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Published: Monday, 7/31/2006

Beacon Agency files appeal on certification

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Maumee-based foster-care agency whose certification was revoked recently by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has filed an appeal in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

The Beacon Agency Inc., in its appeal, said the state's decision "is not supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and is not in accordance with law."

The nonprofit agency also filed a motion to stay the decision while the court decides the merits of the case.

The agency, which serves 76 children placed in 34 foster homes, has offices in Findlay, Columbus, Cleveland, Lorain, and Washington Court House, all in Ohio.

The case has been assigned to Judge Frederick McDonald.

No Lucas County children are placed in the agency's foster-care program, said Rod Brandt, a spokesman for Lucas County Children Services.

The agency's Columbus-based attorney, Elizabeth Collis, was unavailable for comment.

Carmen Watson, chairman of the organization's board of directors, declined comment.

According to state records, the agency's license expired Feb. 6, 2004, and it was not granted a recertification but rather a temporary license while state officials investigated complaints.

In its rationale for revoking Beacon's license, the state agency alleged 17 violations, of which 14 were proven in full or in part by the state during a November hearing. According to the hearing examiner's report, the violations that the state proved include the agency's failure to:

  • Timely notify adoptive families of the upcoming expiration of their home studies.

  • Conduct a safety audit within 10 days of a foster family's move to a new location.

  • Develop and implement a written training assessment and training plan for each foster caregiver.

    Beacon was also found in violation of making false or misleading statements during an inspection.

    Dennis Evans, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, said agencies are given an opportunity to correct problems before their license is revoked. The hearing was another chance for Beacon to contest allegations, he said.

    "The issue is that you want to ensure that you're not needlessly disrupting an agency that is serving a lot of people," he said. "The first approach is to try to get them to amend their problems. You work with them to get them into compliance."

    This is not the first time Beacon has been under scrutiny.

    In July, 2002, a state audit charged that the organization lost more than $670,000 in the stock market and spent nearly $80,000 on a Mercedes-Benz, plastic surgery, health-club fees, and a home security system for the company's president. In all, the state alleged more than $1 million in misspent funds.

    Mr. Brandt said it was during that time that Lucas County - along with Cuyahoga and Franklin counties - stopped placing children in Beacon foster homes because they were unsure of their future.

    He added that Lucas County Children Services seldom goes outside its own foster-care system.

    Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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