Neighborhood wants foster family to get rid of children

Foster family awaits decision
A homeowners association, which says the parents run a business, still threatens to sue them. They say they won't quit. 
Article Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times
Published October 3, 2002 

The Gourlays' neighborhood association won't decide until next week whether to file a lawsuit against them. The association has said the Gourlay family is a business because it gets money from the state to help support five foster children. 

Deed restrictions do not permit businesses in Forest Lake Estates. 

Walt Lucas, vice president of the Forest Lake Estates Neighborhood Association, said Wednesday that he is gathering opinions from other board members before meeting with the association's attorney. 

"I think next week some time we'll probably be through this," Lucas said. 

A Sept. 18 letter from the association attorney gave the Gourlays 10 days "to take whatever steps are necessary to comply with the restrictions without legal action." 

The Gourlays did nothing. They don't plan to quit foster care, they said. 

At issue is the $2,028 per month the state gives the Gourlays to help with expenses of five foster children. Steven and Corinna Gourlay, both 34, have five foster children as well as four other kids in their 1,700-square-foot home. 

They said they use the state money to pay for diapers, trips and clothes. 

Forest Lake Estates is a middle-class subdivision north of Ridge Road, near Port Richey. 

If a lawsuit is filed, the family has offers from attorneys to take their case for free. The state Department of Children and Families also has said it might get involved because of the potential precedent of foster children not being allowed in deed restricted communities. 

Association attorney Donald Peyton said Wednesday that the way he interprets the deed restrictions, the Gourlays' house is not a single-family residence, but rather a business. 

"As kind as this may be, they still are receiving some remuneration for it," he said. 

Peyton is waiting to hear from vice president Lucas. 

"I won't do anything else unless I'm asked," Peyton said. 

Port Richey - A neighborhood association is threatening to sue a couple if they don’t kick out the five foster children they’re caring for.

An attorney for the association says the family is breaking the rules by operating a profit-making business.

The kids range in age from two to 14. The state’s child-welfare agency sees it differently. The agency says Steven and Corrine Gourlay are one of the few families that want foster children, the kids nobody else will take.

The Gourlay’s have three children of their own.
They say they aren’t making a profit. He’s a grocery truck driver and makes about 40-thousand dollars a year.

His wife is an unemployed licensed practical nurse. She says she spends most her days driving the children to their assorted therapy appointments.

The state pays the Gourlay’s a little more than two thousand dollars a month or about four hundred dollars per child.

Become a foster parent and get rich! Yeah, right
Published September 29, 2002 

Tired of dismal stock returns, multilevel marketing efforts that yield little or a continued failure to hit more than three numbers on the Lotto drawing? 

Have we got a get-rich-quick scheme for you. Abused and neglected children. 

Just ask Corinna and Steven Gourlay. 

The couple in Forest Lakes Estates in west Pasco is making a killing. The state of Florida reimburses them an average of 56 cents an hour to care for a foster child. 

So what if that's a mere 10 percent of the minimum wage? Do you really want to earn more by working in a hot kitchen flipping burgers? Or sweating outside mowing lawns? Forget it. Work from the comfort of your own home. 

The stipend's only requirement is that it must cover food, clothing, personal care items, gas for the chauffeuring duties, higher utility costs for water and power, and the endless incidentals that accompany school-age children from supplies, to class portraits and fundraisers. 

Of course, a little perspective might be in order. 

"We pay more to kennel our dogs," said Jack Levine, president of the Center for Florida's Children. 


Not an exaggeration, either. A spot check of kennels listed in the west Pasco telephone book found daily charges of up to $16 for putting up a 60-pound dog. 

The Gourlays receive a per diem averaging $13.50 per child. 

Still interested? 

Some of the Gourlays' neighbors are. But, for all the wrong reasons. 

As Times staff writer Ryan Davis revealed this week, the Gourlays are accused of violating the neighborhood deed restrictions. They are suspected of running a for-profit business by caring for five foster children in their home. 

"To imagine that all foster parents who obtain a license are, by definition, for-profit enterprises, is an absolute absurdity," said Levine. 

The license, incidentally, indicates the Gourlays have submitted to background checks and domestic safety inspections. It is not a business license. 

The Gourlays do not receive a salary. The reimbursement is not taxed by the federal government. Foster parents are volunteers caring for abused and neglected children in a time of need. 

Family Continuity Program, the non-profit agency handling foster care in Pasco and Pinellas counties, places 10 to 15 children each weekday. They rely on people like the Gourlays who accept multiple children into their home. 

It is important to note these youngsters are not strangers to west Pasco. 

"These are kids that go to school here, that are in our community. We want our kids here," said Tracy Stodart, assistant director of operations at Family Continuity. 

Not all the neighbors share the association's attitude. A letter from Richard and Tracy Cooper elsewhere on this page indicates their belief that money isn't the issue. They blame ageism. 

It is unfortunate. Neighborhoods are enriched, not damaged by having multigenerational occupants. And Forest Lake Estates' proximity to Chasco elementary and middle schools makes it a likely candidate to lure more families with school-age children as permanent residents. 

Facing neighborhood opposition just for helping people is not an unheard of phenomenon in west Pasco. A year ago, some residents in Embassy Hills circulated a petition balking at a group home for six mentally disabled women. 

The dispute in Forest Lakes Estates is reminiscent of a deed restriction battle more than a decage ago in Nature's Hideaway in Seven Springs. Then, however, caring for senior citizens, not foster children was the focus. 

Neighbors contended that taking in three elderly boarders constituted an occupation by a nurse's aide living in Nature's Hideaway. They sued in June 1991, saying their property values had diminished. Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray granted an injunction. 

The 2nd District Court of Appeal disagreed in a 1993 ruling, and Judge Christopher Altenbernd authored a strongly worded concurring opinion that said in part: 

"Individual neighborhoods should not be allowed to decide that a small home, occupied by elderly or disabled residents, is a locally undesirable land use." 

The same reasoning should hold true for children. 

Letters to the Editors
Effort to sue caring family is appalling

Published September 29, 2002 

Re: Family accused of being a business, Sept. 26 

Editor: As homeowners in Forest Lake Estates, we are writing this letter to express our outrage at the actions of the Forest Lake Estates Neighborhood Association against the Gourlay family. 
In a world where the newspapers and news programs are full of stories about child neglect and abuse, we are appalled that our community would threaten a lawsuit against a family for opening their hearts and home to less fortunate children. 
Their only crime is accepting assistance from the state? Is the money really the issue is here? 
No. The real issue is that there are some very elderly residents who don't want families with kids in this neighborhood. Unfortunately, there is no deed restriction against having kids in the neighborhood. 
Association attorney Donald R. Peyton said, "I understand they aren't doing it for free or out of love, that it's a business." Mr. Peyton, I would suggest that before making such an uninformed statement, it might be advisable for you to spend some time getting to know the Gourlay family so you can learn who they are and what's in their heart. Maybe you would enjoy spending a day with Corinna while she cooks, cleans and drives the kids to and from school and their various appointments: cheerleading, sporting events, etc. It's a real life of luxury. 
Steven and Corinna are wonderful, loving parents and should not be penalized for providing a home and for loving and caring for the foster children who need them. We would challenge the many caring residents of Forest Lakes to let the association know that we do not support this action against the Gourlay family. 
-- Richard and Tracy Cooper, New Port Richey 

Article Courtesy of the Miami Herald
Posted on Fri, Sep. 27, 2002
Foster parents threatened with suit
Neighbors: Family is a business
PORT RICHEY - (AP) -- A Pasco County family with five foster children is facing a lawsuit threat from its neighborhood association, which says state money for foster care breaks the group's no business rule.

Unless Corinna and Steven Gourlays send the children, ages 2 to 14, away, Forest Lake Estates Neighborhood Association will sue, according to Donald R. Peyton, an attorney for the group.

The family is ''making a business of taking in foster children,'' Peyton said. ``I understand they aren't doing it for free or out of love, that it's a business.''

To workers in the state's struggling child-welfare system, though, the Gourlays are a rare find. They are one of the few families that want foster children, the kids nobody else will take.

The Gourlays, who also have three children of their own, are paid $2,028 a month, or about $405 a child, for the foster children's expenses. The entire family lives in a 1,700-square-foot house appraised at $82,000.

If there's profit involved, Steven Gourlay said, he hasn't seen it. The 34-year-old grocery truck driver makes about $40,000 annually.

Corinna Gourlay, 34, is a licensed practical nurse, who is currently unemployed. She said she spends most of her days driving the children to their assorted therapy appointments.

The Gourlays said they don't have an attorney and they aren't sure what they're going to do.

They say they do know they aren't giving up their kids.

'How do you say, `You have to go because the community doesn't want you?' '' Steven Gourlay said.

Jack Levine, president of the Center for Florida's Children, said he has never heard of a neighborhood association cracking down on a foster family.

''That's an absolute misinterpretation of both the economics and the emotions of what it takes to be a foster parent,'' Levine said. ``There is no profit in housing, feeding and clothing other people's children.''

There was no immediate response Thursday from the Florida Department of Children & Families.