Can KidsPeace 'withstand' award to
July 25, 2006
By Paul Carpenter
Just for the fun of it, suppose you
are an institution with enough money to propose a $100 million
Let's say this expansion is
approved by North Whitehall Township officials in 1997. (This is
after a boy, Mark Draheim, is put in your care.) Even if you decide
not to build the expansion, you have $100 million at your disposal.
That, in a conservative investment
portfolio, would give you annual dividends 166 times what Marsha
Draheim, Mark's mother, will get to compensate her for her son's
asphyxiation. At that rate, you could throttle more than 100 kids a
year without denting that $100 million principal.
A weekend news story was not
supposition. It told how Lehigh County Senior Judge John P. Lavelle
engineered a settlement in a lawsuit against the KidsPeace National
Center for Kids in Crisis Inc.
The lawsuit involved the 1998 death
of 14-year-old Mark Draheim at the big KidsPeace facility in North
Whitehall Township. The suit also said KidsPeace did nothing to stop
the sexual abuse Mark suffered while imprisoned there.
The story noted he was the second
boy to die there while being restrained by staff members. Jason
Tallman, 12, was killed in 1993. That death also resulted in
settlement, which avoids exposure in open court.
KidsPeace, the story said, claimed
in court documents that it ''was not in a position to pay a
substantial judgment,'' and KidsPeace flack Mark Stubis was quoted
as saying the Draheim settlement ''was structured in such a way that
we can withstand it.''
How much did Lavelle decide
KidsPeace can withstand? Marsha Draheim's end of a so-called $1.2
million settlement will come in dribs and drabs, at $30,000 a year.
But Lavelle made sure the lawyers got their end — more than 40
percent of the $1.2 million — in a lump sum, hubba-hubba.
(If the lawyers put their share in
an investment portfolio, they'll get nearly the same amount each
year — but also without touching the principal — that Draheim will
There were a few items the news
story did not mention. For example, both of the boys asphyxiated at
KidsPeace were were of small stature when they were terminally
''restrained'' by big staffers. Both were sent to KidsPeace by
county authorities against the wishes of their families.
The Draheim lawsuit alleged the boy
was repeatedly raped at KidsPeace, and the rapists included at least
one adult. Even KidsPeace's own medical records, prior to his death,
revealed rectal injuries, but KidsPeace never reported the assaults
The Tallman boy was killed by a
KidsPeace staffer named Dean Sine, who faced a half-hearted
prosecution and was acquitted with the help of testimony by Dr.
Isidore Mihalakis, a pathologist who said the death was accidental.
When Sine was acquitted, he and his
KidsPeace colleagues cheered in court, and Sine laughed in the face
of the boy's father. KidsPeace kept him on the payroll after that.
Later, Sine was sent to prison for
repeatedly raping a young boy in Montgomery County. Those assaults
were a year before Mihalakis and his ilk testified on Sine's behalf.
I have written extensively about
KidsPeace, and not just about the Tallman-Draheim cases. Based on
what I have learned in the process, I cannot escape the feeling that
this is a monstrous establishment.
I doubt, however, that it will ever
be held accountable. It is powerful and it has a cozy relationship
with youth authorities who use judges to wrest control of children
from parents, forcing the parents to use medical insurance to pay
for placements at KidsPeace.
Marsha Draheim will get $30,000 a
year, and KidsPeace will continue to rake in untold millions of
dollars with the help of that power structure.
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