Except at the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. Dad PETER J. NELSEN had sex with a client he was supposed to be investigating for child abuse. The mom says that Nelson told her that if she slept with him, she'd get to keep her kids. Of course, Dad says she's lying, but then the agency he works for says he's lying about them, too. After Mom got pregnant and gave birth, the Bureau actually gave the Dad CUSTODY of the child--basically rewarding him for being a manipulative, unprofessional ethics violator who abused his authority over a client. Not only that, the Bureau took her other two children, too. Wow, abuse a client and get rewarded with the child while the client who was violated gets the shaft. Now Dad is actually filing for SOLE CUSTODY. What a presumptuous POS. If he gets away with this, professional ethics codes are basically null and void from here on out.
Given that the mother contacted a domestic violence hotline and took out a protective order trying to keep this creepy social worker away from her and her child, I suspect we're looking at a real abusive sicko.
Assigned to check abuse, social worker impregnates client
By Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Aug. 27, 2009
A state social worker who investigated a report of child abuse for the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare later had sex with the child's emotionally troubled mother and impregnated her. He then hid the woman's pregnancy and the birth of their daughter from the bureau, even as the mother sought to retain custody of two other children, the Journal Sentinel has learned.
The 56-year-old social worker, Peter J. Nelsen, was allowed to resign from the bureau April 15, according to bureau records.
Within months of his resignation, the bureau removed the 1-year-old girl from her mother and placed her in Nelsen's home. The other children - a 5-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy - also had been removed.
Nelsen is now seeking sole custody of the 1-year-old.
"Everything that I love is gone," said the 31-year-old mother, Theola Nealy.
Nealy was sitting at the kitchen table of her tiny but immaculate south side home. The house, its walls painted pink and peach, is a virtual toy box filled with bikes, dolls and empty beds.
"This is their home," she said.
The administrative code of ethics that Wisconsin social workers are required to follow strictly forbids sexual contact with clients. The rule states: "A person shall continue to be a client for two years after the termination of professional services."
"It is probably the worst thing you can do as a professional," said Marc Herstand, executive director of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world. "This is a basic ethical standard."
Although bureau officials knew about the child by early April, no report has been filed with a state examining board, according to a Department of Regulation and Licensing spokesman. David Carlson said Nelsen retains his social worker's license.
State law requires an employer that "terminates, suspends, or restricts the employment" of a licensed social worker as the result of "adverse or disciplinary action against the credential holder relating to his or her practice of social work" report that action to the appropriate examining board within 30 days.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families, which runs the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, said a report was filed. But Angela Russell said she did not know when.
"I left the bureau on good terms," Nelsen said. "They told me they would help me find another position with the state if need be."
Russell said such a conversation never happened.
Nelsen has not been charged with any crime, but the Milwaukee County district attorney's office is reviewing his case.
"This is a violation of law, ethical codes, the Golden Rule and plain old common sense," said Susan Conwell, executive director of the child welfare advocacy group Kids Matter Inc.
"So far, nothing has been done to protect others who may have been affected by similar abuses of authority," she said. "Nothing has been done to prevent this from happening again."
Job was to investigate
Nelsen's job with the bureau, where he had worked for 12 years, was to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect.
According to interviews and children's court records provided to the Journal Sentinel by Nealy:
Nelsen was assigned by the bureau in the summer of 2007 to investigate a report that Nealy abused her then 3-year-old daughter by yelling at her outside a W-2 office, pushing her and throwing the child's shoes into the street.
Nelsen said he did not find any evidence of abuse, and the case was closed.
Nealy was well-known to the bureau. According to court records, she has been referred to the bureau more than 10 times. Her parental rights to her then 3-year-old son had been terminated in June 2006. She had been twice convicted of felony battery and once convicted of misdemeanor criminal damage.
A court-ordered psychological evaluation conducted in 2008 and provided to the Journal Sentinel by Nealy concludes she suffers from anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder with schizoid, paranoid and narcissistic features.
Shortly after the incident at the W-2 office, Nealy was again referred to the bureau for another alleged abuse. The referral was given to another investigator to pursue, but Nelsen continued to visit Nealy at her home. The two began having sex, Nealy said, in September 2007.
In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Nelsen made it clear that he was no longer directly involved in Nealy's case when they had sex, a distinction that outraged Conwell.
"This is a licensed social worker who had access to confidential, personal information about a client - including her mental health and past abuse," she said. "And he still decided to sleep with her while she had an open child welfare case. He doesn't see the ethical conflict? How many families have been impacted by his poor judgment? What kind of work environment supports that kind of decision making?"
They discussed abortion
Nealy claimed in an interview that she agreed to have sex with Nelsen because he told her he could help her prevent the bureau from removing two remaining children from her home, a claim Nelsen denies.
"That is 100% not true," he said.
Nealy said she was told she was pregnant at a nearby health clinic in November 2007. She called Nelsen as she was leaving the clinic and told him, she said. He urged her to get an abortion, she said, and to not say anything about their relationship.
"He told me if I said anything, he would call my caseworker. He said I would never get (her two children) back."
Nealy refused to get an abortion. On Dec. 21, the bureau removed both of her children from her home and placed them in protective care.
While Nelsen said in an interview that he did discuss abortion with Nealy, he denied threatening her and said he had nothing to do with the removal of her two children. There is no indication in court records that bureau caseworkers were aware of Nealy's involvement with Nelsen when the two children were removed.
"I did not take advantage of this woman," Nelsen said in an interview. "Far from it.
"I have never been anything but kind and decent to this woman."
Nealy's daughter was delivered by C-section on Aug. 19, 2008. Nelsen said he dropped Nealy off at the hospital in the morning and visited her after work.
He said he did not believe at the time that the baby was his, and he planned to have as little to do as possible with the baby and her mother. But once the child was born, he said, it was obvious to him that he was the child's father.
"She looks just like me," he said.
A DNA test would later confirm Nelsen's paternity.
Nelsen said he gave Nealy money, toys, gifts and rides to doctor appointments.
"I felt an obligation," Nelsen said. "Nothing was ever done to hush her up."
In October, Nelsen brought the baby to his home for a sleep-over, telling his girlfriend of 12 years that he was providing respite care for a client.
Nelsen did not tell anyone about fathering the baby, he said. Nor did Nealy. Nealy said she was afraid that if she told anyone, Nelsen would punish her by taking the baby and using his position with the bureau to ruin her chances of getting her two other children back.
"They all knew him," Nealy said. "And he knew them."
On Feb. 9, 2009, according to a children's court report, Nealy's bureau case manager, Enrique Lockhart, and his supervisor, Angela D'Fantis, demanded to know the name of the new baby's father. Nealy refused to tell them. D'Fantis told her that if the bureau was ever to return her two other children, she would need to know the name of any adult male involved in the home.
"Reluctantly," the report says, "Ms. Nealy stated that she would provide the Father's name, but would only write it down. She was provided paper and pen. She wrote the name, Peter Nelson (sic)..."
The report continues: "D'Fantis asked why she would be reluctant to provide this name. She stated, 'He really doesn't want to be involved in all this.'"
Although Nelsen was still working for the bureau, the report does not indicate whether either Lockhart or D'Fantis recognized Nelsen's name.
Truth comes out
Nelsen's relationship with Nealy was exposed in late March.
Nealy's W-2 worker demanded to know the name of the baby's father. Nealy told the worker. When a W-2 investigator called Nelsen, he confessed to the affair.
"I'm not going to come forward with it," Nelsen said, "but I'm not going to deny it."
The bureau accepted his resignation two weeks later.
By then, Nelsen had told his girlfriend about the baby and the child was spending most of her time at their north side home. Nealy said she had never agreed to this arrangement, and Nelsen had decided on his own to keep the baby with him.
Nelsen said he permitted Nealy to see the child only when supervised.
"This was not a woman I was going to leave my child with," he said. "This woman really isn't all there."
Nelsen and Nealy began to fight over control of the child.
Nealy said she felt Nelsen had essentially kidnapped the baby, that he had no right to tell her when she could and could not see her.
Nelsen told her that Nealy's caseworker was fully aware that the baby lived at his house. He said in an interview that the caseworker - who was never assigned to him - had visited him and approved of the arrangement.
He told Nealy that he was filing a petition in family court and he would seek sole custody.
Their squabble came to a head this month.
Nelsen took Nealy and the baby to a Wal-Mart on Aug. 14. Once inside, Nealy said, she called the domestic abuse hotline for Sojourner Family Peace Center. The center, she said, sent a cab for her. Nealy slipped out of the store with the baby and took the cab to the Milwaukee County Courthouse where she got a temporary restraining order against Nelsen.
A spokeswoman for Sojourner said that because of confidentiality rules, she could neither confirm nor deny Nealy's story. Court records show Nealy did seek and receive a restraining order against Nelsen on Aug. 14.
When Nealy did not come out of the store, Nelsen said, he assumed she had absconded with the baby. He called the police and the bureau. On Aug. 17, a bureau worker found Nealy and the baby at Nealy's mother's house.
Despite the restraining order, the bureau placed the baby with Nelsen, where she has remained since.
The bureau filed a petition in children's court on behalf of the baby seeking protection from Nealy. A hearing on the petition is scheduled for Sept. 9.
A hearing on the restraining order is scheduled for Friday. A hearing on the custody dispute is scheduled for Oct. 5.
Russell, of the Department of Children and Families, said it has investigated Nelsen's case.
That was news to Nealy, who said she was never contacted.
Child advocate Conwell said it is not enough for the bureau to review only what occurred between Nelsen and Nealy.
"All his cases must be reviewed for similar misuse of authority," she said. "That is the first step toward building public confidence."