Concerns About OCH Executives

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To: DCFS Director Erwin McEwen
CEO of COA Richard Klarberg
Denise Kane ( Inspector General of DCFS )
OCH Board of Directors ( except Dr. Ron Ward )

CC: Kurt Friedenauer ( CEO of OCH? )

We, the undersigned foster parents, staff and volunteers of OCH have grave concerns and fears about the direction that the board of directors has chosen to take these past few weeks. Although the board has the right to terminate the employment of the CEO if they have reasonable concerns, we feel that they do not have the right to change the mission of OCH and/or jeopardize the lives of the children under its care. The vision and mission that Bob Geniesse, the founder of Our Childrens Homestead, had created and developed over the past 16 years is nothing short of exemplary as evidenced by the number of adoptions, reunifications, placement stabilizations and/or successful transitions to adulthood of the children served.

We are upset and troubled about the apparent lack of concern and care that the board of directors and Kurt have given during this time of transition at OCH. The morale of the staff and foster parents as well as the children served, is at an all-time low. The previous team efforts and camaraderie have been replaced with mistrust and suspicion. Caseworkers come in only when they have to.

We also question the basis for selecting Kurt as the CEO. We believe that many of the recent decisions have been based on nepotism to wit: the chairman of the board Dr. Ron Ward and the CEO Kurt Friedenauer are cousins along with the chairman of the boards daughter Krista Ward, who is also on the board. The best friend of the chairman of the board, Jim Ritter is also on the board. His daughter is the VP of development at OCH.

From just a quick research of the internet, Kurt Friedenauer lacks the professional credentials and background that is required by DCFS licensing standards as well as COA standards. He does not have a masters degree, nor does he have the required background in child welfare or social services, nor do most of his deputy directors and/or management team. His background is primarily as an administrator in juvenile justice. The program development director (Ms. Dale) lacks a degree and lacks experience in working in social services and working with at risk youth, yet she has the sole responsibility of developing clinical programs for very disturbed and troubled children. From our understanding, she lives in Minnesota and is advertised as full-time. This constitutes a violation of COA regulations, of DCFS licensing, standards and is a violation of internal policies and job descriptions. Was this position even posted? Never.

Kurt mentioned at the staff meeting that he wishes to get back to basics. We believe that this is a regressive direction and reflective of his inexperience and lack of understanding of the special needs of the children that OCH has committed to serve.

The events of the past month have shown us that we cannot trust the leadership of OCH because of deceitful information we have received from them as well as lies and miscommunication. Kurt has never visited the Crest Hill program foster families nor has he met with any of the children he is supposed to serve. He has not met with the two Senior Staff caseworker supervisors though they have requested meetings with him. If he is not responsive to his staff, how are we to believe he will be responsive to the children he is supposed to serve?

Because we take care of the children 24/7, we demand that the board of directors take our concerns seriously and if not, we trust that DCFS and COA will step into to help the board of directors make the right decisions for the best interest of the children of OCH.

Our proposal is as follows:

1. The chairman of the board and his daughter need to resign from the board immediately so integrity is restored to our board of directors and conflicts of interest are removed.
2. Once this is accomplished, the modified board of directors needs to appoint a search committee for a duly qualified CEO that has the proper educational qualifications and background in child welfare.
3. During this process of recruiting a new CEO, the DCFS director shall appoint a monitor who is outside of OCH and has the proper education and experience in working with the types of children that OCH has worked with for 15 years. These are seriously ill children and we need to trust and we need help.
4. DCFS should look into the qualifications of Kurt Friedenauers deputy directors to make sure that OCH has the depth and clinical expertise necessary to properly care for these difficult children. Are their salaries commensurate to staff who have been here for many years? Have these jobs been posted or were they created to serve the interests of our unqualified CEO and not the interests of this mission and the children we all have agreed to serve.

If the board of directors truly embraces the mission of OCH, they shall agree with these principals and recommendations. We stand in support of the culture, values and commitment set out by the founder of OCH, Bob Geniesse, and what he created the past 16 years. Although it is the right of the board of directors to remove him from his position if they have compelling reasons, they do not have the right to lie to us about who is in charge, nor do they have the right to neglect the integrity and truth of the mission of OCHcaring for uniquely challenged children and 16 years of a truly proven track record of making a difference in the many, many children who are now adopted, returned home or transitioned into adulthood. The vision and mission that Bob Geniesse created at OCH is exactly what we signed up for and what we demand.excellence in educational and clinical expertise, as well as a commitment to working with very difficult cases. No child left behind.

We demand that DCFS, COA, the inspector generals office and the board of directors take this petition seriously. We reserve the right to seek social media outlets, press releases and demonstrations to accomplish our concerns and our commitment to these children.

We sign the following with the hope that our children are important enough to warrant the change necessary: