By Ed Runyan
An attorney has written to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Gov. John Kasich asking for the state to take control of the Trumbull County Children Services in light of a review released Friday of the agency’s operations.
“On behalf of the victim, a 13-month-old infant, I am asking that you immediately seek a state takeover of the agency and remove the director and any other person involved,” Atty. David Engler said in the letter, which he emailed Sunday and sent through the mail Monday.
Engler represents two biological family members of a 1-year-old child in Children Services Board custody who allegedly was raped at the agency’s offices in July by the child’s two biological parents, Cody Beemer and Felicia Banks Beemer, both of Warren. Authorities say the rape were videotaped on a cellphone. The Beemers have pleaded innocent to the first-degree felony rape charge.
JFS reviewed the circumstances surrounding the alleged rape. JFS reported that CSB employees failed to enter 2010 and 2011 information it had pertinent to the child into the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System until October 2011 — after it learned about the alleged rape.
The JFS Office of Families and Children has oversight of agencies such as county CSB offices.
Ohio JFS said a safety assessment and family assessment pertinent to the child was conducted in August 2010, “but these tools were not completed timely.”
JFS also found “technical errors” in the documentation related to the assessment, it said.
Nick Kerosky, executive director of Trumbull CSB, said Monday it’s important that JFS thought CSB’s decision to continue with restricted visits in this case was “reasonable for the family circumstances.”
Kerosky said the record-keeping problems JFS cited “would not have prevented” the alleged rape. The rape was “unforseeable,” Kerosky added, a claim Engler disputes.
“Ninety percent of all abuse upon children is caused by relatives or people known to the child. It was completely foreseeable,” Engler said in the letter to Ohio JFS and the governor. Engler has said JFS allowed Cody Beemer to be alone with the child even though the agency knew he previously had been convicted of a sex crime.
Atty. Dan Letson, meanwhile, a longtime member of the Children Services Board, said Monday he agrees with Kerosky that the alleged rape by the Beemers was unforeseeable.
“Such deviant behavior as alleged is unforseeable in a structured environment such as a CSB visitation room,” Letson said.
Letson said he agrees with JFS’s recommendation that CSB install additional monitoring equipment, saying research has shown that cameras reduce bad behavior.
Letson and Kerosky say Engler’s request for the state to take control of the agency is without merit.
“They have many professional people dedicated to the families of Trumbull County,” Letson said of CSB workers, adding that the shortcomings noted by JFS are not reflective of the overall quality of the work at CSB.
A call Monday to Benjamin Johnson, Ohio JFS spokesman, regarding Engler’s letter was not returned.