State report finds fault with foster
agency in Marcus' death
Lifeway for Youth's permit at stake
after state inquiry finds violations, places blame in Fiesel case.
By Candice Brooks Higgins
November 28, 2006
The private foster care placement
agency that recommended 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel be placed with the
couple charged in his death has taken the brunt of the blame, based
on an investigative state report released Monday.
Lifeway for Youth, based in New
Carlisle, faces losing its license and its 523 Ohio foster homes may
soon need to find new referral agencies.
The private foster care agency the
Butler County Children Services Board contracted to place Marcus was
cited for 17 violations by the Ohio Department of Job and Family
Services. In addition, the state made 53 recommendations for
reforming Ohio's foster care system.
Lifeway, according to the report:
Failed to gather complete
background information, including medical and work history on the
Did not visit the home frequently
Did not contact any references;
Allowed a relative as a
Lied about the number of training
hours provided to the couple;
Billed the state for training
that never occurred; and,
Didn't investigate why the couple
failed to report an injury of the boy.
"A child with great need was placed
in a home for which there was no real certainty or even any level of
assurance could meet his needs," said Barbara Riley, director of the
The developmentally disabled
Middletown boy died in August allegedly at the hands of foster
parents Liz and David Carroll Jr. The Carrolls are both charged with
murder and in jail each on a $10 million bond.
Lifeway's two-year license renewal
is in limbo until the state Office of Children and Families
completes an in-depth review of the agency's Ohio operations before
its Jan. 18 recertification deadline, Riley said. The review will
assess Lifeway's compliance, recertification eligibility and account
overcharges for foster parent training, she said.
Children still are being placed
through Lifeway, but county children services boards have been
advised to visit all 475 children in Lifeway homes, Riley said.
Officials with Lifeway, which
operates in six states, declined to comment Monday, citing legal
At the time of Marcus' death,
nearly 30 percent, or 118, of Butler County's foster children were
in Lifeway placements. With more than 300 licensed foster homes in
Southwest Ohio, other counties in the region also rely on the
agency, which has 523 homes in 21 Ohio counties, said Dennis Evans,
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services spokesman.
If its license is revoked, counties
and other private foster care agencies can recertify Lifeway homes
to avoid disrupting placements, Riley said.
However, revocation is rare with
nine occurring since 2000, while there remains 369 foster care and
adoption agencies in Ohio, Evans said. The state's only existing
recourse against a failing agency is revocation, but the state wants
to develop alternatives such as fines, Riley said.
Butler County Children Services,
which took custody of Marcus and his two siblings in April, met all
state standards and supports the state recommendations. Clermont
County Children Services also properly investigated abuse claims at
the Carrolls' home, but failed to meet six standards in certifying
the home as a day care provider.
In its two-month investigation, the
six-member state review team found Marcus' death "beckons" reform of
Ohio's child protection system. "Red flags" such as the Carrolls'
June 22 domestic violence incident, transient residence history,
live-in girlfriend and David Carroll's reported bipolar disorder
weren't discovered or reported before Marcus' death, state officials
A random review of 128 foster
applications found other foster parents could sneak through the
cracks, the state agency found. Eighteen percent had missing or
incomplete criminal background checks and 11 percent had no criminal
The team made recommendations for
foster care reform, including:
Adding staff and funding for the
Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services to intensify its
oversight of private foster agencies;
Increasing the frequency of
criminal background checks to annually;
Expanding the scope of background
checks to include drug testing, credit checks and residence
Expanding the list of offenses
that disqualify a foster parent to include driving under the
influence and five other crimes;
Requiring statements from doctors
who have prescribed psychotropic medications;
Developing a central database for
criminal and personal background checks; and,
Creating a database of foster
caregivers who have been revoked for licensing and require a
five-year waiting period before reapplication.
The legislature will need to walk a
fine line to write "adequate, but not overly burdensome" fostering
licensing standards, said state Sen. Gary Cates, R-West Chester Twp.
A work group will begin meeting next week and legislation could be
introduced early next year, he said.
Cates said, "The legacy of Marcus
Fiesel is we will have stronger laws that will protect other
children in the state."
Contact this reporter at (513)
820-2175 or email@example.com.