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Elderly, mentally ill and children trapped in broken court system

Thousands of Ohio’s most vulnerable residents are trapped in a system that was created to protect them but instead allows unscrupulous guardians to rob them of their freedom, dignity and money. Even judges who oversee the system acknowledge that it is broken, that it has ripped apart families, rendered the mentally ill voiceless, and left some elderly Ohioans dying penniless in nursing homes, a yearlong Columbus Dispatch investigation found.

Children under guardianship are all but forgotten. Adults without an estate are virtually ignored. And those who aren’t really mentally incompetent find it nearly impossible to end a guardianship. The 5-day series, which concludes May 22, has prompted criminal investigations by the Franklin County Prosecutor and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

The California Department of Social Services cleared workers without the proper background checks, a KCRA 3 investigation found. The department allowed some with felony arrest records for crimes like elder and child abuse to work in nursing facilities, foster homes and daycares.

The state said officials have been issuing “criminal records clearance” letters to workers while investigating their charges. However, the department's director denied the office had issued clearance letters to anyone with a conviction for a serious charge.

"Thousands of residents in U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care institutions have had their personal savings raided or mismanaged after relying on the facilities to safeguard the money in special trust fund accounts, a USA TODAY investigation shows. At least 10 of the thefts have exceeded $100,000 from a single nursing home account."

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