The Boys Next Door

In the rush to ban sex offenders, cities and counties may inadvertently be creating more of them down the line.

Matsch was not swayed by the arguments. Saying he doubted that there had been a substantive due-process issue in the case, he denied the ACLU's request for a preliminary injunction.

The Supreme Court, Matsch said, has recognized the distinction between foster families and biological families in that foster families are rooted in state law and contractual arrangements.

As to the scope of the Fair Housing Act, Matsch was less certain. "I'm not dismissing the case," he said. "I anticipate the case going forward as a declaratory judgment case. [A declaratory judgment establishes the rights of the parties or expresses the opinion of the court on a matter of law without ordering that anything be done.] I think it's very questionable that Congress had this sort of thing in mind in passing the Fair Housing Act, but the mind of Congress is not something easily divined."

Juliana Ibarra, foster mother and martyr for the cause of juvenile sex offenders.
Juliana Ibarra, foster mother and martyr for the cause of juvenile sex offenders.
Juliana Ibarra, foster mother and martyr for the cause of juvenile sex offenders.
John Johnston
Juliana Ibarra, foster mother and martyr for the cause of juvenile sex offenders.
They're Not Columbine Knolls
Jefferson County struggles to find a place for its sex offenders.

Checking It Twice
The sex-offender registry brands kids well into adulthood.

Matsch mentioned, too, that he was troubled by the absence of representatives from either the county social services department or the state government.

"It seems to me," he said, "that the state, having created this special status [of registered sex offenders] might have an interest in limiting what communities can do in response to that...I'm concerned about just how far this goes, and what is the state's interest here. It somewhat troubles me that the state's not involved in this case."

Following the hearing before Matsch, Northglenn reinstated its charges against the Ibarras. The case went to court June 1.

Once the municipal judge declined the ACLU's request to dismiss the charges, the trial was basically a formality, says ACLU cooperating attorney Jim Goh. All parties agreed that the Ibarras had more than one registered sex offender under their roof and therefore were in violation of the zoning ordinance.

The trial was short and to the point. The Ibarras lost. The judge assessed a small fine. The ACLU plans to appeal, however, and the fines will be held in abeyance until the appeal is heard.

"Our goal should be to reduce the risk of sex offenders repeating their crime, but ordinances like Northglenn's likely have the opposite effect," says Silverstein. "To achieve a low rate of recidivism, the key is to promote stability, reintegrate the sex offender into the community and continue therapy even after they have finished with prison or probation or parole. A group home or a foster family with trained parents and on-site staff for on-site therapy provides one of the best possible models to get them the help they need to become productive citizens.

"On the other hand, you decrease the stability and increase the risks when you're hounded from home to home, neighborhood to neighborhood, community to community, and that's exactly what the Northglenn ordinance does, especially in combination with every other community passing look-alike ordinances."

Juliana and Eusebio discussed how they would choose which boys might have to leave, "but it's really hard for me to even begin to think of that," Juliana testified in court. "It would be like somebody coming and knocking on my door and saying, 'Listen, out of your three biological kids, I'm going to have to take two. Which ones would you pick for me to take?'

"I love my boys. I don't want to get rid of any of them."

On March 2, though, one of the choices was taken from them.

Eighteen-year-old Zach, who'd lived with the Ibarras for three years, ran away. He had become nervous and "sick" after he and the other foster kids were publicly identified as sex offenders, Juliana says. He lost weight.

When he first came to live at their home, she says, he was constantly "terrified" and would flinch whenever he heard a loud noise -- and after December, he began to revert to that type of behavior.

When he left, Zach was on the loose but not on a tear.

He went to his pastor's house, Lost and Found's Hargett says. "He told his pastor he'd been released and that he needed a place to stay. His pastor finally discovered the truth and turned him in about three weeks later.

"Zach went to a safe place, and he went there deliberately," Hargett says. "He wasn't at just anybody's back door or at a playground."

After the pastor turned him in, Zach was arrested and taken to the Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center in Arapahoe County, a secure juvenile facility where he has remained while a judge determines his fate.

"His probation officer is trying to get him committed to the Department of Youth Corrections," Hargett says, "but we're trying to give him another shot. It seems disproportionately inappropriate to commit him."

"No matter what happens with Zach," Juliana says, "my husband and I will stand by him."

The spate of zoning laws has slowed since this spring, and some of the communities have passed ordinances in which juvenile sex offenders are given some leeway. Littleton, for example, stipulates that its one-sex-offender-per-home ordinance, passed in April, applies only to offenders "over the age of 12."

Arvada initially proposed a law allowing foster families to include more than one juvenile sex offender if certain conditions were met, but backed off from that liberal proposal following a June 5 hearing. "After some discussion, the [city] council had a number of concerns, one of which is that there doesn't seem to be any way of classifying the level of offense," says Arvada spokeswoman Maria VanderKolk.

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My Voice Nation Help

I won't  use a blanket statement like "everyone deserves a second chance", but I do believe that these folks do. Its kind of sad how society can be with labels sometimes. Tearing people down, not giving them a chance when more than one professional has said they can do better, its not fair. People like Harl and his <a href="">child placement agency</a> shouldn't have to have these concerns.