December 20, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
29°F
test

Agency placed kids in house with sex offender

LORAIN — Three children whose family was involved with Lorain County Children Services were placed in a home with a convicted sex offender, according to Lorain County Common Pleas Court documents.

The children’s mother, Mayra Valentin, said she contacted Children Services about the placement of the children, but she said nothing was done. She worries about her children now that they are living with the children’s paternal relatives, Samuel Rojas and Juana Jiminez.

Valentin said a person living in the home with them was convicted of a sex offense as a juvenile. She contends that she addressed these concerns with her caseworker, Milagros Marrero, because the person, now an adult, is in the home, but permanent placement was granted through the courts.

According to a court document filed June 8, 2006, the man was convicted of gross sexual imposition at the age of 14 for forcibly engaging in sexual contact with another child.

A Lorain police report from 2005 says he kissed a student in the hallway of Lorain Middle School, although the girl told him to stop. Police said he then forced his hands down her pants and exposed himself to the girl.

The girl, who had a learning disability, was extremely upset about the incident, according to the report.

The boy was initially charged with rape but was sentenced to probation as a sex offender and ordered to attend counseling and issue a letter of apology to court for a gross sexual imposition charge.

In 2008 court documents, the boy’s address was listed as the same address where the family lives now.

Spokeswoman Patti-Jo Burtnett said she couldn’t comment on the case or the agency’s involvement because of confidentiality laws.

But Burtnett did say that any time a child is placed into a home, the agency does extensive background checks, including on any children that may be in the home at the time.

“We do inquire about a juvenile’s court records,” she said.

She said, generally, placement decisions are not only made by Children Services, but by the court system as well.

“It’s a court process,” she said. “There are checks and balances, and there’s a huge oversight process.”

Lorain County Domestic Relations Court Judge Debra Boros could not discuss particular cases due to judicial laws, but she said Children Services would be responsible for the placement of the children.

“We place the children with the agency … we can’t dictate who the children can be placed with,” she said.

Boros said the court would not be aware of any issues with a placement unless evidence was presented in court or a motion was filed addressing the problems. The court could then determine if the child was in any imminent danger.

There were no motions raising the issue of the children’s placement in the case file, according to Denise Whiting, administrative assistant at Lorain County Domestic Relations Court.

Burtnett would not say whether Children Services addressed the man’s criminal record in court. She said when a court decision is reached, parents have a right to appeal the decision with an attorney.

Valentin did not appeal, and she and her attorney, James Barilla, signed the judgment granting custody to the children’s uncle, Rojas, in 2008. She also signed a motion for further dispositional orders, seeking to grant custody of another child to Jiminez in 2008.

Barilla said Valentin signed the order because she did not want to lose permanent custody of her children, which could have happened if the children went to another home. He said the issue of the man’s criminal record was addressed during court testimony, and another caseworker was sent to the home to investigate. The caseworker deemed the placement appropriate, he said.

Valentin said she wants her children moved. She said she believes that the sex offender has been staying in the same room as her 6-year-old son.

“I would like to have my kids removed from there, because I don’t feel that they’re safe there … If I’m not going to get them back, I’d rather them be placed with a (maternal) family member,” she said.

Multiple attempts to contact Rojas and Jiminez were unsuccessful.

According to court documents provided by Valentin, Children Services became involved with Valentin on May 9, 2007, as a result of concerns regarding the conditions of her home.

Children Services wrote that the home was cluttered with garbage, food and dirty diapers. The agency worked with Valentin and noted that there was a slight improvement to the condition of the home, but the home deteriorated in August 2007.

Children Services also noted that Valentin was unable to follow through on the children’s medical appointments, and the agency was concerned that Valentin’s mental functioning was low. She was unable to maintain employment during that time.

The agency was unaware of the location of one of the children’s fathers, and the other had been incarcerated for domestic violence charges against Valentin, according to court documents.

Valentin denied that her children were in the home when a caseworker visited and noted dirty conditions. She said they were staying with a friend, who called to verify the information. She said her children had been going to their medical appointments until a car accident left her without transportation.

Since Burtnett was contacted by The Chronicle-Telegram in the beginning of June about the placement of the children with a registered sex offender, Valentin said she has not been contacted by the agency and the placement hasn’t been changed.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.