Posts Tagged respect

Can A Social Service Agency Be Saved? – Trumbull County CSB, Again.

By Attorney David Engler

The former Director of Trumbull County Children Services resigned yesterday and was replaced by Timothy Schaffner, current director of Valley Services, which is a local social service provider with long standing contacts and contracts with CSB. This is not just a local story but one of how a dysfunctional organization can cure itself.

Government workers

I wish him well in the new job and hope that his initial comments of having many friends at the agency and an appreciation for their commitment to protecting children and families does not preclude leadership that requires culture change. The death roll of children who have had direct CSB involvement over the last 9 years should be cause for institutional soul searching, not “way to go Brownie” comments.

A change of director is not enough. The problems are not going to be solved with a simple “we will fix what the State says is wrong” and be done with this ugliness. There is a wide felt sense in the Trumbull County population that CSB serves the agency is one that cannot be trusted.

Already the new director has parroted the Board’s and old Director’s misplaced belief that my actions are those of a lawyer seeking a quick dollar and publicity at CSB’s expense. That attitude will spawn additional mistakes and then litigation and lead to the proverbial fix of putting lipstick on a pig. The lipstick will be happy billboards and sugar coated statements that we protect children and-by-the-way-trust-us.

Like I said earlier, I hope Director Schaffner makes a difference. I offer my help. CSB will eventually crumble if changes are not made to the organization. CSB needs to share in accepting responsibility for the boy that died from cancer where his parents never took him for care, or the toddler that was molested in the agency or processing home studies based on fiction or allowing children to be murdered by a person they approved as a caregiver.

Director Schaffner would be the rare government bureaucrat who understood that it is healthy in any relationship to accept blame, seek forgiveness and then redeem. The relationship is with the people truly served by CSB. They are largely poor, minority, drug dependent, uneducated and abuse victims themselves. Show respect to these citizens and you will get it back in return. Do not settle for just correcting what the State says you failed to do. Seek to be a leader and adopt the model of service deliveries being pioneered across the country. And for sure: stop blaming the victims (your clients). If a child is injured, abused, neglected, murdered or dependent it is our fault. Change the culture. Please.

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

Also published on Attorney David Engler’s Legal Blog


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Abusing Adults

By Attorney David Engler

Adult Protective Services (APS) is responsible for investigating reports of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of Ohioans aged 60 and older. Similar agencies exist in every state. APS is part of each Ohio County Department of Job & Family Services (CDJFS). The Ohio Revised Code defines “abuse” as infliction upon an adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish. “Neglect” is defined as the failure of an adult to provide for self the goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness or the failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services. “Exploitation” means the unlawful or improper act of a caretaker using an adult or an adult’s resources for their monetary or personal benefit, profit or gain.


APS can petition Probate Court for a temporary restraining order to prevent interference or obstruction of its investigation by any person, including the abused adult. The court must find (a) that there is reasonable cause to believe the adult is being or has been abused, neglected, or exploited, and (b) that access to the adult’s residence has been obstructed. APS can also petition the court to approve a service plan providing involuntary services. The adult must receive a notice describing his or her rights and the consequences of a court order at least five working days before a hearing on the petition. An indigent adult has the right to a court-appointed attorney. Notice of the hearing must also be sent to the adult’s guardian, attorney, caretaker and spouse.
The court must find by clear and convincing evidence that (a) the adult has been abused, neglected, or exploited; (b) the adult is in need of protective services; (c) the adult is incapacitated; and (d) no other person authorized by law is available to give consent. If the court so finds, it must issue an order requiring protective services for up to six months, but can be re-authorized for up to a year.

But like with any governmental organization, APS can be too intrusive. Before they act there needs to be clear authority that an adult can be removed.

Recently, I met a distressed couple who had their Mother literally yanked from their home in the final months of her life. An anonymous tip was given by the Mother’s long time “friend” that she wanted to go back to the care-takers residence. The mother was in full scale dementia and would answer a few questions correctly and if asked would parrot the name of the “friend.” In horror the family of the elderly woman watched as APS took the mother from their home and moved her back to the friend’s house. After the Mother was there the friend arranged for her entire estate to pass to him. An attorney helped in the sham transfer.

In a matter of months the family desperate for help asks the Probate Judge to order an evaluation of the Mother. She had dementia for at least a year and was unable to make any decisions on her own. Be careful when a governmental agency says that it knows best. Hold on to your liberty because they are about to snatch it from you.

Probate Court acted quickly but it was too late. The Mother died a few days after the mental health assessment. Her possessions real and personal would have passed to the children, but for the friend getting everything transferred.

More than the money the family loss the beauty of being with their parent as she lived her final months. All they are left with is bitterness towards a government going too far and a scrapbook of memories.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777 Attorney Engler’s website

Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal Law

Also published on Attorney David Engler’s Legal Blog on April 3, 2012 and on

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Age and Its Awful Discontents

By Attorney David Engler

Walking Woman

In my earlier blog I wrote about my Mother finding a new friend in the weeks of her final dawn. “Wanda and Stella” was about the two WWII era nurses that made a pact to go to heaven together.

Mom died on February 3, 2012 and Stella died March 3, 2012. The following piece is from Louis Begley who writes with beauty about friends lost as we age. This was published in the March 18, 2012 New York Times.

“My mother died in 2004, two days short of her 94th birthday, and 40 years and two months to the day after the death of my father. He died at 65; for the preceding four or five years he had been in poor health.

My mother and I lived through the German occupation in Poland; my physician father, having been evacuated with the staff of the local hospital by the retreating Soviet army, spent the remaining war years in Samarkand. Left to fend for ourselves, my mother and I became unimaginably close; our survival depended on that symbiotic relationship. All three of us — I had no brothers or sisters — arrived in the United States in March 1947, and once here I began to keep her at arm’s length. Especially during her long widowhood, I feared that unimpeded she would invade my life, the life she had saved. I remained a dutiful son, watching over her needs, but was at first unwilling and later unable to be tender.

My abhorrence of the ravages and suffering inflicted on the body by age and illness, which predates my mother’s decline in her last years, is no doubt linked to there being no examples of a happy old age in my family. The grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins who might have furnished them all met violent deaths in World War II.

Unsurprisingly, dread of the games time plays with us has been a drumbeat in my novels. Thus, arms akimbo, majestic and naked, standing before a glass, Charlie Swan, the gay demiurge of “As Max Saw It,” illustrates for the younger narrator on his body the physiology of aging: misrule of hair, puckered brown bags under the eyes, warts like weeds on his chest, belly, back and legs, dry skin that peels leaving a fine white snow of dandruff. Listening to him, the younger man is reminded of his own father in a hospital, permanently catheterized, other tubes conducting liquids to his body hooked up to machines that surround his bed like unknown relatives. He prefers his mother’s “triumphant” exit. A headlong fall down the cellar stairs kills her instantly.

I have followed the progress into old age of Albert Schmidt, like me a retired lawyer, in three novels. Schmidt is 60 when we meet him in 1991; when we part on New Year’s Day 2009, he is 78, therefore a couple of years older than I was then. Life has not been kind to him, but so far, Schmidt enjoys excellent health, marching up and down the Atlantic beach in Bridgehampton and New York City’s avenues, and doing laps in his pool. Although he worries about performance, his libido is intact. Nevertheless, the reflection of his face in the window of a shop is frightening: he sees a red nose and bloodshot eyes, lips pursed up tight over stained and uneven teeth, an expression so lugubrious and so pained it resists his efforts to smile. My appreciation of my own charms is not very different. Like Schmidt, I see that nothing good awaits me at the end of the road, and that passing years will turn my life into a Via Crucis.

And yet my body, like Schmidt’s, continues to be a good sport. Provided my marvelous doctor pumps steroids into my hip or spine when needed, it runs along on the leash like a nondescript mutt and wags its tail. My heart still stirs when I see a pretty girl in the street or in a subway car, but not much else happens. Except that, since by preference I stand leaning against the closed doors, she may offer me her seat. When last heard from, Schmidtie figured he had another 10 years to live. I have a similar estimate of my longevity. Such actions as buying a new suit have become dilemmas. The clothes I have may be fatigued and frayed, but won’t they see me through the remaining seasons? Can the expense of money and waste of time required to make the purchase be justified?

My mother did not remarry after my father died. She lived very comfortably, but alone, in an apartment 15 blocks away from my wife’s and mine. If we were in the city, we went to see her often and then daily as her condition deteriorated in the last two years of her life. Our children and grandchildren tried to see her often, too — and those visits brought her great joy — but they live far away and the happiness was fleeting. During her last decade she was very lonely. Most of the friends she had had in Poland had been killed. Those who had escaped and settled in New York one by one became homebound or bedridden, lost their minds or died. Or she found they bored her. Hearing poorly, tormented by arthritis in hip and knee joints, too proud to accept a wheelchair, she stopped going to museums, concerts and even the movies. She had loved sitting on a Central Park bench and putting her face in the sun. That humble pleasure was also abandoned; she couldn’t get the hang of using a walker.

Having rehearsed the bitter gifts reserved for age, T. S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding” that “the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time.” The closer that place — the human condition — is to home, the harder it is to take in. I could speak movingly of Schmidt’s loneliness after the loss of his daughter, calling his existence an arid plane of granite on which she alone had flowered. But it has taken me until now, at age 78, to feel in full measure the bitterness and anguish of my mother’s solitude — and that of other old people who end their lives without a companion.”

Louis Begley is the author of several novels, including “Schmidt Steps Back.”
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 18, 2012, on page SR7 of the New York edition with the headline: Age and Its Awful Discontents.

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

Also published on on March 20, 2012

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Rest In Peace Mom

Austintown, Ohio and Orono, Maine- Wanda Jane Engler, 84, died February 2nd, 2012, at the Maine Veterans’ Home after battling Parkinson Disease. She was born February 27th, 1927 in Bellwood, PA, daughter of Samuel and Emma (Hostler) Hildebrand. She graduated in 1948 from the Clearfield School of Nursing at Indiana State College with a degree in Nursing. Wanda was proud of her service as Nurse Cadet during WWII and working with veterans at the Cleveland VA Hospital, where she participated in some of the very first open heart surgery as Operating Room Nurse. On January 20th,1951,she married William L. Engler, the father of her four children. She worked as a homemaker and nurse throughout Ohio, finally settling in Youngstown, OH, where she worked as an office nurse for Dr. Tochtenhagen in Girard and as a nanny for her grandchildren until her retirement. She loved working around her home and reading. She loved her grandchildren immensely and was known to everyone as “Nana”. She enjoyed her neighbors and lived next door to the best neighbors ever, Carl and Mary Gump. She moved to Maine in August 2009, to be closer to her youngest daughter and granddaughter who cared for her during her hardest months.

Wanda was predeceased by her loving husband of 39 years, Bill; sisters, Lorraine Fair and Grace Large and brother Eugene “Red” Hildebrand. She is survived by her four children: Patricia Engler of Conifer, CO; William Engler (Wendy)of Minneapolis, MN; David Engler of Canfield, OH; and Amy Engler Booth,(John) of Orono; grandchildren: Mallory Engler of Houston, TX; Elizabeth Engler, of Chicago, IL; Taylor Engler, of San Diego, CA; Emma Engler, of Canton, OH; William Engler, of Pittsburgh, PA; and Molly Booth, of Orono. She is also survived by: sister Thelma McWilliams of Bluffton SC; and brother Ralph Hildebrand of Altoona, PA; and nieces and nephews.

The family would like to express sincere thanks to the staff at Maine Veterans’ Home. Interment and a memorial service will be held in Austintown, OH in the late spring. In lieu of flowers, those who wish to remember Wanda in a special way may make gifts in her memory to the Clearfield Hospital Nursing Alumni Association’s Nursing Scholarship, c/o Rita Thomson, 612 Arnold Ave., Clearfield, PA 16830.

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Sharia Law not incompatible with our Divorce Laws

By Attorney David Engler

In my practice, I have had the opportunity to represent about 8 people of the Muslim faith seeking a divorce. Most of these have been women and the rule in almost all marriages … it is the husband that causes the problem but the wife files for divorce. Like usual, I am always left wondering how in the heck did some guy get a beautiful educated woman willing to take care of him, get away. Bad judgement is consistent across all faiths. There have even been a couple of instances where I have been hired specifically to meet with the husband and talk some sense into his head. Muslim Woman

Sharia law is given by God to provide guidelines and rules for much of the personal life and conduct of the Muslim. The concept of love and responsibility and respect for each other is found in Sharia. In America we develop an instant bias against anything Muslim given much of our knowledge comes from CNN news clips or political rants by anti-immigration crowd. Our law comes down from our representative bodies and the judges who interpret the law through cases. We rely on the courts and lawyers to help straighten out a messy divorce In Sharia the plaintiffs and defendants usually represent themselves. But the concepts of marriage and divorce in Sharia law mirror our U.S. Courts, so the effects of a Sharia Law marriage can largely be enforced in an American divorce court.

A marriage can be terminated by the husband in the ‘talaq’ process, or by the wife seeking divorce through ‘khul’. Under ‘faskh’, a marriage may be annulled or terminated by the ‘qadi’ judge.

Men have the right of unilateral divorce under classical Sharia. A Sunni Muslim divorce is effective when the man tells his wife that he is divorcing her, however a Shia divorce also requires four witnesses. Upon divorce, the husband must pay the wife any delayed component of the dower. The American lawyer should introduce the Sharia marriage contract as evidence that this gift should be enforced during the temporary orders or as part of a property division.

If a man divorces his wife in this manner three times, he may not re-marry her unless she first marries, and is subsequently divorced from, another man. Only then, and only if the divorce from the second husband is not intended as a means to re-marry her first husband, may the first husband and the woman re-marry.[Qur’an 2:230] A woman may not remarry for 5 months after a divorce to protect the proper lineage of children. In our courts we ask women of all ages before granting the divorce, “are you now pregnant.”. So often the name of the former husband appears on a birth certificate because the woman became pregnant during the marriage but not by the husband. It is interesting in Sharia law that this issue is dealt with by prohibiting marriage for five months after the divorce.

‘Mahr’ or dowry is a beautiful concept. It is security for the woman even if it is more in a symbolic sense. The bridegroom makes a gift of value that takes the form of a contract. The gift can be jewelry, money, a car or other items of value. Like our common law practice a gift like an engagement ring cannot be taken back because the marriage did not last.

At a Muslim marriage there is a point where the bride leaves to become part of the groom’s family. This can be a very touching moment because the daughter is now literally part of a new family. This does not mean she is subservient to this new family, just that the responsibility for her care belongs to the groom’s family. The modern reality is that Muslim women in America are career-oriented, well-educated and can usually take care of themselves. But once again the American lawyer should become familiar with Sharia law and consider calling an Imam, or cleric, to speak to as an expert as to what was considered as the parties entered the marriage contract.

In our temporary hearing orders or in determining an appropriate spousal support, the law provides that the understanding of the parties is appropriate evidence. It is also important to determine if the wife has sacrificed her income to support the husband’s education or stayed at home to raise children. Likewise it makes sense to introduce the Sharia marriage contract and cultural customs that form the basis of what the parties intended.

The fact that a marriage was arranged has no impact on a division of assets or spousal support award. It might even mean more in support if the court understands that it was the understanding that the woman truly was to be part of this new family and left so much behind. As a father of two young daughters (21 and 23) I definitely believe I could make a better choice of their mates than they could. I and their mother have more life experiences to draw upon and know what mistakes to avoid. So I do not look poorly upon arranged marriages even though my children can only be subjected to my gentle persuasion. If I push too much I will be tuned out. So it is interesting to note that in Muslim divorces it is not the fact of an arranged marriage that is at the root of the divorce. It is the usual suspects of lack of respect, infidelity, money problems and immaturity of thought.

My exposure to Sharia law and my Muslim clients has been one of the most positive in my career. There is little deceit and a great sense of honor that makes it easier to do my job.

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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Keeping Track of Your On-Site Visits

By Attorney David Engler

One of the most important jobs of a guardian is to keep track of the times you visited your ward at a nursing or group home. Just last night I was visiting my own mother at a rehabilitation facility. Now while she seems to be completely competent at age 82, I can see the difference in treatment because the staff knows I am a lawyer and involved in the guardianship business. Most importantly I am keeping track of what I am seeing and letting them know that I am. My mom has complained about not getting her medications at the right times and about rude treatment by an aide. Her roommate confirmed the complaints.

It is remarkable how some staff that work at nursing homes do not seem to like their jobs and treat all patients like unruly children.

Well, they should be listing the complaints they receive directly from the patients on their charts. They do not! It is information that might show a pattern of neglect and therefore better not to list. But the fear of litigation is a powerful deterrent and if you demand that your complaints on behalf of your ward be documented and that you are recording the same, your client will get better care.

My Mom hit the nurse’s button and was not supposed to use the rest room without assistance. The response took more than 20 minutes. Now she is on a diuretic and it is hard to wait. The aide finally showed up and said, well just do it in your bed. You have to be kidding! She wasn’t! Believe me, these understaffed and under trained statements are coming out every day to our wards who find themselves relying on the care of others. Let the facility know up front that you will document the issue in your own case notes.

Our software ( allows the guardian to keep track of case notes and these notes are searchable. Contemporaneous notes are admissible as business records if litigation is needed in the future. We have to put the pressure on the residential care-givers to keep them honest and accountable.

Vary the times you come to visit so your schedule is not predictable. If they know you show only at 4 P.M. then maybe they will not bathe your ward until that time. Do not be shy about letting the residential care facility know that your job is as an advocate on behalf of your ward. Let them know that you keep electronic records even if they do not.

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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Upcoming Holidays: Good Advice for Visiting Loved Ones with Dementia

“I read this great article about holiday visiting in the Columbus Dispatch” – Attorney David Engler

Good Advice for Visiting Loved Ones With Dementia
By Misti Crane

This upcoming holiday season of gathering, reminiscing and tradition also can bring sadness and uncertainty for those who love someone with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.

To make the most of holiday visits, caregivers and other relatives and friends should accept what can’t be fixed and learn to offer support and bring joy to those affected by the disease, experts say.

During visits, “you have to learn to suppress any feelings that you have, put a big smile on your face and try to be as cheerful as you can,” said Dr. Leopold Liss, medical director of the Columbus Alzheimer Care Center.

One in 10 Americans 65 and older suffers with dementia. It affects almost half of those 85 or older, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

People are prone to over-explaining reality when an evasive, yet truthful, answer would be best, Liss said.
Laralyn Sasaki, who lives in the Short North, said that her visits with her grandmother, who had dementia, improved significantly when she learned to answer questions that way.

“When she asked where her husband was, who had passed away several years before, we’d say, ‘You know, we haven’t seen him today’” said Sasaki, whose grandmother, Thelma Townsend, died three years ago at 97.

Learning to avoid correcting the person with dementia is essential, said Mari Dannhauer, program director at the Alzheimer’s Association of Central Ohio.

“We tell caregivers they’ve really won their last argument, because the person with dementia is not able to be rational in our world so, we kind of have to jump into their world.”

Insisting that someone remember your name is useless and potentially damaging, Liss said.
“You have to respect the fact that this is their reality. Don’t try to jerk them out of it because it might have negative results,” Liss said.

Helping also can mean avoiding things that create frustration.

Sasaki said she and her mother learned to tune into nature shows or old, happy movies rather than channels featuring current events and political candidates her grandmother didn’t recognize.

Her advice to others dealing with dementia is to visit loved ones rather than staying away out of fear of awkwardness or tension.

Sasaki was part of a team of people who volunteered their time recently to produce DVDs and CDs that feature Liss and offer caregivers advice.

At the holidays, caregivers should know that things don’t have to be perfect, nor do they have to be the same as every other year, Dannhauer said. Changing a home-cooked holiday party into a potluck can ease anxiety. And having family members visit in shifts rather than all at once can help, Dannhauer said.

She recommends involving the person with Alzheimer’s disease in activities such as singing carols or wrapping presents rather than assuming that they can’t or don’t want to participate. Interacting with children can be uplifting, and smiles and embraces are almost always a good thing, Liss said.

For information about central Ohio support groups and other resources for friends and family members of someone who has Alzheimer’s, call 1-800-272-3900 or visit

For information about The Art of Caring DVDs, go to

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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