N.Y. State Attorney General’s Office to Begin Formal Inquiry into Hale House
The New York state attorney general's office announced Monday that it has opened a formal investigation into Hale House, a Harlem-based charity that provides shelter to children born to drug-addicted or HIV-infected women, the New York Times reports. The charity has recently come under fire for questionable financial and child care practices. Dr. Lorraine Hale, president of Hale House, and Maurice McHugh, the charity's CFO, Friday received subpoenas ordering them to turn over the charity's financial records. Hale, who accepted a personal loan from the charity, was also ordered to provide her personal financial records. Testimony was to begin yesterday, but attorney Randolph McLaughlin, who this week joined Hale House's legal team, requested an extension in order to prepare for the depositions. The charity must also submit by Monday all records pertaining to Newport Creative Communications, a direct mail firm that has done $7 million worth of business for the charity. McLaughlin said, "We are beginning the process of taking proactive steps to identify and resolve any issues that have been raised or will be raised in the course of the attorney general's work. We want to work cooperatively with the attorney general's office to ensure that Hale House continues to serve the community as it has done in the past." Hale House announced on Monday the first two appointments to an independent panel that will review an investigative report on the agency being prepared by an independent firm. More appointments will soon follow. The charity also announced a freeze on fundraising activity while the review was being completed and added that it would not make any "further personal loans." All outstanding loans are to be paid in full with interest in accordance with a schedule submitted to the attorney general, representatives for the charity said (Pristin, New York Times, 4/24).
Charity 'Didn't Keep Promises'
Several mothers who placed children with Hale House have recently come forward charging that the charity "failed to make good on its promises to help sustain their relationships with their children," the New York Times reports. Lorraine Hale has publicly described the children in the charity's care as "castoffs abandoned by their mothers." Several women, who are serving prison time, charge that this is not true, saying they turned to Hale House because it represented "their best shot at reuniting with their children." The women say they would have been confronted with "termination" of their parental rights if they placed their children in foster care, because their prison sentences outlast the time period set up by a 1999 law. According to that law, if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the previous 22 months, the parent's rights are negated. The charity now "concedes" that incarcerated women are the "source of most of the children" at Hale House. None of the women claim the children have been mistreated, but they say the charity promised to facilitate visits with their children that never materialized. McLaughlin said in a statement Tuesday that the agency was "taking steps to do all it can" to arrange visitations. Deborah Friedland, a volunteer advocate at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, said she no longer recommends the program to women because of similar experiences she's had with Hale House. She said when she attempted to get a child's medical records for the child's mother, she was "passed from employee to employee" and personally "attacked" as a "racist." Colleen Roche, a Hale House spokesperson, called Friedland's allegations "insulting" and would not comment further on them (Bernstein, New York Times, 4/25). To listen to a NPR "All Things Considered report that aired yesterday on Hale House, click here.