Iron Range couple surrenders foster care license after child finds gun in vehicleA Mountain Iron couple surrendered their child foster care license after one of their own children found a loaded gun in the family vehicle, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
A Mountain Iron couple surrendered their child foster care license after one of their own children found a loaded gun in the family vehicle, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
The state withdrew an order to revoke the license of Tony and Shannon Hautala on June 18 after the Hautalas surrendered their license, according to a “statement of final agency decision” posted June 27 on the department’s website.
The license is one of two lost for child foster homes in the Northland in recent weeks.
The Hautalas’ difficulty stemmed from an incident that occurred on June 28, 2010, according to a certified letter sent to the couple on March 18, 2011. That letter announced their license would be revoked but offered them the opportunity to appeal the decision. The Hautalas did appeal, and this month’s final decision was the result of that process.
The letter said St. Louis County officials received a report on July 1, 2010, about the incident three days earlier. It said a child riding in the back seat of the couple’s van found the gun and reported it to Shannon Hautala.
The gun was in a pouch behind the driver’s seat and not in a case, the letter said. Anthony Hautala explained that he had placed the gun there during a trip out of state and forgot to take the gun out of the vehicle when he returned. He acknowledged he didn’t have a key lock engaged on the gun, the report said.
About the same time, the Hautalas failed to report a medical condition and failed to report a change in household membership to St. Louis County as required under their license.
The county notified Hautala on Aug. 26, 2010, that he was found responsible for maltreatment (neglect), and that he had a right to request reconsideration. After Hautala made that request, the county responded on Sept. 27 that the maltreatment determination had been affirmed and he had the right to request a fair hearing. He didn’t make that request.
The Hautalas had been licensed to provide foster care for up to two children, according to the Department of Human Services.
No foster children were staying with the Hautalas at the time of the incident, said Mark Snyder, who oversees child foster care for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health and Human Services, and none were assigned to them while the issues were being resolved. There were no criminal charges, Snyder said.
In a telephone interview, Tony Hautala said the incident occurred “after a week’s trip. I forgot about it and when I went to get it, it was a day too late.”
But Hautala said he practices responsible gun ownership. He said he has a “carry” permit and that his children have been trained around guns and understand proper gun etiquette. Children in their care are not abused or mistreated in any way, he said.
Hautala said he didn’t think the county treated him and his wife fairly.
“A lot of people gave a lot of different answers to a lot of the same questions,” he said. “It almost seemed like … they don’t want you to win.”
License revoked in Ely
In the other case, the state revoked the child foster care license of Kelly Skillings of Ely. She has the right to repeal that order. The order was posted June 18.
A certified letter sent to Skillings on June 15 said Lake County Human Services had “determined that you were aware of recurring physical abuse of foster children by an individual in your home. You failed to provide the foster children’s basic need for safety when you did not notify the agency and the placing workers for the foster children of the recurring physical abuse in your home.”
The report didn’t specify the nature of the alleged abuse. Skillings couldn’t be reached for comment. Calls to Lake County Human Services weren’t returned.
The certified letter said the county notified her on Oct. 19 that she was found responsible for serious maltreatment (neglect) of children. She requested reconsideration, and on Jan. 19 the agency affirmed the determination. She did not request a hearing.
Skillings and her husband, Charles Skillings, originally were licensed to provide child foster care on Feb. 15, 2003. The license allowed them to provide care for three children.
Charles Skillings died on July 9 of last year when he fell from a canoe while fishing in Grass Lake near Isabella, according to news reports.
The Skillings were licensed through Duluth-based Northwood Children’s Services. Richard Wolleat, president and CEO of the agency, said the children in the Skillings’ care were placed in other homes during the investigation.
“They’re doing really well,” Wolleat said of the children involved. “We found appropriate homes for them.”
Ten foster care families are licensed through Northwood Children’s Service, Wolleat said. The families undergo extensive background studies before being approved, and agency personnel make regular visits to foster homes, he said.