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Courts

VALPARAISO — Two area mothers have been slapped with felony neglect charges based on allegations that their children missed too many school days and showed up late to classes on several other days.

"Porter County is just taking a strong stand against parents not sending their children to school," said Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Harry Peterson.

The hope is to get the attention of these parents and others and convince them to realize the importance of sending their children to school and on time, he said.

Porter County Prosecutor Gary Germann said children who drop out of school are 3 1/2 times more likely to end up in prison by the age of 23 or 24.

Bethany Goin, 31, of Union Mills, was charged with four felony counts of neglect of a dependent involving children ages 13, 9, 8 and 7, according to charging documents.

The children attend the Duneland School Corporation.

Erica Blair, 37, of the Lake Eliza area, faces a single count of neglect of a dependent involving a 6-year-old child, who attends the Porter Township School Corporation.

The cases were referred to prosecutors by the county's juvenile probation department after years of failed efforts to solve the problem, said Amy Beier, executive director of juvenile court services.

The efforts were made through the county's Project ATTEND program, which works with parents of elementary-age students referred by schools, she said.

"It's a big problem, but it's usually an easy fix," Beier said.

The problem often boils down to parents who are overwhelmed or who lack resources, such as transportation, she said.

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The Project ATTEND program has been around since 2000 and has an active load of about 225 cases, Beier said.

"We have far more successes than not," she said.

Goin is accused of allowing 21 unexcused absences, five excused absences and nine tardies during the 2017-18 school year involving the 13-year-old and 32 unexcused absences, 11 unexcused e-learning days, 36 excused absences (only 13 verified by a doctor) and five tardies this past school year, according to charging documents.

Her 9-year-old had 20 unexcused absences, seven excused absences and 15 tardies in 2017-18, and 40 unexcused absences, 13 1/2 excused absences and 16 tardies last year, according to court documents.

Her 8-year-old had eight unexcused and excused absences, and 22 tardies in 2017-18, and 15 unexcused absences, 3 1/2 excused absences and six tardies last year, according to charges.

Her 7-year-old had nine unexcused absences, seven excused absences and 17 tardies in 2017-18, and 38 unexcused absences, 13 excused absences and 18 tardies last year, according to prosecutors.

Blair is accused of allowing her 6-year-old to rack up 24 unexcused absences and 19 unexcused tardies during 2017-18, and 45 unexcused absences and 14 unexcused tardies last year, according to charging documents.

Peterson said there are currently no additional cases pending and the mothers in these cases will be summoned to court rather than arrested.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.