A Child Legally Kidnapped in Broward County, Florida, as Systematic as it is Tragic

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Genny Werner is a caring and kind mother who works very hard to meet her needs.  She has held steady, high pressure jobs and is a kind person who no one has ever made an allegation against.  A few years ago, she got married and later had an extended vacation in Florida with her husband.  That’s where her nightmare began.

Genny gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Aaron Isaac.  As a guest from out of state with few resources, she was grilled by hospital staff and referred to a social worker.  The social worker then contacted JAFCO, the Jewish foster agency in Broward County, Florida.  That’s when she became the latest victim of an agency that has fought more than any other in the region against parental reunification.

It’s been the untold story in Broward County and throughout South Florida, if a child is placed with Kids in Distress, Camelot or any of the other agencies that care for children in the foster system, reasonable efforts are made to unite the children with the parents and the childcare agency does not generally oppose reunification unless there’s a proven risk.  JAFCO is the exception.  Staff have been known to bombard childcare workers, guilting them with outlandish scenarios of what “may happen” if they return the children to “those parents.”  They pressure judges with the same nonsensical guilt trips, effectively asking them to ignore state law, which demands that all reasonable efforts be made to reunify children with willing parents.  If the people who they were dealing with knew what kind of paper tigers they are, their cajoling would likely fall upon deaf ears.

JAFCO has gone a step further, often denying relatives or close friends an opportunity to raise the children.  In one recent case in South Florida, children of a religious family were taken away.  Many relatives stepped forward.  Not only did JAFCO refuse each one, they told the court that they had tried but could find none.

Florida law also dictates that in the absence of parents or willing relatives, efforts be made to find each foster child a home.  There are very few Jewish children in foster care to begin with.  Were JAFCO to foster teens out, they would have no Jewish on-site shelter, crucial for their donations.  This being the case, they refuse to foster out Jewish teens, even when asked.  This isn’t just immoral.  It’s a crime.

Potential foster parents have also come forward to complain that they must attend luncheons and other fundraisers for a long time before any child is given to them.  This too is criminal.

Up against this shady backdrop baby Aaron was ripped away from his parents at little over a week old.  A series of tasks was given to Genny to complete if she wanted him back.  These “tasks” were little more than a ruse.  JAFCO’s director and founder, Sarah Franco, told an interested third party that “the parents will never regain the child.”

Indeed JAFCO, working with and cajoling the state, made sure that assignment after assignment was given to Genny, each time implying that if she completes the one at hand, she will be reunited with her child.  Each time the bar was moved further upon completion.  Dejected, Genny Or Werner moved back to New York to hire a lawyer to regain her child.

Genny took a job at a busy restaurant.  The job was demanding and the were hours long.  Genny persevered.  She spent almost every dollar on finding legal assistance and, as the trial date approached and once she had paid for her attorney, flying back and forth to Florida for repeat court appearances.  She was able to vist her son a few times, but roadblocks were often put up.

Genny’s attorney Sara Shulevitz not only greatly discounted her services, but found housing and transportation for this hardworking mother who so desperately wanted to be reunited with her son.  Unfortunately, Shulevitz was the only one involved who wanted to do what was right.

This past week in a Broward County court, JAFCO sent a social worker to lie on the witness stand that Aaron had been cranky at the last visit, blaming the mother for the child’s “crankiness.”  Upon cross-examination and only because there was an independent witness, the social worker needed to recant.  The visit had gone wonderfully until the end.  The “crankiness” was indeed there, at the end, when they separated Aaron from his mother.  This wasn’t just an omission.  It was a bold faced lie, and a minor one compared to the horrible things that JAFCO has done in other cases.

Yomin Postelnik is a rabbi and activist who used to live in South Florida and connected Genny with Shulevitz.  A former foster parent, he’s the only one to have actually filed a report against JAFCO with the state, detailing multiple cases of religious discrimination.

Postelnik relays credible and exact accounts of habitual and gross discrimination or other bad play on the part of JAFCO.  In his first case, a parent from a neighborhood synagogue reached out to him after this parent’s children were taken away.  The rabbi of said parent’s synagogue was heavily connected with JAFCO and shared many of the same active supporters.  Postelnik was not a member or attendee of the synagogue, but did take an active interest.

As it turned out, Postelnik and his then wife had actually been asked by JAFCO to foster the couple’s two youngest daughters, shortly after they had been taken away.  JAFCO had not only been adamant that the parents would not regain their children, a claim that seems to be par for the course in most of their cases, but had gone to court and lost in trying to prevent reunification, again after having put the parents through hoop after hoop and always moving the bar.  Much worse, a JAFCO worker had repeatedly taken the oldest child aside and worked him over, telling him how great he had it in their shelter and asking him why he wouldn’t want to live there permanently.  The boy was 10 at the time and this was done repeatedly.  Much effort was also made to turn him against his father.

The Postelniks, as the only noticeably religious couple in the group, relay that several staff surrounded them at the first session of JAFCO’s .  Questions were asked during classes about how a foster child might feel if he’s placed in a home that only has kosher food.  Seeing that even former JAFCO kids relate having been placed with families that beat, starved or molested them, this question seems nonsensical.  Indeed, after the courts allowed for the two girls who placement was being sought for to go back home, the Postelniks reiterated that they were willing to take any child.  They were told by “adoption specialist” Rebecca Salus that they could only have an already orthodox child (a rarity) as JAFCO “didn’t want to deprive (a child) of cheeseburgers.”

Matters go from bad to criminal when discovering that JAFCO refuses to foster out any of the Jewish teens in their shelter.  In fact, a local principal had asked the Postelniks, the only orthodox family then going through the foster parenting program, to take in a teen who considered their shelter to be an overbearing prison.  The Postelniks, in their 20s at the time, were hesitant to take an older child, but agreed.  They were called in for a meeting with Sarah Franco who explained that the child was being taken care of (controlled) by JAFCO until he was 18 and the principal was berated for “countermanding JAFCO’s authority.”  Franco then turned to Postelnik and said “we’re glad when Orthodox people like you want to work with us, because orthodox people are (usually) the biggest yentes (a Yiddish term for “gossipers”).

The Postelniks were fed up and when it seemed clear that Rebecca Salus (of “cheeseburgers” fame) would only license them for an already kosher child they mutually agreed with JAFCO to switch agencies.  At that time others came forward with far worse stories of religious discrimination.  A couple named the Feinbergs had been encouraged to become foster parents, only to be turned away outright when they told JAFCO that they kept kosher and wished to keep the Jewish Sabbath.

Postelnik gathered the discrimination complaints of 3 separate religious parties.  Franco warned Postelnik that she would work to prevent any adoption if he were to proceed.  Postelnik waited until the adoption was complete and filed a massive complaint in 2009, the first of its kind for JAFCO.  Sarah Franco avoided censure, but punishment was swift.

In applying to be foster parents, JAFCO is more intrusive than most.  They demand to know the couple’s entire history, why they want to foster/adopt and subject them to rigorous psychological testing.  The Postelniks passed but knowledge of Mrs. Postelnik’s past miscarriages was provided to them.

Soon after taking in a foster child, Mrs. Postelnik became pregnant.  A year later Yomin Postelnik was running for local office and news of their children was public.  Then Mrs. Postelnik began to be bombarded with phone calls from people connected with JAFCO and the local Federation, a group that is in close contact with JAFCO and with which Franco is heavily involved.  Questions were asked as to how Postelnik could be a father when he’s busy campaigning and every angle was used to foment strife.

A birth resulted in big postnatal changes.  The couple separated.  The wife feared for custody as Postelnik looked for a way to save the marriage.  Enter JAFCO’s rabbi at the behest of Sarah Franco.

Efrem Goldberg, rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, is an active rabbi with JAFCO.  This is despite the fact that he has convicted molesters as regulars and members of his synagogue and that one of his predecessors, Marc Gafni, has been accused of every impropriety under the sun.  Goldberg protected and kept on his board a man who had been accused by numerous high school students of molestation. His former Shabbos chess teacher for boys (playing board games in synagogue on the Sabbath is usually frowned upon in orthodox synagogues, but we digress) came out as transgender in 2011.  Goldberg then tried to have this doctor and former teacher barred from the synagogue with a restraining order, only to find a way to accommodate him after pressure from his congregants.  Recently, he has been berated all over social media for threatening the mother of a child who had been molested by a donor with a defamation suit were she to go public, a threat that doesn’t seem to have stopped the mother.

His political leanings are clear.  When conservative congregants were harassed, he turned a blind eye.  When liberal members complained of same, he banned political banter.  This is a huge step up from Gafni, who made headlines for throwing himself in front of the Popemobile during his tenure.

Goldberg, without once speaking with Postelnik, went to every media outlet that he could, including the “Failed Messiah,” claiming that he was saving an aguna, a chained woman whose husband was refusing to give a get.  When Rabbi Mendel Senderovic, the Chief Rabbi of the Miami Rabbinical Court, heard of this false media frenzy, he issued a letter stating that Postelnik had come to him himself to arrange for a Jewish divorce subject to counseling and a postnatal evaluation and that the allegations against him were ludicrous.

Backed into a corner, Goldberg and other friends of Franco began blogging every imaginable nonsense that they could.  Postelnik, who had been awarded substantial custody without qualms and who was in good standing with two rabbinical courts, was heckled in blogs accused of everything under the sun.  In true JAFCO fashion, even his 5 year old son was attacked, all with provable lies.  Efrem Goldberg is the same “rabbi” who turned a blind eye to the parents in his synagogue who had run to Postelnik for help when JAFCO had taken their four children.

The story of JAFCO’s bias goes on and on, getting shockingly worse with each case that comes to light.  In one case, they concocted a story to accuse and convict a father of molestation to adopt out his children to donors.  Sarah Franco wasn’t just directly involved.  She spearheaded this.

Raizy Iskowitz was taken with her three siblings when she was 10.  She had met Sarah Franco when the latter was a guidance counselor at her school.  Raizy’s parents were told that they could see the children omce a week.  Efforts were made to prevent each and every visit and months would go by before the parents could actually see their children.

There was, however, a problem – at least for JAFCO.  Raizy’s parents maintained an interest in their children.  They tried to make contact.  Terminating their parental rights and adopting them out would be extremely hard.  Not for Sarah Franco.

Franco herself worked on each child.  They were told every lie about their father and taught to live in fear of him, the younger ones hardly having known him.  The youngest daughter was led to make an allegation that was purely false.  JAFCO pressed it, committed gross perjury and had the father falsely branded as a molester.  Raizy tries till this day to tell anyone she can of the truth about her father.

Raizy and her three siblings were sent from JAFCO home to JAFCO home until some were adopted by donors.  In one home, some were molested.  In another, all were starved and beaten.  One “foster parent,” not wanting kids running through her house, insisted that they stay primarily in the garage with no air conditioning during the hot Florida summer.  Sometimes the kids lived together.  Most of the time they did not.  When a non-JAFCO donor wanted to take all of them in she was rebuffed.

Raizy complained to Sarah of the abuse, the starving and the molestation of her siblings.  Franco’s response: “You lie.”

The story and Sarah Franco’s sordid role does not end there.  When Raizy turned 20 she spoke with Sarah Franco and told her that she was going to sue her.  Franco had been incredulous when Raizy had previously complained, yelling that had she not been strict with her, Raizy would not have turned out well, like she did (Franco offered no reason for saying this).

Years later Franco put together a fundraising brochure.  With unabashed hubris, she asked Raizy for permission to include her.  She was denied.  A picture of Raizy as a girl at JAFCO somehow made it in anyway.

Other fundraising materials of JAFCO show an orthodox Jewish teen speaking about how he would have liked to hit his father and how happy he was when he moved to JAFCO’s shelter and was “given his own walk-in closet.”  These are not normal testimonials.  They’re indicative of serious brainwashing.

It seems quite clear from all of the above that JAFCO has ruined lives and habitually lies and defames all detractors, even stooping as low as to commit perjury.   Still unanswered is how JAFCO gets away with never fostering out a Jewish teen.

What is clear is that Genny Or Werner should not be JAFCO’s next victim.  We must work together to return baby Aaron Isaac to his loving mother.

 

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Comments

  1. lbrown34 says:

    Thank you for speaking up for our most vulnerable; “The more innocent the victim, the more heinous the crime.”

    Like

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