| Today's NAASCA news:
September 1, 2014
Kansas uses rigorous evidence standard for child abuse, neglect
U.S. HHS: No other states require such high standard
by Deb Gruver
WICHITA — Kansas is the only state in the country that requires clear and convincing evidence to substantiate an allegation of child abuse or neglect.
That standard could be putting children at risk, some in the child welfare field say, The Wichita Eagle reported.
When the Kansas Department for Children and Families substantiates abuse or neglect, it places the perpetrator on a registry that bans him or her from living, working or regularly volunteering in a child-care facility — including foster homes — regulated by the state Department of Health and Environment.
No other state requires such a high burden of proof, according to “Child Maltreatment 2012,” a study by the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A survey of states found that most use a preponderance of evidence, a less rigorous standard in which evidence shows it is more likely than not that abuse or neglect occurred.
Kansas used a preponderance of evidence standard until 2004. Since then, it has required clear and convincing evidence that an alleged perpetrator's actions or inactions meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect.
“It is concerning,” Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, said of the higher standard now in place.
“It seems odd to me that all of the investigation and services that are done are focused on the child and when we get to the finding, that focuses on the offender and not so much on the safety of the child,” she said.
Brian Dempsey, director of protection and prevention services for the state department, said the department doesn't require a substantiated finding to request a child's removal or to offer services to families.
“Another state may substantiate for the purpose of removing a child from a home or prohibiting someone from fostering children,” said spokeswoman Theresa Freed of state's department for children and families. “Our effort is for the purpose of prohibiting the person from working in a licensed child care facility. It can't be said enough, so the public understands, recommending a child be removed from a home is not the same as substantiating.”
But because the state's children and families department substantiates so few cases — about 6 percent of all reports of child abuse and neglect — for the purpose of putting people on the registry, the state “could ultimately put children's safety at risk — not intentionally,” Schunn said.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families makes a finding for every report of child abuse and neglect that is assigned to social workers. The finding either is substantiated or unsubstantiated.
The department used to have three categories of findings — unsubstantiated, substantiated and validated.
The “validated” finding, which was used from 1997 to 2004, meant the incident was severe enough to add the perpetrator's name to the registry. Substantiated meant that the evidence showed the incident occurred but wasn't severe enough to place the person on the registry.
Schunn said she wishes Kansas still had validated as a finding.
“To me, the general public has a presumption that it's unfounded,” she said of reports of child abuse deemed unsubstantiated by the DCF.
She said she would support a lower standard of evidence to substantiate a case and another option, such as validated.
“It gives a more accurate and clear depiction from a public's eye of what the abuse situation is in Kansas,” she said.
The state switched to a clear and convincing evidence standard in 2004 to be more consistent with state law, Dempsey said.
“We wanted to ensure that we met an appropriate burden of proof before placing someone on the central registry,” he said.
In 2012, Pennsylvania was the only other state using the clear and convincing evidence standard. But that state's legislature amended the law, effective at the end of this year, to make “substantial” evidence the standard in child abuse cases.
Virginia used a clear and convincing evidence standard until the ‘90s and used three categories of findings — unfounded, founded and reason to suspect, Virginia Department of Social Services spokeswoman Patrice Hagan said in an email.
The reason to suspect finding was “used when we didn't have the clear and convincing evidence to say founded but we still suspected a problem,” said child protective services policy specialist Mary Walter.
When the state took away that option, Virginia moved to a less rigorous standard of evidence to protect children.
“We had to eliminate by regulation the reason to suspect finding,” Walter said. The state then asked, “Is this the evidentiary standard we want to maintain?”
The clear and convincing evidence standard, Walter said, “is a more rigorous standard, and it's more difficult to reach that.”
Linda Spears, vice president of policy and public affairs for the Child Welfare League of America, said of the clear and convincing evidence standard: “I never thought there was a reason to have it to begin with.”
It could, potentially, put children at risk, she said.
Rep. Connie O'Brien, R-Tonganoxie, is chairwoman of the House Children and Seniors Committee. She said she hears more from people upset that their children have been taken away than she does from people upset about the standard the Kansas Department for Children and Families uses to substantiate cases.
“But I'd almost rather err on the side of the kids since that baby died in Wichita,” she said.
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita and the ranking minority member of the Health and Human Services Committee, said it's time for the state to take a critical look at its child welfare policies.
“I've done every job in child in need of care except for being a judge,” said Ward, a lawyer. “I think on a lot of levels we should have a conversation about how we are dealing with abused and neglected child in our state. We are getting stories and stories about children falling through the cracks. Have we created a law that makes it difficult to protect children?”
Ward said the state must balance the protection of children and the rights of alleged perpetrators.
Being on the state's central registry is a “pretty big scarlet A,” he said, alluding to Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel “The Scarlet Letter.”
“I think it's a very delicate and complicated issue. There's no easy answer,” he said
Giving the (polished) finger: Male celebrities paint their nails in new campaign against child abuse
by Lillian Radulova
Men across the country will be sporting a colourful look on their fingernails for the first two weeks of September as the the Polished Man campaign kicks off to raise awareness of violence against children.
Participants, who will wear nail polish on one of their fingers, include AFL player Chris Judd, Logie award winner Gyton Grantley from Underbelly, Aria award winner Dan Sultan and Tripple M's Anthony 'Lehmo' Lehmann.
Grantley, who began to show his support a little earlier than required, told Daily Mail Australia: 'I'm already sporting a nice kind of pink with blue sparkles on top'.
'I've been wearing it everyday and that's the great thing about the campaign - you don't often see nail polish on a man and it definitely prompts the question of why you're wearing it from others and that results in the exclamation of why and really brings the campaign to life.'
The campaign is largely focused on getting men to participate as approximately 90 per cent of all violence committed against children is perpetrated by men.
As a result, the campaign aims to encourage men to challenge their mates on 'what it means to be a man' and to not accept violence, as well as painting one fingernail to represent the one-in-five children globally who experience violence.
The idea sprung from the founder and CEO of social change advocacy group YGAP, Elliot Costello, who met 10-year-old Thea while in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last year.
Thea suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a paedophile for two years while at a 'safe house' where she was taken after her father passed away.
She was eventually rescued by Hagar International and upon meeting Mr Costello who was working alongside the organisation, built a strong relationship with him.
The inspiration for the Polished Man campaign came the day before Elliot left Cambodia, when Thea drew a love heart on his hand and painted his fingernails.
Grantley revealed that his decision to become an ambassador for the campaign came from his exposure to similar experiences.
'I've done charity work in Thailand for World Vision and I've also worked in the slums of Nairobi in Kenya for Oasis Africa, so I've done work for children over there and seen quite in depth some of the experiences they've been through,' Grantley said.
'More importantly it's in our own backyard and basically one in 29 children, or one kid in every class is being abused and we might not be aware of it or know it.
'What's important is to raise more awareness and encourage more conversations amongst ourselves, to bring the subject more light.'
One group of men who are proud to be displaying their colourful fingernails over the next fortnight are the mechanics from Heritage Motors in Maitland.
The Service Operations Manager, Rob Reeve, told Daily Mail Australia that everyone from the salesmen to the tow-truck drivers have painted their nails bright pink and purple.
'Matt the tow-truck driver came up with the idea to get involved and it just snowballed from there and everyone got involved - the salesmen, all the service staff, the whole dealership got behind it,' he said.
'They are all young fellas and they just want to say not to that sort of behaviour.'
The Motor group kicked off the event by throwing a barbecue for staff and clients in which the proceeds were donated to the charity.
'I think once they started to do it everyone was egging each other on and they seemed to enjoy it actually, I'm a bit worried,' Mr Reeve jested.
He added: 'I was serving on the front counter and I've only got one nail done and someone noticed and said "did you bruise it?"
' I tell them the reason why and they get involved. It becomes a focus and talking point for people and it has certainly boosted the awareness around people so far because they've asked a lot of questions.'
Funds raised during the Polished Man campaign will contribute to preventative measures to address violence against children.
Child abuse inquiry: Northern Ireland children sent to Australia 'faced sexual and physical violence'
Children from Northern Ireland who were sent to Australia shortly after the Second World War faced grave sexual and physical violence after arrival in institutions, witnesses have told a public inquiry.
Survivors have given graphic details of their ordeals while aged as young as five, according to the chairman of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry established by ministers in Belfast.
Approximately 130 young children in the care of religious voluntary institutions or state bodies became child migrants, most in the decade after the war.
The experiences of around 50 of them will be examined in person or via video- link and their statements furnished to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia.
Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart said: "In their witness statements, many of those who will give evidence describe their experiences after they arrived in Australia in shocking terms, setting out in graphic detail their descriptions of the severe hardships, and grave sexual and physical violence, to which they say they were subjected as children in the institutions to which they were sent in Australia."
The inquiry is limited to what happened to children in institutions in Northern Ireland and does not have the power to investigate what befell migrants in Australian institutions.
Sir Anthony added: "That does not mean that their accounts of their experiences in Australia will be swept under the carpet. I want to assure them that will not be the case."
More than 1,000 children from the UK were sent to Australia in the 1940s and 1950s, most by religious orders, like the Catholic Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers, which ran care homes.
Some were orphans, but others were not and in some cases the children were told they had no living relatives to ensure they did not try to return, survivors have said.
A team of experts from the inquiry has travelled to Australia to take submissions from some of those affected.
The treatment of young people, orphaned or taken away from their unmarried mothers, in houses run by nuns, brothers or the state is a key concern of the retired High Court judge's inquiry which is being held in Banbridge, Co Down, and was ordered by ministers in the devolved power-sharing Executive at Stormont.
The panel is considering cases between 1922, the foundation of Northern Ireland, and 1995.
Documentation examined by the inquiry has revealed that between 1946 and 1956 children were sent from various institutions in Northern Ireland to institutions in Australia as part of a UK government policy of child migration.
Their evidence is expected to last three weeks.
The panel has to decide whether children might have been physically or sexually abused or emotionally harmed through humiliation. Harm may also include simple neglect, not feeding or clothing people properly.
The inquiry has heard a litany of allegations from former residents at Londonderry homes run by Sisters of Nazareth nuns, including that children were made to eat their own vomit and bathe in disinfectant.
They claimed they were beaten for bedwetting and had soiled sheets placed on their heads to humiliate them, witnesses told public hearings earlier this year.
Feminism pushed child abuse reform: report
The crime of child sexual abuse has been denied, marginalised and "discovered and rediscovered" at various stages throughout Australia's history, a new report says.
The report, commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, found broader social awareness of child sexual abuse emerged in the 1960s because of the efforts of feminist groups.
Prior to women's rights advocates challenging government responses to sexual violence, psychoanalysts and other theorists downplayed the significance of sexual abuse on children and officials downplayed its prevalence and impact.
Between the late 1800s and 1960s "child sexual abuse was denied or minimised by academics, psychoanalysts and the broader community as the fantasies of disturbed individuals or the result of sexually promiscuous or aggressive children," the report said.
The report, prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology, found that the greatest period of reform in Australia's child abuse laws occurred after the 1970s.
"Feminist groups contradicted historical understandings of child sexual abuse as infrequent acts perpetrated by sexual deviants," the report said.
"These groups sought to raise awareness and understanding of sexual violence, and were openly critical of government and criminal justice system responses to victims of violence."
Prior to the late 1800s, the report found, only a small number of offences criminalised sexual contact between children - then defined as under 10 or 13 years of age - and adults.
Attitudes to child sexual abuse have evolved considerably in the past century.
Child protection laws began not as government initiatives but as a result of social pressure and campaigns by activists.
One influential event, the report said, was the case of "Mary Ellen", who was found badly beaten in her home in New York in 1873.
Police were unable to intervene and the social worker involved sought help from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which succeeded in court in getting Mary Ellen removed from her abusive mother and in having her mother charged with assault.
"As an issue of social and political importance, child sexual abuse has been, at various stages throughout Australia's history, marginalised, denied, `discovered' and `rediscovered'," the report says.
Royal Commission chief executive officer Philip Reed said the report, and a second one looking at the development of relevant legislation, would assist the commission and other organisations working in the area of child sexual abuse.
"Both of these reports will contribute to the Royal Commission's understanding of the historical context of child sexual abuse in Australia and the development of relevant legislation," Mr Reed said.
Touring for child abuse awareness
by Anny Sivilay
Author and businessman, Rodney Timms, is on a tour of all 77 Oklahoma counties to bring awareness to a cause that is near and dear to his heart – child abuse.
As part of his state tour, Timms is working with local law enforcement, Department of Human Services, and courthouses, in an effort to help people realize the severity of child abuse and the type of effect abuse produces in an individual.
Timms also hands out copies of his book, My Three Angels, an autobiography about the first 16 years of his life, living with child abuse.
“Our laws in this state aren't tough enough,” Timms said about child abuse. “I'm trying to make people understand what abuse does.”
Timms said that by working with local law enforcement and the courthouse, it paints an image of what can happen to individuals who abuse children.
He added that growing up was difficult for him but he overcame it and is now along with his son owns a business called Western Flyer Xpress.
“Prisons are filled with abused people,” Timms said, explaining that mental health problems caused by child abuse and can be reasons why some people end up in prison.
Timms said there is an estimated 12 million cases of child abuse in the United States, but only about one-third of then get reported, and less than one percent make it to court.
He challenges all Oklahomans to get involved and make a difference in the life of a child, even just one.
Timms was presented the Marion Jacewitz award in 2012. The award is for work in child abuse prevention. He also works with the Oklahoman Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) and Childhelp USA, to raise awareness and support prevention efforts.
As the the owner of Western Flyer Xpress, an Oklahoma City-based national trucking company, each unit has the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse hotline number printed on its back. His business consists of more than 450 employees, 400 trucks, and 900 trailers.
His second book, My Three Angels, is published by Tate Publishing. Timm's first book is Calling All Hearts. Timms is currently writing his third book, Contract Killer: The Making of a Murderer.
Rotherham sex abuse is not an isolated incident
Similar abuse is taking place across the country, warns the Labour MP for Rochdale, who helped expose the Cyril Smith sex scandal
by Simon Danczuk
The ball bounces high in the shadows off the gable end and a handful of kids chase it down the road. Under the stairway to the flats nearby, half a dozen teenage girls lie sprawled on the concrete, sheltering from the slate-grey drizzle. They watch the ball ping back up the street, strung out in the fading evening light, as the acrid smell of cannabis hangs overhead. Further down the road, a group of lads in hoodies mill around the off-licence asking passers-by if they can buy a few cans of strong lager for them.
It's a scene you'll find in many parts of northern England and one I'm all too familiar with. Even now, when I see the boredom and despair in kids' eyes out on the streets, the same feeling comes back to me. Growing up in a single-parent family near Burnley, drinking at 14 and hanging around off-licences asking grown-ups to buy me a drink, just as I see in Rochdale now, I knew about the vulnerability of kids roaming the streets with nothing to do. There were dangers then, but now it's worse. For gangs of men looking to groom kids to be violently abused, they're easy prey.
Scenes like this are not far from Rochdale Council's new £50?million offices. But when I spoke to child-protection bosses in the wake of Rochdale's grooming scandal a few years ago, where young girls had been continually raped by gangs of men, I may as well have been in a foreign country. Despite talking about a reality that existed a few minutes' drive from their offices, there was no awareness of what life was like for these kids. No connection, no empathy. The head of the Rochdale Safeguarding Children Board told me they needed to take “a deeper dive into the theory” to understand the problem. The director of children's services implied to me that young girls who were being raped were “making lifestyle choices”. She later admitted to an incredulous home affairs select committee that she'd never met any of the victims.
The impression I got was that they viewed these girls as an astronomer would look through a telescope at planets. Their lives were so far from the girls' experiences that to them, they might as well have been a remote dot.
The Rochdale grooming scandal would have never come to light had it not been for the fantastic health care workers who helped these young girls. They listened, they understood and they cared. They were steeped in working-class community values, not remote theory. One of them in particular tried desperately hard to get the police and social services to listen to the girls and take action, but to no avail.
The problem then, as now in Rotherham, was a middle-class management in children's services that simply didn't want to know and didn't care. The author of the Rotherham report, Prof Alexis Jay, said last week that a group of senior managers held a view that couldn't be challenged. This despotic approach is ruining social work and failing families. Where once there was a fair representation of working-class social workers who could listen and relate to all manner of challenging families, the profession is now stuffed with textbook professionals bereft of emotional intelligence and incapable of relating to troubled kids. And for the good ones still left, they're all too often forced to adopt foolish practices that fly in the face of common sense.
Sit before children's services managers and you're likely to hear endless waffle about guidelines, policies, procedures, strategy and thresholds. But they won't mention the kids. Worse still, management never refers to practitioners or seeks advice from those at the coalface. Experience has no currency. Cold, remote theory rules. In the wake of the Rochdale grooming scandal, a Serious Case Review was critical of the health workers whose outreach work had uncovered an endemic child abuse problem. Amazingly, they were criticised for having the wrong qualifications.
Once you start heading down this road, where management exists in a bubble and an organisation's values come from textbooks rather than the people they serve, then you end up with situations like Rotherham. Where political correctness and cultural sensitivity are more important than child rape. Managers become more interested in ticking boxes in diversity training than protecting children. And social-work bosses ban families from looking after children because they're members of Ukip and not sufficiently versed in multiculturalism.
This is dogma for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Common sense is not on the menu.
The collapse of the banks a few years back was brought about by bad management and the cult of leadership. The leaders of these banks not only followed a tick-box culture that allowed them to avoid their responsibilities, but also had no concept of the values within their organisation and didn't even understand their own complex financial instruments.
In many areas of social work, the same tick-box culture, lack of values and a failure to have the remotest understanding of the complex lives of those being dealt with is bringing about a similar collapse. And like the banks, it will have far-reaching consequences for society.
We're also starting to see a worrying cult of leadership.Highly paid managers are seemingly untouchable and distant from front-line workers. The rise of the unsackable, unaccountable and unapologetic public-sector manager is a trend that will only see services continue to deteriorate. And let's be clear about what that means. It won't be just missed targets or a poor Ofsted rating. We're storing up huge social costs.
Think of the 1,400 children abused in Rotherham. They were beaten, had guns pointed at their heads, were routinely gang raped, had petrol poured over them and were threatened with being set alight. What do you think happens to these kids?
They don't tend to end up in nice jobs, washing their cars in the suburban sunshine on a Sunday morning. They grow up angry, resentful and lost to society. The Prime Minister talks about sending in welfare squads to tackle “problem families”, but what about the lost generation that's being created now by allowing children to be abused on an industrial level?
I've sat before these people and listened to their stories. I remember every one. Some have managed to turn their lives around, and these stories are inspirational. But, for most, the burden of abuse is too heavy to bear. Kids who walk through the fire of extreme abuse make very different choices to the rest of us. They end up joining the Foreign Legion, committing violent crimes, taking drugs or sleeping on the streets. When I looked at the criminal record of one victim and asked why he couldn't stay on the straight and narrow, he told me it was safer in prison.
For most, they struggle to make relationships and the human cost is massive. “I don't have friends, I prefer to be on my own because I don't trust people,” one sexually abused man told me. He'd made a living over the past 20 years working with the travelling community on the margins of society. These were the only people who didn't judge him, he said.
But talking to bosses in children's services and the multitude of highly paid professionals running our protective agencies, you'll never get any real understanding of the depth or complexity of the people they're dealing with. It's become a cold science where the hard work of gaining trust, taking a human approach and supporting people has been replaced with a detached, long-lens view. And it's not just management that has this view. At one point last year, I made a complaint on behalf of one of the Rochdale grooming victims as a social worker kept appearing outside her house, peering through the window. Is that the “help” a survivor of sexual abuse needs?
This dearth of understanding does not only relate to victims. Too little is known about the perpetrators of these crimes and too frequently I get the impression that politically correct reasons prevent authorities from trying to find out more or challenge these people.
Some are poor men from rural Kashmiri communities, or second- or third-generation Kashmiris or Pakistanis who have developed or inherited an openly violent misogyny. I visited one abuser in prison – he'd attacked a female prostitute with a hammer and was clearly mentally ill. I asked the family about his wife, who'd come over from Kashmir two years before and spoke no English, only to be told that she knew he was in prison but wasn't aware of the crimes he'd committed.
I've also had family members come to my surgery asking me to make representations on behalf of brothers who have been found guilty of child sex abuse. When I refuse, I frequently receive a tirade of abuse. “These girls are prostitutes,” one man shouted at me, and warned that I would pay a heavy price for not supporting him. He'd get thousands of people not to vote for me.
As a Labour politician, it can be difficult challenging some of these issues, but you can't ignore child abuse and violent misogyny. Three years ago, former home secretary Jack Straw said some Pakistani men see white girls as “easy meat” for abuse. He was accused of perpetuating racist attitudes. Like all political parties, the Labour Party is a broad church. But I fear too many hold the view expressed by former Rotherham MP, Denis MacShane, last week. He avoided child abuse in his constituency, he told the BBC, because he was “a Guardian-reading liberal Leftie” and didn't want to “rock the multicultural community boat”.
Last week I received a text message from a current Labour MP saying she was disappointed by my views on this issue. I was only elected in 2010 and already I've found that politicians are sometimes discouraged from exploring and investigating complex issues because they're expected to stay tethered to a dominant ideology and not stray far from the stock replies to difficult questions. This does nothing to strengthen democracy. It weakens it, and creates cynicism. The public want to see matters like this discussed and they want politicians to come up with answers, not just endless hand-wringing.
I'm in no doubt that Rotherham is not an isolated case, and the same kind of abuse is happening right now in towns and cities across the country. As shocking as the Rotherham report is, the fallout out from this type of abuse and the long-term social consequences are even more horrifying.
Far too many people are sliding into an underclass as a result of violent abuse that fails to register with protective agencies. Inquiries, reports and media scrutiny are only the beginning of the change we need. If we're going to save a lost generation from having childhood innocence ripped from them, then we need to stop obsessing about multiculturalism and reform children's services now.