AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) Wednesday night we told you about an abusive tactic known as grooming and how perpetrators take advantage of vulnerable victims.
Thursday, we delve deeper into a case from Lincoln involving a 37-year-old man who authorities say impregnated his adopted daughter.
According to DHHS, Paul Fiske and his wife have been licensed foster parents for four years.
They say an 11-year-old girl came into the Fiskes' home in November of 2015, and in February of 2017, they adopted her just before her 13th birthday.
According to court records, DHHS documented it was then that Fiske began an illicit relationship with the girl who had been placed in his care.
While DHHS says they are not able to comment about the case against Fiske, who is charged with gross sexual assault, court documents provide a timeline that raises questions about the role DHHS workers maintained in the child’s life.
Todd Landry, Director of the Office of Child and Family Services of Maine DHHS says, “A full home study including interviews with everyone in the home is done. A full FBI fingerprint check is done as well as background checks, all of those protective factors in order to make sure before a family is licensed, they are well trained, and the children are placed in a safe situation.”
According to DHHS, 14 children have been placed in the care of Paul Fiske and his wife since they became licensed foster parents four years ago.
Landry says, “All of our caseworkers visit our foster families and the kids at least once per month. That is a requirement. Often times, it’s much more than that, either personal visit at the school or in the community.”
According to a court affidavit, Fiske’s wife knew of the sexual activity that was happening between her husband and the young girl they had adopted.
Court records also say she sent the child out of state to live with a relative in order to “maintain her marriage.”
Authorities say other family members were aware of the situation as well.
In December 2018, DHHS was notified after Fiske took the then 14-year-old girl out of state.
Landry says, “Whenever a call comes into our intake system, that is assessed by our team of caseworkers, and then it is assigned with a certain amount of time where our caseworkers in the field need to go out and assess that allegation.”
Shortly after that, the Lincoln Police Department began an investigation after Fiske’s wife filed a police report.
According to court records, authorities interviewed the child, who denied any relationship with Fiske. In phone call recordings obtained by police, they say Fiske admitted to the relationship.
The court records say three months after police received the recordings, DHHS was made aware the young girl was pregnant.
Landry says, “If there is an egregious issue of safety for that child, then certainly we can take immediate custody and then go through that process with the courts. In other situations, it may not be nearly as clear, in which case we’ll go through the process of doing that investigation, involving the courts and then making that determination.”
According to DHHS documents filed with the court on May 7th of this year, authorities say they found that there was enough evidence that Paul Fiske was sexually abusing the girl.
Three days after that, child welfare officials say they received a report the girl had run away with Fiske, and again in July, they received a similar report, that time after Fiske had taken the pregnant teen out of state.
On the day that he and the young girl returned, DHHS finally obtained custody of her and placed her in a different foster home.
Landry says, “The caseworker alone is not usually the only person that makes that determination. The caseworker, the supervisor, other administrators and other support aspects are also involved. There are very important and somewhat difficult decisions to make. We want to make sure everyone is well supported in the process to make the best decision possible for our kids and families.”
Fiske was arrested by Lincoln Police on August 16th with more charges added just a week after when he was reportedly found to be having contact with the girl from jail.
Fiske has pleaded not guilty and is being held on $55,000 bail.
Landry says, “Child safety is what guides all of our decision making. That’s our focus. That’s what grounds us in all of our work and all of our practice.”
Police and DHHS officials say they have seen the 15-year-old girl, who is due to give birth any day now, wearing a diamond ring on her left ring finger.
They say they found the girl had written about her plans to get married.
Again, Landry's comments are not directly in response to the Fiske case.
Landry took over as Director of the Office of Child and Family Services in April, months after the investigation against Fiske started.