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Child's death sparks system review



Published: Sat, September 2, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The foster parents are accused of leaving a boy bound in a closet for two days.

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Marcus Fiesel has gotten a lot more attention in death than he did in life.

The 3-year-old, developmentally disabled boy triggered a massive search, drawing hundreds of volunteers, after his foster parents reported him missing from a suburban park Aug. 15.

And, since the couple were charged Monday in his death, there has been a flurry of official responses amid public outcry and mourning of the child's alleged treatment.

"This little boy has touched so many people," said state Sen. Gary Cates, R-West Chester, who said he will introduce legislation that would require any changes recommended by state authorities probing the case.

Accusations

Foster parents Liz and David Carroll Jr. are accused of causing the boy's death by leaving him bound up in a blanket inside a closet for two days while they went to family reunion in Williamstown, Ky., then concocting the story of his disappearance.

If there is any good to come out of the case, it would be a thorough review of the foster care system that leads to improvements, said Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

"Unfortunately, it almost always takes a tragedy to get change in the system," Deters said.

National child advocates agree, saying highly publicized abuse cases or legal action usually are catalysts, such as lawsuits that led to reforms to the Alabama and Illinois child welfare systems.

An American Civil Liberties Union attorney in Chicago involved in the Illinois lawsuit cautioned that child-protection efforts are complex, with strong training, oversight and risk assessment systems needed to determine what's best for a neglected or abused child.

"Sometimes, those high-profile cases will lead to superficial, quick fixes," said attorney Benjamin Wolf. "You really need changes down to the level of the people who are involved in the system everyday."

State probe

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has launched an investigation of the Fiesel case, and the agency's director sent a message Friday to all 88 county children's services boards telling them to check on all children placed in foster homes through Lifeway for Youth, the private organization used to place Fiesel.

"In this instance, the system failed," Barbara Riley, head of the state agency, said in a statement. "We will conduct an investigation to figure out why, and determine whether any changes in state law or regulation should be recommended. Marcus deserves nothing less."

Adoption reforms came following a similar investigation last year of a Huron County case in which the adoptive parents of 11 special-needs children used cage-like beds. Among the changes are increased scrutiny of multiple adoptions and more information-sharing among agencies.

Butler County Children Services, which removed Fiesel from his Middletown home because of reported neglect, had already begun visiting all 116 county children placed through Lifeway. Statewide, at least 18 counties have used Lifeway, with 383 licensed homes.




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