This blog is dedicated to "The Children Left Behind." We will not rest until the safety of our children and those that are entrusted with their mental health care are held accountable for abusing the children's God given rights, those rights upheld by our constitution, and those that have been complicit in obfuscating the truth!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pennsylvania - Prominent Special Needs Educational Consultant Pleads Nolo Contendere to Simple Assault on a Child in Plea Agreement

Thomas J. Croke

Early Saturday morning, Jilliestake received a disturbing email regarding a prominent U.S. Special Needs educational consultant, Thomas J. Croke, owner of Thomas J. Croke Associates, Inc. DBA as Family Light in Greensburg, Pennsylvania; which in turn alerted Jilliestake staff to a comment posted on Jilliestake. 

Jilliestake removed the comment post, until further investigation would confirm or disprove the allegations leveled upon Mr.Croke in the comment post. In addition, it was understood and apparent that the post’s author might have had personal motivation for revealing the aspects of a recent criminal case brought by the State of Pennsylvania against Mr. Croke.

After careful consideration, independent consultation, reading of court documents (charges, plea, and adjudication), including discussions with officials knowledgeable of all information related to the case, confirmation was provided.  

Due to the nature and ramifications (known and unknown) of this criminal case, Jilliestake, a children’s rights advocacy driven blog, made the decision to publish the following as children’s rights and safety must come first - forever ensuring child advocates give voice to those children who cannot speak.                            

Posted by Anonymous to Jillie's Take! at June 29, 2013 at 1:13 AM :

"In June of 2012, the grandson of Thomas Crokes wife, alleged that he had been sexually abused by Mr Croke, the president of Family Light of Greensburg, PA. After subsequent investigation by the Pennsylvannia State Police, Mr Croke was charged. In April of this year Mr Croke plead guilty to assault against a minor with menacing intent. He was formally sentenced this month, June of 2013. He was required to undergo psychiatric evaluation and is on two years of supervised probation. He is not allowed during that time to be alone with a minor.
You should take these facts into consideration with respect to any endorsements of Mr Croke that appear on your website."

No one should argue that due diligence and restraint is called for upon receiving this kind of information.  According to officials, this incident took place when the child (complainant) was 8 years old. The complainant is now in his 20’s.

Court documents attest to the following:  
Note: [M1] [M2] [M3] refers to the “Grading” of the indecent assault.

Mr. Croke was originally charged with two counts on April 23, 2013:
Count 1 - Ind. assault on a person less than 13 years of age - 18 § 3126 §§ A7
Count 2 - Corruption of Minors - 18 § 6301 §§ A1
On May 10, 2013 – Added by Information Count 3
Count 1 - Ind. assault on a person less than 13 years of age - 18 § 3126 §§ A7 - M1
Count 2 - Corruption of Minors - 18 § 6301 §§ A1 - M1
Count 3 - Simple Assault - 18 § 2701 §§ A3 - M2

On June 17, 2013 – Common Pleas Court of Westmoreland County PA
Counts 1 and 2 dismissed.

Mr. Croke plead Nolo Contendere to Count 3 (18 § 2701 §§ A3) which has the same immediate effect as a guilty plea. [Plea agreement to Count 3 “Simple Assault” Grade M2 – “(A3) attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.”]  [1]
The Court of Common Pleas Westmoreland County PA sentenced Mr. Croke.

Order - Sentence/Penalty Imposed

“Ct. 3 Supervision for a period of 2 yrs with County; Mental health eval; Actor to have no direct/indirect contact with victim or unsupervised contact with minors; Pleading Nolo Contrendere; Cts. 1 & 2 Dismissed; Defendant permitted to travel for business with prior permission from PO.” [2] 

Officials state that since there was no physical evidence, a lengthy time frame had lapsed, no prior offenses documented (the prosecution did not have knowledge of other cases as no other child, parent, or guardian came forward over the years), the plea agreement was accepted by the Court.

Mr. Croke’s sentence satisfied the victim in this case. In addition, because the case was pleaded out to Count 3 above, Megan’s Law does not apply.[3]  Mr. Croke was able to avoid having to register as a child sex offender.

Officials appear surprised that Mr. Croke earns his livelihood as an educational consultant predominantly for Special Needs children and their families.  Often situations arise that require travel to various facilities/programs to address the needs and meet with children already attending programs. Unless Mr. Croke advises the various facilities and programs he calls upon of the restrictions the court has imposed on him regarding his probation, the facilities will not be aware of the fact that by order of the court, he cannot be alone with any child under the age of 18. Non-compliance of court-ordered restrictions could endanger children enrolled at the facility/program, and expose said facility to legal damages. One would assume Mr. Croke has restructured his consulting firm, as with Skype, and hired additional educational consultants for travel issues that may arise.

Many states require a program/facility to check arrest record histories of their staff. However, educational consultant’s arrest records are not a pre-requisite – placement of a child in a residential treatment program/facility and the generation of funds created by that placement is the primary incentive.

Jilliestake does not offer moral judgment on Mr.Croke, but does takes issue with the transparency obviously lacking on the Family Light website. It is understandable why Mr. Croke is less than forthcoming, but his rhetoric is cagey at best and dishonest at worst. Readers are encouraged to look at the Family Light website, read the reasoning offered by Mr. Croke for staff not wanting to be alone with minors, and reach their own conclusion. There is no reason given for policy changes at Family Light other than “in the current climate we are increasingly uncomfortable…”

Thomas J. Croke and Associates, Inc. DBA Family Light was a member of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) and utilizes facilities affiliated with trade organization NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs), which self-proclaims no oversight over their members (Miller Bill Congressional Hearings 2007 Director Jan Moss testimony). .

On July 1, 2013, Jilliestake contacted Mr. Croke through a representative. Mr. Croke declined to comment or speak with Jilliestake regarding this expose’.
Please find pertinent information, references, footnotes, and links below.

Excerpts quoted from the Family Light website indicate policy changes.

"While we greatly regret this, in the
current climate we are increasingly uncomfortable with our consultant being an adult alone with a minor child riding in a car and otherwise being where a parent or other adult caregiver cannot observe. The vulnerability to false accusations has become an increasing concern. Therefore we need to modify this procedure when the client is a minor child. We are leaving a grace period for families already in dialog with us to proceed as we have promised, but as of June 1, 2013, we are requiring that at all times that our consultant is with your son or daughter under age 18, parent or other customary caregiver be in a location where interaction can be observed.”

"Please note: As of February 13, 2013, we are adding flexibility to our home visit procedure. In some cases, we might conduct similar meetings by Skype but not travel to your home. This adjustment is experimental and is subject to change. Not all of the information below reflects that change. What follows describes the in-person home visits accurately. Skype and phone "home visits" will follow these procedures as closely as the situation permits. We do not believe this will be as effective as actual in-person work but will consider this alternative in selective situations. "
"Due to our policy change requiring a parent or other customary caregiver to be where their son or daughter is visible at all times, this must be modified for those under 18, but for now we continue this for clients age 18 and up. This provides a relaxed setting to discuss the young person’s basic concerns and to see how the young person views his/her role in the solution.This is a flexible routine that can be adapted as needed."

"For those under 18, we ask parents to help us come as close to the traditional "lunch out" as we can while staying with the new policy (on and after June 1, 2013). We have several alternative approaches:

PA –  TITLE 18 - Crimes and Offenses
COUNT 1 – Ind. Assault of a person under 13 years of age Grade M1 18 § 3126 §§A7
COUNT 2 – Corruption of Minors Grade M1 18 § 6301 §§A1

[1] COUNT 3 - Simple Assault with menace Grade M2 18 § 2701 §§A3

[2] PA Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Docket – Criminal - Public Record
    Docket Number: CP-65-CR-0001641-2013

Note: Grammatical errors left intact for authenticity.
More reading: "Educational Consultants for Dummies"
Copyright © 2013 Jilliestake -  All rights reserved.



  1. Having spent almost 10 years in this field as an employee of various facilities, this does not surprise me. This entire industry is corrupt. The schools and other programs promise what they cannot provide and do not deliver, yet they charge exorbitant fees for these services that rarely if ever benefit the child, usually costing more than $100,000 for two years of high school. Regrettably, most children leave these programs in far worse psychological condition than when they entered.

    Educational Consultants like Mr. Croke are an essential part of this industry. I cannot speak to the efficacy of consultants who limit their practice to finding placement in regular elementary schools, high schools, and colleges; but consultants who specialize in "Special Needs" placement, i.e. children with emotional, behavioral, and learning disorders, are for the most part incompetent scam artists. The overwhelming majority of them have no training whatsoever in this field, no degree in psychology or special education, and no understanding at all of what a child in this situation actually needs. Further, they have no knowledge of what the facilities they refer to can or cannot do for a child. They rely totally on information provided by the school, and call a half day's visit, which is completely choreographed by the school itself, "research". No licensing is required. Indeed, no education is required. Anyone from an auto mechanic to a pastry chef can simply hang out a shingle and they are instantly an educational consultant. The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is nothing but a toothless industry lobbying group who has never disciplined or dismissed a single one of its members. It will be interesting to see how they handle this unfortunate situation with Mr. Croke. They are a shameful lot.

  2. IECA - handle anything? NATSAP? Other than lobbying?

  3. IECA -

    Principles of Good Practice

    Ethical Guidelines for the Profession of Educational Consulting IECA has developed a strict set of ethical guidelines that govern the actions of consultants in their relationships with students and families, schools and colleges, and with colleagues. These include a responsibility to understand each student's special strengths, values and needs, while striving to include all family members in the educational planning process. An IECA member does not accept any compensation from educational institutions for placement of a child. All IECA members subscribe to these Principles of Good Practice and all IECA members are required to annually sign and follow the principles as part of their Association membership in good standing.

    "Principles of Good Practice" does not appear to apply in this case.

  4. It does not appear Mr. Croke has remained a member of IECA. His name does not appear on their search link.

  5. Croke should be required by the DA or his PO to disclose this on his site, in the interest of transparency. This information should be a parent or guardian's right to know.
    Thanks Jillie for your excellent ongoing sleuthing!! And thanks to the anonymous tipster for helping shed light on this corrupt industry.
    Hope others will post this information where appropriate.

  6. I am TJC's daughter. I have not spoken to him since 2004. My two young boys have never met him and will not if I can help it. They do not even know he exists.

    These accusations do not surprise me. Neither are they the first of their kind. I would love for MC to contact me.

    The family was not notified of any of the court proceedings and the DA did not contact any of us. In fact, he has remained eerily quiet about the whole thing. Anyone who knows him knows if he were innocent he be declaring his innocence from the rooftops.