Archive for January, 2012

The (lack of a sincere) Apology

By Attorney David Engler

The CSB worker that I agreed not to prosecute gave me the old no apology, apology. It’s where you tell the offended party that you are sorry if they were so stupid that you took their threatening words as a threat. That since you are so stupid, then I am sorry you took my warning to “stay out of Trumbull ” as something other than a nicety we people use around here. And I am so sorry if you or someone might have been alarmed that I used ugly language that would make my mother’s hair curl to tell you I would attempt to ruin your business…but if you should happen to have such thin skin then I’m sorry.

Try using one of these lines on your wife. Boom to the moon!

(Here is a link to an article that describes the pathology of the faux apology. )

It is this total lack of remorse in their every ill-advised actions that make me pursue this agency, seeking justice for the murdered and abused children. If Trumbull County’s CSB openly recognized their mistakes, and were making a sincere effort to correct them, one could give them the benefit-of-the-doubt. But in fact, they are not sincerely trying to make good, they are simply scrambling to take any actions which will make the spotlight on their operations go away.

Let’s not allow them to do that, for the good of our region and the good of our children let’s keep the spotlight where it belongs, on the children Trumbull County CSB has had in their custody who have been abused and murdered.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777 Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal


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Why Government Fails Children

By Attorney David Engler
Newton's Law

In one way or the other for 25 years I have been involved as a government elected official. First as a councilman from a tough Youngstown City Ward, then a Commissioner of a large Ohio County and now as a Board Member of a County School System. So I admit to being part of the problem.

In each of these roles, part, or the entire mandate has been to provide for and to protect children. It’s a given that we as a State and Country believe that children should be offered a Free and Appropriate Public Education. Through our County and City governments we also believe that children should be protected from those that would abuse and neglect them like their parents or other predators that lurk in front of and behind the shadows.

Government lacks accountability from results from layering of bureaucracy year after year, tax dollar after tax dollar. Each year their mass gets greater.

Laws of physics apply. A body at rest stays at rest. To overcome inertia there must be a force that is equal to mass of the object times acceleration. Newton had it right. This is my theory: that F= MA applies equally to government agencies. The question is how to generate force extrinsic to the agency.

In Trumbull County, Ohio the Children Service Placement Agency funded with federal, state and local dollars has remained a body at rest despite the murders of four children over 10 years by foster parents approved by CSB or by others where CSB was involved in the placement. Just recently, it was discovered that a nine-month old infant was molested at the agency during a “supervised” visitation. The agency remarkably believes it shares no liability for allowing the atrocity to occur and be filmed at its own building. It says this even though it knew that the infant’s father had raped a three year old relative about 7 years earlier and was sent to DYS (Juvenile Jail) in Columbus.

In Mahoning County the Board I sit on operates a school for children with emotional disabilities. And there is no doubt that the overall mission is to serve this very difficult population on funding from the State of about $11,000 per year per student. It is hard to find a teacher with a certification in special education and the aides that work with the children have even less or no training in dealing with these kids. So each year there is a tremendous turnover in personnel because to work a day at this alternative school can feel like a lifetime. There is no football team to cheer, no children getting academic achievement awards and no school plays or recitals where the children are applauded. The gains are so much smaller. It might be a victory to get a child to come to school fed, bathed and properly dressed. It is a landmark to matriculate the student back to a home school. But the turnover in personnel means there is a lack of consistency in teaching methods and often a sense that the school is doing nothing more than holding the child as time passes. Nothing will change until an accident happens and the lack of progress is brought to light.

Force in a governmental setting is only applied by those elected or appointed to be the representatives of the public that deemed a public education or the protection of children goals worthy of the forced conscription of our personal wealth, i.e.,income tax, sales tax or real property tax. The other form of force beyond our elected representatives occurs through a ballot initiative or the rejection or adoption of a tax levy placed on the ballot It is at this point where the disconnect begins. Once the money leaves our paycheck or wallet; it makes it way to the institutions charged with creating the desired outcomes of a FAPE and protected children. These government agencies are often run by an appointed board that has little connection to the elected board that years ago had appointed them. There is no real connection or concern about their jobs since they are not being paid and the public rarely even knows they sit on a board that dispenses 15.5 million dollars a year in purchased services. At this point in time several board members are reading this and shouting at the computer screen “How in the world can Engler say I don’t care about kids. That is why I volunteer my time to sit on this Board.” Let me be clear I believe that nearly all Board members on schools boards and CSB boards do care about children getting a good education and being safe from perverts, but they lack the incentive of “Force” to make any significant change even in the face of overwhelming evidence that their system is broken. The Board member normally pales in the face of a multi-million dollar entity that has long ago learned that board members come and go and the occasional critic can be outlasted. That is the inertia of Mass. It is what happens when you spend 15.5 million dollars a year on salaries and services. The prosecutor in the town turns his head because he gets over $200,000 a year in contracted services. Everyone knows someone who has a job at the agency. Maybe a recommendation from a commissioner or Board member was helpful in securing that job. Health professionals make money. Foster parents make money. Pretty soon every potential critic has a gag in his/her mouth because there is money involved.

I remember being the youngest County Commissioner in Ohio at the time, being full of an overabundance of both piss and vinegar. An older colleague kindly told me: slow down, this 300 million dollar county is like moving the Titanic. YOU CANNOT DO IT. So you learn to accept small victories, but they are literally changing the deck chairs. I built a couple of jails, instituted 911, curb-side recycling and managed to finagle money from the federal government to create some jobs. But 12 years later I’m not sure much has changed.

The amount of force necessary to move a government from a place of inertia to forward movement is the threat that it’s budget will be consumed from outside attacks like lawsuits or that it can be replaced by a model that would be inherently more accountable since it would be judged purely on how many children you helped to educate or whether you were able to keep children from being murdered or reduce the number of children abused. If you fail to show progress than you lose your government contract after three years. The economic motivation would be so great to do the job that the contracted not for profit agency or not for profit school would every day make sure it was meeting its goals. Contrast the proposed model to the model at work now. Four children get murdered and another gets molested in your agency and the only change is more tax funds and higher salaries. Teachers are jumping ship from the school in increasing numbers every year and nothing happens. There must be a connection made between doing your job and getting paid. In government it is rare for someone to lose a job because a child under its watch was murdered or students simply survive a school system because they are so difficult to begin with. My belief is that children do not fail; we fail our children.

Governments have it wrong when they think they can run a children service agency or school for special needs students. We care but not enough to do anything until some outside entity finds that special place where F = MA. It is usually the death of a child, but not always as Trumbull County has shown. It might be the loss of a levy or the loss from a lawsuit or the mandate from a Governor. But it does not occur from within. The agencies are designed to disperse blame as efficiently as a bullet proof vest will deflect the force of a fired shot. No one in particular is accountable.

Governments are designed to tax people and provide some basic services like policing the streets and providing firefighting. When the mandate goes beyond these traditional services the best result government can get to protect and educate special need children is to create a contract with a well vetted not for profit who has to answer a basic question every two or three years: “what did you do to protect our children or take care of their special needs. If your answer is nothing then you are not needed.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777 Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

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