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His Final Placement: How, After 36 Placements, An Idaho Foster Child Ended Up Behind Bars

Caregiver: "I have moments where I've been so bitter; bitter with the system, bitter with Kallen, bitter with myself."

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Author's Note

I met Kallen Hazel in 2005. He was 7 years old, a bit pudgy with bleach-blond hair, an occasional smile and unstoppable energy. I remember that he loved cookies, sports and held way too many secrets deep inside his heart. I also knew that he was the victim of severe abuse from those who were supposed to love him. By the time we met in 2005, Kallen required professional help and physical safety. The state of Idaho was anxious for him to be adopted, but this was a boy who had already lived much too long in the shadows of pain and indifference.

ADAM ROSENLUND
  • Adam Rosenlund

Long before I decided to return to journalism, I worked with Idaho foster children, first as a guardian ad-litem, representing children in the court system, and then as executive director of The Shepherd's Home in McCall, which was to become the largest group home for children in Idaho and honored for its work by the Idaho Children's Trust Fund. Ultimately, I would work for more than 100 children, from newborns to fully-grown young adults. Being an advocate for foster care was a part of my professional career that I take a great deal of pride in, and to this day, it informs the way I report on Idaho social issues and even politics.

I had long left my work in foster care when I first read about the huge fire on Scheline Lane in July 2013. Was I shocked? Absolutely. Was I surprised that Kallen Hazel was involved? Not really; saddened certainly, but not surprised.

This report, which includes unsealed records of the events surrounding that fire, provides a rare glimpse of what happens when things go horribly wrong in foster care. Could it have been prevented? That's very possible, but we'll never know. - George Prentice

His Final Placement

He was "a neater-than-sneakers kind of kid," according to his social worker.

He was "a pathological liar" according to prosecutors.

Now, after 36 foster care placements, Kallen Hazel is a felon.

Kallen Hazel will turn 17 this October, presumably at the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction facility in Lewiston. According to law enforcement and even some caregivers, he may not see the outside of the jail until well past his boyhood.

"If the court does not send Kallen to an adult prison, or release him on adult felony probation, Kallen will automatically be released from the custody of IDJC and placed on adult felony probation on the day he turns 21," said Jeff Ray, Idaho Department of Correction spokesman.

"But he has an adult sentence hanging over his head," court-appointed attorney Scott Erekson told Boise Weekly.

The man who successfully prosecuted Hazel, Valley County District Attorney Jay Kiiha, said Hazel "needs treatment over a long period of time" and there's no reason to think that he'll be released from custody anytime soon.

"Maybe he can be helped in IDJC, so that tragedy is averted in the future," Kiiha told BW.

Tragedy is the most appropriate word for describing the case of Kallen James Hazel, who scorched much of the emotional landscape of those who cared for him the most.

Idaho's foster care community, a tight-knit group of caregivers who communicate daily via emails and Facebook, were stunned the morning of Monday, July 23, 2013, when they started to hear small details about what had happened the night before. More importantly, they were anxious to know how this foster child, whom many of them had cared for over the years, was now behind bars, charged with felony arson.

"Sherry Scheline's worst fears were realized," wrote the McCall Star-News in its July 25, 2013, edition, referring to the Valley County foster mom who was Hazel's most recent caregiver. She had just watched her historic barn go up in flames in a blaze started by her own foster child.

"For the better part of three hours, I thought he was in the fire," Scheline remembered. "Twice, I tried to run into the barn, but the fire department pulled me back."

Scheline watched much of her livelihood go up in flames while sitting in the backseat of a Valley County Sheriff's car. While wiping away a steady stream of tears, she heard a message come across the police radio: Authorities found the then-15 year-old Hazel hiding in a swampy area off of Highway 55.

"I lost it," she later told BW.