Thursday, December 21, 2000

Children's agencies criticized

Report cites foster care abuse cases

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — State officials have criticized Butler County Children Services and Clermont County Children Services for failing to fully investigate child-abuse incidents at a foster home in the late 1980s.

        Butler County “failed to assume (its) role as lead agency” in investigating the foster home of Stephen Billand, says a report issued this week by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' Office of Chief Inspector.

        The report expressed concern about the Butler County agency's record-keeping.

        A taped interview with one of the children who had been removed from Mr. Billand's foster home and part of a file for the Billand foster home were kept in the desk of the agency director and a case worker, it said. Some files involving this case were incomplete.

        The report criticized Clermont County Children Services for not notifying police of reports of abuse and neglect until the agency determined there was enough evidence for prosecution.

        An investigation of Mr. Billand by a California law enforcement agency resulted in his arrest in 1998 on allegations of 43 sex charges. He had moved from Clermont County to California in 1991.

        Mr. Billand pleaded no contest in Clermont County in March to four counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor.

        In July, Mr. Billand committed suicide at a federal prison in Minnesota, a month before he was to be returned to Ohio to serve a prison sentence of 20 to 60 years. He faced similar charges in California.

        Before his no-contest plea, Mr. Billand faced 24 counts of pandering obscenity, four rape charges and four counts of gross sexual imposition. But a Clermont County judge dismissed 11 child-sex charges because officials didn't prosecute the crimes in time.

        The crimes are alleged to have occurred between 1985 and 1989.

        During that time, Butler County placed at least six boys with Mr. Billand.

        The state reviewed this case at the request of Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox.

        The report acknowledges that Butler County Children Services has made many improvements in its policies and procedures since the late 1980s.

        “We believe we have the mechanisms in place so that something like that could not happen again,” said Bob Walker, agency spokes man. “All this happened 10 to 12 years ago.”

        Since that time, the agency has a new director, a new board and many new policies and procedures, he said.

        The agency will comply with the state's request that it provide additional training for all investigators, supervisors and department directors responsible for third-party and out-of-home care investigations, Mr. Walker said.

        The state also is requiring the agency to maintain all records according to state law.


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