Legislative Elder Abuse

root - Posted on 01 January 2000

Proposed legislation would criminalize the care-givers of elder and disabled Californians

by Marlon Crump/PNN

“It (the proposed legislation) will impact a lot of consumers, family members, husbands, wives. They (home health care workers) take care of them, and a lot of those people have felonies. If they won’t be able to provide a service to that consumer, then they could get sick and die," said Caesar La Tour of the United Healthcare Workers (West) in a POOR Magazine/PNN interview at San Francisco City Hall on December 14, 2009 outside the Board of Supervisors Chambers. For six years La Tour worked as a home health care provider, but he’s cared for the seniors and his family since he was six years old.

A “Felony Exclusion Resolution” was the item agenda for this public hearing before San Francisco Supervisors Chris Daly, John Avalos, Bevin Duffy, David Campos and Sean Elsbernd, all whom apparently opposed this legislation.

Among the various San Francisco Bay Area community groups attending this public meeting that also opposed this law were Senior Action Network and Planning for Elders.

Bruce Allison, Carina Lomeli,
“Tiny” Lisa Gray-Garcia, and myself, all representing POOR/PNN, attended this hearing for an emergency re-porting and sup-porting intervention against this criminalizing legislation.

"At POOR Magazine/PNN we practice ancestor worship and eldership."

~Excerpt from POOR Magazine's mission statement.

As I conducted research on the proposed legislation I was reminded of this statement because our elders are endangered by Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to prevent any In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) worker to care for an elder if they have a felony background or a “serious misdemeanor” offense.

“This particular legislation will ruin and take away choices from elders,” Bruce Allison, POOR comrade of mine and Elder Scholar, said to me with concern. “We’ve had enough stuff taken away from the ‘gentleman’ (Schwarzenegger) in Sacramento. This is one of his plans to shove us all in nursing homes and concentration camps.”

The legislation requires fingerprinting for anyone interested in becoming a service provider, even if his or her offenses range back to 35 years and they’ve had no further discord with the law. This policy will violate the right of consumers to choose who they want to care for them.

“The consumers are very upset because of this law that Arnold is trying to push upon us,” Mrs. McArthur, senior and IHSS worker, explained during an interview. “It should be their choice of who they want to work for them.” I asked her if there have ever been any troubles committed from home health care service providers towards the consumers.

“They are happy with the providers, but not with what the system is doing,” she replied. “Some of them (consumers) have a relationship with their health provider. Trust is the most important thing in this job.” Mrs. McArthur is deeply concerned with what the measures for fingerprinting will entail, and where the funding will come from to support this process?

In San Francisco, there are 22,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities who rely on service care to avoid institutionalization. Statewide, over 44% of IHSS recipients receive care from a family member.

The legislation contradicts current state law, which only excludes IHSS workers that have had convictions of child abuse, elder abuse, and fraudulent activities against government health programs. The legislation is also inconsistent with a federal law that excludes people from being service providers only for job-related offenses, and makes it illegal to use preventions of employment based on a prior conviction. Furthermore, the proposed legislation contradicts the City and County of San Francisco’s Civil Service employment policies, which do not permit a ban on employment based on conviction history. Rather, a case-by-case evaluation is required depending on the nature of the offense, the time elapsed and the job that the applicant performs.

Bruce Allison and I sat in on the hearing to witness the testimonies of those that opposed the Schwarzenegger policy and praised the Felony Exclusion Resolution.

S.F. Public Defender Jeff Adachi addressed his concerns to the Board of Supervisors about the kind of impact the law will have on people, predominately those of color, and stated statistical numbers in reference to those concerns.

“It behooves you, Board of Supervisors, to say NO to this legislation from Schwarzenegger,” I said during my public comment address to the board. I followed up with a slice of sarcasm stating, “Keep in mind, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a senior himself…with or without the massive muscles.” 

Recently, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch halted the state with a temporary restraining order by excluding people with felony records from working as caregivers in California's IHSS program. This order forbids the state from enforcing the proposed law’s restrictions until January 29, 2010, when Roesch will hold a hearing about a possible injunction.

Governor Schwarzenegger and his administration continue to attack services vital to the poor, the elderly and the disabled. He has no compassion for the lives of people who can no longer care for themselves without assistance from others. A person’s past determines how they care for the vulnerable in the future.

“My mom (‘Mama’ Dee Gray) became disabled when I was 11-years-old, and it was necessary that I cared for her. I was her sole care giver,” co-founder of POOR “Tiny” Lisa Gray-Garcia said to me during an interview.

Tiny stated that she does have a record for “Crimes of Poverty.” Described in more detail throughout her book, Criminal of Poverty, Tiny underwent a life filled with citation issuances every time she and her mom had to park their car just to get a good night’s sleep in.

Regardless of Tiny’s heroic ability to care for her mother at a very young age while managing their survival with no financial security, her record is forever stained with “Crimes of Poverty.” What would it have meant for people in poverty who provided for seniors, sick and disabled if this newly proposed law would have arrived in the past?

“This legislation would’ve made sure that we had no source of support,” Tiny said. “When we ended up in homelessness and poverty while my son was born, she (‘Mama’ Dee) became ill. The only money that we had was an in-home support services payment. It allowed us to eat.”

“The verdict acquits the raven, but condemns the dove.”

~Juvenal, Roman Poet.


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