Contributed to TLB by: Health Impact News and Medical Kidnap
Whenever we publish a story at MedicalKidnap.com regarding Kentucky, we get flooded with people sharing their stories of alleged corruption with Kentucky’s Department of Child Based Services (DCBS) and the Family Court system. They share a common theme of parents alleging corruption and collusion, of DCBS using hearsay as substantiated evidence without ever doing investigations into the truth, of Family Courts, attorneys, and social workers being corrupt giving parents little hope of ever getting their children back.
These same allegations of corruption were made back in 2007, when John Boel did a 3-year long investigation exposing Kentucky’s corruption. Our question today in 2016: is it still “Business as Usual” in Kentucky DCBS and Family Courts?
Watch these John Boel investigations from 2007:
We bring you one Kentucky family’s story that illustrates the incredible struggle families face today in what many call an unjust Family Court, and what happens when DCBS relies on unproven allegations.
When Danny and Leeann Foster of Christian County, Kentucky fell on hard times in the summer of 2015, they decided to move to Louisville to look for work. Not finding work there, Danny moved to Nashville, TN to work in his father’s business as an electrician, while Leeann and their two daughters, Bailey age 5 and Danica age 2, stayed in Louisville. Leeann’s mother Sonya offered to have the children come stay with her for the summer, and since the children would enjoy summer back in their old town better than staying in Louisville, Leeann agreed. Leeann never could have imagined the nightmare that was about to unfold when her own mother would make allegations that she and Danny had sexually abused their own daughters.
There is no argument that physical and sexual child abuse is a crime, and if found guilty in a due process Criminal Court of law, that the criminals should be incarcerated.
But what if you were accused of sexual abuse based on a false allegation and a faulty medical exam, arrested, incarcerated, then released from jail because the Criminal Court dropped the charges for insufficient evidence, yet you learned that Family Court would not return your children because they were still going to press charges? How is it you can be Not Guilty in Criminal Court, but Guilty in Family Court on the same charges? The 5th Amendment says that no person shall be tried for the same offense twice, so it begs the question, is this a type of Double Jeopardy and a way around the 5th Amendment?
After 3 weeks of the girls being at Sonya’s home, Leeann began to suspect during their phone calls that her mother was drinking again, and decided to end the summer visit early.
Leeann had a history of strained relations with her mother Sonya. As a child Leeann herself became a ward of the State and was placed in kinship care with her maternal grandmother, allegedly due to Sonya’s drinking and abusive behavior. As Leeann grew up and forgave her mom, she was determined to move on and have a good relationship with Sonya, especially so that Leeann’s children would know their “Mimi.”
When Leeann arrived in Hopkinsville to pick up the girls on Saturday, July 18, 2015, she had several messages on her cell phone from Sonya claiming that both girls had been sexually abused, and that Sonya had taken them to Jennie Stuart Medical for a sexual abuse exam.
Upon arriving at Jennie Stuart, Leeann discovered that the children were being detained in State custody and then she was escorted out of the hospital by police, pending the investigation. Leeann had no idea that the accusations of abuse were made against her and Danny, and her mind raced with questions about who had abused her children during the 3 weeks that they had been with their grandmother.
Leeann was kept in the dark about the true nature of charges, unable to comfort her children, or find out what was going on. Leeann returned to home to Louisville, feeling completely helpless.
“I was frantic that my girls had been violated and I was racking my brain over who had been around the girls …who could hurt my babies!!! I just wanted to protect my kids and I wasn’t allowed to. It hurt.”
Parents Arrested & Incarcerated
Leeann was arrested 3 weeks later from her home in Louisville, but was not told the charges at the time of her arrest. Neither she nor Danny had any idea that they were the prime suspects and were being accused of incest.
For almost 2 weeks, she was detained without access to a phone call, and she was continually being offered plea bargains by her defense attorney if she would testify against Danny. Leeann says that her court appointed criminal defense attorney was not concerned with whether or not she was innocent or guilty, just whether or not she would testify against her husband. Leeann offered to take a lie detector test, but they would not give her one.
3 weeks after Leeann’s arrest, Danny was arrested. Because he was living in Tennessee in order to work, the police sent a S.W.A.T. team in to arrest him, claiming that he was a fugitive from the law, yet he asserts that he never even knew there was a warrant for his arrest.
What Danny and Leeann would come to find out is that Sonya had accused them of incest, and that Jennie Stuart Medical performed exams that supposedly confirmed abuse, and that Bailey made a statement that Danny had “touched her while in the tub.” Detective Jason Sears of the Hopkinsville Police department, who was investigating the case, allegedly confirmed that “without a doubt” the abuse had been happening for over 2 years.
Purportedly, Jennie Stuart Medical did not perform the medical exams correctly, and a 2nd medical exam was performed about 2 weeks after the Fosters’ arrests. The new forensic exams showed “no evidence of sexual contact,” yet Leeann and Danny remained incarcerated for nearly 3 months.
The County’s prosecuting attorney, Lindsey Adams, was allegedly so adamant that he had evidence to convict Danny and Leeann, that he denied them ankle monitoring devices or bond reduction.
Criminal Court Finds Insufficient Evidence
No True Bill is a finding by a grand jury that there is no probable cause to decide that a crime has been committed. It will be endorsed by the jury on the written indictment submitted to it that it is their joint opinion that the evidence found was insufficient to indict and the accused person must not be put on the trial. Source.
After nearly 3 months of being incarcerated, the Grand Jury issued a “No True Bill” on October 23, 2015 for both Danny and Leeann, citing,
“Insufficient evidence was presented to warrant an indictment.”
Danny’s paid defense attorney, Rick Boling, was delighted, telling them that only 1-2% of people walk away from criminal allegations like that. Having never been in trouble with the law before, Leeann now reflects,
“For 3 months I was behind bars, defenseless, helpless. I was facing 10 years, and Danny was facing 80 to life!
Before this happened to me, I had always believed that if someone was arrested, they were guilty.
Now I see that really isn’t true.
I’ve always been a big defender of children and animals because they can’t defend themselves, but now I look at the news differently and I wonder if the stories being reported are true. I would love to tear this whole system apart if I could. They are destroying families in the guise of helping families. Some families have to file for divorce to get their kids back.”
Despite the fact that the Criminal Court, which relies on the highest burden of proof, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, found no evidence for an indictment, Sarah Heltsley, the DCBS social worker, informed Leeann that Family Court can and will proceed with all charges because Family Court operates on a lower level of evidence, the Preponderance of Evidence.
In IN RE WINSHIP,397 U.S. 358, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368 (1970) the U.S. Supreme Court ruled,
“the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case as bottomed on a fundamental value determination of our society that it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free.” Source.
Child Changes Confession, DCBS & Detective Ignore New Testimony
Danny is Bailey’s step-dad, so when the children were taken into custody, Leeann phoned Bailey’s legal father, Matt in California, and he immediately flew out to get her out of State custody. It took Matt nearly 3 weeks of being in Kentucky (and a little help from a sister who is a para-legal) before the judge granted an ex-parte proceeding to allow him to return to California with Bailey.
While in Matt’s care, Bailey allegedly confided to him that her “Mimi” (Sonya) hit her with a stick in the stomach several times until she could repeat the accusation that her step-dad Danny had molested her. Matt claims he informed Sarah Heltsley, the DCBS social worker, and Detective Sears of this new information, but says that no action was taken by either one.
Exasperated, Leeann explained,
“They take my mom’s story, and Bailey’s initial statement made as a fact. And even though Bailey never repeated that accusation again, and the fact that Matt affirmed that Bailey disclosed that her Mimi made her say those things by hitting her in the stomach with a stick and pointing to her private area, saying ‘your step dad touched you there,’ DCBS completely disregarded what Matt said, and only believe what my mom said.”
Who Determines What is in the Children’s Best Interest?
Early on, when Sheri Johnson, Danny’s mother, expressed concerns about Sonya having custody of Danica, she asked if she could have temporary custody of Danica until the investigation was complete. She called, left voice-mails, sent emails, and even a certified letter, but Sarah Heltsley the social worker allegedly never replied to her request.
When Sheri came for a visit in late November, she and Leeann had a supervised visit with Danica. Sheri then asked if she could at least have Danica come stay with her for the Thanksgiving weekend, but when Sarah asked her supervisor Amy Cox, Sheri’s request was denied.
Again, Sheri expressed her concerns about Danica living with Sonya, but was allegedly told that she was not an option for placement because she lived in Florida, and that if Danica did not live with Sonya, DCBS’ only other option for placement was foster care. To this remark Sheri exclaimed,
“so the well-being of the child isn’t what matters here.”
Family Court Refuses to Return Children to Parents
After their exoneration in criminal court, Danny and Leeann assumed their children would be returned immediately, but were astonished to find out they still had a battle ahead in Family Court. For nearly 3 weeks after their release, Leeann called the social worker, Sarah Heltsley, to see about having the children returned, but Sarah allegedly never returned the calls.
Finally, Sarah called back to inform Leeann that there would be a Family Court hearing on December 10th, and she gave dates for 2 visitations with Danica prior to the hearing.
Leeann and Danny were excited at the thought that they would finally get their children back on December 10th.
However, at the hearing, there was not even any discussion of evidence. Instead, Matt was ordered (over the telephone in court) to return Bailey to Kentucky and into Sonya’s care, after being in Matt’s care for the past 4 months.
The reason for the judge ordering Bailey’s return? Because the prosecuting attorney Lindsey Adams wants to do paternity testing. Although the Fosters can see no reason why this information is even relevant to the case, it seems to them be the “delay” the prosecuting attorney is using to postpone hearings, Adams contends that the case cannot be adjudicated until paternity is established. Court was set to be continued until January 28th, 2016, but has now been continued to February 25, 2016, awaiting paternity testing.
Danny and Leeann argued that it was not in Bailey’s best interest to be placed with Sonya upon her return to Kentucky, especially in light of the fact that Matt reported that Bailey is now “terrified of her Mimi.” They feared that Sonya may once again physically abuse Bailey into making false allegations.
Bailey is now in foster care placement with non-family members, and as much as it pains Leeann that Bailey is with strangers, she feels it is safer than being placed with her own mother, Sonya, who she believes “would abuse Bailey until she says what Sonya wants her to say.”
Kentucky Family Court, Above the Rule of Law?
DCBS is a department within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services which administers child protection services within Kentucky. Many have alleged that the Cabinet runs the Family Courts within Kentucky, and their outcome is based on the Cabinet’s prejudice, not on justice.
When Danny and Leeann wanted to hire a private defense attorney for Family Court, he purportedly told them,
“Don’t waste your money. If they tell you to stand on your head, you’d better stand on your head. The Cabinet controls everything. It doesn’t matter if you have a paid attorney or not, since there is no due process.”
Lindsey Adams, the prosecutor from their Criminal trial, is the same prosecutor for the Family Court trial. According to Leeann, he “would have burned us at the stake” in Criminal Court if he could have. Leeann expresses her fears:
“There has been no investigation into the truth. The children are white and prime adoption age. Numerous reports can be found of Kentucky CPS corruption to include terminating parental rights in favor for adoption – adoptions for which the state receives federal funding.
There are also reports of CPS workers retaliating against parents and their families when they try to fight for their children. Other reports exist of CPS workers receiving requests from prospective adoptive parents and terminating parental rights in order to place children with those adoptive parents.
CPS clearly holds themselves above the law and it is time for them to stop destroying families and children’s lives. Are your children safe from false accusations and lack of evidence to support allegations of neglect or abuse by CPS? It takes only one person who has something to benefit or who seeks revenge against you to make it happen – even if they have a criminal record!”
It is terrifying to Leeann how Criminal Court could give them a “No True Bill,” and yet Family Court proceeds as if “sufficient evidence” is unimportant. According to Kentucky’s Family Court Rules of Procedure and Practice, regarding Judicial Notice in Dependency, Neglect or Abuse Actions,
“In making any determinations with regard to a child in a dependency or neglect or abuse action, the court may consider the findings of fact and court orders from any other court proceeding in any other court file involving the child or the child’s parents or the person exercising custodial control or supervision, if the Court is aware of such proceedings. To the extent that the court relies on such, the court shall include a copy of that material in the record.”
“Substantiated Reports” or Hearsay?
DCBS failed to give any paperwork or the “Substantiated Reports” to Leeann’s Family Court defense attorney, and when they showed up for court on December 10th, her attorney did not have any paperwork regarding the allegations against Leeann. Her attorney suggested that Leeann file a complaint with the Ombudsman. In her complaint to the Ombudsman, Leeann also told him about the allegedly coerced testimony of Bailey and the alleged abuse of Bailey by Sonya that DCBS was ignoring.
The ky.gov website, describes the Office of the Ombudsman:
“By law, this office serves as an advocate for citizens and works to ensure those seeking various public services are treated fairly.
The Office of the Ombudsman answers questions about CHFS programs, investigates customer complaints and works with CHFS management to resolve them, advises CHFS management about patterns of complaints and recommends corrective action when appropriate.”
After Leeann emailed the Ombudsman on December 11th, the defense attorney finally received all the DCBS paperwork, in early January of 2016. Until they received “Substantiated Reports,” Leeann was unaware that Sonya had alleged neglect in addition to the sexual abuse accusations.
Apparently, when Sonya had taken the children to Jennie Stuart Medical, Sonya also accused Leeann of neglect, stating that the children were dirty and hungry when she got them for the summer, that both girls had lice, that Danica had diaper rash, that they were underweight, and that Bailey told Sonya that her mom locked them “in cages.” Sonya also accused Leeann of having a drug problem.
When she learned of the allegations, Leeann explained that the “cages” described are just baby gates that Leeann put across the girls’ doorways while they played, to keep the toys corralled in the bedrooms and not sprawled throughout the house. Despite the fact that the children had been in Sonya’s care for over 3 weeks when she accused Leeann of neglect, and without an investigation or a home visit, DCBS allegedly substantiated all of Sonya’s allegations.
Accusing DCBS and Family Court accepting hearsay as fact, Leeann says,
“It blows my mind that anyone can make accusations and they are accepted as true, and yet anything we say to defend ourselves is not permitted. They do these scare tactics, make these allegations that they say are substantiated, and as a parent, you’re in the dark wondering what’s really going on.”
As part of DCBS’ “Reunification Plan,” Danny and Leeann are ordered to do drug screenings, mental evaluations, pedophile evaluations, and parenting classes, as well as “get and maintain housing for 6 months” and “cooperate with DCBS.”
Regarding the injustice of still facing charges in Family Court, after they already served 3 months in jail for a crime they did not commit based on false allegations and hearsay, and after they were released from Criminal Court by a Grand Jury based on insufficient evidence, Leeann entreats the community:
“I’ve been a mom since I was 16. My days used to consist of taking care of the kids. Now my days are filled with just trying to get them back. Holidays were hell – what’s Christmas without the kids?
6 months into this and my baby is no longer a baby. Both girls have changed and grown up so much. We have missed Baileys 1st day of school, I was locked up on my birthday, and we spent this past holidays without our children. This has been a horrible nightmare and I stay sick to my stomach daily over it.
Now that this is in Family Court, I see no light at the end of the tunnel. They keep throwing new things at us.”
Speak Out Against Injustice
If you, like many others, are wondering why the Family Court in Christian County is determined to litigate an alleged abuse case that has already been dismissed as a No True Bill case in Criminal Court, please call or write Judge Fleming and the Office of the Ombudsman with your concerns.
Contact Judge Jason Fleming
Family Court Judge Jason Shea Fleming presides over the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court in Christian County, Kentucky.
Honorable Jason Shea Fleming
Christian Co. Justice Center
100 Justice Way
Hopkinsville, KY 42240
Contact the Office of the Ombudsman:
By Telephone: 1 (800) 372-29731 (800) 372-2973 FREE or 1 (800) 627-47021 (800) 627-4702 FREE (TTY)
E-mail the Ombudsman AndreaT.Day@ky.gov
Online Contact Form http://chfs.ky.gov/os/omb/ombcontact.htm
The Office of the Ombudsman
Cabinet for Health and Family Services
275 E. Main St., 1E-B
Frankfort, KY 40621
See Other Stories Published on Kentucky DCBS: