CNY Central reveals new information in the case of Family Court Judge Kimberly Seager, who some accuse of placing children in dangerous situations.
On Wednesday afternoon CNY Central obtained a copy of the letter which Oswego County Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley had just written to Chief Administrative Judge James Tormey. The letter sheds new light on what was discussed behind closed doors in a special legislative session last week. That meeting involved lawmakers, representatives of the Department of Social Services, probation officials and school superintendents.
I t turns out that Beardsley, school representatives and other county officials already had a meeting with Judge Tormey last month. The letter points out that Tormey suggested a "collaborative meeting with Judge Martha Walsh Hood as a facilitator." Beardsley wrote: "It is apparent to me that the county can ill afford any further delay in starting this process as delay may place children and families at risk." It also says: "School districts have indicated that, in their halls...Family Court is viewed as a place of no consequences or sanctions ...youth would rather go to court than have a Superintendent's hearing."
Many O swego County officials fear that children are being placed in dangerous homes and they point to statistics where they've seen a big drop in the number of kids placed in foster care.
In 2011, there were 2 , 944 child abuse reports in Oswego County, but only 1.5 percent of the kids were placed in foster care. It's the lowest placement percentage in New York State where the average nearly 14 percent.
A former foster child and his foster parent are speaking out against Family Court Judge Kimberly Seager for the way she handles cases brought before her court. 23-year-old Michael Johnson and his foster parent James Smith both claim that Judge Seager is placing children in potentially dangerous situations to save money on the cost of foster care. "I definitely believe it was "we need to save money, this is a recession so this is how we're going to do it. We're going to save money by not placing foster youth."" said Johnson who credits his foster care to his ability to eventually go on to college and pursue a Masters degree in business administration.
Smith, who has been a foster parent to about a dozen children over the years added: "what is money when there's a child in danger?...They shouldn't look at it this way, the welfare of the children should come first."
"They're sent back into the same thing they were taken out of." Smith told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
Smith feels that the situation is so bad that the county risks, "another Erin Maxwell tragedy."
That 11-year-old child was found in her home barely breathing in August of 2008. Her stepbrother Alan Jones was convicted of murder, and her parents were convicted on several counts of child endangerment. Investigators were horrified when they went into Maxwell's home and found a house full of garbage, animals and feces, despite the fact Social Services caseworkers visited the home on three prior occasions. Judge Seager is out of town on a family emergency, but her staff says she is referring all comments to Judge Tormey at this time. Tormey's office has no comment.