Sunday, March 1, 2015

NE official who illegally banned gay foster parents protected subordinate who beat 6-year-old daughter
34 times with belt

I'm sure that you've never spanked your child,
but if you had, you would know that they wiggle,
and you will hit everything but the back end."

— UNO alumna Mary Dean Harvey, quoted by
Fayette, Georgia Division of Family and Child
Services Director Mary Davis
Correction: the daughter of Mary Dean Harvey's subordinate, Cylenthia Clark, was 8, not 6 when her mother beat her severely enough to cause her school to report her to child protection authorities. Said Clark:
On the day of the spanking Caiyah was never hit 34 times.  This number I have no idea where it originated.
She received 10 licks with the belt.  Why were there marks?—because I must admit in the hurry of the day I picked up a belt I had never used before.  It was thicker than the one I had used in the past...
     Twenty years ago, during the administration of Governor Ben Nelson, the then director of the Nebraska Department of Social Services, Mary Dean Harvey, unilaterally decided, via a now-infamous memo, that no gay individuals or couples, no matter how qualified or experienced at raising children, were good enough to pass muster with her, and by extension, the State of Nebraska:
      "It is my decision that, effective immediately, it is the policy of the Department of Social Services that children will not be placed in the homes of persons who identify themselves as homosexuals...”
     Since then, countless Nebraska children have been stashed in group facilities and countless otherwise-qualified gay individuals and couples have wasted their time going through hoops for the state, only to find out that they had no real chance in the first place.
     In 2013, the Nebraska ACLU filed suit on behalf of three gay couples turned down as foster parents.
     This Unicameral session, Omaha Senator Jeremy Nordquist has introduced LB647, a bill forbidding the state from discriminating against otherwise qualified gays in foster care placement or in the licensing of foster care homes. During the Judiciary hearing for that bill, Senator Colby Coash said (at the 2:55 mark in the video below) to Nordquist:
Are you aware, Sen. Nordquist, that HHS currently does make placements of  with men and women who are gay? ...HHS has violated the very memo that we seem to be operating under.
     After that (at the 3:45 mark) Senator Bob Krist added:
I'm gonna bet you that this [Dean's 1995 memo] was not done in compliance with the APA [Nebraska's Administrative Procedures Act]. I'll bet you that this didn't have a public hearing. I'll bet you that it didn't have public feedback. And I'll bet you that it's illegal. This thing isn't worth the paper that it's written on.
     Well, maybe not to Senator Krist, but that would be small comfort to the gay couple in the video who testified that they were denied a foster care license anyway, legally or not, solely because they were gay.
     During the hearing, Amy Miller, of the Nebraska ACLU, testified that the gay ban was still on the website of the Nebraska Department of Human Services.
     That was Feb. 4th. The Omaha World-Herald reports today that the administration of newly-elected GOP Governor Pete Ricketts, a foe of gay marriage, removed the ban from HHS' web site sometime in "mid-February."

Above: testimony during a hearing on LB647, beginning with a rather belligerent Greg Neuhaus, father of Joe Neuhaus, an anti-gay civil rights activist and Policy Director at the rather secretively funded and ultra-right-wing Nebraska Family Alliance, which blocked recent LGBT antibias legislation in Lincoln and is currently trying to do the same thing at the state level using the organization's statewide radio network. Neuhaus replaced Dave Bydalek at the Nebraska Family Alliance, after Bydalek was annointed Chief Deputy Attorney General by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson

     Ricketts is nothing if not slippery. Already he has been caught using a private phone to conduct state business.
     His administration seems to be either playing both ends to the middle, or else putting the state's policy of gay discrimination on hold while "reviewing" it just long enough to sabotage a bill that would codify an end to bias, leaving Ricketts free to reinstate the policy if it turns out to be more politically expedient for him to do so later.
      According to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ spokesman, the state’s current procedure no longer considers the sexual orientation of people seeking to foster or adopt state wards.
     Nor does the procedure bar children from being placed with licensed foster parents simply because of the parents’ sexual orientation.
     “The policy hasn’t changed but the Department (of Health and Human Services) has fallen out of compliance with it,” Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage said Friday.
     The situation has prompted the administration to launch a review of the policy. HHS removed the policy memo from its website in mid-February.
     However, Nebraska continues to defend the policy against a legal challenge filed by three Lincoln couples. Their lawsuit is pending in Lancaster County District Court.
     ...The disconnect between policy and practice is one reason the Governor’s Office asked HHS officials to review the policy.
     Gage said he did not know if legislation introduced this year by State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha played any role in bringing attention to the situation.
     Oh, we're sure Gage has no idea about any of that and that it was a complete coincidence that the policy disappeared from the Ricketts administration's HHS website within days of being mentioned in the LB647 hearing.
     Three other things in Martha Stoddard's story caught our eye:
     ...Gage said it is difficult to pinpoint when HHS procedures started departing from the policy, except that the changes came before Ricketts took office in January.
      ...Although gays and lesbians have been licensed as foster parents and had children placed with them, one difference remains in their treatment, Gage said.
     ...Gage said he could not comment on when a new state policy might be ready or what it might say. But he said the administration wants to end up with a regulation that “puts the best interests of the child first and protects family values.”
      So Gage knows that gays "have been licensed" as foster parents, but it's "too difficult to pinpoint" when that happened except that HE'S SURE IT DIDN'T START WHEN HIS BOSS WAS GOVERNOR!!!
     But we digress from the issue raised by the headline of this post. Whatever happened to heterosexual supremacist Mary Dean Harvey?
     In 2005 she was hired by Georgia's Governor Purdue to head that state's troubled Division of Family and Child Services. By 2008, she had resigned, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Craig Schneider:
     Months before, 2-year-old Nateyonna Banks was killed after being returned to her home. Her mother, who had mental problems, was charged with killing her. Also, caseworkers complained that Harvey berated them — and caused them to worry they’d be fired — after they confirmed findings that a high-ranking child welfare official had abused her daughter.
      The AJC's Maureen Downey dived deeper into Mary Dean Harvey's outrageously unprofessional behavior in 2008, in an editorial:
     It was bad enough when Fayette County police arrested high-ranking child welfare official Cylenthia Clark for allegedly striking her own young daughter with a belt 34 times on the back, arms, legs and face. Now it appears that Clark's boss, Division of Family and Children Services director Mary Dean Harvey, pressured Fayette child welfare workers to bend policy to protect Clark.
     A damning report by the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate cites numerous interventions by Harvey on behalf of Clark, assistant director of the Fulton County DFCS office. Because it involved a top DFCS employee, this case was fraught with mine fields that demanded that Harvey tread carefully.
     Instead, the report of the child advocate suggests that Harvey thudded through the investigation, pushing the DFCS office in Fayette, where Clark lived, to bend rules and give Clark special treatment. According to Fayette DFCS director Mary Davis, Harvey told her, "I'm sure that you've never spanked your child, but if you had, you would know that they wiggle, and you will hit everything but the back end."
     If Harvey uttered that bizarre statement, she has handed every parent in Georgia charged with child abuse a fresh line of defense: "I didn't mean to strike my 6-year-old's face, but she put her face in the path of the belt."
     AKSARBENT's condensation of NET's coverage of the LB647 hearings was picked up by one of the most widely-read gay blogs in the country, Towleroad. Our excerpt from Nebraska Public Television's live stream of the hearing has been seen more than 18,000 times by people all over the U.S. and the world.
     Interestingly, two of the viewers turned out to be the gay couple who incurred Mary Dean Harvey's homophobic attention in the first place; they sent Towleroad the following account of their unbelievably shabby treatment by Nebraska's Department of Social Services, under Harvey's direction during Governor Ben Nelson's administration:
Ben Nelson, governor of
Nebraska from 1991 to 1999
     My lover and I are the cause of the original ban on gays being foster or adoption parents. Back in the early 90's we both applied to become foster adopt parents. We went to classes in Lincoln after driving from Omaha each Thursday for many weeks. We were approved to become parents. We had been together as a couple for over 5 years at that time. We passed all back ground checks etc. We even passed the home safety check, and following that visit for that check we received a call from HHS in Omaha and were yelled at, called names, told that there should be jails for people like this. Two weeks later the HHS department changed its rules by putting out the memo saying that "No person who is single residing with another person of the same or opposite sex out of wedlock shall not become foster care or foster adopt parents". Needless to say we were heart broken. Today we have been together for over 24 years, we housed several teens, young adults who were homeless, gay, drug abusers and more. Each of them we clothed, fed, saw that they got education by registering in schools and or getting a GED. We have no regrets on this. I just think that there are a lot of single people out there gay or straight who would make a wonderful parent. Do the right thing people. Write to the state senators in Nebr and urge them to pass this bill...
     Posted by: Robert Hershgeer | Feb 8, 2015 11:55:02 AM

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