A popular Christian radio personality, youth baseball official and parent of five adopted foster children has a long history of committing sexual abuse and was plotting a strange virginity pact involving his child and the stepchildren of his girlfriend, according to two close family members.
The allegations raise serious questions about the vetting of potential foster parents.
J.D. Smith began this week as the midday deejay for SOS Radio, a web-based Christian music station. Now, according to SOS, which announced after the Current’s story Monday that Smith was no longer employed, Smith and his family are “Involved in multiple investigations,” and Smith is asking his Facebook friends to “Please pray for my wife, my kids and myself. Our world has changed this week because of some choices I made.”
A Las Vegas Metropolitan Police report on the August 2 reported abduction of Giovanna Perera reveals Smith and Perera had a three-year-long affair. Perera, who reached out to police after two days of allegedly walking in the desert, claims two men abducted her and dumped her miles from town in retaliation for talking with Clark County Child Protective Services (CPS) about Smith.
The police report says a CPS complaint filed against Perera and her husband Paul was initiated by one of Smith’s relatives, who, sources say, simultaneously filed a complaint about Smith.
CPS refused to provide any details. Smith and Perera did not return our calls.
The relative’s complaint prompted a visit by CPS to Smith’s home, sources close to the family told the Current, and also to Perera’s home on August 2, according to the police report.
The Current is not identifying Smith’s relative, who alleges in a police report filed in Oregon that she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault by Smith when the two attended a family reunion in Missouri earlier this year. She’s told multiple sources who spoke with the Current that Smith told her he and Giovanna Perera had a plan to take the virginity of one another’s children, to ensure the youngsters’ first sexual experience was “enjoyable and safe.”
The sources who spoke with the Current asked for anonymity out of fear of retribution.
“J.D. said Giovanna’s stepchildren were the perfect age. In the state of Nevada, 16 is the age of consent, so if you can manipulate a child into getting them to think it’s fun and exciting you can get them to engage in sex and it’s not rape,” one source close to Smith’s relative said in an interview.
Smith, who was questioned by Giovanna Perera’s father about the alleged virginity pact, dismissed it as “role-playing,” according to a source who was present for the conversation.
“There was a crime against her that she reported to us,” said another source about the allegation. “She said enough that made me believe children were not safe.”
Medford, Oregon police confirm the report, which was forwarded to Kansas City, Missouri police, includes allegations of sexual abuse of an underage person.
Neither Perera nor Smith returned calls from the Current. No charges have been filed and no arrests have been made in connection with the abduction or alleged “virginity pact.”
Now, another close family member is alleging that he was sexually assaulted by Smith from the time he was eight-years-old until he was 11.
“The way the abuse started was him guiding me as a small child to perform sexual acts with a neighbor kid,” he told the Current. “That happened when I was young, eight or nine. It finally ended when I was 11 and he forced me to perform oral sex on him. After that, I never let him near me again and told my parents.”
“It stopped because I was old enough that I could no longer be so easily manipulated,” says the man, who is four years younger than J.D. Smith.
The man says his parents knew of the abuse and “dealt with it internally.”
Did he consider coming forward when Smith became a foster parent?
“I did voice concern, but every time I have told my story to family or friends they look at him and see this Christian radio guy and just say I’m wrong,” Smith’s relative says.
J.D. Smith proclaims on social media that he’s “Dad to five kids and countless foster kids.” Social media accounts for Smith, a gun enthusiast who hosts the AR 15 podcast, feature pictures of his young children brandishing firearms.
The allegations against Smith raise questions about the vetting of foster parents in Clark County and the reaction of child welfare officials to allegations of sexual abuse.
Clark County’s Department of Family Services (DFS) declined to be interviewed for this story.
Ten times more vulnerable
County spokesman Dan Kulin says children are removed from homes “if DFS staff determine they would not be safe in the home.” He refused to say whether the Smith family was the subject of any investigations in the past.
Nevada has about 4,600 foster children at any time. The majority, about 3,300, are in Clark County.
Foster children are disproportionately susceptible to a host of ills, from self-esteem issues to sexual abuse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four girls and one in six boys in America are sexually abused before the age of 18.
Children who live with both parents are at the lowest risk for sexual assault. But children living in foster care are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused.
Children who live with a single parent and their partner or a step-parent face the highest risk of sexual abuse — 20 times more likely to be victimized than those who live with both parents, according to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect.
More than a third of sexual assault victims were younger than nine-years-old, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.
The foster care system was founded on the belief that poor children could be saved from evil by being transplanted to a Christian home, but finding adequate homes today is a challenge for child welfare officials.
The state has 2,066 licensed foster care homes – 1,433 in Clark County, 410 in Washoe and 223 in rural areas. Thirty-nine group homes are licensed statewide –18 in Washoe, 11 in the rural counties and only 10 in Las Vegas.
Group homes received a significant portion of their funding from Medicaid reimbursement for basic skills training provided to foster children, but the federal government recently cut the subsidy. The state has yet to come up with an alternative funding mechanism.
The average length of stay in foster care in Clark County has decreased from 21 months in 2014 to 16 months this year, from 16 to 13 months in Washoe County and has increased from 12 to 16 months in rural Nevada. Those stays too often include placements in multiple homes or facilities.
‘We don’t take the time and effort to screen out bad people’
Is the desperation to find homes for the never-ending stream of children in need of placement resulting in lower standards for foster families?
State Sen. Patricia Farley says there are basically two kinds of foster parents — grandparents and other relatives in the kinship program, and people who are looking to pay their bills with the meager stipends paid by the state per child.
“We don’t take the time and effort to screen out bad people,” says Farley, who is also a foster parent.
“The system is so bad they can’t get good families and they’re not attracting a ton of good families because the process is ridiculous,” Farley laments. “They (DFS) spend time worrying about trash can lids in the kitchen but not training parents and providing treatment for the issues the kids may have or the turmoil the house may be in.”
“It takes too long to get services, and the kid is out in six months and on to another placement,” Farley says. “It’s not the people. It’s the policies and the funding is so screwed up. We don’t let the good people do the job in the interest of the kids and we keep the bad ones around too long.”
Farley says legislative efforts to improve the system largely fall on deaf ears because foster children lack a powerful and well-funded lobby.
Vetting for prospective foster parents consists of a background check, a home check and fingerprinting.
“I provided six references. They got a questionnaire that they completed and sent back. No one called them,” Farley says of the references she provided. “They (DFS) verified I owned my home, I was divorced, my dogs had shots, my kids had shots and that (my significant other) and I did not have TB.”
“No one who was qualified ever interviewed me, never vetted me,” Farley says. “I never had an opportunity to present as a very good parent or someone who shouldn’t be part of the system.”
Clark County spokesman Kulin says family members — parents and siblings of applicants — are interviewed only if it’s deemed necessary by DFS.
Farley fears Nevada’s child welfare system is so troubled that it may be a candidate for federal intervention or that counties could be sued by child welfare organizations.
“We should be able to find good families and get mental health services out to them faster but we trip over ourselves. It’s scary. This is our next generation of welfare recipients and criminals,” she says. “I feel like I should call PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.) If we treated dogs and cats like this people would be outraged.”