Denial of Application to operate a foster family home — (STATE OF MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES)

To view complete hearing transcript click here

STATE OF MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
In the matter of
Vicki Garrett, Petitioner v Office of Children and Adult Licensing, Respondent

Docket No. 2004-133
Agency No. CF730254780
Agency: Department of Human Services
Case Type: Intent to Deny Refusal to License Issued and entered this 28th day December, 2004
by Marianne Udow, Director
Department of Human Services
FINAL DECISION AND ORDER
This matter began with the Respondent’s January 6, 2004 Notice of Intent to Deny Application for Licensure to operate a foster family home pursuant to the Child Care Organizations Act (Act), 1973 PA 116, as amended, MCL 722.111 et seq. A properly noticed hearing was held by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on April 2, 2004 pursuant to a Notice of Hearing issued on February 2, 2004. Jason Scheeneman, Department Analyst, appeared on behalf of the Respondent. The Petitioner appeared on her own behalf.
The Respondent sought to deny the Petitioner’s license application based upon allegations in the Notice that the Petitioner violated the Act and administrative rules promulgated under the Act.
Respondent alleged that the Petitioner violated 2000 AACS, R 400.9201(b) and (i) which provide:
A foster home applicant shall meet all of the following qualifications:
(b) Be of good moral character.
Docket No. 2004-133
(i) Demonstrate suitable habits, temperament, and reputation to assure the proper care and safety of children.
The Respondent based its allegation on two incidents where Petitioner was convicted of domestic violence assault. The first occurred in February 1999 and involved the Petitioner’s then-husband. The Petitioner pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence. In July 1999, the Petitioner was again arrested for domestic assault involving her then-husband and subsequently pled no contest to misdemeanor domestic violence.
The ALJ found that the Petitioner had undergone counseling and therapy subsequent to the domestic assault incidents. A number of character witnesses testified on her behalf, indicating that she participated in and completed various programs helpful toward increasing her ability to better manage her issues. The ALJ found record evidence persuasive that counseling helped Petitioner address issues related to the domestic violence charges, and concluded that it was, therefore, unlikely that she would repeat the behavior that led to her convictions. As a result, the ALJ found that the Petitioner had established that she was of good moral character as required by R 400.9201(b).
The ALJ found that while there was no evidence that the Petitioner ever acted inappropriately toward children, the severity of the incidents with her former husband did cause authorities enough concern to remove children from her custody for a time. The ALJ also noted that the two domestic violence convictions constitute a substantial cloud on any presumptions that the Petitioner has suitable habits and temperament as required by R 400.9201(i). While evidence was introduced on the therapy undertaken by the Petitioner, the ALJ found that there was not enough detail in the record regarding the nature of that therapy, the therapeutic goals and the therapeutic outcomes. Further, no direct evidence subject to cross-examination was presented about the Petitioner’s present ability to handle the potential stress that foster children may present. As a result, the ALJ concluded that the Petitioner had not presented competent and substantial evidence to demonstrate that she has the suitable habits and temperament required by R 400.9201(i).
On November 3, 2004, the ALJ issued and entered a Proposal for Decision (PFD) concluding that the Petitioner had not demonstrated that she met the requirements of R 400.9201(i). On November 22, 2004, the Petitioner filed Exceptions to the PFD. No
Response was filed by the Respondent.
The Petitioner’s Exceptions contend that the ALJ’s PFD “…was based in part upon conflicting, inconclusive, incomplete and irrelevant information and evidence, all in violation of your Petitioner’s constitutional and statutory right to due process and as such, the Proposal for Decision is in fact contrary to law.” I disagree with the Petitioner’s assertions.
The ALJ’s decision was based upon two basic groups of evidence: (1) the records of the convictions which are certainly relevant to the underlying issues, and (2) the testimonials of therapists and neighbors in support of the Petitioner’s applications which are also relevant.
There were no conflicts in the evidence offered and there was no offer of evidence rejected by the ALJ.
I disagree with the ALJ that the evidence presented by the Petitioner sufficiently overcomes the presumption that Petitioner lacked good moral character based on her two convictions for domestic violence. The domestic violence convictions also show that Petitioner lacks the suitable habits and temperament to assure proper care and safety of foster children placed in her care. Accordingly, I find that the evidence supports violations of R
The actions of the Office of Children and Adult Licensing in this matter are AFFIRMED.
3. The Petitioner’s application for licensure is DENIED effective on the date this Final Decision and Order is issued and entered

Ms. Garrett has 6 children and 3 stepchildren ranging in age from 8 to 25. She also has 3 grandchildren. On October 23, 2003, Ms. Garrett filed a Children’s Foster Care License Application. As part of the application process a criminal conviction background check is conducted. Ms. Garrett acknowledged a conviction for domestic violence. (Exhibits A and B)
2. Cindy Gransden is a social worker with the Department of Human Services. (FIA) Ms. Gransden evaluates applications, conducts home visits and provides orientation and training. Ms. Gransden testified that Ms. Garrett was very forthcoming about her domestic problems. Ms. Gransden noted that children placed in foster care often come from homes were they were abused, or witnessed abuse. Further, children placed in foster care often react differently than biological children, and frequently test and antagonize foster parents during the beginning of a placement. Therefore, because of Ms. Garrett’s admitted conviction history involving anger and domestic assault, Ms. Gransden recommended that Ms. Garrett’s application be denied
3. Ms. Garrett testified that her husband in 1999 (i.e. Randy Garrett) had a history of verbally abusing her. He would also physically hold her against her will. She did not report this to authorities because she did not realize that verbal or psychological mistreatment was recognized as abuse. Further, until she began counseling, she also believed her husband’s verbal abuse, controlling behavior and infidelities were her fault. Although they had tried marriage counseling for a short period prior to February 1999, problems persisted.
However, it was through this counseling that she was first diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication.
4. On the evening of February 8, 1999, her husband tried to physically force her to lie down. After asking him to let go of her, numerous times, she kicked him in self-defense. The husband filed a complaint. The police report indicates that the husband reported that Ms. Garrett kicked him, and that he had never hit her. When the police interviewed Ms. Garrett, she admitted kicking and hitting her husband when he attempted to get into bed and refused to move after several requests. She acknowledged that her husband did not strike her, but asserted that he was verbally abusive. Although the couple’s 5 -year-old son was present in the home at the time of the incident, he told the police officer that he never saw his mother strike or hit his father. (Exhibit D)
5. Ms. Garrett testified that she had only been on antidepressants (i.e. Zoloft) for a short time prior to the incident on February 8, 1999. On March 24, 1999, Ms. Garrett pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence. She was sentenced to 6 months probation and ordered to undergo anger management counseling.
6. On July 31, 1999, police were dispatched to Ms. Garrett’s home on a second complaint by her husband, who reported that she had stepped on his back, kicked him, yelled at him, spit in his face and pulled him off the couch. Immediately after this altercation, Ms. Garrett left and took the children with her to a shelter. The police officer interviewed Ms. Garrett at the shelter home. She stated that her husband refused to talk to her when she came home. She denied stepping on him, but acknowledged spitting in his face and pulling him off the couch. She acknowledged that he never touched her. She was arrested for domestic assault. Ms. Garrett testified that she didn’t contest the charges because she was in counseling and didn’t want to put her children through the ordeal of having to testify. As a result of this second domestic assault, two of Ms. Garrett’s children were removed from her custody between August 1999 and August 2000. (Exhibits E and F)

Ms. Garrett made a good faith effort to present a truthful history of her background, legal problems, lessons learned, familial and community support, and her sincere desire to care for children as a foster parent. Unfortunately, without legal assistance, she was unable to provide the type of competent evidence that might overcome her conviction history. The state has a responsibility to protect the interest of children in foster care by requiring substantial and material proof that a person has been effectively rehabilitated, if they have a questionable past with respect to temperament. At this time, Ms. Garrett has not presented competent and substantial evidence demonstrating that she has the suitable habits and temperament required by Rule 400.9201.