Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2007

Boys home suspends operations

February 8, 2007


Frank Demby Jr., 46, of Lawrence, can trace a definitive moment in his life back to the early 1970s.

As an 11-year-old, he had gotten into some trouble because of peer pressure, he said. Instead of being placed in an institution for juveniles, his mother and a judge decided he would be better-suited for the group home Achievement Place for Boys Inc., which would allow him to still attend school in Lawrence.

"A lot of people don't even have the family settings. It really gives you something to think about as a child," Demby said.

The program is a merit-based, family-style setting, known as the teaching-family model. Kansas University researchers Dean Fixsen and Montrose Wolf and teaching-parents Elery "Lonnie" and Elaine Phillips in 1967 developed the program, which is now popular because of the Girls and Boys Town campus in Omaha, Neb.

After completing a vocational program and serving in the National Guard, Demby is now a father of six children and has worked for the city of Lawrence since 1983, mostly at Oak Hill Cemetery.

And now, he's concerned about other boys from broken homes not getting the same opportunities he did. Achievement Place board members have temporarily suspended operations. The last resident successfully completed the program in December.

The eight-bed home for troubled teenagers is at 1320 Haskell Ave. Board members have cited the change in the state's Medicaid-funding plan that restricted group-home stays to 140 days. Legislators and state agencies have been working on the issue while residents in group homes have either been steered to foster homes or other state facilities.

Achievement Place board members say they are waiting to see what happens with funding at the state level.

"We are also discussing partnerships with some very substantial organizations in U.S. that would partner with us," said board member Dave Kingsley, of Lawrence.

State agencies enforced the 140-day limit last year after a federal ruling determined Kansas was out of compliance with its Medicaid plan.

"There has been a change. There's been a lack of appreciation for that type of program because of costs," said Nancy Crawford, president of Achievement Place's board of directors. "So we have to retool a little bit and decide how we are going to be able to pay for the type of treatment that we provide."

Crawford said several types of service providers in the state will meet later this week with leaders at the Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services office to discuss what may happen at the state level and how it may affect them.

Representatives at the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority and at SRS did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

"Our goal is to reopen the program under the teaching-family model, and that will entail treating kids and having them live there for more than 140 days," Crawford said.

The board also is seeking private revenue sources, she said.

Bobick and Roxana Sarraf, the Lawrence couple employed by Achievement Place who most recently lived at the home as program directors and teaching parents, stayed on as employees until the last resident left the home last month, Kingsley said.

Suspending operations was a gradual process as the number of residents whittled down from six last spring to one in December. The last resident completed the program and plans to enter college, Kingsley said.

"That gives you an idea of how well that program works," he said.

The board still owns the property and the house. Board members are working on expanding the board membership and developing a fund-development program during the next several months before possibly reopening.


cerealmom 11 years, 4 months ago

Father Flanagan did not elicit State funds to open Boys Town. He used private funding and hard work to make it a success.

bd 11 years, 4 months ago

Sorry, all private funds in Lawrence is spoken for by the growing homeless problem!

thoughtful 11 years, 4 months ago

This never should have been Medicaid funded in the first place. This is a needed social service - kids are important - but shoehorning it to fit a Federal medical assistance program for the poor, is a horrid way to fund the program. Kansas needs to face the fact that there are problems that the state needs to address and not twist the rules for Uncle Sugar's money to try to do it. We need legislators and citizens who care.

Kat Christian 11 years, 4 months ago

I agree Thoughful with you - Medicaid should not be funding this program - the state should be. Kansas is all good with preaching how they want to help and protect the children, but when it comes down to doing the best thing for them the state pawned the financial burdens onto the Federal gov't. Then when the program fails because of lack of funding they blame "no funding" available excuse. Okay Kansas time you and the town of Lawrence take responsibility for helping these kids.

costello 11 years, 4 months ago

It makes me sad that a program which has apparently been successful is being suspended because of lack of funds. It's ironic that this is in the news at the same time that Jason Rose is being tried for arson and felony murder. Mr. Rose is a product of a foster care system that fails to find long-term, stable, family (or at least family-like) placements for vulnerable children. Granted he's at the extreme end, and most "graduates" of foster care don't kill anyone. But children who age out of the system are far more likely to end up in jail/prison, be homeless, have children who end up in foster care themselves, be unemployed, be victims of crime, etc. If something is working, why close it down?

As for private funds: believe it or not, we're all being taxed to pay for the child protective system. Maybe we should demand better outcomes? Even if you have no interest in the personal pain of these children, consider the fact that we'll all be paying for the "failures" the rest of their lives. Maybe a little money paid upfront will save a lot of money down the road.

TicklemeElmo 11 years, 4 months ago

The "foster care system" is in large part dependent upon people who are willing to provide a temporary family for children who's own family is struggling to raise the child. Sometimes the child returns home, sometimes they go to adoption, and there are other children who can't return to their birth family and there is no other family out there willing to raise the child so they struggle through foster care (including group homes) for years.

When children come into foster care they are provided Medicaid to help cover their medical expenses, which includes therapies and many of their needs through foster care. Medicaid is part state money and part federal money. I think it's a 40/60 split (for every $40 the state puts in the feds put in $60 = $100 for care).

... and in case you are wondering... yes, I am a foster parent ; yes, I have adopted children from foster care; and yes, I have raised children in my home until they aged out of the system because they were either never available for adoption (parental rights still in tact) or never wanted to be adopted (at age 12 a child has the right to state whether they are willing to be adopted or not).

Unless you are willing to contribute to be part of a better outcome I'd suggest you have no right to point fingers at a system doing the best it can with the limited finances and limited parental resources to make a positive difference in a child's life. If you are willing to contribute then jump in with both feet and your heart open wide... don't do it partly because these children have already been let down by family and a system that has only gone half way for them.

For those who are thinking "I'd like to find a way to help in some way" you might consider contacting your local agency for foster care. All sorts of volunteers and financial contributions are welcomed to help give kids in foster care similar things children with a family receive (like a prom dress... can you imagine not having one for your prom... and Medicaid doesn't pay for things like this for foster children).

In addition, there are children here in Kansas hoping somewhere out there someone is willing to take a chance on them and become a parent to them. You don't have to be perfect and you don't have to be rich. There is a very high need for people willing to adopt older children (7yrs+). For active people an older child might be perfect (past the diapers, able to dress themselves, maybe they can even bait their own hook). Sibling groups desperate not to loose each other just want a chance to find a parent (or parents) willing to let them continue to be siblings. If you are someone who might consider answering these children's desperate call for the chance to have their very own family, visit

costello 11 years, 4 months ago

TicklemeElmo: If you're talking to me, I HAVE adopted a child from foster care - a fairly difficult teenaged boy. He's 15 now, and due to his behaviors it's not possible for me to adopt again at this time. He has to be an only child. When he's grown and out of the house, I'll adopt again - God willing.

I also run the adoptive family support group in Topeka, because I hope that support will help prevent disruptions.

I'm training with Keys for Networking because I'm interested in advocating for foster children.

I've also served as a CASA.

I'm well familiar with the problems of the foster care system and intensely interested in foster children, their well-being, and ways to improve their lives so they can grow up to be successful, happy adults.

There aren't enough families for all the kids available. And some of the families who ARE interested aren't prepared to handle the problems of high needs teens. Face it, too many of these kids aren't going to find an adoptive family. Some of them can't live in a foster family even. They'll end up in group homes and residential treatment centers, making no significant attachments to adults. They're going to age out of the system. And the outcomes for too many of these children are poor. Denying that is just silly. It's a fact. While they're aging out, should they be bounced from home to home?

I don't have any personal knowledge of the group home discussed in this article, but if it increases the odds that these children arrive at adulthood happier and healthier, then I say find the money.

So, do you still say I "have no right to point fingers at a system doing the best it can with the limited finances and limited parental resources"? Please don't assume that I'm not pulling my fair share here. I've taken in a teenager who was bouncing from home to home in the system. He was burning through a new foster home every 4 or 5 months and was destined for a group home. He's an angry, troubled child. I've been told by therapists and case workers that most parents would have given up long ago. In the 2 1/2 years he's been with me, he's begun to heal, but he still has far to go. And now we're about to enter the juvenile justice system, because the school insists on treating him like a criminal instead of a troubled child who's only part way down the road to recovery. And I'll be there with him the whole way.

Crispian Paul 11 years, 4 months ago

Posted by caracalla (anonymous) on February 8, 2007 at 9:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

good, no more sex offenders in our neighborhood.

Caracella-Have you ever heard the term NIMBY (Not in My Backyard)? That pretty much describes this attitude. As a social worker in child welfare who has had kids placed at both AP for Boys and the now defunct AP for Girls, I can assure you that itis a minority of these kids that are sex offenders. Most are there because they are chronic runaways, have drug or alcohol problems or something of that nature. Where do you propose these kids go? Anywhere they go, they are going to face NIMBY morons....

Crispian Paul 11 years, 4 months ago

TIckle me, etc, AGREED. As a former foster and adoptive family PS MAPP trainer, I can tell you that even though we try and make it really clear that the majority of kids in care are older that 7 (and actually most are older than ten who are up for adoption), have special MH or physical needs etc, people still want babies or kids under 3 years old. People continue to adopt out of the country for this self-same reason. I echo you in asking people who can and are willing to look at the reality of kids in care, please consider donating your time or efforts to child welfare agencies (i.e. The Farm, KCSL, DCCCA, The Shelter...).

TicklemeElmo 11 years, 4 months ago

Hi Costello (R - yeah, I know who you are)... I'd NEVER point a finger at you, you might bite it off! Besides, you're like my hero. You adopted a VERY difficult child and I keep both of you in my prayers that your son is able to become the man you are willing to stand by him to become. If it weren't for you your son might have never had the chance for a family. (Guess I should have made clear the "you" was in general for the world of finger pointers who want change but aren't willing to be part of the solution)

I continue to believe every child is adoptable, they just need the right person and the right circumstances. There was a time workers probably thought Costello's son wasn't adoptable and times where Costello was wondering if she could do it. Not all children are so difficult, but thank goodness for Costello's son she was up for the challenge.

Oh, and Crispian... we miss you coming to visit us!!! You were such a terrific worker and very supportive. Give me a call sometime! (Hint: this past summer we walked around my neighborhood while I weighed some heavy choices about M&M)

Crispian Paul 11 years, 4 months ago

Oh, hey, lady...would love to talk sometime. Will be in touch...

costello 11 years, 4 months ago

lol ... Okay, you know me, Tickleme. The part about me biting off fingers convinces me! But who are you? I can't figure it out.

Sorry for getting snappy. I was feeling attacked. Glad you were talking to the collective "you" and not just me. I also wish others would pick up the ball some. If even 2 or 3 percent of the population would work on this problem, we could make a huge dent in it, and there would be fewer suffering kids.

TicklemeElmo 11 years, 4 months ago

I understand, Costello... I never meant for you to feel attacked. Like yourself, I feel passionate about fostering/adopting children and have served in many similar capacities as yourself (including being a CASA). I get so irritated when I hear people complain about a situation and refuse to be part of the solution... I wish I could motivate people to consider opening their life to an opportunity that could provide more reward than they thought possible.

There are some people who think "someday" or "I'm too young" or "I'm too old"... hogwash. My husband was 24yrs old when we first started taking in foster kids (I was 28). We took in a few younger kids and within a year we were also taking teenagers. Some worked well with us, others not as well. All children come with a history and we were better equiped to handle some children than others.

I think it's unfortunate we are loosing another resource for children in this area. It seems a few years ago we also lost a group home in Lawrence. A couple years ago Florence Crittendon in Topeka stopped taking pregnant teens. Some kids issues are so great that they burn out a family foster home. At least in a group home setting there are employee's coming in that can help recharge the live in parents.

Fostering/adopting isn't for everyone, but contributing in some way to our children is something everyone can do... and they are "our children" because for too many kids they belong to the courts until they are 18yrs old and we, the citizens of Kansas, should always remember that means they are our children and we should do what we can to support them. They are our future... we are only as good of a society as we treat our least fortunate. Children without a Mom or Dad to turn to deserve more.

Hmmm... a hint for Costello? I've attended the support group before and participate in the same on-line forum as yourself and many other adoptive/foster parents. At one of the support groups I had to bring my 5yr old daughter, she fell asleep just as the group meeting started and slept through the whole thing.

costello 11 years, 4 months ago

lol... I know who you are now. Plenty of very specific hints.

Are we just talking to ourselves here? When the LJW runs a story on banning smoking, half the town reads about it. Talk about kids in state care, and the only people who show up - besides us, of course - are the neighbors to the group home. And they're only here to bellyache about how rough it is to have the kids living next door.

One of my acquaintances once told me that if my son were a dog, they'd "put him down." Well, he's not going to be put down. He and the other kids in state care are going to grow up and live in the world with the rest of us. We can take care of them now, or we can take care of them forever.

Hope you come next meeting. I'm hoping we can talk a bit about Love & Logic, but the floor is open for anything anyone needs to talk about. I've had a bit of a rough time recently, but things are quieting down again. A little spell of peace before the next blow up! ;-)

TicklemeElmo 11 years, 4 months ago

Caracalla: Not to be a defender, because Crispian is very capable to do that for herself... she was stating the majority of the kids in foster care are not sex offenders...

The article you commented on was about a group home for children in a foster care type setting... it isn't a half-way house for sex offenders or anyone coming out of jail.

There is misinformation occuring where some people actually think that all foster kids are sexually perpetrating on other kids. I once had a parent remove her child from the same daycare as my foster child because that parent found out my barely 3yr old foster daughter is a foster child. She told the daycare worker "you just never know about 'those' children... she might touch my child".

Crispian Paul 11 years, 4 months ago

Posted by caracalla (anonymous) on February 8, 2007 at 2:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Crispian, well then, lets stick some sex offenders around the corner from your house while you are raising some young children and then we shall see how you feel. It is easy to condemn something when you yourself don't have deal with it. Or face the possiblility of your family be in danger.

1) I do have a sex offender that lives a block from me.
2) As I have said, the minority of any of these kids are sex offenders. 3) Any child who is a sex offender almost assuredly was the victim of sexual abuse. 4) Again, instead of attacking me, what is your solution? Should CHILDREN who need treatment be sent off to a deserted island? No matter where they are "sent", there will always be someone like you who is unhappy about it. 5) It's interesting that you stated I myself do not have to deal with these things. However, I am in the TRENCHES dealing with these kids every SINGLE day, so please don't act as if I am clueless. I was born at night, but not last night.
6) EVERY person is in danger at any given time. Did you know, looking at the KS registered offenders website that they do not have active addresses for many of them? Very often, offenders move frequently and without telling their PO's, AND the offender registry only lists those with convictions after 1994. So really, you are not EVER fully safe.

justthefacts 11 years, 4 months ago

I will weigh in, to say that I applaud those who actually DO THE WORK they ask others to help out doing! Not every specific charitable endeavor is a good fit for every person's particular gifts or circumstances (e.g. I am taking care of OLDER people in my home, so no bedrooms left for younger ones), but you get a lot of "steet cred" for putting your words into action in your own lives!

It's indeed a tough situation. While on one hand many people will probably SAY they aren't in favor of throwing children away simply b/c they got a raw deal and were born to parents who weren't terrific at doing a parent's job, the same people are often going to object to having the government or anyone else tell them that they must pay for programs and projects that they do not want to support with their money.

It's really hard to legislatively mandate charity, just as it is impossible to pass laws that stop all people from doing all harmful things. It's hard to make people care about situations that do not impact them personally. The ability or power to empathize seems to be waning.

Thank God for people like you, who do not wait for all the answers to come in a neat little package, tied up in a bow. You have waded in and are trying to help, as best you can, one person at a time.

I'll close with some quotes from a hero of mine, Mother Teresa:

It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start. . . . The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

costello 11 years, 4 months ago

Beautiful quote, facts. "The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved."

As to public vs. private funding of child welfare. When the government assumes a function, many of us step back and let them get on with it. People figure they pay their taxes, programs are started and run, problem solved. They don't see the need to give to a charity for basics. They may cough up a present or two for an unfortunate child at Christmas time. But food, clothing, shelter, medical care, family? The state provides that, doesn't it?

It reminds me of a quote from a favorite movie of mine - A Christmas Carol. When Scrooge is stopped in the street by two men seeking a charitable contribution for the poor, he asks, "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

When he's assured that the prisons and workhouses are still in full operation, he says, "I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

When he's told that many would rather die than go there, he says, "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Kind of reminds me of caracalla: "They were given their chance to co-exist with society, however they botched it up, sure some people are dealt bad hands, however I am not going to let myself or my family suffer for that."

Shyland 11 years, 4 months ago

Caracella - it sounds like your family may continue to suffer, regardless of who your neighbors are, with the attitude you espouse.

The children in your neighborhood and our community will never be "safe" if we fail to promote and recognize the fact that young offenders are by default "immature".

They have rights regardless of their wrong-doings, and as adults, we even more than they, have a duty to ensure at least reasonable efforts are being made to promote their rehabilitation - in their interests, and in the interests of our community at large.

Criminalizing children is a travesty, and just creates more criminal-like behavior. Many young sex offenders are victims of abuse themselves, which is not to justify any wrong-doing, but there is no solution without breaking the cycle.

How do we reinforce a child to have belief in himself, in his own sense of dignity, or teach him to respect basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of others unless we promote an attitude of respect ourselves?

I wonder what, you, Caracella, propose in ensuring these kids learn to assume their duty to perform constructively in this society?

You think a lock-down facility out in the back-arse of nowhere is going to improve the situation?

There is a DIRE shortage of foster homes in this area catering to either girls or boys in JJA custody with JO offenses in general. The lack of services to address the needs of severely emotionally disturbed children, with juvenile sex offenses, is also DIRE.

I propose all people who have an interest in the fate of ALL kids in our community, in foster care or otherwise, advocate that SRS and JJA make every effort to assist the Achievement Place for Boys so that it can re-open as soon as possible. We need more beds, more resources, and more employees like Mr. and Mrs. Sharaf.

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