Sunday, April 15, 2007

Too many questions for me to comprehend

I have the following questions after reviewing the timeline of Stephanie Bennett' and the adoption of her daughter, Evelyn Bennett. If anyone has the answers please advise me in comments, and I will update this post. Answers from comments added.

  1. Why was Thomas Saltsman, a Guidance Counselor at Stephanie's school, holding a brochure for an adoption agency in his office? Is this standard practice for high school guidance counselors?

  2. What education and background did Mr. Saltsman have that made him place himself into the role of adoption facilitator?

  3. If guidance counselors in this school district recommend adoption to teenagers inside school property, do they also counsel on options for raising a child?

  4. Are these actions recommended, endorsed, or known to the Plain Local Schools Board of Education, that teenagers are counseled on adoption without their parents being present?

  5. Why was A Child Waiting Adoption Agency the brochure that he had in his office?

  6. Why is a minor allowed to sign a legal, binding contract for adoption, when no minor can sign any other contract and have it binding?

  7. If Mr. Saltsman did indeed have education and qualification to act in the role of adoption facilitator, why did he allow Stephanie's "independent counsel" at the time of her contract signing to be an attorney who has also represented the agency? Wouldn't someone with Mr. Saltsman's education and qualification realize this is a conflict of interest?

  8. Who was this attorney present as Stephanie's independent counsel? Has disciplinary action been taken against them? If not, why?

  9. As the agency and Mr. Saltsman counseled Stephanie to run away before the DNA results could be made on the father, is Mr. Saltsman still employed? As of right now, Mr. Saltsman's name is still on the active staff at the high school's website.

  10. If so, why?

  11. Is A Child's Waiting Adoption guilty of a crime for advising a minor to run away from home? Could someone please tell me if so, what crime this is, and why the adoption counselor has not been charged?

  12. What is the age of Evelyn's father?

  13. Why is this agency still in business, advertising on the internet?

  14. Who are these people, who would keep a baby away from her mother and grandparents?

  15. How much have the adoptive parents been told? Are they aware of the circumstances? I'm really stretching with this one. One one hand, if the agency would be so horrific to Stephanie, what's to say they wouldn't lie to the adoptive parents as well? On the other hand, we've all see the entitlement, the classism, the closed hearts. What is going on here?

  16. Last, but most important, how many other Stephanie's are out there? How many vulnerable and scared girls have been victimized like this?

I only have questions, because I can't coherently write about this. Judy Bennett is my age. Her daughter is my son's age. This could happen in my family. This could happen in yours.

This could be a timeline of five months in your life.

11/05/06 – Stephanie found that she is pregnant and hid it from her parents until 3 weeks prior to delivery. She is tall, this is a first pregnancy and the popular baggy clothes worn by young people made that possible.

4/17/06 – Stephanie delivered Baby Evelyn Joann Bennett and named her for her Great Grandmother and her Grandmother and her Mother. The plan is that, with her family’s support, Stephanie will raise the baby.

Stephanie’s parents are not wealthy people and Stephanie and Evelyn go on Medicaid

4/06 - Stephanie told her parents that the father was a school friend, with whom she had never had sex. She was desperately trying to protect her family. She lied to her parents because she was afraid of the real father who had been making serious and repeated threats against her family. Stephanie attempted to protect them from him and what he would do to her family, to her and to Baby Evelyn.

9/07/06 – After 5 months of repeated and serious threats to her family’s health and safety and emotional abuse from the putative father of her child, Stephanie approached Thomas Saltsman, Counselor, at Glenoak High School. Stephanie originally went to discuss a schedule change, but mentioned adoption. As soon as Stephanie mentioned adoption, Mr. Saltsman turned, got a brochure from his desk for A Child’s Waiting Adoption Agency and arranged a meeting for the next day in his office.

9/8/06 – Stephanie signed the initial paperwork that began the process. Mr. Saltsman signed as witness, in his office, at the high school, this was the ONLY meeting between Stephanie and the agency people, until the agency worker came to take Baby Evelyn on 9/12/06. There was no counseling nor protection offered to Stephanie. An attorney was present, as Stephanie’s “independent counsel”, but she also handled adoptions for A Child’s Waiting Adoption Agency on a regular basis.

9/12/07 - As a policy, Medicaid demands the name of a father, or they require DNA testing on any possible ones. The young man that Stephanie claimed was the father in order to protect her family’s safety from the real father went to have his DNA tested. Stephanie was to bring Evelyn in for her test to see if they matched, but Stephanie never came. She had already run away, as directed by the agency rep in the school guidance counselor’s office, to avoid the DNA testing. The involvement of a father in the proceedings would complicate things for the agency. Proven fathers have rights that require protection. DNA evidence is proof of paternity. No proof and there are only putative fathers, who legally need not be consulted. Evelyn was not tested, as she had already been taken from her mother by the agency.

9/12/06 – Stephanie and Evelyn ran away (at the agency’s suggestion, in the Guidance Counselor’s office, to Carrol County where Stephanie’s parents could not interfere). Also the last time Stephanie saw baby Evelyn. The agency rep came to this place and picked up baby Evelyn.

10/2/06 – Judy and Ranza Bennett got temporary custody of Baby Evelyn; went to the agency in Copley Township in Summit County accompanied by Copley Police. Agency told the police that they had spoken to the 17-year-old but told her that they could not do business with her while she was a minor and that neither child was at the agency.

10/16/06 - Judy and Ranza notified by Canton police that they were to appear in court on 10/17/06. Not informed as to why.

10/17/06 – Went to court, still no information as to reason. Stephanie appeared accompanied by A Child’s Waiting. Court placed Stephanie into a Respite Home due to allegations of abuse made against Judy and Ranza Bennett by the putative father who had been making the threats against Stephanie and her family, which stated that there was neglect and abuse against both Evelyn and Stephanie. A case worker came to their home to investigate the charges of abuse.

10/18/06 – Stephanie ran away from the Respite Home and called a friend, who called the caseworker who advises him to take Stephanie to Family Court. While in court, Stephanie tells the judge that she wants to return home to her parents and her sister. The Lawyer for Child Protection told the Judge that there was no sign of neglect or abuse in the home. Evelyn’s pediatrician stated that he had no concern about Evelyn being in the home.

10/18/06 - Stephanie then told her parents who the father actually was (there is no more information about the father available beyond this as yet, as charges are pending and any information leaked could jeopardize their case).

Attempted to find an attorney who could handle the case and would work for payments that could come later, for Stephanie and the baby.

Dec. 31, 2006 – Rick Armon’s article appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal. His original article is no longer available on the website.

Early January, 2007 - Sandy Young called the Bennett family to offer help. They said that they could use it.

Jan of 07-. Hired Paul Reiners to defend Stephanie. He agreed to work on a pro bono basis, unless they won the case. In that event, they would owe him standard fees.

1-19-07 - The first time Stephanie went to court in Summit Co. with Mr.Reiners, and was not allowed in the court room. Paul Reiners came out of the court room and told Stephanie that the Magistrate, Diana Stevenson, had put a gag order on all parties involved in the case.

2/2/07 – Judge in Stark Co. ruled that the custody order of Ranza and Judy Bennett was no longer in effect; That another court had precedence.

02/03/07 Canton grandparents' adoption motion denied

2-21-07 - Stephanie went back to court in Summit Co, where she is still fighting for the return of her daughter Evelyn. This date was to determine if the Surrender could be overturned. The judge was to rule on this matter on March 27, 2007. The briefs were to have been turned in on the 23rd and she would rule several days later. Paul Reiners had said that he would have several witnesses subpoenaed including the putative father. He also had indicated that he would depose Joe Soll to testify to the effects of the coercion, the loss of her daughter, the psychological impact of the threats and the emotional abuse that Stephanie had been subjected to. He did none of the above.

March of 07 – Fired Paul Reiners

March of 07 - hired Jennifer Lowry, who obtained a continuance on the ruling by the judge and obtained the court transcripts. She could find no evidence of any gag order on any party to the case. She still prefers to have Stephanie remain silent, as a matter of choice, and to protect her, but her parents and the attorney are not so bound.

April 07 – Obtained copies of the complaint filed against the agency in the matter of Stephanie Bennett by her mother. The agency was found to be not in compliance in numerous areas. A copy of the findings is attached. So far, no actions have been taken against the agency by the state, despite being out of compliance.

April 9, 2007 – Meeting with Jennifer Lowry. She was excited about the Bennetts having a copy of the complaint. Also has started to plan a reunification.

23 complaints from ingrates:

Anonymous,  April 15, 2007 at 11:08 PM  

"As the agency and Mr. Saltsman counseled Stephanie to run away before the DNA results could be made on the father, is Mr. Saltsman still employed?"

He is:

If that link works, just scroll down the page until you see Saltsman.

"Why is a minor allowed to sign a legal, binding contract for adoption, when no minor can sign any other contract and have it binding?"

Ohhhh, the beauty (not!) of Ohio law, apparently, from what they were saying on the radio show. I believe them, but just out of curiosity and wanting a citation, I wonder if my librarian skills can find the legal cites on that.

Ugh. Just ugh.

angel April 16, 2007 at 12:01 AM  

A documentary series was made in Australia about Plumpton High - as it is one school in Sydney that encourages women who become pregnant whilst still at school, to stay at school. They have all facilities to help and support these young women though each stage of their pregnancy and when the children are born.

It would be wonderful to see other schools in the world take on this positive supportive role in these teenagers lives.


Unknown April 16, 2007 at 1:40 AM  

the thing about the system is once they've done something wrong, they will never, never admit it. once the adoption ball gets rolling they never turn doesnt matter the cost or price.i am praying for justice to this family and for others in similar are totally right.this could happen to anyone.

Anonymous,  April 16, 2007 at 3:32 AM  

I can almost get past the counselor having the brochure and giving it to her...almost but then there is the fact that her facilitated the meeting on school grounds and signed as the witness. There is no getting past that part he needs to be fired.

Laurie (formerly known as Momseekingpeace) April 16, 2007 at 4:03 AM  

Great questions.

I think the ones that get me most are the ones you asked. I keep wondering how he was connected to the adoption agency? Has he adopted? Does he get money? There has to be some reason.


Going Back to Square One April 16, 2007 at 9:02 AM  

Great post! Ya'll are so much better at remembering to post the links...I suck at that.

I *almost* posted Thomas Saltsman's email address in my blog entry, just in case anyone wanted to send him a "note."

Listening to the show last night made me physically ill.

Dawn April 16, 2007 at 10:10 AM  

I wonder if the school nurse (and do counselors get the option?) participated in the Infant Adoption Awareness Program.

But you know, in those adoptive parent books -- the ones to get a White Baby Quick & Easy! -- they always Always ALWAYS say to send your profile to nurses and guidance counselors at high schools. I remember this because there was this one a-mom who used to post on the adoption forums about all of the "marketing" they did and she cited some book and she sent thousands of flyers to high schools. She said something like, "Many of them won't keep them but call them and beg and turn them on to adoption and blah blah blah blah blah."

Trolling for babies in a high school should just OBVIOUSLY be illegal.

Third Mom April 16, 2007 at 11:04 AM  

When you step away and look at this objectively, it just SCREAMS abuse and lack of ethics.

This especially:

"Why was A Child Waiting Adoption Agency the brochure that he had in his office?"

is the red flag that tells me this was a set-up.

Here's hoping the blog attention helps get Evelynn back home. And thank you for a thorough look at this situation.

Anonymous,  April 16, 2007 at 11:59 AM  

I had read it somewhere. That the assistanc superintendent of that school district was the owner of the adoption agency. It was his agency that placed all those pamphlets in the school. He did resign from the school district. I wish that I still had the article. I read on S of A. It has got to be on the old lists of that topic.

Anonymous,  April 16, 2007 at 12:00 PM  

Only in adoption is a minor allowed to sign a contract as a minor parent. The minor has to have permission from their parents to have an abortion but not for adoption. Go Figure.

Anonymous,  April 16, 2007 at 12:27 PM  

Sheesh, I had no idea. I knew the basics but hadn't read the timeline before.

Great questions. In fact, I am sending your post right now to my mom who is a guidance counselour in the public school system to get her take on it.

The whole thing is very sad. And talk about icing on the cake with the shitty lawyer... good night, can a girl get a frickin break!


Lizard April 16, 2007 at 2:37 PM  

Judy, that link works except you have to go on and click on "Glen Oak," where you will find Saltsman listed. BTW, his email address is listed. Tempting! Evil shit, this.

I inserted this link in my blog.

Thank you, Theresa. I have the same questions.

Anonymous,  April 16, 2007 at 3:12 PM  

I was afraid that link was too long.

I know, I saw his email and have thought, "hmmmm . . . . "

Or better yet, one to his boss. ;)

Ungrateful Little Bastard April 16, 2007 at 4:13 PM  

Thanks everyone.

Being married to a teacher, and knowing other teachers, I know it's common in some districts for the duties of website administrator to fall upon the shoulders of an already overworked technology teacher, and school websites aren't always updated in a timely fashion. I did see he was still listed there but I'm not sure when the page was last updated.

This has got to start getting talked about outside of us. I know my husband is planning on writing about it and I'm hoping that it will start to get discussed within his blog circles. Even though we are on way far ends of the political spectrum, I have to believe this bypasses any political affiliation and just strike at the heart of what is so very wrong. I'll update more later. Thanks. Beautiful beautiful posts everyone.

Anonymous,  April 16, 2007 at 9:35 PM  

That's true, Theresa. Saltsman still lives in this area, though that doesn't necessarily mean much.

Auditors' housing records can be kinda fun to search, just for the hell of it. ;)

Anonymous,  April 16, 2007 at 9:36 PM  

Oh yeah, my next career is going to be as a professional stalker. I'll start taking gigs now.

Newlyorphaned April 16, 2007 at 9:45 PM  

Doesn't adoption just make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

I don't know about where Stephanie is but here in Oklahoma all it takes to be a school teacher is a teaching certificate and a test for a certificate. So Mr. Saltsman probably has zilch for training.

On the other hand we all have lots of resources that we hand out. I personally would never refer anyone to an adoption agency unless they were sure they wanted to adopt.

I also learned the hard way that parents are often out of the loop when their child gets pregnant. There are ALL kinds of rights protecting teens from their parents in this manner. Your daughter can have an abortion without you ever knowing it! Some think this is a good thing, I personally do not! As Stephanie proves teens are not always stable and mature enought to make these decisions alone and need their parents at a time like that! You may thank the Right to Choose movement for our current laws!

Mr. Saltsman definately over stepped his bounds. Just thought I'd chime in with a Counselor's prospective!

Ungrateful Little Bastard April 16, 2007 at 10:31 PM  

ahaha swat team and stalkers. We can do both. And thanks, yeah, all warm and fuzzy

Anonymous,  April 16, 2007 at 10:38 PM  

In Ohio, where Stephanie is (and where I am), she has to get her parents' permission for an abortion -- and really practically everything else -- but not to place her baby for adoption. Go figure.

Yeah, swat teams and stalkers -- that would be my angry/snarky streak. Heh.

Marley Greiner April 17, 2007 at 2:26 AM  

As far as I know in every state it is legal for minors to surrender I don't feel there is anything particularly wrong with that, but that should also extend to abortion. Of course, it doesn't.

Ungrateful Little Bastard April 17, 2007 at 8:04 PM  

Thank you everybody. Amy I'll see if I can find that info from SofA.. oooOOOooOO and Judy I saw your evil twin over at Bastardette!!

Sontín April 18, 2007 at 11:46 AM  

That is really disturbing. Keep writing.

Kali April 21, 2007 at 8:34 PM  

I am about to receive a social work degree and recently did an internship with an adoption agency.

In response to the first question posed, at least in the state of Colorado it is common practice for school guidance counselors (who are hopefully degreed social workers) to have brochures of adoption agencies on hand. Most schools have resource manuals in which they have handouts from a multitude of agencies and organizations that provide a whole spectrum of different services from mental health to dealing with divorcing parents to an unplanned pregnancy.

Most of these resources are never used but are there to pull out should a student come to them with a particular situation. An ethical social worker/guidance counselor should present all sides of every situation and lay out all of the different options and then work to support the student in whatever choice they make.

As to why there were brochures from a specific agency, my educated guess is that this agency called the school and asked if they could send some brochures to keep on hand with the school social worker/guidance counselor. I did this as part of my internship and it is a common marketing technique of adoption agencies. I don't feel that this is necessarily a bad thing, because it is only meant for the info to be on hand as a referral source should a situation come up. An ethical guidance counselor or agency (such as the one I interned with) would never coerce a woman into making an adoption plan, only provide her with options and resources. Obviously this doesn't always happen.

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