9.17.2008

Public Hearing Report 9.18.08




A legislative hearing on foster-child abuse was interrupted briefly Wednesday after a committee gave out an investigative file that detailed sexual-abuse complaints against a foster parent and the state assessment clearing him to take in children.

The documents pertained to Brian John Bergthold, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to a sexual assault charge. He also pleaded guilty last year to producing and distributing child pornography.

An attorney for the Department of Human Services complained that the documents should not be released because they reveal confidential information.

Leaders of the Senate Committee on Children and Youth and the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs stopped the meeting to retrieve the material, which had also been distributed to visitors and reporters.

Reporters from The Associated Press, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media refused to return the packets. State agency lawyers later asked them to not disclose information about the accusers.

Associated Press policy is to not identify victims of sexual crimes.

The committee later distributed the packet with information, like Social Security numbers, blacked out. The assessment on whether Bergthold should be a foster parent was nearly entirely blacked out. The unredacted report said, QUOTE: "Brian wants to be a foster parent because he feels led by God to do so. He feels has the abilities, both personal and financial, and the space."

It went on to say: "He says that he has been blessed and wants to share those blessings with others. He is open to either gender but feels that based on his experience, boys would be better."

Bergthold passed several criminal background checks to become a foster parent in Arkansas. According to police, he was a foster parent in Arkansas for two years, keeping about 30 boys between the ages of 9 and 17 over the period.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

No comments: