CDT today at Townsend Funeral Home in Dixon, Ky., in Webster County. Visitation, at the funeral home, is from 8 a.m. today until the funeral.Reporter Charlie White can be reached at (502) 582-4653.

Baby returned unharmed

KY. couple arrested - infant unharmed
Suspects in death of social worker
Kentucky Post, Oct. 20, 2006, pg. A2.

Authorities arrested a Kentucky couple suspected of kidnapping the woman's 9-month-old son from a social worker who was later found dead, an FBI official said Thursday night.

The infant was found unharmed, said FBI spokesman Marshall Stone. FBI agents arrested Renee Terrell and her boyfriend, Christopher Wayne Luttrell about 8:30 p.m. in a rural area near Godfrey, about 35 miles north of St. Louis, Stone said. The boy, Saige, was found in the same place, he said.

Sgt. John Nevels of the Henderson Police Department was on the scene and said the couple were caught hiding in a camper that they had sought shelter in after their car apparently broke down and was stuck in mud nearby.

"They were getting pretty desperate and had run out of money and food," Nevels said. "They started reaching out to people to try and help them."

Nevels said he didn't know why Terrell, 33, and Luttrell, 23, had come to Illinois, but authorities had been searching the area for them after contacting the couple's friends and family.

The baby was examined by a local physician and found in good condition, FBI agent John Stafford said during a news conference at the Alton Police Department, where the couple were being held Thursday night. The child was in the custody of authorities.

Stafford could not say when Terrell and Luttrell would appear in court. Earlier in the day, the FBI had issued warrants for Terrell and Luttrell for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on state kidnapping charges, according to Tracy Reinhold, an FBI agent in Kentucky.

The baby had been removed from Terrell's custody when he was 13 days old because of neglect, according to police. On Monday, social worker Boni Frederick, 67, took the boy to his mother's home in Henderson for a visit.

Frederick was found beaten to death at the house later that day, and the baby, his mother and Frederick's station wagon were gone, authorities said.

Henderson police Detective Ron Adams said Frederick's purse was found near Mount Vernon, Ill., which is about 100 miles southeast of Godfrey.

A neighbor, Jean Davis, told The Courier-Journal that Terrell learned last week that the missing boy, Saige, was to be put up for adoption. Terrell told friends on Saturday she planned to take the boy and run away to New Mexico, Davis said.

"She loved her baby," Davis told the newspaper."She talked about how she was going to get her baby and everything back. She was buying clothes. She had a baby bed and a high chair and everything.... I guess it made her snap."

Fear that in domestic adoption, biological parents might change their mind

Dwindling U.S. supply a facotr in foreign adoptions
Noveck, Jocelyn. Lexington Herald-Leader, Oct. 20, 2006, pg. A3.

NEW YORK -- Angelina Jolie adopted from Cambodia and Ethiopia. Madonna, as most of the planet knows, is adopting from Malawi. And ordinary Americans adopt foreign-born children by the thousands each year -- a rate that has tripled in the last decade.

But with close to 120,000 children waiting in the U.S. foster care system, what's driving the push in overseas adoptions?

The issue is an emotional one, and it goes to the heart of what people are seeking when they adopt a child, and the obstacles they can face in this country.

"I'm happy to see any child adopted anywhere in the world," said Gloria Hochman of the National Adoption Center, based in Philadelphia. "But every time I see a story about a celebrity adopting, I always think, 'Why don't they look here?' It makes me wonder: Do they know there are children waiting here?"

Americans now adopt some 23,000 children overseas every year, immigration statistics said. Domestically, numbers are difficult to come by. The best estimate is about 13,000 to 14,000 infant adoptions, and 52,000 child-welfare adoptions, the majority of those by foster parents or relatives, said the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. (The numbers don't include adoptions by stepparents, about 40 percent of all adoptions.)

One key factor in rising international adoptions is that the supply of healthy U.S. infants has been dwindling for decades. Birth control and legal abortions have reduced the number of unwanted births. And our values have changed: The stigma attached to unwed mothers has been greatly reduced, so more women are keeping their babies.

Supply has diminished, but demand is strong: Women are waiting longer to start families, meaning they might find themselves unable to conceive. And most families considering adoption want infants; it's the closest thing to having one's own baby, to make an imprint from the start of life, to experience each stage of childhood.

The rise in foreign adoptions is just one part of what Adam Pertman, executive director of the Donaldson Institute, calls a "revolution" in adoption."

"Many kids do not look like their parents," said Pertman, author of Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming America. "New cultures are coming into peoples' homes. People are understanding that families can be formed in different ways." Gay adoptions are another part of this revolution.

As to whether families should focus more on needy children in the United States, Pertman says all children need homes. "Turning it into a competition isn't right for anyone involved," he said.

The top source for Americans is by far China, where there were about 8,000 adoptions (virtually all female) to U.S. families in 2005. Adopting from China "is a more viable option for many people," said Lacee Steigerwald, outreach director for the Great Wall China Adoption agency in Austin, Texas.

She said people often come to her agency after frustrating experiences trying to adopt domestically, often when birth parents have changed their minds. "People come to us with horror stories," Steigerwald said.

In interviews, a number of families echoed that concern about domestic adoption, that they would become emotionally or financially invested, only to have a birth parent change their mind.

"One of the things parents want is the finality that this is their child," said Will Ahern of Chanhassen, Minn. He and his wife adopted their daughter, Summer, now 8, from China at 15 months, and he says the process has been "perfect. Every morning I wake up and celebrate how cool it is."

Amber alert still in effect after murder of social worker

Three still missing after slaying of social worker
Lenz, Ryan. Kentucky Post, Oct. 19, 2006.

A 9-month-old boy, his mother and her boyfriend were still missing Wednesday, two days after a social worker was found dead in the mother's home, and police were taking calls of possible sightings across the Midwest.

Boni Frederick, 67, had taken the boy, who has been in foster care, to his mother's house for a visit Monday. Police found her body after she failed to return to work. Her car also was missing.

An autopsy completed Wednesday found that Frederick died from blunt-force trauma and sharp lacerations, police said. The missing boy was believed to be with his mother, Renee Terrell, 33, and her boyfriend, Christopher Wayne Luttrell, 23.Sgt. John Nevels, spokesman for the Henderson Police Department, said the three had not been located but that police had taken numerous calls of possible sightings in places ranging from Louisville to Illinois to Kansas.

Luttrell faces burglary charges in Jefferson County and has a warrant for parole violation, police said.

Terrell has a history of abuse charges against children, including charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a minor, police said.

The child had been taken from his mother when he was 13 days old because of neglect.

A neighbor, Jean Davis, said that Terrell learned last Wednesday that Saige would be put up for adoption. Terrell told friends on Saturday she planned to take the boy and run away to New Mexico, Davis said.

"She loved her baby," Davis said. "She talked about how she was going to get her baby and everything back. She was buying clothes. She had a baby bed and a high chair and everything. ... I guess it made her snap."

Investigators have contacted family and friends, who have been "helpful on giving some locations to concentrate on" in their search. The pair were last seen Monday at a gas station off Interstate 70 in Illinois.

Footage from a surveillance camera near the gas station broadcast on several television stations appeared to depict Luttrell filling the car with gas, but police had not seen the video Wednesday and could not confirm it was Luttrell.

The mother's white-paneled, single-story house was roped off by police tape, and a squad car was parked in front. The FBI and Henderson police were working together on the case.Terrell has family in Louisville; Evansville and Fort Wayne, Ind.; and New York, police said.

Frederick's car was missing, and the dispatcher said Terrell, Luttrell and the boy may be traveling in it. It was described as a 2000 white Daewoo Nubira station wagon with Kentucky license plate 675-DRV.

Renee Terrell was described as white with brown hair and brown eyes, glasses, 5-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Luttrell was described as white, blue eyes, 6-2 and 150 pounds with tattoos on his arms.

Saige Terrell is white, brown hair and brown eyes, 27 inches tall and 19 pounds. Police said the boy is developmentally disabled and has a scratch on the right side of his face and a rug burn on the back of his neck.

Information about the missing boy can be reported to police at (270) 827-8700.

Social worker murdered during home visit

Neighbor: Mom talked of taking son
Social worker was killed during supervised visit
Halladay, Jessie and Katya Cengel. Louisville Courier-Journal, Oct. 18, 2006, pg. A1.

HENDERSON, Ky. — Renee Terrell talked often about getting her infant son back, telling friends just Saturday that she planned to take him and flee to New Mexico, a neighbor said yesterday.

But Jean Davis, 38, who lives down the street from Terrell and her boyfriend, Christopher Wayne Luttrell, said she never believed Terrell would actually take the baby.

Yesterday, police were looking for Terrell, 33, and Luttrell, 23, who they believe took 9-month-old Saige Terrell on Monday.An Amber Alert for the child was issued about 8 p.m. Monday after police found state social worker Boni Frederick slain inside Terrell's home in Henderson.

Frederick, who was 67 and had worked 15 years as a social worker, had taken Saige, a ward of the state, for a court-ordered visit with his mother.

Henderson Police Chief Ed Brady said an autopsy done yesterday morning revealed that Frederick died of multiple blunt force trauma with several lacerations on her body.

"It was a violent death scene," Brady said. "It was a violent attack on her."

Yesterday, police confirmed that Frederick's credit card was used to buy gas in Smithboro, Ill., which is in the western part of the state, Brady said. Frederick's vehicle, a white, Korean-made 2000 Daewoo Nubira station wagon with Kentucky license plate 675-DRV, was also seen at the gas station.

A kidnapping warrant has been issued for Terrell, but no charges had been filed yesterday related to Frederick's death.

Police spent Tuesday tracking leads that were coming in from the Amber Alert, Brady said, adding, "We want the phones to continue to ring."

Davis said Terrell's threat to kidnap her son had been precipitated by the mother learning last Wednesday that the boy would be put up for adoption.

"She loved her baby. She talked about how she was going to get her baby and everything back. She was buying clothes. She had a baby bed and a high chair and everything. ... I guess it made her snap," Davis said.

Davis said Terrell has three other children, but none of them live with their mother, who neighbors said did not work because of a disability. A fifth child died in its crib, Davis said.

Authorities would not release any information about why Terrell's son had been taken from her, other than to confirm that he had been in foster care since birth. They also did not provide information about the other children.

Police got involved in the case about noon Monday when the foster mother taking care of Saige called social services and reported that the infant had not been returned, said Detective Ron Adams of the Henderson Police Department.

After getting a search warrant and entering Terrell's home, police discovered Frederick's body, Adams said.

Gary Myrick, a friend and former co-worker of Frederick's, described her as energetic, outgoing and enthusiastic about her job. "She was not afraid of anything," he said.

As a state social service aide, Frederick transported children in state custody to home visits, doctor's appointments and other activities.

That's how she ended up at the Terrell home Monday morning, taking Saige there to spend two hours with his mother.

Police say the baby is developmentally disabled and has a scratch on the right side of his face and a rug burn on the back of his neck. He has brown hair and eyes, is 27 inches tall and weighs 19 pounds.

Renee Terrell is described as white with brown hair and eyes, 5-foot-5 and 240 pounds. She wears glasses.

Court records show that Terrell pleaded guilty earlier this year to theft by deception.Luttrell is described as white with blue eyes, 6-foot-2 and 150 pounds with tattoos on his arms.

He was convicted in August 2004 of several counts of burglary and theft, said Cheryl Million, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections. He was sentenced to five years in prison and was paroled from the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in April.

After his parole, Luttrell was assigned to a halfway house in Jefferson County, Million said. On June 3, he walked away from the house without authorization.

A warrant was issued for him on June 26 for absconding parole supervision and failure to complete a halfway house program, Million said. That warrant is still active.

His Henderson County court records also show a 2003 conviction on a domestic violence assault.

Kentucky State Police Lt. Phil Crumpton asked the public to keep an eye out for the couple and the missing car. He said people should pay particular attention at rest stops, motels and to cars parked along the road.

"We believe the baby to be in danger because of the nature of the crime," Adams said.